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November 16, 2011


DiNapoli: Northwestern Queens Neighborhoods are Open for Business

The Northwestern Queens neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights have the greatest concentrations of immigrants in all of New York City and experienced strong economic growth during the years leading up to the recession, according to an economic snapshot of the area released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“The streets of Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights reflect the diverse heritage of New York’s immigrant populations,” DiNapoli said. “An entrepreneurial spirit is vividly on display in the area’s retail corridors, such as those along Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard. These neighborhoods experienced strong economic growth in the early part of the decade, but have struggled more recently. Public and private investment would create new job opportunities and more affordable housing. The Willets Point Redevelopment plan is a good example of such an opportunity, but much will depend on how quickly the project progresses.”

Leading up to the recession, the area comprising Northwestern Queens had job growth that outpaced the rest of Queens and New York City.  Most of the new jobs were in health care and retail trade and were concentrated in Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.  In the difficult economic climate of 2009, however, private sector employment tumbled by 2.9 percent, a higher percentage decline than the rest of Queens (2.4 percent) but lower than the decline in the City overall (3.6 percent).  In 2010, private employment in the area grew by 0.3 percent to reach 37,750 jobs.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The Elmhurst and Corona area had the highest concentration of foreign-born residents (65.5 percent) and the Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst area the second-highest (61.8 percent) of New York City’s 55 U.S. Census neighborhoods. Immigrants from 71 countries reside in the diverse neighborhoods of Northwestern Queens.
  • The population grew by more than 40 percent from 1980 to 2010, much faster than in the rest of the City. Although the Census Bureau reports that the rate of growth slowed to 2.4 percent during the past decade, City officials believe the rate of growth is higher and they are challenging the counts.
  • Private sector employment grew by 9.9 percent from 2004 to 2008, a faster pace than the rest of Queens and the rest of the City.
  • The number of businesses grew by 18.1 percent from 2000 to 2009 (to reach 4,825 firms), three times faster than business growth in the rest of the City. Small businesses employing fewer than ten people fueled this growth.
  • In 2010, retail trade, health care, hotels, restaurants and bars accounted for 60 percent of all private sector jobs.
  • Private sector wages grew at an average annual rate of 6 percent from 2004 to 2008, but from 2008 to 2010 the average private sector salary fell by 1.5 percent to $39,200 compared to $43,760 in the rest of Queens.
  • The number of elementary school students rose by more than 18 percent in the past six years, further exacerbating school overcrowding.  Despite the opening of three new elementary schools in the area, 19 of the 22 elementary schools last year operated above capacity.
  • In 2008, almost half of all households in the area devoted more than 30 percent of their incomes to rent (the level at which rent is considered burdensome).  Nearly one-fourth of area households faced a severe rent burden, devoting more than 50 percent of their incomes to rent in 2008.

An economic bright spot in the area is the Willets Point Redevelopment plan, which envisions more than 5,500 units of mixed-income housing, 1.7 million square feet of retail and entertainment space, convention center facilities, office space, a hotel, community facilities and new open space improvements.  The City is currently evaluating proposals for Phase I of the project, which would develop a 12.7 acre parcel adjacent to Citi Field. The entire project is expected to create thousands of temporary and permanent jobs and be completed in phases by 2022.

New York State Senator Jose Peralta:
Comptroller DiNapoli’s report underscores the fact that we have a vibrant community with enormous potential to grow even stronger. What we have on our side is the legendary entrepreneurial initiative and commitment to hard work of immigrant communities, and an incomparable transportation infrastructure that literally connects this area to the rest of the world.

The opportunity to grow jobs here is as great as the need for those jobs.  Investment in job creation, school construction and affordable housing in Northwest Queens will enable this community to realize the extraordinary potential highlighted by the comptroller. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for this thoughtful report. The information and analysis it presents will be extremely helpful in building awareness of the economic potential of Northwest Queens.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall:
As a resident of northwest Queens, I know firsthand of the area’s attraction for immigrants and the potential for even still greater job growth as redevelopment plans, like the one for Willets Point, move forward.

I thank State Comptroller DiNapoli for this latest and the previous economic snapshots that are providing a comprehensive measuring stick and report card that not only checks the pulse of an entire community, but also helps us to plan for the future of schools, housing and job growth.

New York Assembly Member Michael G. DenDekker:
I'm deeply appreciative to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for undertaking this economic snapshot of northwestern Queens. Its findings confirm what many of us who live and work in Queens have long known; our diversity is a boon to our economic well-being, and that along with the successes come additional challenges. These include school overcrowding, slow job growth, the high cost of living - in particular, rental costs - and changes in private sector employment. Reports like this are invaluable tools as we continue to devise and implement policies in Albany to restore economic prosperity to New York State, and a robust quality of life to all New Yorkers.

New York State Assembly Member Francisco P. Moya:
Northwest Queens is home to a diverse and vibrant community. The report that the New York State Comptroller has compiled will help shine the light on the successes of Northwest Queens, and on our vast potential for economic development and growth. It is important that we focus on developing areas where there are current opportunities for growth, including redeveloping the Willets Point property. I plan to continue to advocate for the building of a new soccer stadium on the property and look forward to working with other state elected officials to make this a reality. In building from the foundation we currently have, we as elected officials can work together with our community to ensure a brighter future.

New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm:
Because of the economic downturn, our immigrant communities continue to face many hardships.  That is especially true in our area, one of the most densely populated and diverse districts in New York City. Thanks to this very telling report we can determine the current health of our neighborhoods and identify and address the many challenges that still remain. I commend NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for his work on this report and I look forward to working closely with him and our local leaders to ensure the future well-being of our area.

New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras:
This report highlights and further proves the reasons why further and continued investments need to be made in our area. With new partnerships and continued investments in our neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights we can preserve the diversity that characterizes our neighborhoods, at the same time modernizing it so it can continue to be a productive region to the Queens economy and the economy of the City as a whole.

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