As of the summer of 2014, Queens is in the unusual position of boasting two classic architectural treasures that were once home to the same now-shuttered high school. One, of course, was the classic Jamaica High School, a Georgian Revival masterpiece built in 1927 at Gothic Drive and 168th Street, noted on this recent Brownstoner Queens piece. The other is this forbidding Gothic Revival brick number on Haillside Avenue and 162nd Street.
When Jamaica High School was founded in 1892, students went to class in the now-demolished Jamaica Public High School, 161st Street just off Jamaica Avenue, which was still Fulton Street; 161st was then Herriman Avenue. That venue quickly became too crowded, and a new school in the Gothic Revival style was commissioned with prominent Brooklyn architect William Tubby (whose most prominent buildings still stand in Clinton Hill, including the Pratt University library building) at the helm of the project. (more…)
Thirty-five years ago, Vincent and Patricia Chin relocated their business, VP Records, from Kingston, Jamaica to Jamaica, Queens. It was a good move as VP quickly grew to become the largest reggae company in the world. This Sunday, VP will add spice to the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival New York with a storyboard installation featuring a detailed map exploring reggae’s impact in every continent and an illustrative timeline covering each era. This seems like the perfect addition to this fourth annual event, which is now the biggest Caribbean food festival in the world, attracting roughly 20,000 visitors last year. They come for the tremendous cuisine, live music acts, shopping, and even a cultural stage, which will host folk dances, poetry readings, storytelling and creative fashions. Meanwhile, chefs will compete to win cash, bragging rights as the “Jerk Champion” and the coveted Dutch Pot Trophy as decided by a panel of distinguished judges.
More information and five additional photos appear on the jump page.
Last week, 122-year old Jamaica High School, 168th Street and Gothic Drive, graduated its last class, in a phase-out that began in 2011 when the school ended admissions. As recently as 1985 the school was considered the best secondary school in America in 1985 by the U.S. Department of Education.
Dear Old Jamaica High, by Harwood Hoadley:
There is a certain High School out in old Jamaica Town
Of all the schools we’ve ever known she most deserves renown
Her boys are strong and manly and her girls are beyond compare
And Royal Red and Loyal Blue are the colors that they wear
In gym, on track, on diamond her honor we maintain
In oratory and debate for her fresh laurels gain
Her fame’s upheld by song and play, for loyal each and all
We rally to defend her name and gather at her call
Then cheer for old Jamaica High, the school without a peer
We’ll cherish long the memory of the days we’re spending here
Prosperity be always hers, courageous purpose high
And loyal love attend her and fame that shall not die
That’s from The Beaver Book, a fascinating history of Jamaica High School from 1892-1927. The book took its name from the now-filled-in Beaver Pond, just south of downtown Jamaica. The school mascot was also a beaver.
The New York City Housing Authority owns more than 80 houses that are sitting vacant, many of them blighted and causing a nuisance for neighbors according to a story in the New York Post. Nearby residents have been complaining for years that the houses are infested with rats, that the yards are used as dumping grounds and people often break into them. Many of the houses are in Queens with several in Jamaica like the one above at 106-17 Remington Street. The city took the houses over from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the 1970s. After tenants moved or passed away the houses were left empty and many have been that way for decades.
A neighbor of one of these homes told the Post: “We live in a terrible situation. This is wrong. We’ve had people break in, do their dirty work and come out. Random people with trucks throw garbage in the back yard. It’s a dumping ground.” The neighbor of another said, “We have to deal with trespassing, garbage, mosquitoes, possums and rats. I call the city every year. Sometimes they come. They just sit here, eat lunch and leave. The Housing Authority abandoned this home.” Neighbors have cleaned up the yards, boarded up the buildings and shoveled the snow at these city-owned properties.
The housing authority is seeking permission to transfer the homes to non-profits that could fix them up and make sure they are occupied but many residents are skeptical saying they have heard those plans before but nothing ever happens.
Photo via PropertyShark
Dollar vans popped up in New York City during the 1980 transit strike and they have stuck around ever since. The 13-seat vans make up a partially unofficial transit network in neighborhoods where subway and bus service is scarce. They are particularly active in Queens according to an article and interactive web feature in The New Yorker.
The writer spent a year riding the vans all across the city and found that Jamaica, Queens was the busiest dollar van hub of all. He’s created interactive maps of dollar van routes and and videos of drivers and passengers. The vans are licensed and regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission but illegal ones are common according to the story.
Aaron Reiss who wrote the story and created the maps wrote, “Queens is notable for how enmeshed vans have become in the borough’s transportation landscape. There are almost twice as many legal dollar vans in Queens as in Brooklyn and far fewer unlicensed, illegal vans. Vans in Queens have been afforded several loading and unloading spaces. In Queens, vans are starting to function like an official transportation system.”
Have you ever used the dollar vans? How was the experience?
New York’s Shadow Transit [The New Yorker]
Photo: Cap’n Transit Rides Again
It’s kind of a Bob Marley reunion. Judy Mowatt and Marcia “Reggae Empress” Griffiths, original members of the I-Threes, will perform at the fourth annual Groovin’ in the Park concert in Jamaica this Sunday. Along with Rita Marley, the I-Threes provided background harmonies for Marley and toured as a group. Plus, each member went on to enjoy a solo career. These Reggae legends will share the stage with Beres Hammond, a soulful and romantic crooner who, like Mowatt and Griffiths (below), hails from West Indian island of Jamaica (not the Queens neighborhood). And to change the pace and accents, the soft rock group Air Supply will also perform. This Australian band had seven Top Five hits in the 1980s, including “Lost in Love,” “Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You),” and “Sweet Dreams.” Other scheduled performers are Chronixx (above), John Holt, and Bob Andy.
Details: Groovin’ in the Park, Roy Wilkins Park, 177-01 Baisley Boulevard, Jamaica, June 29th, gates open at 11 am, but concert scheduled for a 2 pm start, $59.99.
This Tuesday, city reps, local pols and community members met to discuss ways to bring development to Jamaica, a neighborhood they consider overlooked. DNAinfo attended the meeting, where the group discussed a plan to “further develop the neighborhood by attracting more businesses and new restaurants, building more housing and beautifying the area.” They know that Jamaica is already a transit and economic hub, with a population of about 600,000 people, but as the president of nonprofit Regional Plan Association said, “It’s the first time in probably 30 years that anybody at City Hall is paying attention to Jamaica.”
Groups will continue to meet throughout the summer to talk about neighborhood issues like housing, education, commercial development, public space and transportation. And in the fall, they hope to present a series of recommendations to the Mayor’s office and City Council. There’s also some significant development to look forward to in the area, including a new mixed-use apartment building, hotels and a department store on 168th Street.
Photo by Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska for DNAinfo