NFT New York Jamaica


Once a predominantly African-American neighborhood, Jamaica has growing populations of Caribbean and Southeast Asian immigrants transforming its landscape. It is a major transit hub for the Long Island Rail Road, buses, and several subway lines, yet sadly most visitors don't stick around long.

The City is itching to redevelop Jamaica Center, and though people are paying more attention to eminent domain battles in spots like Manhattanville and Atlantic Yards, the area around the AirTrain/Long Island Rail Road station is being condemned with little fanfare following a massive rezoning effort in 2007. The Bloombergian redevelopment is focused on turning the area into an office, retail and transportation hub. Time will tell if the economy can sustain redevelopment in Jamaica, but for the time being the plans look "Exciting!" and "Bold!" and a glossy street-level PR campaign seen around Jamaica Center boasts what planners see as the area's tremendous upside. Part of that redevelopment will come at the expense of small business owners south of the LIRR tracks, including the proprietors of See more.

>Club Kalua. If you peer down at 94th Avenue from one of the shiny new climate-controlled AirTrain cars that whisk travelers to and from JFK, you'll see where in 2006 Sean Bell tragically lost his life in a hail of bullets from the guns of undercover police officers after he and his friends patronized the strip club the night before his wedding.

Jamaica Avenue, or "The Ave," is a hodgepodge of retailers large and small nestled among some of Queens' most beautiful and dilapidated architecture, about 20 blocks of low- and middle-end retail stretching out in either direction from 162nd Street. It is Brooklyn's Fulton Street Mall on steroids, and a glimpse of what Harlem's 125th Street was once really like. Walk around, soak up the atmosphere and perhaps purchase some incense or an "urban fiction" novel or two from one of the many street vendors. Check out the ornate Loew's Valencia Theater near 165th Street, now the Tabernacle of Prayer Church. On the western end of The Ave sits the stately 19th century King Manor as well as the Former First Reformed Dutch Church, which was recently repurposed as the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. Just off of Jamaica Avenue on Merrick Boulevard is Queens' Central Library, the main branch of one of the most-used library systems in the country; its Long Island History Division is an excellent resource for Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island history.

Prospect Cemetery on the grounds of York College is a Colonial-era cemetery recently resurrected from neglect, its historic building rechristened as the Illinois Jacquet Performance Space, hosting community and college events. The Greater Allen Cathedral of New York is one of the largest congregations in the city. Major Mark Park is a curiosity, a somber Civil War monument sharing space with a hulking abstract 1970s piece; the top-down imposition of "culture" on this forlorn public space along Hillside Avenue is illustrative of past plans for the area. Briarwood, just up the hill from The Ave, was developed in the 1920s and once served United Nations workers when the world body built housing there; today the neighborhood straddles the line between tony Kew Gardens and gritty Jamaica. Hollis sits between bustling Jamaica Avenue to the south and the Grand Central Parkway to the north; the middle-class African-American community here nurtured rap greats Young MC, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, and most notably, Run-DMC, whose "Christmas in Hollis" is a pop culture gem. St. John's University is just north of the Grand Central.

You don't look like the type that patronizes Club Kalua, which is just as well since it probably won't be around much longer if the City has its way. Try The Dart Inn for a local spot or Traditions if you want to hobnob with SJU students.


Check out Tierras Centro Americanas for Guatemalan. Look for the two Indian Sagar restaurants on Hillside Avenue. Cooking With Jazz up by SJU features authentic Cajun. If you're on The Ave, hit up Jamaican Flavors at the 165th Street Mall or check out Taste and See inside the Jamaica Market.

The Ave has everything from street vendors to chains like Old Navy. For sneakers, hair weaves and permanent $40 "today only" leather jacket deals, don't miss the 165th Street Mall. Also try the Gertz Plaza Mall (in the Gertz Department Store building, which closed in 1980) or Sutphin Boulevard.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Layne Mosler
Photo:  Layne Mosler

Sagar Chinese
In Bangladesh, Chinese food is held in high regard, rarely relegated to fast food status and often fused with the local masala. In New York, there are just a handful of places where you can find Chinese food prepared the Bangladeshi way--Sagar Chinese in Jamaica is one of them. Dishes like vegetable hakka noodles and sizzling chicken aren't as explosive as you might expect here, but Gobi masala (curry-battered cauliflower with onions and bird chilies) and chili fish (in a delicious garlic-powered brown sauce with more bird chilies) draw customers from as far away as Virginia. Do not leave without eating dessert, which comes from their sister restaurant around the corner at 168-25 Hillside Avenue. Sagar rasmalai (cottage cheese and flour balls flavored with cardomom and bathed in sweet milk), mango ice cream with actual chunks of mango, and sweet dhodi (yogurt mixed with caramelized sweetened condensed milk with a texture somewhere between cheesecake and mousse) are all spectacular and worth the long journey on the F train.

Posted By:  Karen Clements
Photo:  Karen Clements

Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins
Rarely does a new chain offering make us stop and take notice but the new Dunkin' Donuts has us doing a double take. Located just off Linden at Sutphin Blvd, this latest Dunkin/Baskin combo is worth a visit. The colorful "D" door handles are the just the beginning of a not-so-typical visit. Fashioned more like a coffee bar, this site has a wide and expansive floor area equipped with high tables and stools. There is a counter bar for individual moments and tables for dining and conversation. They have pulled out all the stops with a pickup station for beverages and a spot to sweeten which includes all the lo-cal favorites--pink, yellow and blue. There are even well-placed computer outlets. But wait, however tempting, the site isn't wireless. And the neighborhood, however much it is re-emerging, still has its sketchy moments. But the most surprising thing about this Dunkin'/Baskin is that the donuts are fresh and the coffee good!

Posted By:  Karen Clements
Photo:  Karen Clements

It's more than just shea butter! Nubian Heritage of Jamaica is your one-stop shopping source for all things Afro-centric. Incense and oils in a vast array of scents go several rows deep. All types of (yes) shea butter beauty products, black soaps and bath scrubs keep the ash away. The back of the store is pimped out with African-themed statues, drums, masks and even brooms for jumping. The book and audio sections are filled with uncommon titles exploring themes of the Black, African, and Caribbean experience definitely not found at other venues. They also carry a surprising collection of Nation of Islam recordings featuring the teachings of Elijah Muhammed. In-store events include author visits.

Posted By:  Karen Clements
Photo:  Karen Clements

808 Ink
Nothing commemorates those exceptional life moments more than being inked. Getting hitched? Get Inked. Newborn? Pencil the date on your arm. Body art and piercing is worth the pain at 808. Thanks to today’s technology, their collection is expansive. If you can think it, they can ink it. They take custom orders and pierce in all the popular places. Yes, even there! 808 is closed Monday and open ‘til midnight on the weekend. That’s when it gets busiest as folks still follow the old tradition of get paid, get drunk, get tatted.

Posted By:  Karen Clements
Photo:  Karen Clements

Ozone Park Animal Clinic
Is your doggie down? Does fluffy have the flu? Then take ‘em to Ira. He’s the pet doctor with the cure and the Ozone Park Animal Clinic is where to find him. Ira treats cats and dogs of all persuasions with a kind heart and a steady hand. Even the meanest of pets are charmed by his bedside manner. Prescriptions are filled with sound advice and clear instructions bound to get your pet barking up the right tree fast. The clinic also offers border service for cats and home visits by appointment. Make sure to leash your pet when you go, ‘cause sometimes the patients just don’t get along.

Posted By:  Karen Clements
Photo:  Karen Clements

Roop Salon and Spa
Conquer your unibrow! All that annoying facial hair is history with a visit to Roop and a little bit of string. Threading is the new waxing and thankfully so. Gone are the days of hot wax, breakouts and sanitary concerns about double dipping. Using ordinary thread, skilled craftwomen attack those problem areas with astounding closeness. The process isn’t entirely ouchless and be prepared to lend a finger, or two, to the removal process. Henna tattoos and facials are also on the menu. The price is right and process is quick and waiting your turn isn’t an issue which is good because area parking is crazy.

Posted By:  Karen Clements
Photo:  Karen Clements

Barbie's Hair World
In a time of hairpiece purchasing at malls and drug stores, there are those who still prefer to buy hair the old-fashioned way—off of someone’s head. Just kidding. At the hair store! Known to ol’ skoolers as Lugo’s, Barbie’s requires no appointment. Just walk in, wait your turn and place your order. Exact match, custom-color blends, straight, curly, long, short, kinky or jehri curl are all on the menu. Hair for weaving is stitched while you wait. Hair is durable and reusable so you can bump it, curl it, wash it, style it any way you wish. Prices are by the pound and they only stock human hair. Oh well.

Posted By:  Jayson Walker
Photo:  Jayson Walker

Some people need a dare issued to try West Indian saltfish and boiled callaloo for breakfast. Others may require a risk-averse $5.50 price-tag to budget in an I-knew-I'd-hate-it McMuffin. Still others might need gratis dumplings, plantains, and oxtail gravy. Some just might have to settle for it because the Taste and See ran out of kidney on the breakfast menu and the Chinese-run Cajun Food counter next door seemed just a little too daring (it was probably just as good but we all have our own criteria). Well, whatever it takes, the risk is well worth it, and the syrupy sweet sorrell packs enough kilocalories to replace the regular breakfast caffeine injection, but with a more hey-mon kinda vibe. Too involved? Well, the Jamaican Market has other counters too (juice bar, Japanese, florist??) and lotto, but if you choose the latter, maybe choosing breakfast isn't your biggest problem.

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See Jamaica...
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Nightlife (2)
Shopping (94)
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