Man Indicted for Attempted Murder of Cop in Jamaica

By Alicia Venter


A man has been indicted for the attempted murder of a police officer in a shooting on Jamaica Avenue on April 5.

Devin Spraggins, 22 of Jamaica, allegedly shot rookie officer Brett Boller as he fled him and his partner, officer Anthony Rock. Both officers are 22 years old.

He is facing two counts of attempted murder in the first degree, among other charges, the Queens District Attorney’s Office announced on May 3. He faces up to 40 years to life in prison for each charge of attempted murder if convicted.

The charges claim that prior to the shooting, Spraggins punched a fellow passenger on a bus driving down Jamaica Avenue near 160th St. at around 3:20 p.m. on April 5. The officers were flagged down by the bus driver for assistance, and as they tried to speak to Spraggins, he pushed Rock and fled. In the chase that followed, Spraggins allegedly turned back, firing at both officers and hitting Boller in the leg.

After shooting Boller, Spraggins ran into a parking garage, and was caught on video surveillance removing his black jacket and sweatshirt, fleeing in a white T-shirt. Security camera footage caught Spraggins entered a black Nissan later identified as a Lyft vehicle, at 161st and Hillside Avenue.

He was taken to his a residence on 215st Street in Jamaica, where a search warrant the next day. The discovery of evidence led law enforcement to Spraggins’ Bronx home, and he was arrested at that location.

Spraggins was taken to Jamaica Hospital following the shooting, where he underwent surgery.

“The brazen shooting of a police officer in broad daylight will not go unanswered,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz in a statement. I want to thank the staff from my office that assisted in the investigation with the NYPD and federal law enforcement to quickly apprehend the defendant. We will not let up in our efforts to get guns off the street and keep our officers and communities safe.”

Alongside the two charges of first degree attempted murder, Spraggins also faces two counts of attempted murder in the second degree; two counts of assault in the first degree; assault of a police officer; attempted assault in the first degree; two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree; menacing a police officer; two counts of tampering with physical evidence; obstructing governmental administration in the second degree; and assault in the third degree.”

This investigation was conducted by the NYPD and the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

City Sued For Open Streets Program, Plaintiffs Claim Discrimination Against Elderly & Disabled

By Alicia Venter


A collection of New Yorkers filed a lawsuit against the city on Monday, expressing concerns that it discriminates against those protected with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the elderly.

The 12 plaintiffs in Charles v. City of New York share that they are disabled New York City residents, and argue that the Open Streets Program, managed by the DOT and third-party partners, discriminates against seniors and people with disabilities.

“Only the City of New York could come up with a program that promises to eventually choke off 100 miles of public roadways (representing 1.6% of the City’s total street mileage) and 20 miles of public bus lanes, and which robs tens of thousands of disabled City residents of their independence by turning them into shut-ins, and assign it such an Orwellian “Newspeak” name as it has done here: the “Open Streets Program,” the lawsuit begins.

Many of the plaintiffs suffer from disabilities that impair mobility, strength and mobility,  the lawsuit states, and they are reliant on cars for errands, medical appointments and “to generally live their lives independently and with dignity.”

The lawsuit claims that the Open Street Program runs afoul of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, citing Title II of the ADA which provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”

In response, the DOT issued the following statement: “Open Streets enhances safety, accessibility, and equity for a large number of New Yorkers using the roads, including seniors and people with disabilities. The City will review the case.”

Matthew Berman, a civil rights class-action attorney representing the plaintiffs in this case and a partner in the law firm of Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP, shared how the city has not considered the disabled or the elderly in any of their planning. Studies need to be conducted to see if there is a viable solution to have open streets — a term he finds ironic — while not inhibiting the basic needs of some citizens.

“[The city] has closed these streets without giving any thought whatsoever to the negative impact that it has on the disabled,” he said in a phone interview. “What’s happening here is that the disabled who live in our communities are being turned into shut-ins because they are relying on automobile transit to live their daily lives.”

A main concern that Berman describes is that of getting a ride to a doctor’s appointment — an able-bodied person would not think anything of walking two blocks to take a car service, such as Access-A-Ride, Uber or Lyft. However, that is not always an option for the disabled or elderly.

“If you are a disabled person, you can’t walk. You can’t get there. They have to come to your doorstep where you are stuck and stranded where you are,” Berman stated. He also expressed issues with the inability for emergency services, including an ambulance, to have access to these streets.

The city’s “Open Streets 2021 Application” states that, to prevent such issues, there must be a 15 foot emergency lane at all times. If this is not possible, the Open Streets applicant must work with the DOT and FDNY to ensure emergency access at all times.

The 34th Avenue Coalition, which is named as a defendant, submitted their proposal to the city with a graphic representation of how the open street would maintain a 15 foot emergency lane. The lawsuit counters this with an image of the supposed emergency lane inhibited due to immovable concrete blocks and planters.

The Open Streets Program, which the lawsuit repeatedly refers to as the “Closed Streets Program,” was a temporary program during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide safe outdoor spaces for people to gather. It was made permanent by the City Council in 2021.

While the lawsuit works to highlight inequities in Open Streets, there are notable social, economic and environmental benefits.

According to an October 2022 study by the DOT, Open Streets corridors were an average of 19% above their pre-pandemic baseline while control corridors were 29% below — a difference of nearly 50%.

Studies by Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that works to reduce the number of cars in the city to promote sustainability and safety, found benefits including redacted traffic violence to accessible public space in deprived communities.

As of April 22, the DOT plans to feature 160 locations, stretching nearly 300 blocks, in the 2023 Open Streets program. This includes 25 new locations and plans to deliver permanent redesigns to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists.

These new locations will be in Bushwick and Brownsville in Brooklyn, and South Jamaica in Queens. There are currently applications for seven new Queens Opens Streets and five new Brooklyn Open Streets.

Berman claims that some cyclists have harassed drivers — the lawyer shared that his office has a video of a cyclist yelling at a paratransit driver pulled to the curb trying to drop off a disabled person.

“The city didn’t spend any time thinking about this issue before they went ahead and said, ‘Nope, the bikers want it. We are going to give it to them. We are going to make these beautiful pedestrian plazas,’” Berman said. “It’s great if you are an able-bodied person to be able to enjoy that space, but the disabled are not provided any accommodations so that they can enjoy those spaces either.”

Accommodations for the elderly and disabled, he expressed, can be compared to the accommodations made for children heading to school. They have been ensured crossing guards — no thought to this kind of solution, or any, has been provided to the disabled and elderly who live along these open streets.

‘Paddle for the Cure NYC’ Dragon Boat Team To Kickstart Season

By Alicia Venter


Paddle for the Cure NYC, the nonprofit dragon boat team of NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, is kicking off their season on May 13 at the World’s Fair Marina in Flushing. 

In advance celebration of World Oceans Day, anyone over age 15 is welcome to partake in paddling on a dragon boat alongside breast cancer survivors and supporters. 

Meet-up is at 11 a.m., and it will be at the White Dome area of the Marina. The rowing will be for one hour, beginning at 11:45 a.m. Admission is free.

Dragon boating is a water sport similar to rowing, but instead of rowers sitting in single file in boats and using oars with their backs to the direction they are traveling, dragon boaters sit in two rows of 10 and face forward using paddles. 

The sport promotes a positive and healthy lifestyle, which is part of the reason Paddle for the Cure NYC founder and breast cancer survivor Leah Salmorin encourages everyone to join.

“When they are hit with cancer, they are stuck and they cannot do their activities,” Salmorin shared in a phone interview. “I really want to encourage them to be part of our group, because I do believe that water is life.”

Dragon boating season runs through October 15 if weather permits. In the offseason, the organization holds other events, including bowling and fashion shows, including being part of New York Fashion Week.

“It is a group of survivors and supporters, and there is a sense of camaraderie,” shared Salmorin. “Learning from their stories — it is a camaraderie and you make new friends.”

Paddle for the Cure NYC takes their talent beyond the five boroughs, traveling to places such as Pittsburgh to compete. They also are part of numerous festivals and community events, such as the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival held in Flushing in August. 

This year, Salmorin is hoping to qualify for Nationals.

The organization’s mission is to create a sisterhood of breast cancer survivors, provide hope and support to cancer survivors and their families and to unite the community for charitable purposes through dragon boat racing. 

“We are making an impact now,” shared. “It is so great. If you do it from the heart, people will work with you.”

Those between the ages of 15-18 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information and to register for the event, visit Paddle for the Cure’s NYC’s website or visit their EventBrite. Questions can be sent to

Grasso Officially Makes Ballot for Queens DA

By Alicia Venter


Retired Judge George Grasso is officially running for Queens District Attorney along the Democratic line, filing 9,500 signatures to run for the position on Monday.

Immediately after leaving City Hall, Grasso hopped on the train to Queens Borough Hall where he shared updates with the campaign, many times delving into fervent monologues about an increase in crime in Queens.

Shooting CompStat statistics off at a whim, Grasso claimed Katz was “too little, too late” in addressing the crime sprees across Queens, particularly Flushing, and called on the current District Attorney to debate him before the primary on June 27.

“We have a crime wave in Queens right now. Crime in Queens is out of control during the tenure of Melinda Katz,” he said.

According to the most updated CompStat information, Grasso passionately stated, NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens South has seen an increase of major felony crime of over 40% in two years.

“You think that’s bad?” he questioned. “How about Patrol Borough Queens North?” According to CompStat, major felony crime is up over 68%. The 109th Precinct, he said, is up over 126%. While currently running on the Democratic line, Grasso shared that he has begun the process to run independently should he lose the party’s nomination.

Herb Woods, who worked with Grasso in the NYPD, shared a few words in support of his old friend.

“If you don’t acknowledge a problem, you can’t fix a problem,” Grasso announced.

The Grasso for Queens Campaign received 11 endorsements from local law enforcement agencies on Monday, including from the New York 10-13 Association, the Retired Lieutenants Association and Retired Police Association of New York State.

“If you want to bring back safety, security and sanity to the county of Queens, it is so important to vote for Judge Grasso,” said Bob Valentino, the President of the New York City Retired Transit Police Officers Association, which has endorsed Grasso. “With him, you will bring back Queens like it used to be in the old days.”

Herb Woods, former NYPD Assistant Commissioner, Department Advocate, who led police discipline, has known Grasso for 35 years after meeting as police officers of the NYPD. Seeing him rise through the ranks, Woods claimed to be a first-hand witness to Grasso working diligently within the department to create strategies to reduce crime when he was the first deputy commissioner of the NYPD.

“He wanted to immediately create a disciplinary system that was fair, that was transparent, would enforce due process and brought everyone to the table equally,” said Woods. “He made it doubly clear to me that whether you are a police officer or a civilian, no one is above the law.

The first step in Grasso’s plan, he explained, is quality of life enforcement. It is the small things — not enforcing misdemeanor assault and trespassing, or those who avoid tolls — that must be enforced to avoid repeat offenders.

Current district attorneys, he feels, are too muted across the city, citing State District Attorney David Soares as a role model of how all district attorneys should speak out.

“This is real now. I consider this the official first day of my campaign,” Grasso said. “We are going to win on June 27… this is coming. This is happening.”

“Joy – This Place I Land” Exhibition Opens in JCAL

By Alicia Venter

Jean-Louis’ piece, “Closing Halloween.” It can be seen in JCAL through the month.

What is joy?

This is what Jardley Jean-Louis tries to answer in their newest exhibition, “Joy – This Place I Land,” which will be on display at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) from April 6.

As a Black and Queer person, joy is in the small moments for award-winning artist Jean-Louis. It’s these moments they portray — sharing an intimate moment with a loved one on the train, fixing dinner with family and a Halloween with family are some of which they depict in their work. Through character-driven artistic expression, Jean-Louis portrays their intersectionality and the way in which joy shows itself in their life, often in the “light moments.”

“The expression of joy — what does it look like, especially as a Black person?” Jean-Louis posed in a Zoom interview with the Queens Ledger. “What does it mean to thrive?”

In their exhibit, which is a collection of digital art, they tackle what is making them happy right now as well as what could bring happiness in their future.

“A lot of my work is about simple life moments. It’s not about anything that’s some supernatural thing,” Jean-Louis said. Though they were originally going to do about six pieces, they decided on doing more works once they saw the space available in JCAL.

Though born in Harlem, the 32-year-old was raised on Liverpool Street in Jamaica, currently lives in Forest Hills and considers Queens their home. Art has been a consistent part of their life, as Jean-Louis briefly studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts. However, they considered the classroom space stifling, depriving them of their passion. They have since reignited their love for the arts, producing both digital illustrations and films. Jean-Louis is currently working on an animated film about gay culture and the AIDs epidemic in the 80s, particularly to bring more visibility to Black gay people and the Haitian gay community.

Jean-Louis themselves are second-generation American, with their parents immigrating from Haiti.

The impact of the Haitian culture in their upbringing can be seen in the work, “Heritage.” In one particular piece, “Closing Halloween,” Jean-Louis paints the picture of friends enjoying simple time together on Halloween day.

“Heritage” by Jean-Louis

“We’re waiting for the trick-or-treaters to come, and we are just watching something while waiting for them,” Jean-Louis said.

Another piece, “To Be Black, Gay, and Gay,” Jean-Louis describes as being “about Queerness and intimacy. It’s about love and the Black identity and just having it in the public.”

Jean-Louis’ piece, “To be Black, Gay, and Gay”

Though the exhibit is centered around the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) identity, Jean-Louis wanted to make sure to include work that extends to those who do not fall within that identity.

“I do want to make sure it’s inclusive,” they said. “I want for people to feel the joy to learn, and also feel from looking at the work and say, ‘oh, that this isn’t something that different from what I have in my own life.’”

JCAL is hosting an opening reception and artist talk this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. for free, with registration at

Cop Shot on Jamaica Ave, Search Underway for Perp



A 22-year-old rookie cop was shot in the right hip near 161st St. along Jamaica Avenue Wednesday.

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding the perpetrator, who remains on the loose. There is a $10,000 reward for any information. The individual has a tattoo of the name “Jocelyn” on his left hand, police say.

A press conference was held at Jamaica Hospital — where the officer was in the operating room at around 6 p.m. according to doctors —  later on Wednesday to update the public on the incident. A surveillance photo of a suspect accused of shooting an NYPD officer.

At approximately 3:20 p.m., an MTA bus driver traveling eastbound on Jamaica Avenue called for two police officers assigned to the 103rd Precinct field training unit, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig shared at the press conference.

“He was where our communities tells us they want their officers to be, standing a foot post,” said NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell.

The bus driver told the officers that a dispute had emerged between two men over a seat. When they approached the bus, a man exited through the front door and a “slight struggle ensued,” said Essig.

The man, who was wearing a black bubble jacket, black mask and orange sweatshirt pushed the officers and attempted to flee northbound on 161st Street, according to Essig.

One officer managed to catch up to the man, who fired one shot into his right hip  after a brief struggle.

The other police officer returned fire two times. Recovered shell casings from the crime scene reinforce this information. It is undetermined whether the perpetrator was struck.

A surveillance photo of a suspect accused of shooting an NYPD officer. The shell casing from the perpetrators’ weapon was recovered as well. As of 7:30 p.m., the caliber of the gun has yet to be determined.

The perpetrator then fled to a parking garage, where NYPD found the mask, jacket and orange sweatshirt. He was caught on video surveillance leaving the parking garage in a white t-shirt.

Patrick Lynch, head of the NYPD’s Police Benevolent Association union, expressed that he was concerned for both the environment that police officers work in and the environment that the community has to live in.

“While [the perpetrator] was running from police officers and shooting at police officers, there were children along that shopping corridor,” Lynch said. “There were people that were just going about their life… They had no regard for those people. ”

He then applauded those members of the community, who stopped and helped the police officer.

“When you can display a weapon over a dispute on the bus, that says a lot,” said Mayor Eric Adams at the press conference.

Today marked the cop’s third month as a member of the 103rd Precinct. He was appointed to the police department in July 2022, and to the 103rd Precinct in January. The injured officer was not identified at the press conference.

The partner of the shot officer has been with the NYPD for less than a year. His lack of hesitancy in helping his fellow officer was thanked by Sewell.

The officer’s father is a NYPD detective in Brooklyn.

“New Yorkers — you are our force multiplier. We are going to need your assistance in identifying and apprehending this offender,” Sewell said.

Anyone with any information in regard to this incident, contact 800-COPSHOT or @NYPDTips on Twitter.

Ramadan Food Drive feeds 150 families in Astoria

Facing Rising Prices, Astoria Welfare Society Distributes Staples for Holy Month


By Alicia Venter


The Astoria Welfare Society partnered with Hydro-Quebec and Queens Together to support the needs of Islam-practicing Astorians with a food drive for the start of Ramadan on Thursday.

Over 150 families were fed on the first day of Ramadan, each given staple cooking ingredients including flour, dates, beans and oil — these basic items are crucial for the month of Ramadan, explained Md. Jabed Uddin, the general secretary of the Astoria Welfare Society.

“Every week, in different places, we are serving the community,” he said. The Astoria Welfare Society is also keeping a community fridge for Ramadan, and is distributing food to mosques throughout the area to break fast.

Ramadan is the holy month of fasting in Islam, and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Observed by Muslims across the world, it is a month of prayer, reflection and fasting, abstaining from food and drink between dawn to sunset. This fasting is to increase spiritual discipline and strengthen one’s relationship with Allah. 

Hydro-Quebec donated $2,000 for the food drive after Peter Rose, the Director of Stakeholder Relations in New York, was told by Uddin that the Astoria Welfare Society wouldn’t be able to host a food drive this year. Without any other financial support, Rose was more than willing to offer what the Astoria Welfare Society needed. 

“This was a basic community need that was not being met. As a good corporate citizen, this was something we should help with, so I’m really happy,” Rose said.

With the Consumer Price Index showing a drastic six percent increase in inflation for New York City, the average cost of living for residents has inherently grown with it. 

“I go to the grocery store and everything is more expensive. It wouldn’t surprise me that people are going to have a hard time getting just the basics for Ramadan. So I said yeah, we are going to sponsor this, because it’s the most important month of the entire year,” Rose shared.

Hydro-Quebec is an electricity company based in Canada that generates more than 99% of its electricity from water. In a 25-year contract with the city, Rose expressed how their long-time permanence in New York gives them an obligation to participate and support the community. Notably, they have been involved in the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, and have partnered with a local laundromat to ensure low-income children have access to clean clothes for school.

“We do all these community projects because we need to leave a legacy,” Rose said. “We need to help support the community in the needs they have.”

Soon after Hydro-Quebec threw their support behind the food drive, Queens Together, with Councilwoman Julie Won’s office, provided $1,000 for the drive.

A restaurant association and community service organization, Queens Together started in 2020 — the start of the pandemic — to help small businesses and the community. 

“Give people the staples they need to cook, and that empowers them to take care of their families,” shared Jonathan Forgash, co-founder and Executive Director of Queens Together.

Briarwood family demands justice for dog euthanized by ACC

By Alicia Venter


On March 12, the Leon family of Briarwood frantically searched for their missing dog Leona.

As a 19-year-old animal, they knew her eyesight wasn’t great and she was frail, so they spent the morning walking the blocks around their home calling her name and scouring the internet for any signs of her.

Through Facebook, they found good news — a picture of Leona on a missing pets group page. Upon calling the Good Samaritan who made the post, they found out she had been taken to an Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC) shelter at 2336 Linden Blvd in Brooklyn.

This, the Leon family described on Monday at a press conference in Briarwood, is where the good news ended. Upon calling the shelter, the family discovered their dog had been euthanized by the shelter managed by ACC, which is overseen by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

Standing at the intersection where Leona was first discovered by that good samaritan, on the Southeast corner of Smedly Street and Coolidge Avenue, the Leon family and local council member James F. Gennaro (D-Kew Gardens) claimed that the ACC went outside of its own policy and euthanized Leona inhumanely. They are calling upon the DOHMH to launch a formal investigation into the practices of the ACC.

“This is a grieving family that suffered the loss of their beloved pet, Leona, at the hands of the ACC for reasoning that I truly believe was completely unwarranted and atrocious,” Gennaro said. “Nothing like this should befall this family.”

“They didn’t get us the opportunity to say goodbye,” Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother said. 

Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother, meeting Councilmember Gennaro for the first time.

According to policy found on their website, ACC shelters give potential owners 72 hours to reclaim their pet.

“We also will check for a microchip and search through various databases for any reports of lost pets that may fit the description of that animal. If no one claims during the holding period, he/she will receive a Placement Evaluation to determine next steps,” the website states.

Juan Leon described how the official time of death has not been provided for their dog, but that he expects it was just hours after she arrived at the shelter.

“Part of us is truly gone. She was the first love of my life,” Juan said, adding that he doesn’t understand how the ACC is able to operate in this way.

“We keep getting told different answers and we’re starting to notice that with every comment the ACC makes, they change the rules. They have a loophole for every action that they do,” he said.

However, the ACC shared in a statement to the Queens Ledger that the pets’ deteriorating health conditions led them to step outside this policy.

“She had no identification, no dog license and was not microchipped. Upon intake, Leona was seen spinning in circles and was wobbly when walking.  A comprehensive physical exam was done by a veterinarian indicating that she was in a very debilitated state and suffering from progressive neurologic symptoms.  She was minimally aware of her surroundings, non-reactive to stimuli, weak and unable to stand for more than a few minutes before falling.  She was emaciated with a body condition of 2/9 indicating possible chronic illness. The doctors at ACC do not take euthanasia lightly.  It is their job to direct a course that is in the best interest of the animal.  In Leona’s case, given her present state and in addition to all the other chronic, debilitating conditions she had (heart disease, blind, deaf, and severe dental issues) the doctors believed her to be suffering,” the statement read.

The emailed statement then stated that the law was on their side.

“For dogs with serious medical conditions and especially those stemming from extreme old age who are in pain and suffering, it is the duty of veterinary staff to provide peaceful end of life care. This decision is not made lightly but is always made in the best interest of the pet. In these cases, if a pet has been lost or abandoned, we scan for identification that ideally will lead us back to an owner before any end-of-life decision is made. However, if there is no information at all from a microchip or any other identification, we must make the decision on our own within the most humane timeframe. Euthanasia of stray animals is regulated by New York State Agriculture and Markets Law: The law specifically states that if an animal is suffering, euthansia may be performed before the stray hold period is over.”

Juan shared that their veterinarian had described how there was little that could be done regarding the age-related issues that Leona had, but the family made the decision with the veterinarian that she would live the rest of her life at home.

“Leona never stood a chance the moment she walked to ACC and that’s not fair,” he said. “That’s not fair. She should have came home to us, and she should have died on our terms. Our family should have made that decision of when to start her end-of-life story.”

Juan’s sister Ericka expressed heartbreak over what happened to her dog, adding that she “thought shelters were a safe haven.”

“They took my dog from me,” she shared, holding back tears, adding that while she plans to fight with her family for justice for Leona, “at the end of the day, I’ve already lost.”

The Leon family suggested that their dog was cremated without their permission, and when they went to retrieve their pet, they were met with a hostile environment, claiming they were reminded more than once that there were officers near the property.

They also insinuated that they plan to take legal action.

The Leon family is planning a rally on April 15 at the ACC Administrative Offices at 11 Park Place in Manhattan.

Gennaro is calling upon the New York City Council’s Legislative Integrity Unit to ensure that the city is on-track in construction of a full-service shelter in Queens and the Bronx, as mandated by Local Law 123 of 2018. The law requires that the shelters be completed by July 1, 2024, and the Queens shelter is under construction in Ridgewood. The mayor’s office did not reply by publication with details of how far along the construction is.

Through having a fully-functioning city shelter in each borough, Gennaro believes that capacity will no longer be a consideration in the decision-making by veterinarians regarding euthanasia.

“I don’t know if it’s a capacity issue, where they have to do whatever it takes to minimize capacity,” Gennaro said. 

GJDC’s Justin Rodgers Reimagines Jamaica Avenue

By Alicia Venter


Justin Rodgers has been a part of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) for 17 years — however, Jamaica has been a part of him for much longer, having grown up in the Southeast Queens neighborhood.

Justin Rodgers. Photo: GJDC

Margherita Pizza was the place to be growing up (and today, he noted, as the pizza parlor is still open) for now-President and CEO of the GJDC.

It’s this connection, Rodgers explained, that led the Board of Directors at GJDC to unanimously elevate him to President and CEO in June 2022 after he served as Interim President from November 2021. He is the third president of GJDC since it was formed 56 years ago.

“In the eight months that I was actually interim president, I was able to do a lot in a short period of time. I expanded our business service group and I was able to raise money for the corporation. I was able to really prove that I can run the corporation,” he shared. “That being said, I think that what I had over other candidates is that I’m personally invested in Jamaica. I’m from Jamaica. That’s one hundred percent why I am still here after 17 years.”

To develop Jamaica, Rodgers began his time at GJDC developing Jamaica Avenue, the neighborhood’s bustling shopping corridor.

The street grew in the 1920’s as Jamaica became a transportation hub. LIRR lines, subway lines and buses all converge near Jamaica Avenue, and major shopping centers began to appear.

In 1930, on the corner of 171st St. and Jamaica Avenue, the first King Kullen Grocery Company, which the Smithsonian Institute has deemed ‘America’s First Supermarket,’ was born. It has been home to department stores including Macy’s and Gertz, and now welcomes national brands such as Target, Aldi, Burlington, Old Navy and Primark.

Bringing national brands was Rodger’s project for 14 years, as concerned residents expressed to him how they were driving to Nassau County or hopping on the E train to the Queens Center to shop at those locations.

Now, Rodgers leads the effort to bring mom-and-pop shops back to Jamaica. The key, he explained, is to present real estate that is on the side streets to Jamaica Avenue.

“It’s not financially possible for mom and pop shops to open on Jamaica Avenue due to the high cost of rent. You just can’t make the numbers work. But you can make the numbers work on side streets,” said Rodgers. “So now we’re in the process of working with potential restaurant tours on some of the side streets.”

Retaining businesses was a point of concern during a recent meeting of the Sutphin Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) Annual Meeting, when the board of directors was elected for a newly consolidated BID emerging from the Sutphin Avenue BID, the 165th Street Special Assessment District and the Jamaica Center Special Assessment District. The question arose: What must be done to get businesses to stay open in Jamaica?

The issue with businesses retention, Rodgers described, has a considerable amount to do with the new busways along Jamaica Avenue. Implemented in October 2021, these busways allow only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles to make trips along Jamaica Avenue between Sutphin Blvd. and 168th St. in both directions. This bus project was designed to increase bus speeds and reliability for 14 bus routes on Jamaica Avenue and 19 bus routes on Archer Ave.

On Jamaica Avenue, all other vehicles may make local trips to access the curb, the DOT stated on their website, but must make the next available turn off the busway.

Some businesses have seen a 40-50% drop in business, according to Rodgers, since this was implemented, and the GJDC is trying to work with elected officials and the DOT to try and find ways to modify the busways.

“The busways have really harmed businesses, not only along Jamaica Avenue, but also on the side streets. The reason why is because Queens is a driving community, specifically Southeast Queens,” he said. “It’s very difficult to navigate around Downtown Jamaica if you are driving. Some people just don’t want the headache and they don’t come anymore.”

Rodgers suggested that busways be limited only to peak hours.

The consolidated BID that is coming to Jamaica, Rodgers described, will “100% benefit the businesses,” because its $1.4 million assessment will allow them to provide additional services to the businesses and the community.

Those additional services must be voted on, but they can mean more vendors, security and additional cleaning days.

Crime is a major concern for those who are looking to shop on Jamaica Avenue, especially with the recent shooting of a 22-year-old cop along the street. However, Rodgers emphasized that the shooting was an “isolated incident,” and that efforts by the 103rd Precinct and their Commanding Officer Eric A. Robinson’s involvement in community events and presence have made Jamaica a safer place.

Since taking the helm at GJDC, Rodgers has been able to provide national retailers to the residents of Jamaica, and continues to work in order to ensure small businesses continue to feel supported. For more information, visit

“Science in a Box” kits delivered to District 29

Sun Works kits given to students from three elementary schools

A P.S. 54. student receives her supplies (Photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)

By Alicia Venter

600 STEM Hydroponic Kits, also known as “science in a box” kits, were distributed to three elementary schools in Southeast Queens on Friday, Jan. 13.

The schools that received the kits include PS 54, The Hillside School; PS 99, The Kew Gardens School; and PS 144, The Col. Jeromus Remsen School in Forest Hills.

The hydroponic kits were provided by NY Sun Works — a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools — in partnership with local council member Lynn Schulman.

The kits came equipped with a 10-lesson climate and science curriculum meant to enable students, with a teacher’s guidance, to grow, study and run investigations with plants.

They are designed to expose students to hydroponic farming technology on a miniature, hands-on level.

“Our kids only get one chance at a good education. That is why I am thrilled to partner with New York Sun Works to deliver 600 hydroponic STEM kits to local schools throughout Council District 29,” said Schulman in a press release. “These kits will be paired with a 10-lesson curriculum that teaches students the importance of sustainability and urban agriculture while enhancing their  observation and data collection skills. I look forward to seeing the final results from this unique and vital life lesson program.”

The schools also received the Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum, and teachers are provided the tools to tailor the curriculum to address the needs of the students.

The program will reach more than 1000 elementary-age students at the three schools, all located in the 29th Council District that Schulman represents.

“We are excited to engage young learners in plant biology by delivering hundreds of interactive and innovative STEM kits in Queens with Council Member Lynn Schulman,” said Manuela Zamora, NY Sun Works Executive Director in a press release. “We are fully committed to fostering the love for science to every New York City public school student and these kits are an incredible introduction to hydroponic farming that teach climate and the science of sustainability.”

NY Sun Works first introduced the ‘Science in a Box’ Hydroponic Kit program in September 2020. More than 5,000 kits were distributed last year, for both classroom and at-home learning.

In a 2021 study conducted by social science research organization Knology, the kits and curriculum “embody innovation, flexibility, hands-on learning, and critical thinking.

For more information on NY Sun Works, visit

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