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Editorial: Vision for Jamaica

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We are impressed by the “Vision for Jamaica Center” presented last week by Carlisle Towery, the head of nonprofit Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, and Congressman Gregory Meeks. Like Mr. Towery and Mr. Meeks, we recognize that Jamaica has been an urban underachiever.

The revitalization of downtown Jamaica has the potential to spark an economic revival throughout southeast Queens. The thriving middle-class community that calls this part of Queens home has too long had to endure substandard commercial development. Why should the people of southeast Queens have to travel to Nassau County to see a movie, buy groceries or do other shopping?

However, despite our enthusiasm, we are concerned that the “Vision for Jamaica Center” is tied at the hip to the success of the AirTrain, often referred to in this space as the Boondoggle Express. “Our job, said Mr. Towery, “is to make Jamaica a destination place with favorable effects to the local population.”

Of course, Jamaica already is a destination place bursting at the seams. But Mr. Towery is hoping that thousands of AirTrain passengers will choose to spend some time in Jamaica Center, where the AirTrain Station is currently under construction, on their way to and from Kennedy Airport. In addition to new stores, a Bally’s gym and a 15-screen movie theater, the plan also calls for the building of a 250-bed hotel.

What happens if the AirTrain is a bomb? Borough President Clare Shulman is already speaking about the creation of a one-seat ride from Kennedy to Manhattan. If this happens, it will be a hard sell to get travelers to see Jamaica as a “destination." Even under the current plan, we wonder what AirTrain passengers will do with their luggage if they are not planning to stay overnight at the hotel?

We note that the two-year, $589,000 study, which includes a traffic plan and open space for parks, was commissioned and paid for by the Port Authority. Since its inception, the Port Authority has had to defend the AirTrain against criticism that it will not meet the area's transportation needs and is destined to fail because it does not offer a one-seat ride. The potential benefits of the AirTrain for Jamaica have been at the center of the Port Authority propaganda effort.

We fear that the Port Authority's “Vision for Jamaica” may be hopelessly nearsighted. Nevertheless, we welcome the development of the business district. We believe Jamaica can and will thrive without the help of haggard passengers on their way to and from Kennedy Airport. And we believe that the eventual one-seat ride to the airport will ensure that Kennedy Airport will continue to create jobs and business opportunities for the people of southeast Queens far into the future. But this will happen despite the Port Authority, not because of it.

Editorial: Back to square one

More than two years after School District Superintendent Celestine Miller was fired, School Board 29 is back to square one in its search for a new superintendent. The board announced last week that it was convening anew C-37 search committee as mandated by law.

The inability of the board and Chancellor Levy to agree on an acceptable candidate has left the children of this district in limbo. Before more time is wasted, the chancellor and the board members should get together and agree on the standard that will set in this search. For the sake of the children, we urge them to resolve this very important matter before the start of the new school year.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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