Jamaica Queens

A transportation hub for the 21st century: the neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens

Once home to an ancient trail, utilized by native tribes from as far away as the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, Jamaica eventually grew into a major trading post for farmers, with the road currently known as Jamaica Avenue called the "King's Highway." In 1913, the original Long Island Rail Road LIRR) station in Jamaica was completed; the elevated "subway" followed 5 years later. Due to its proximity to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the population centers on the north and south shores of Long Island, Jamaica Station became the central transfer point on the LIRR. Today, this nexus is defined by the new, $316-million Jamaica Control Center (JCC)/Vertical Circulation Building (VCB)--known as Jamaica Station--which was developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Collaborating with the Port Authority's own construction team and overseeing building of the JCC/VCB project was Tishman Construction Corp., which, in a joint venture with Bechtel Infrastructure, served as construction manager to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on this 7-story, 250,000-square-foot interconnecting terminal and office building. Designed by Port Authority architects and engineers, the JCC/VCB is truly inter-modal in nature. Passengers are able to connect in Jamaica with an 8.1-mile AirTrain JFK, 740 daily LIRR trains, three New York City Transit subway lines, and a dozen local bus lines to points across Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

The Jamaica Control Center houses administrative offices for the LIRR and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Police on five floors. The adjoining Vertical Circulation Building comprises the public portion of the terminal. The heart of the passenger portion within the facility is the fourth-floor AirTrain Public Concourse, which features the potential for baggage check-in and ticketing, and connects to the AirTrain platform. The project also includes a mezzanine bridge, having a segmented-arch, barrel-vault "portal" overhead, which links the public concourse to the LIRR and subway lines. The bridge serves a dual function as the new mezzanine for transfers between LIRR platforms and the subway station. The project's scope also included renovations and improvements to the subway mezzanine level, in addition to the resurfacing of LIRR platforms and renovation of the canopies above.

The first floor of the terminal has a street-level entrance and a vehicular drop-off area; this part of the building opens to a 9-story, 2,000-square-foot glass atrium that connects to the fourth-floor concourse via two glass-and-steel-enclosed elevators, two escalators, and a stairway. The structure was designed to accommodate an additional 10 stories in the future.

The facility also features a global fire-alarm system that monitors the station building, the train platforms, and the mechanical rooms and informational kiosks on those platforms via separate panels that feed into a central panel to alert firefighters to the exact location of a fire.

Since Jamaica is an active train station, much of the construction was performed at night or on the weekends to allow the station to remain in continuous operation throughout the project. For work that needed to be conducted during weekdays (and to allow for the fast-track schedule), selected tracks were shut down through a coordinated effort between the construction team and LIRR's rail-traffic control.

The vision and efforts among the project team are clearly evident now that the Jamaica Station project is complete. Today, this transportation hub retains its preeminence as both a crossroads and a design destination.

JUDGES' COMMENTS: "This is a model approach to any urban transportation project. An extremely identifiable design, highly visible, environmentally correct in every sense of the word, and, most importantly, pedestrian friendliness makes this a project that can be used as a foundation stone on which to build similar projects."

  • Citation of Excellence
    Jamaica Station
    Queens, NY
  • Submitting Company
    Tishman Construction Corp., New York, NY
  • Project Team (not all-inclusive)
    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,
    developer, owner, architect, engineer; Tishman Construction Corp.
    and Bechtel Infrastructure, construction managers.
  • Project Specifics
    Building type/use: Multi-modal transportation hub/office building
    Square footage: 250,000 square feet
    Project cost: $316 million
    Project completion: March 2006

Jamaica is a neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City. It was settled under Dutch rule in 1656 in New Netherland as Rustdorp.[1] Under British rule, it 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). 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. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 12.[2]
Previously known as one of the predominantly African American neighborhoods in the borough of Queens, Jamaica in recent years has been undergoing a sharp influx of other ethnicities. It has a substantial concentration of West Indian immigrants, Indians, Arabs, Russians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans as well as many long-established African American families. A few[clarify] East Asian families are also known to have recently put down roots in Jamaica.[citation needed]
The neighborhood of Jamaica is completely unrelated to the Caribbean nation of Jamaica (although Jamaican immigrants do live in the area); the name similarity is a coincidence. The English, who took it over in 1664, named the area "Jameco," for the Jameco Native Americans, who resided on the northern shores of Jamaica Bay, and whose name means "beaver" in Algonquian languages.[3]
Jamaica is the location of several government buildings including Queens Civil Court and the civil branch of the Queens County Supreme Court. 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.
Some locals group Jamaica's surrounding neighborhoods[4] into an unofficial Greater Jamaica, roughly corresponding to the former Town of Jamaica, including Woodhaven, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Howard Beach and Ozone Park. 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).