The Jackson Heights area is one of New York City’s most diverse communities with one of the highest concentrations of immigrants, many running their own businesses and making major contributions to the booming local economy, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Jackson Heights’ diverse and dynamic immigrant community is the driving force behind the local economy that has seen growth in the number of businesses, jobs and household income,” DiNapoli said. “Despite the neighborhood’s economic success, some challenges remain. The Jackson Heights area is living proof of the positive economic and cultural benefits immigration brings to our communities.”
Immigrants represented 60 percent of the area’s population in 2017, much higher than the citywide (37 percent) and national (14 percent) shares. Immigrants also made up more than three-quarters of employed residents, the second highest share among New York City’s 55 Census-defined neighborhoods.
Since the end of the recession, there has been a significant increase in the number of businesses in the Jackson Heights area. In 2018, there were 3,300 businesses, 660 more than in 2009. Many are small retail shops and restaurants that reflect the neighborhood’s diversity. Nearly three-quarters had fewer than five employees, and 88 percent had fewer than 10 employees.
Private sector employment reached 20,900 in 2018, 23 percent higher than in 2009. This is an increase of 4,000 private sector jobs, creating job opportunities for residents. Two thirds of the jobs added were in retail, construction, and leisure and hospitality. The neighborhood benefits from its close proximity to LaGuardia Airport, which is undergoing a major redevelopment.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the unemployment rate in the greater Jackson Heights area, which includes North Corona and East Elmhurst, fell from the recessionary peak of 10.3 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2017, lower than the rate in Queens (5.2 percent) and the city (6.4 percent).
Among the challenges that the Jackson Heights area still faces include school overcrowding and a need for more affordable housing.
“Comptroller DiNapoli’s thought-provoking economic snapshot shows how the high concentration of immigrants in Jackson Heights strongly contributes to the economic success of this diverse and vibrant neighborhood,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “The hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of our immigrant population helps make Jackson Heights and all of ‘The World’s Borough’ a powerful economic force. Comptroller DiNapoli and his team deserve to be commended for producing this compelling report.”
“Jackson Heights is showing the nation how a vibrant immigrant community strengthens our society, both culturally and economically,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). “We must continue to invest in ourselves — our housing, our education, our health care, and our small businesses — to further uplift working-class and immigrant communities.”
"I am extremely pleased that the Comptroller's Economic Snapshot of Jackson Heights shows a growth of small businesses and a sharp reduction in the poverty rate,” said Assemblymember Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights). “I hope that we can continue to build on these successes while addressing worrisome issues, including affordability and creating more seats in our public schools. I am confident that with the strength of our diversity, we will overcome these obstacles and help all the residents of the Jackson Heights community."
“I am proud to represent the most diverse district in the entire country, and the integrity and work ethic of the immigrant business community is one of the aspects of my district that makes me the most proud. My constituents have a rich cultural history both within their own ethnicities, and those that they have created through their dedication to their neighborhoods,” said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights). “I want to applaud the State Comptroller and thank his office for dedicating the time to profile Jackson Heights and issuing this report, which highlights the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of our businesses and their families. It is my hope that the report draws further attention to the importance of investing in immigrant communities, their businesses, and their families, in order to promote the economic development and growth in the entire state.”
"Jackson Heights is thriving because of its diversity," said NYC Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). "As Comptroller DiNapoli's report illustrates, immigrants have helped make our local economy strong. Jackson Heights surpasses the citywide and boroughwide business sales growth averages thanks to our newest New Yorkers. I thank the Comptroller for releasing this enlightening report. It underscores the importance of empowering immigrant workers: not only is it the right thing to do, it is in our financial interest to do so."
“It’s a common refrain that immigrants built New York but what sometimes gets overlooked is that immigrants continue to build this city to this day,” said Councilmember Francisco Moya (D- East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, LeFrak City and Corona). “Immigrant small business owners and their entrepreneurial spirit is the lifeblood of our local economy. When you walk down Roosevelt Avenue, you can smell Mexican food cooking in taquerias, hear Dominican music playing in mom and pop shops, see people shopping in Colombian markets or sporting Ecuadorian soccer jerseys. Our diversity is a point of pride and a testament that the American Dream is an immigrant’s story.”
“On the heels of Comptroller DiNapoli’s 2018 Economic Snapshot of Queens report, the release of this report on Jackson Heights reaffirms all the good news that we already knew: that Queens is a great place to live, work and play,” said Thomas J. Grech, President & CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “As a proud third generation American of Maltese, Spanish and Austrian descent, I know well the benefits of diversity as well evidenced in the Jackson Heights report. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for his hard work and efforts to showcase the most diverse place on Earth.”
Other findings in DiNapoli’s report include:
- Retail trade was the largest employment sector in the Jackson Heights area followed by the leisure and hospitality sector and the health care sector.
- Taxable business sales increased by 72 percent since 2009 to reach $473 million in 2017. This growth was faster than in Queens (54 percent) and citywide (50 percent).
- There were 102,300 immigrants in the Jackson Heights area in 2017. Ecuadoreans were the largest group, representing one-fifth (20,800) of the immigrant population. Dominicans were the second-largest group (14,400), followed by Mexicans (11,800). Bangladeshis, Colombians, Peruvians, Chinese and Indians also made up significant shares.
- Of the 12,650 self-employed residents, 90 percent were immigrants, the highest among the city’s 55 neighborhoods.
- The household poverty rate fell from 20 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2017, significantly lower than the citywide rate and the second-largest decline among the City’s 55 neighborhoods. The decline represents 15,200 fewer people in poverty.
- Three-quarters of the residents who were age 25 and over had a high school diploma, lower than the citywide share (82 percent). In North Corona, only half (54 percent) had a high school diploma.
- Almost two-thirds of rental households devoted at least 30 percent of their incomes to rent, up from 54 percent in 2009.
- Seventeen of the 19 traditional elementary and middle schools were operating beyond their capacities in 2018. Seven schools were operating at more than 125 percent of capacity, including four at more than 145 percent.
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