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City unveils plan to spruce up Jamaica

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Jessica Baker, of the city's Economic Development Corporation, presented the board with the first reportfrom the Jamaica Plan Interagency Task Force on March 19.The task force, which includes representatives from various city agencies, including the City Planning, Transportation and Parks and Recreation departments, discusses the progress of development of the recently rezoned 350-block section of Jamaica and makes sure all projects work beneficially with residents."The rezoning put a spotlight on Jamaica since it was last rezoned in 1961," said Baker, the project manager for the development projects in Jamaica.She outlined new plans in the works that would beautify the busy commercial area as well as improve its decaying street infrastructure. One of the projects will involve a major upgrade to Hillside Avenue from the Van Wyck Expressway to 191st Street, which Baker described as congested and in some parts dirty and broken."It's not a pedestrian friendly environment," she said.Starting in 2010, the city will begin planting trees along the sidewalk, installing new streetlights and catch basins that prevent flooding. The commercial area is not the only place getting a green makeover. Baker said the city also will be planting trees on Merrick Boulevard, Liberty Avenue and Jamaica Avenue.The task force also has new plans to ease traffic conditions in the area by reworking parking rules within the neighborhood. The DOT conducted a survey of the street parking regulations around Jamaica Avenue and what the agency found surprised it enough to change some street restrictions, according to Baker."The DOT found there were a lot of no parking and no standing places that made no sense," she said, "so they changed a lot of them over time and opened up new parking spaces."Several residents liked the idea and gave more suggestions to Baker as to how to ease the parking congestion. The task force will be meeting with the board at other times throughout the year and talk about topics, including schools and infrastructure. Baker also said she wanted residents to contact the city's EDC if they had any more suggestions on how they could help the neighborhood during the rezoning.For more information call 212-618-5706 or e-mail jamaica@nycedc.com.The meeting was the first since former Chairwoman Gloria Black died four weeks ago. Acting Chairwoman Adjoa Gzifa announced the board would be holding special elections to chose a new full time chairman during next month's meeting on April 16.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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