Woodhaven organizations enhance quality of life

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The Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by a group of people who were concerned about ensuring the viability of the Woodhaven commercial properties and of the Woodhaven community. Since its inception in 1993, the Woodhaven Business Improvement District has been administered by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp.

The GWDC every year continues to better its relationship with the existing Woodhaven businesses by improved communication, increased services and enhancement of the appearance of the Jamaica Avenue commercial strip, which extends for 25 blocks from Dexter Court to 100th Street in Woodhaven. Additionally, the GWDC works diligently to attract businesses to Jamaica Avenue’s shopping strip and to the side streets adjacent to the avenue.

The Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. is a community organization that strives with dedication to assist the Woodhaven community through various programs and activities.

The GWDC administers the graffiti-vandalism program by which graffiti vandalism is removed from Jamaica Avenue storefront gates, the Woodhaven area and residential common properties. Woodhaven’s Jamaica Avenue is 98 percent graffiti-free.

The Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. holds two highly successful fund-raisers each year. There is the GWDC’s dinner-dance, which honors elected officials and store and business owners of the year, as well as the Wonderful Woodhaven Street Festival, which attracts an estimated 95,000 people to Jamaica Avenue.

This festival extends on Jamaica Avenue from 80th Street to Woodhaven Boulevard. The entertainment, delicious varieties of ethnic foods, games for the youngsters and visits by our elected representatives provide a very enjoyable day for the Woodhaven community and its visitors.

The Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. sponsors the only free after-school programs in Woodhaven on the elementary school level at PS 97 (the Forest School) and on the high school level at Franklin K. Lane High School. Records indicate that students have a 90 percent pass record on tests and Regents exams after completing this program, which is open to all New York City public and parochial school students.

The Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. vigorously continued its efforts in 1992 and 1993 to create the Woodhaven Business Improvement District for Woodhaven’s Jamaica Avenue commercial strip. The GWDC’s efforts proved successful and on March 25, 1993, the Woodhaven Business Improvement District designation was given to the Woodhaven Jamaica Avenue commercial strip.

Through a tax assessment of Jamaica Avenue business owners, the WBID provides sanitation, security, improved lighting, holiday lights and holiday music, as well as the annual Holidays in Woodhaven tree- and menorah-lighting ceremony and the Welcome Santa to Woodhaven parade with free Santa hats, photos with Santa and pizza. Various other business promotions are undertaken, which enhance the shopping area’s desirability and the quality of life within the surrounding Woodhaven community.

The GWDC has improved communication among our federal, state and city governments and the Woodhaven business owners and residents through our open GWDC monthly meetings at which we feature guest speakers from various government agencies as well as frequent visits from our elected officials. We also disseminate flyers and brochures on topics of interest to our business owners and residents.

Our organization fosters patriotism, especially since the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. The GWDC has distributed more than 25,000 “God Bless America” flyers that can be seen on display throughout the Woodhaven community as well as surrounding neighborhoods. The WBID also sponsors free distribution of American flags.

The GWDC co-sponsors a Memorial Day tribute annually at the Forest Parkway Plaza Veterans’ Memorial. Also, our holiday tree at the Forest Parkway Plaza is decorated each year with ornaments made by our local elementary school children. Since Sept. 11, 2001, these ornaments are made with a patriotic theme.

To assist our community, the GWDC sponsors a visit to Woodhaven by the Metrocard van several times a year and a visit from the ASPCA van.

Another benefit for shoppers on Woodhaven’s Jamaica Avenue is the two-hour metered parking, as well as the installation of “Welcome to Woodhaven” signs on the medians at Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard announcing various sales days, holiday events, street festivals and more.

Another very important achievement was Engine Co. 293’s being able to stay open after the mayor had it slated to close. This was made possible through the GWDC’s working with other Woodhaven organizations and especially state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), with the support of Assembly members Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill) and Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), and City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), with the support of Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, as well as other elected officials.

There are 329 stores along Woodhaven’s Jamaica Avenue commercial shopping strip, including a variety of ethnic restaurants, galleries, bakeries, delis, pharmacies, banks, meat markets, catering businesses, insurance companies and apparel, shoe, toy and video stores, as well as gift, card and flower shops.

With the advent of the WBID, several chain stores have joined our Woodhaven shopping strip. These include McDonald’s, KFC, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, Genovese, Radio Shack and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Some of our new businesses are the Community Federal Savings Bank, whose CEO, Joseph Ruggiere, is a lifelong resident of Woodhaven; Dee ‘n Dee Department Store, which is a variety store with a large selection of items; Snack Attack, a unique breakfast place and Iuncheonette; D’Aleo’s Pizza, a nicely decorated Italian Restaurant offering a variety of pizza and Italian dinner selections; and Thailand Restaurant, whose menu includes a variety of ethnic selections.

There also is Fresco Tortillas, which is recommended by the Zagat Survey and has excellent menu choices; Pan Ugoh Bakery, which offers a variety of ethnic bakery items; Hetman’s Deli, offering Polish specialties; Funtastic, a children’s party store with video game parties and an outdoor party area for youngsters; and several laundromats (one with a parking lot) and furniture stores with a full line of decorating items for the home.

Construction projects in the area include those of Dee ‘n Dee Department Store, which is undergoing a complete renovation of its adjacent vacant store for expansion of its existing department store, and St. Anthony’s Hospital site, which is slated for 68 two-family semi-attached homes with a sale price of $629,500 each.

This eight-acre property in the heart of Woodhaven was the former location of the St. Anthony’s Hospital for tubercular patients, then in the 1950s it became an office building. The building was demolished and the property sold to a developer.

The GWDC executive director and board members are carefully monitoring the use of this site due to its importance to the community. There also are plans to build a K-4 public school on part of this property due to overcrowding in PS 60 and in PS 97. When the homes are completed, their residents will increase the number of shoppers on the commercial strip.

The GWDC will continue with petitions to have our wonderful Forest Park Carousel landmarked and to seek the return of the Mounted Troop G to our 102nd Precinct stables.

Despite limited governmental funding resulting from the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the GWDC will continue to provide an excellent commercial strip for our residents and business owners, thereby improving their quality of life.

We accomplish so much with such limited revenue that our wish is to receive funding to support further improvement and beautification of the commercial properties on Jamaica Avenue from Dexter Court to 100th Street and throughout the Woodhaven community.

Maria Thomson is the executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. This series is provided by the Queens Economic Development Corp.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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