All aboard for The Crossing at Jamaica 1

Backers and supporters of The Crossing at Jamaica Station break ground on the largest private construction development to come to Jamaica in decades.

The ground has been ceremoniously and physically broken on a massive new mixed-use development in Jamaica located across the street from the Long Island Railroad.

More than two hundred elected officials, developers, financiers and representatives of nonprofits and city agencies attended Tuesday’s ceremony for the $407 million, 773,000 square-foot development with 669 units of affordable housing, The Crossing at Jamaica Station.

“This is a big deal. This is a huge deal,” said U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau). The Crossing is the largest new private construction project in Jamaica in decades, said a representative for state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park).

Speakers highlighted the affordable housing units that will be funded with $41.58 million of Low Income Housing Tax Credits and $65.2 million in tax-exempt bonds, as well as the public and private-entity cooperation it took to make the project a reality.

“Every tax credit known to man is included in this project,” joked Meredith Marshall, co-founder of The Crossing at Jamaica Station’s developer BRP Partners.

Located in Downtown Jamaica at Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue, the property is across the street from not only Jamaica Station but the AirTrain to Kennedy Airport and its nexus of important bus lines. It’s also a short walk to Downtown Jamaica’s several court houses. The project also will include community and retail space and a 187-spot parking garage.

Of the 669 units, 224 will be permanently affordable under the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program. An additional 30 units were negotiated as permanently affordable by New York City’s Housing Development Corporation, HDC’s President Eric Enderlin said.

Marshall said all units will share all amenities and there will be no “poor door.” Some housing developments in the city, particularly in Manhattan, have drawn fire in recent years when it was discovered that people living in affordable units were excluded from some amenities or even required to use a separate entrance.

The project is expected to create approximately 4,000 construction jobs and be completed by 2019.

Virtually the entire groundbreaking ceremony was punctuated by the whistles blown by protesting representatives from the New York City Vicinity District Council of Carpenters who had set up across the street with the standard blow-up rat that signifies the use of nonunion labor.

Michael Rodin, Queens district manager for the District Council, said he believes carpenters at the site earn $15 an hour, compared with the carpenters’ bid for $100 an hour all-in, including both wages and benefits.

“Fifteen dollars an hour isn’t enough to hire people who can afford to live in The Crossing’s affordable units,” said Thomas King, council representative for the District Council. “Does anybody think that the wages they pay the workers here can allow them a middle class life in this borough and this city?” asked union representative Brian Conlon.

Hope Knight, president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, noted that the project will be using Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise entities but that union labor costs can be incompatible with developing affordable housing.

Marshall said The Crossing’s subcontractors are using union plumbers, electricians, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning workers, and laborers from the Construction & General Building Laborers Local 79. But the carpenters’ bid was too high, he said.

Marshall added that he had asked officials of union pension plans to put equity financing into the project, which would have lowered costs that could have been spent on labor, but he was turned down. “Finance the project, I can go 100 percent union,” he told them.

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