BY TRONE DOWD
In recent decades, Hollis has been home to some of the biggest names in pop culture. From hip-hop legend LL Cool J, Ja Rule and Run DMC to radio personalities Ed Lover to influential black business and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, Hollis is known around the world as the incubation neighborhood for some of the world’s biggest talent. But fame aside, Hollis has a number of qualities that make the southeast Queens neighborhood unique in its own right.
Unlike a number of other Southeast Queens neighborhoods, Hollis was predominantly black very early on. As a result of the trend of white residents moving out due to concerns over middle class blacks moving into the neighborhood, African-Americans were able to make the best of the neighborhood all on their own.
A beautiful suburban area, Hollis was ideal for those raising a family just like the neighboring towns of St. Albans and Jamaica. It’s proximity to the transportation hub that is Jamaica also made for an appealing pitch as the working class continued working and the kids started school. It also helped that shopping was made easy with nearby Jamaica Avenue.
As previously mentioned, Hollis is known as an incubator for some of the most talented black stars in recent history. It is a popular place where stars often give back. Every year of the last 11 years in fact, rapper and actor James Todd Smith, better known as LL Cool J, holds a “Jump and Ball” charity event. During the yearly event, community youths compete in a basketball tournament after a five week summer program teaching them the benefits of being active and staying in shape as well as the importance of leadership skills.
Along with the help of former elected officials, Smith was able to give back to his community in a meaningful way.
“When I was growing up around here, this is something I would’ve wanted, and there was a tournament every now and then, but it wasn’t consistent,” James told a reporter for the Press of Southeast Queens last August. “I always remembered how important that was to the community and how it made us feel. Unfortunately, in recent years, developments out of Hollis hasn’t been all good news. In the last eight months, a battle over a property located between 202nd and 204th streets along Hollis Avenue has been a point of contention between the city and the residents of Hollis. Southeast Queens, inundated with an already overwhelming amount of supportive housing, the long vacant property consisting of several apartment buildings was turned into a shelter for homeless veterans. After a long battle with the city, asking for equity amongst all communities in Queens, the city ignored the Community Board 12’s request went through with the original plan.