BY JOE MARVILLI
Although no neighborhood was left unscathed by the economic recession, Queens weathered the decline better than most areas, according to the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
Jack Friedman, the executive director for the Queens Chamber of Commerce, talked to the Queens Tribune about why the Borough made it through the recession better than most, the economic hotspots of today and tomorrow and why the threat of a government shutdown is “ridiculous.”
While many areas of the City, State and country saw their commerce tumble down in 2008, Queens was far luckier, a result of its varied economy and increased opportunities.
“We had our downs, but it was never as severe as other parts of the country, even other parts of the City,” Friedman said. “I think we have a pretty diversified economy in Queens. People were looking for alternatives. I think people took advantage of the fact when the market was down, it was a great opportunity to build in places that had potential, like Flushing, like Western Queens.”
Friedman said he felt that 2013 was a good year for the Queens economy, with positive growth and development happening in both residential and commercial sections of popular neighborhoods like Flushing and Long Island City.
Part of that good year he credits to the work the Chamber of Commerce had done, saying it was more involved with “boots on the ground” projects than any other year. Among those ideas is the proposed Jackson Heights Corona BID that would cover Roosevelt Avenue. General assistance in helping businesses grow through finding them access to capital was a key component as well.
The organization was also down in the Rockaways constantly, helping its residents rebuild their lives after Superstorm Sandy. While he acknowledged the devastation it caused, Friedman felt that even that disaster has offered some opportunities as well.
“The silver lining to that cloud is the fact that there was a tremendous amount of rebuilding and there was a lot of construction work going on,” he said. “Of course, that’s also been offset by businesses that haven’t been able to reopen.”
As for the future of Queens, Friedman felt that the technology industry would play a huge role in its economic success, mentioning how Long Island City has the space for many start-ups and Queens College is graduating more computer science majors than any other college in the City.
Friedman also credited the partnership with Cornell University, currently building a tech. campus on Roosevelt Island, as a project that will lead to much growth in the neighborhood.
“We’re going to see tremendous, tremendous growth in western Queens. It’s going to become a Silicon Alley of the East Coast,” he said.
While today’s economic hubs are Long Island City and Flushing, Friedman said that Jamaica will be the next neighborhood to join that list.
“I think Jamaica’s going to show tremendous growth. York College hopefully is becoming a hotspot incubator and will develop tech. programs,” he said. “Whatever’s going to happen in downtown Jamaica is going to persist all the way down into the Rockaways and the airport area.”
Despite all this potential, the threat of a government shutdown may cast a pall over the Borough’s aspirations, a scenario that had Friedman critical of Congress.
“It’s just ridiculous that we have to deal with this constantly. This kicking the can mentality in Washington has got to stop,” he said. “The worst thing for business is not knowing what the future holds. You can’t plan that way.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.