Jamaica, Queens

For other uses of "Jamaica", see Jamaica (disambiguation).
Neighborhood of Jamaica

Frederick Ruckstull's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (1896) in Major Mark Park
Coordinates: 40°42′13″N 73°47′56″W / 40.70361°N 73.79889°W / 40.70361; -73.79889Coordinates: 40°42′13″N 73°47′56″W / 40.70361°N 73.79889°W / 40.70361; -73.79889
Country  United States
State  New York
City New York City
Borough Queens
  Total 2.670 sq mi (6.92 km2)
Population (2010)
  Total 217,000
  Density 81,000/sq mi (31,000/km2)
Ancestries 2010[2]
  Black 48.2%
  Hispanic 22.1%
  White 19.9%
  Asian 10.5%
  Other 9.4%
ZIP code 11433, 11423, 11432, 11435, 11434
Median household income $47,944[3]

Jamaica is a middle-class neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 12, which also includes Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Pond Park, Rochdale Village, and South Jamaica.[4] Jamaica is patrolled by the NYPD's 103rd, 113th & 105th Precincts.[5]

It was settled under Dutch rule in 1656 in New Netherland as Rustdorp.[6][7] Under British rule, Jamaica became the center of the "Town of Jamaica". Jamaica was the county seat of Queens County from the formation of the county in 1683 until March 7, 1788, when the town was reorganized by the state government and the county seat was moved to Mineola (now part of Nassau County). In 1814, Jamaica became the first incorporated village on Long Island. When Queens was incorporated into the City of Greater New York in 1898, both the Town of Jamaica and the Village of Jamaica were dissolved, but the neighborhood of Jamaica regained its role as county seat. Today, some locals group Jamaica's surrounding neighborhoods into an unofficial Greater Jamaica, roughly corresponding to the former Town of Jamaica, including Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, St. Albans, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Hollis, Laurelton, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Howard Beach and Ozone Park.[8]

Jamaica is the location of several government buildings including Queens Civil Court, the civil branch of the Queens County Supreme Court, the Queens County Family Court and the Joseph P. Addabbo Federal Building, home to the Social Security Administration's Northeastern Program Service Center.[9] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Northeast Regional Laboratory as well as the New York District Office are also located in Jamaica. Jamaica Center, the area around Jamaica Avenue and 165th Street, is a major commercial center, as well as the home of the Central Library of the Queens Borough Public Library. The New York Racing Association, based at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, lists its official address as Jamaica (Central Jamaica once housed NYRA's Jamaica Racetrack, now the massive Rochdale Village housing development). John F. Kennedy International Airport and the hotels nearby also use Jamaica as their address.



Although many current residents of the Jamaica neighborhood are immigrants from the country of the same name, the two names have different derivations. The name of the neighborhood derives from Yameco, a corruption of a word for "beaver" in the Lenape language spoken by the Native Americans who lived in the area at the time of first European contact. The "y" sound in English is spelled with a "j" in Dutch, the first Europeans to write about the area. This resulted in the eventual English pronunciation of "Jamaica" when read and repeated orally.[10] In the Caribbean, the Arawaks, people of the nation of Jamaica, named their land Xaymaca, which meant "land of wood and water".[11]

Precolonial and colonial periods

George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845–1887). Long Island Rail Road Station, Jamaica, ca. 1872–1887. Collodion silver glass wet plate negative. Brooklyn Museum

Jamaica Avenue was an ancient trail for tribes from as far away as the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, coming to trade skins and furs for wampum.[12] It was in 1655 that the first settlers paid the Native Americans with two guns, a coat, and some powder and lead, for the land lying between the old trail and "Beaver Pond" (later Baisley Pond). Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant dubbed the area Rustdorp ("rest-town") in granting the 1656 land patent.

The English took over in 1664 and made it part of the county of Yorkshire. In 1683, when the British divided the Province of New York into counties, Jamaica became the county seat of Queens County, one of the original counties of New York.

Colonial Jamaica had a band of 56 minutemen who played an active part in the Battle of Long Island, the outcome of which led to the occupation of the New York City area by British troops during most of the American Revolutionary War. In 1790, in William Warner's tavern. Rufus King, a signer of the United States Constitution, relocated here in 1805. He added to a modest 18th-century farmhouse, creating the manor which stands on the site today. King Manor was restored at the turn of the 21st century to its former glory, and houses King Manor Museum.

Late 18th and 19th centuries

Van Siclen farm in 1882

By 1776, Jamaica had become a trading post for farmers and their produce. For more than a century, their horse-drawn carts plodded along Jamaica Avenue, then called King's Highway. The Jamaica Post Office opened September 25, 1794, and was the only post office in the present-day Boroughs of Queens or Brooklyn before 1803.[13] Union Hall Academy for boys, and Union Hall Seminary for girls, were chartered in 1787.[14] The Academy eventually attracted students from all over the United States and the West Indies.[15] The public school system was started in 1813 with funds of $125. Jamaica Village, the first village on Long Island, was incorporated in 1814 with its boundaries being from the present-day Van Wyck Expressway (on the west) and Jamaica Avenue (on the north, later Hillside Avenue) to Farmers Boulevard (on the east) and Linden Boulevard (on the south) in what is now St. Albans.[16] By 1834, the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad company had completed a line to Jamaica.

Jamaica railroad stations in 1873

In 1850, the former Kings Highway (now Jamaica Avenue) became the Brooklyn and Jamaica Plank Road, complete with toll gate. In 1866, tracks were laid for a horsecar line, and 20 years later it was electrified, the first in the state. On January 1, 1898, Queens became part of the City of New York, and Jamaica became the county seat.

Loew's Valencia, a former theater opened in 1929

20th and 21st centuries

The present Jamaica station of the Long Island Rail Road was completed in 1913, and the BMT Jamaica Line arrived in 1918, followed by the IND Queens Boulevard Line in 1936 and the IND/BMT Archer Avenue Lines in 1988, the latter of which replaced the eastern portion of the Jamaica Line that was torn down in 1977–85. The 1920s and 1930s saw the building of the Valencia Theatre (now restored by the Tabernacle of Prayer), the "futuristic" Kurtz furniture store and the Roxanne Building. In the 1970s, it became the headquarters for the Islamic Society of North America.

The many foreclosures and the high level of unemployment of the 2000s and early 2010s induced many black people to move from Jamaica to the South,[17] as part of the New Great Migration.

A December 2012 junkyard fire required the help of 170 firemen to extinguish.[18]

On October 23, 2014, the neighborhood was the site of a terrorist hatchet attack on two police officers of the New York City Police Department. The attacker was later killed by police.[19][20]

The First Reformed Church, Grace Episcopal Church Complex, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Building, Jamaica Savings Bank, King Manor, J. Kurtz and Sons Store Building, La Casina, Office of the Register, Prospect Cemetery, St. Monica's Church, Sidewalk Clock at 161-11 Jamaica Avenue, New York, NY, Trans World Airlines Flight Center, and United States Post Office are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[21]

Demographics and neighborhoods

Jamaica is large and has a diverse population. It is mostly African American, with sizable Hispanic, Asian, and White populations. While the corresponding figures represent a certain portion of Jamaica, official statistics differ by the area's numerous zip codes such as 11411, 11428, 11432, 11433, 11434, 11435, and 11436. The total population of Jamaica is estimated to be a bit over 200,000 with all neighborhoods taken into consideration.

Jamaica was not always as diverse as it is today. Throughout the 19th to early 20th centuries, Jamaica was mainly populated with whites as new Irish immigrants settled around the places known today as Downtown and Baisley Pond Park. However, in the 1950s, what was later called white flight began and middle-income African Americans started taking their place. After the 1970s, as housing prices began to tumble, many Hispanic such as Salvadorans, Colombians, Dominicans, and West Indian immigrants moved in. These ethnic groups tended to stay more towards the Jamaica Avenue and South Jamaica areas. Yet it wasn't until the late 1990s and early 2000s that immigration from other countries became widespread. Gentrification and decrease in crime attracted many families toward Jamaica's safe havens. Hillside Avenue reflects this trend. Along 150th to 161st streets, much of the stores and restaurants are of South American and Caribbean culture.

Farther east is the rapidly growing East Indian community. Mainly spurred on by Jamaica Muslim Center, Bangladeshis have flocked to this area due to easy transit access and the numerous Bangladeshi stores and restaurants lining 167th and 168th Streets. Bangladeshis are the most rapidly growing ethnic group here; however, it is also an African-American commercial area. Many Sri Lankans also live in this area for similar reasons as the Bangladeshi community, evidenced in the numerous food and grocery establishments catering to the community along Hillside Avenue. As well as the large South Asian community thrives significant Filipino and African communities in Jamaica, along with the neighboring Filipino community in Queens Village and the historic, well established African-American community that exists in Jamaica.

From 151st Street and into 164th Street, many groceries and restaurants pertain to the West Indies. Mainly of Guyanese and Trinidadian origin, these stores serve their respective population living in and around the Jamaica Center area. East from 167th Street to 171st Street, there are East Indian shops. Mainly invested by the ever growing Bangladeshi population, thousands of South Asians come here to shop for Bangladeshi goods. Also there are restaurants such as "Sagar", "Ambala", "Ghoroa", and countless more in the Bangladeshi stronghold here. Some people call this area another "Little South Asia" similar to that of Jackson Heights. Jamaica, Queens is another South Asian ethnic enclave popping up in NYC, as South Asian immigration and the NYC South Asian population has grown rapidly, as well as new South Asian enclaves.



Economic development was long neglected. In the 1960s and 1970s, many big box retailers moved to suburban areas where business was more profitable. Departing retailers included brand name stores and movie theaters that once thrived in Jamaica's busiest areas. Macy's and the Valencia theater were the last companies to move out in 1969. The 1980s crack epidemic created even more hardship and crime. Prime real estate spaces were filled by hair salons and 99 cent stores. Furthermore, existing zoning patterns and inadequate infrastructure did not anticipate future development.

Since then, the decrease of the crime rate has encouraged entrepreneurs who plan to invest in the area. The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC), the local business improvement district, acquired valuable real estate for sale to national chains in order to expand neighborhood commerce. As well they have completed underway proposals by allocating funds and providing loans to potential investors who have already established something in the area. One Jamaica Center is a mixed-use commercial complex that was built in 2002 by The Mattone Group housing Old Navy, Bally Total Fitness, Walgreens, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, a 15-screen multiplex theater and for a while a Gap. Banking has also made a strong revival as Bank of America, Sterling National Bank, Chase Bank, and Carver Federal Savings Bank have each created at least one branch along various major streets: Jamaica Avenue, Parsons Boulevard, Merrick Boulevard, and Sutphin Boulevard. A $75 million deal between the developers, the Mattone Group and Ceruzzi Enterprises, and Home Depot cleared the way for a new location at 168th St. and Archer Ave. All approvals were obtained within three months of the application dates.

The most prominent piece of development has been the creation of the Jamaica Station, which was fully completed in 2003. It includes Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport subway station (E J Z trains), the LIRR, and the Airtrain JFK to John F. Kennedy International Airport; the latter remains the central figure for ongoing economic progress. With the growing number of riders each day passing through this station, the city is providing some major changes to the surrounding blocks of this massive hub of transport.

Efforts have been made to follow the examples of major redevelopment occurring in Long Island City, Flushing, and Downtown Brooklyn. In 2005, the New York City Department of City Planning drafted a plan that would rezone 368 blocks of Jamaica in order to stimulate new development, relieve traffic congestion, and shift upscale amenities away from low-density residential neighborhoods. The plan includes up-zoning the immediate areas around Jamaica Station to accommodate passengers traveling through the area. To improve infrastructure the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has agreed to create more greenery and open spaces to allow pedestrians to enjoy the scenery. At the same time, the city has reserved the right to protect the suburban/residential charm of neighboring areas. Several blocks will be down-zoned to keep up with the existing neighborhood character. On September 10, 2007, the City Council overwhelmingly approved the plan, providing for structures of up to 28 stories to be built around the main transit hub as well as residential buildings of up to 7 stories to be built on Hillside Avenue.[22]

Several projects are in progress. The New York City Economic Development Corporation has issued an RFP for redevelopment of a 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m2) abandoned garage located at 168th Street and 93rd Avenue. Plans are underway to convert this space into retail and parking spots. "TechnoMart Queens" was the first approved project. Located at Sutphin Blvd. and 94th Ave., Korean-based Prime Construction Corp., Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, and several other partners have signed a deal to create a 13-story mega-mall. 9 floors will be dedicated towards wholesale electronics, 3 floors to retail space for shopping, and it is estimated to contain parking for up to 800 cars. Groundbreaking on this site will initiate in late 2008 and is slated for completion by mid-2011. However, in Q3 2008, Technomart announced that it would not be moving forward with its plan to bring a retailer to the community.[23]

According to real-estate listing service StreetEasy, Jamaica's real-estate prices are rising the fastest out of all localities in New York City. The community's median home prices rose 39% in 2015.[24] The median sales price for a small row house in 2015 was $330,000, and the median asking rent for a three-bedroom house in 2015 was $1,750.[24] Sutphin Boulevard has been described as "the next tourist hot spot."[25] Jamaica's proximity to the JFK AirTrain has stimulated the development of several hotels.[26]

Notable businesses


The Federal Aviation Administration Eastern Region has its offices in Jamaica.[27]

Several businesses are at the distant John F. Kennedy International Airport. North American Airlines has its headquarters on the property of JFK.[28] In addition, Nippon Cargo Airlines maintains its New York City offices there.[29]

When Tower Air existed, its headquarters were at the airport.[30][31] When Metro International Airways existed, its headquarters were at the airport.[32]

Other businesses

Grupo TACA operates a Jamaica-area TACA Satellite at 149–16 Jamaica Avenue.[33]


Interstate 678 in Jamaica

Public transport

Jamaica Station is a central transfer point on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which is headquartered in a building adjoining the station; all but one of the commuter railroad's lines (the exception being the Port Washington Branch) run through Jamaica.

The New York City Subway's IND Queens Boulevard Line (E F trains) terminates at 179th Street station, at the foot of Jamaica Estates, a neighborhood of mansions east of Jamaica's central business district. The Archer Avenue Lines, which opened in 1988 (E J Z trains), terminate at Jamaica Center – Parsons/Archer station, but also serve Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport station. Jamaica Center is not just a transit hub; it is also the name of a business and government center that includes a federal office building, and a shopping mall and theater multiplex (One Jamaica Center), and is adjacent to various other businesses and agencies, such as the main forensic laboratory facility for the New York City Police Department.

Jamaica's bus network provides extensive service across eastern Queens, as well as to destinations as distant as Hicksville in Nassau County, the Bronx, the Rockaways, and Midtown Manhattan. Nearly all bus lines serving Jamaica terminate there; most do so at the 165th Street Bus Terminal or the Jamaica Center subway station, except the Q46 bus which operates along Union Turnpike which serves as the northern border of Jamaica.

Greater Jamaica, a large, sprawling neighborhood, is also home to John F. Kennedy International Airport—one of the busiest international airports in the United States and the world— public transportation passengers are connected to airline terminals by AirTrain JFK, which operates as both an airport terminal circulator and rail connection to central Jamaica at the integrated LIRR and bi-level subway station located at Sutphin Blvd and Archer Avenue.

Major thoroughfares

Jamaica Avenue
Jamaica Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard

Major streets include Archer Avenue, Hillside Avenue, Jamaica Avenue, Liberty Avenue, Merrick Boulevard, Parsons Boulevard, Guy R. Brewer Boulevard (formerly known as New York Boulevard but renamed for a local political leader in 1982), Sutphin Boulevard, and Union Turnpike, as well as the Van Wyck Expressway (I-678) and the Grand Central Parkway.

Jamaica Avenue is Jamaica's busiest thoroughfare. It begins at Broadway Junction in Brooklyn, near the boundary of the East New York neighborhood. The Avenue enters Jamaica east of the Van Wyck Expressway, and passes the Joseph Addabbo Social Security Administration Building, courthouses and the main building of the Queens Library, along with many discount stores. The 200-year-old King Manor Museum, once home to Rufus King, a founding father of the United States, is located at the corner of 153rd St. and Jamaica Ave. It includes a 2-story museum with over an acre of land and a public park. Directly across from the Museum is the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, part of the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, represents a long-sought adaptive reuse of the landmark, 150-year-old former Dutch Reformed Church. It was completed in 2007.

Hillside Avenue is one of the main thoroughfares of Jamaica. It is served by the E F trains, from Sutphin Boulevard to its 179th Street terminus. Hillside Avenue runs east from Myrtle Avenue in Richmond Hill, along the length of Jamaica, into Queens Village, and finally, Nassau County. It is a wide six-lane street with numerous commercial activities. The Q43 bus runs its entire eastern length starting at Sutphin Boulevard to the city line. Hillside Avenue separates Jamaica from Briarwood, Jamaica Hills and Jamaica Estates on the southern boundary.

Sutphin Boulevard is Jamaica's second busiest thoroughfare. It has two subway stations, as well as stations for the LIRR and the AirTrain JFK, and two Queens courthouses. It begins at Hillside Avenue and 147th Place in the north and works its way south and downhill connecting with Jamaica Avenue, Archer Avenue, Liberty Avenue, South Road, Linden Boulevard, and terminates at Rockaway Boulevard. At first it is a small four-lane street, but in the downtown area it provides six lanes. At 95th Avenue, it reemerges from the LIRR underpass and becomes a four-lane street to its southern endpoint.

Union Turnpike travels through, and serving as the northern border between the towns of Flushing and Jamaica. Though both towns were absorbed into New York City in 1898, the division is evident today in the addresses. Buildings on the north side generally begin with a 113- ZIP code, indicating Flushing, and buildings to the south side begin with a 114- ZIP code, indicating Jamaica. Union Turnpike separates the northern boundaries of Briarwood, Jamaica Hills and Jamaica Estates from the southern boundaries of Flushing and Fresh Meadows.


Colleges and universities

Several colleges and universities make their home in Jamaica proper or in its close vicinity, most notably:

Primary and secondary schools

Abigail Adams School

Public schools

Jamaica's public schools are operated by the New York City Department of Education.

Public high schools in Jamaica include:

Public elementary and intermediate (junior high) schools in Jamaica include:

Private schools

Private schools in Jamaica include:

The Catholic schools are administered by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

From its 1975 founding to around 1980, the Japanese School of New York was located in Jamaica Estates,[35][36] near Jamaica.[37]


The Central Library of the Queens Borough Public Library, the nation's highest-circulation public library system, is in Jamaica. The Baisley Park Branch and the South Jamaica Branch are also located in Jamaica.

Neighboring areas

Neighboring areas are Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Holliswood, Bellerose, Briarwood, Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Hollis, Queens Village, South Ozone Park, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Laurelton, Rosedale, Brookville, Rochdale, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, Hillcrest, Kew Gardens Hills, Fresh Meadows, Meadowmere Park, and Woodhaven.

Notable residents

Notable current and former residents of Jamaica, with (B) denoting that the person was born there, include:


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  34. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, March 24, 2009
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