In basketball terms, Queens Head Coach Melinda Katz deployed a full-court press on Tuesday in her effort to revitalize Jamaica in any way a government or quasi-government agency can help.
The borough president brought together an all-star team for a four-hour working breakfast at York College with leaders in government, planning, education, transportation, infrastructure and economic development.
“We have a deputy mayor here,” Katz said. “We have the chairman of the Regional Planning Association and the New York City Planning Commission. We want realistic and achievable long- and short-term solutions.”
More than 200 people attended, and eventually broke up into groups that discussed Jamaica’s needs and ways of filling them.
Katz said attention will be within a square bordered by Union Turnpike to the north; 188th Street and Francis Lewis Boulevard to the east; Linden Boulevard to the south and the Van Wyck Expressway to the west.
And she said success will not be measured in a few months with a report.
“This will be ongoing,” Katz said.
She added that the de Blasio administration appears to be the most willing partner the borough has had in her two decades of public life.
Katz said partnership is key.
“Too many times, government steps in and just tells people what will be done ... Don’t give me another task force unless I’m in charge of it so I know things will happen,” she told the crowd.
Katz said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for Housing and Economic Development “doesn’t need a GPS to find Queens,” in a none-too-veiled swipe at the former Mike Bloomberg administration. And the deputy mayor said Katz’s faith in Mayor de Blasio’s team is fully justified.
“Each neighborhood has its own bones,” she said, referring to the needs to tailor any plans to the specific needs of the residents and businesses.
But also addressing the region-wide strength, Glen made reference to the Bluestone Group, which has committed to building mixed-income apartment complexes in the downtown area; the Blumenfeld Development Group of Long Island that is building a shopping center and a 500-car garage on 168th Street; and the Able Hotel organization which is building a 24-story, 200-room facility across from the Long Island Rail Road transit complex on Sutphin Boulevard.
Commissioner Polly Trottenberg of the city Department of Transportation was a late arrival to the conference, but Katz cited that as another sign of the administration’s commitment.
She also used Kennedy Airport and Jamaica’s abundant transportation infrastructure as an example of how Queens can be a draw for the world if the proper measures are put into place.
“JFK employs 35,000 people and pays $11.3 billion in wages,” Katz said. “And people come here from all over the world every day. We need them to stay here.”
She said that could be a new trend, with hotels in Queens now beginning to outdraw those in the rest of the city.
Elliot Sander, chairman of the Regional Planning Association, said the results of the effort kicked off on Tuesday will be incorporated in the next regional plan for the New York City area.
Katz said Sander is well-suited for the task, given his background as former CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; former commissioner of the city DOT; and his current post on the board of directors at the Greater Jamaica Development Corp.
Participants also included York College President Marcia Keizs; Peter Kulka, chairman of the GJDC; Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the New York City Planning Commission; and representatives of the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the Empire State Development Corp.