(image by amsfrank)
Currently there's a Business Improvement District in Jackson Heights. Said district is mainly around 82nd Street, and a couple of blocks of 82nd Street's immediate cross streets, 37th Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue. But now there's a new proposal to extend the BID all the way to the intersection of 104th Street and Roosevelt Avenue and along Junction Blvd to 35th Avenue. I am originally from Jackson Heights, and I fully understand the stakes. Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights was full of drug dealers and prostitutes and run-down businesses. These vices lowered real-estate values in the neighborhood. In recent years along Roosevelt Avenue shoddy businesses have been demolished and replaced by large chains such as Rite Aid, Staples, and new grocery stores. Crime has gone down on Roosevelt Avenue. The new proposed BID seeks to expand these changes.
In recent years, various newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the Daily News have declared Jackson Heights safe for gentrification. As Astoria and LIC have become expensive, Jackson Heights has gotten more attention from real-estate investors. It's only 20 minutes from Midtown Manhattan if one takes the E or F trains. It's close to LaGuardia Airport, and if one needs to get to JFK its a short ride on the E train to Jamaica, where one can take the Airtrain to JFK. The neighborhood is a beautiful mix of houses, apartments, and co-ops. And as far as food choices go, the neighborhood is one big culinary delight. There are restaurants from various Latin American, South Asian, and East Asian countries in the neighborhood. The real-estate industry has taken notice of the area, and not just for residential real-estate deals. The run-down area of former used-car dealerships in Corona has been demolished, and now a 25-story convention and hotel complex is being built by Fleet Financial. Now plans are underway on building a shopping mall on the site of the former Shea Stadium. The Willet West proposal has won all approvals from city authorities, though Tony Avella is suing to block it. I must note New York Courts rarely block development deals. The shopping mall will be built on a parking lot, and it is not displacing trees or grass. Various community groups fear that these new developments will displace small immigrant-owned businesses. They also fear that poor people will be priced out of Jackson Heights and Corona.The plans to gentrify Jackson Heights and Corona are picking up steam. The expansion of Jackson Heights/Corona BID has gotten support from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The BID currently has enough support from businesses to become reality, but there are questions about the legitimacy of the voting. An issue is for all the attempts of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to pimp out Central Queens, Central Queens is still by far predominantly working-class immigrant. Many of its small businesses have withstood competition from large corporations because they are ethnic restaurants or markets that serve food or sell other items from countries back home that are not commonly found in American retailers. These businesses certainly don't need the added pressure of higher rents that a BID might bring in. They could benefit from better security and sanitation, but these concerns shouldn't be used by the real-estate industry in an attempt to wipe them out. As evidenced by the protesters coming out in support of these businesses, they have loyal customers in the area. These businesses found ways to thrive in NYC in times when there was major urban disinvestment, and as they occupy specialized markets that the major corporations don't know how to touch, they will survive the Jackson Heights/Corona BID, if in fact it becomes a reality.