Last Tuesday, representatives from various city agencies, elected officials and community leaders cut the ribbon on a $19.8 million project to activate a once dormant part of the neighborhood.
Managed by the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the project extended Atlantic Avenue one block south to 95th Avenue. The roadway improves access between the Van Wyck Expressway and the Jamaica LIRR and AirTrain station transit hub.
EDC, along with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Parks Department, also created the new Gateway Park, which consists of three smaller “pocket parks” adjacent to the roadway. The new park adds 0.86 acres of open space to the area.
“This park has been a long-sought dream of this community for over 20 years,” said Rachel Loeb, chief operating officer at EDC. “Ample open space is needed more than ever, and the residents of Jamaica are so thrilled to have this as part of their community.”
Gateway Park has three different components, including an active play space for kids and a quiet space for seniors. Loeb said the park will provide older adults relief from the “hustle and bustle of the neighborhood.”
“It’s a wonderful respite in this sort of jungle of urban concrete,” said Hope Knight, president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “There’s something for everybody.”
Knight, who said the project has been a long time coming, said she welcomes the easing of the congestion off the Van Wyck Expressway.
“Anything that eases congestion in Downtown Jamaica is helpful to businesses,” she said. “Even given the environment that we’re in, it’s still fairly congested along the major arteries like Jamaica Avenue, Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard.”
“This multi-faceted project will give New Yorkers a smoother transition into the Downtown Jamaica core,” added DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, “creating a gateway to the neighborhood and simplifying traffic patterns with new one-way streets and bicycle facilities.”
The funding for the project came for several sources, including $9.3 million in city capital funding, $3 million from the Queens Borough President’s Office, and $7.5 million in grant funding from the Federal Highway Administration.
It’s part of the larger Jamaica NOW Action Plan, a $153 million effort to promote commercial growth and economic development, increase access to jobs, and improve livability in the area.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller said the city learned during the pandemic that having open spaces and opportunities to be outdoors in an organized and managed way matters.
“We want to make sure families have an opportunity to come out and enjoy this,” he said.
Miller called the new park an oasis in the midst of an area most known for bumper-to-bumper traffic along the Van Wyck Expressway.
He noted that at the other end of Liberty Avenue is Detective Keith Williams Park, which will undergo a $20 million renovation starting next year. Improvements will be made to the track, tennis and basketball courts, playground and pool.
“People who come here will have a place for arts, recreation and culture,” Miller said. “That’s really important.”