Rezoning process starting in Jamaica, Queens will build on NYC proposal for new pedestrian area, street improvements

City officials are seeking to expand upon the proposed transformation of Jamaica’s streetscape, which includes plans for increased pedestrian access, by incorporating it into a larger initiative aimed at boosting job opportunities and businesses in the bustling Queens neighborhood.

The New York City Planning Department is currently exploring the possibility of rezoning a 300-block area that encompasses not only downtown Jamaica but also includes York College, Rufus King Park, and the Jamaica rail hub. The rail hub serves as a vital connection point for the subway, Long Island Rail Road, and Kennedy Airport AirTrain.

This study will build upon the existing Jamaica NOW initiative led by the Department of Transportation, which has allocated nearly $70 million for various street improvements. One notable aspect of the initiative is the plan to convert Parsons Blvd. between Jamaica and Archer Aves. into a permanent pedestrian “gateway.”

The study plan was officially announced during an event in Jamaica, with City Planning Chief Dan Garodnick and several elected officials in attendance, including City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and local Councilwoman Nantasha Williams.

“This is an opportunity to really, really get the work done finally to expand, beautify, maximize this amazing downtown core to bring the vibrancy that we know is prospective,” said Speaker Adams, whose district includes Jamaica.

Rezonings have historically sparked concerns about displacement and gentrification in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color, similar to the case in Jamaica. Previous rezonings during former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, such as those in East New York, Brooklyn in 2016 and Inwood in Manhattan in 2018, faced significant opposition from local communities before they were implemented.

Since then, leaders in the rezoned neighborhoods have expressed that their fears regarding the plans have materialized, including an increase in real estate speculation that has put pressure on vulnerable tenants.

The rezoning process in Jamaica is still in its early stages. A final City Council vote on the Jamaica plan is not expected until 2025, according to a spokesperson from City Planning. In the meantime, public engagement will continue through activities like an upcoming open house in the summer and public workshops in the fall.

“We look forward to really being strong partners in this more than just exercise, but really building Jamaica back better,” said Richards. “But that means ensuring that even as we do that, the people who’ve lived here, the people who’ve stayed here, can remain even as we invest in downtown Jamaica.”