JFK AirTrain sparks revival in Jamaica

From left: An AirTrain, the Jamaica AirTrain station and downtown Jamaica

In addition to easing travelers rides to the airport, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s AirTrain to Kennedy International Airport has played a big role in reviving downtown Jamaica (note: correction appended).

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According to the New York Times, before the suburban exodus of the 1950s and 1960s, Jamaica was the city’s third largest shopping district, but rapidly deteriorated in the years since. While most AirTrain passengers use Jamaica only as a transfer point, enough of the 3.9 million people that pass through the terminal stay in the area to support at least three new hotels and a growing number of brand-name stores and restaurants. According to Chandresh Patel, who operates a Ramada in Jamaica, 70 percent of his guests travel via the AirTrain. Rooms at his hotel, at 164-40 Hillside Avenue, cost just $99 per night.

Moreover, in recent years a Home Depot, a Gap Generation and a Zales have joined neighborhood mainstays Old Navy and Bally Total Fitness in the neighborhood. Combined with the work of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp, which operates a popular food market, York College, which has expanded its presence in the neighborhood and city driven efforts, like the construction of a new, amenity-laden 346-unit rental tower in the former Queens family court at 89-14 Parson Boulevard, the AirTrain is beginning to lure even more private development. A fourth new hotel, a Comfort Inn, is under construction and another developer is seeking financing for two more hotels. [NYT]