The civil rights activists would be outraged. And rightfully so.
Such bigotry is not only illegal; it runs counter to everything that this great city is about. And such racial divisiveness should not be tolerated coming from a figure in the minority community.
At public meeting held two weeks ago at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica two weeks ago, Jim Heylinger, president of the Association of Minority Enterprise of New York, made the following pronouncement: "There will not be any hotel in Jamaica not owned by a black from this community."
We would like to be the first to welcome Mr. Heylinger to the 21st century and to advise him that the world no longer looks kindly on apartheid systems. The gentleman might also take note that Jamaica is an international and multi-racial community located in a city that long ago banned virtually all forms of racial discrimination,
Sadly no one at this meeting asked Mr. Heylinger to take a hike. Ironically one of the panelists at this meeting was Joseph Mattone, the founder of the Mattone Group.
Mattone is a white developer from College Point who is in the process of building One Jamaica Center, a multiplex cinema and an $80 million shopping mall in the heart of downtown Jamaica. Mattone stepped in when Magic Johnson backed out on a promise to build a theater in Jamaica.
The theater is expected to revitalize downtown Jamaica. Not only will it give area residents a state-of-the-art cinema in their own neighborhood, it will spur commercial development and create jobs and business opportunities.
The color to look out for here is green. Mattone put the money where Magic's mouth was. Is Mr. Heylinger implying that the Mattone investment is not welcome?
The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the economic boom that at least some are expecting when the AirTrain begins operation. Passengers coming from Manhattan will take the subway to Jamaica where they will connect with a futuristic monorail to Kennedy Airport.
The Port Authority is convinced that the AirTrain will spur economic development in downtown Jamaica, including the development of a new hotel. We remain skeptical, but we hope they are right.
Nevertheless, there is no community in New York that has the right to restrict commercial investment to people of a particular race or people living in a specific neighborhood.
Mr. Heylinger should remember that there was a time when no one was willing to invest in southeast Queens. Not a billionaire basketball star and not a successful developer from some other part of Queens.
©2000 Community News Group
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