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Pols see biz boom in SE Qns

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Industry in southeast Queens has been taking a beating over the last couple of years due to the economic downturn, but the city’s elected officials said there is potential waiting to be tapped in the sites.

City Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn) teamed up with Greater Jamaica Development Corp. on a tour of the downtown Jamaica area last Thursday, where they led other elected officials to manufacturing and commercial locations that have been prospering and to those that have closed but show potential.

Reyna, who chairs the Council’s Small Business Committee, said Queens has the largest growth in workforce in the five boroughs and businesses need to find a way to reach that cluster of potential employees.

“What we are seeing is businesses want to come to Queens and we want to see what is popular,” she said.

Council members Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Matthew Eugene (D-Brooklyn) and Margret Chin (D-Manhattan), as well as state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) and former Councilman Archie Spigner, also took part on the tour and gave their input on the sites they visited.

Richard Werber, Greater Jamaica’s director of business services, said the downtown area has always been a hotspot for manufacturing firms due to its location between Long Island and Manhattan and its transportation hub.

He noted that the AirTrain has made the area more lucrative for businesses because it has reduced the time to travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“Jamaica is an old city and its manufacturing has been interwoven into the community for a long time,” he said.

Mark Nieves, the deputy director of planning, design and capital projects for Greater Jamaica, took the elected officials to the corner of Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue, where construction is still ongoing for the Sutphin Underpass project.

Once completed, it will offer´╗┐ commuters of the Long Island Rail Road, AirTrain and subways to new shops and venue located in a well-lit corridor. The group then passed by the Tuckerton Street triangle section, where Greater Jamaica has been trying to attract businesses for years.

The Elmhurst Dairy plant, at 155-25 Styler Road, was the next stop and the Greater Jamaica administrators said it was the borough’s sole milk plant. Last month, Starbucks dropped Elmhurst as its milk provider for its locations in the five boroughs and Elmhurst owners have said the change has affected business negatively.

Werber said Greater Jamaica is watching the developments at Elmhurst because not only are the plant’s 250 jobs at risk, but the future of the various food distributors that use their products is also at risk.

The group then took a visit to the former Wonder Bread Factory, at 168-23 Douglas Ave., to get an update on the site that closed down in January. Hostess brands closed the factory after more than a hundred years of operation due to increasing costs to maintain the facility.

Werber said Greater Jamaica has been in active talks with the real estate firm that is managing the space and is looking for new potential manufacturing firms to set up shop there.

“It is a lot of valuable land,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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