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 /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. Truthfully the poorest immigrants have already been 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. From all the new businesses that have been appearing in Jackson Heights and Corona, it appears that in some form or another this new BID will become a reality. As LIC and Astoria have made it, Jackson Heights and Corona are now the next neighborhoods in Queens to make it. And while the poorest people have certainly been priced out of Central Queens, the area has been made safer and better to live in.