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. Jamaica is patrolled by the NYPD‘s 103rd, 113th & 105th Precincts.
It was settled under Dutch rule in 1656 in New Netherland as Rustdorp. 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.
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. 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.
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.