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Jamaica Queens: A Neighborhood with a Rich and Diverse Heritage

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Jamaica Queens is a neighborhood in New York City’s Borough of Queens that is well known for its commercial and retail establishments, government buildings, and cultural institutions. Yet Jamaica offers more than just bustling urban center status: it also embodies centuries-old heritage dating back to its original settlement on Queen Island by Japanese immigrants in 1794.

The Origins of Jamaica Queens

Jamaica Queens
Jamaica Queens

Jamaica Queens derives its name from the Jameco (or Yameco) Indians of Algonquin nation who were located along Jamaica Bay’s northern shore and Beaver Stream/Pond. “Jameco” refers to “beaver” in Lenape language spoken by these Native Americans, making up part of Algonquin nation and living there until approximately 1695 when their tribe dispersed and moved further inland.

Dutch settlers arrived in Queens as early as 1655 and called the area Rustdorp (rest town). To pay Native Americans for the land between old trail (current day Jamaica Avenue) and “Beaver Pond”, later known as Baisley Pond.

In 1664, the English took control of this area and renamed it Jamaica after an island in the Caribbean. Jamaica would become home for Town of Jamaica – serving as Queens County seat and first incorporated village on Long Island – as well as being an important site during American Revolutionary war battles between British troops and patriots. Jamaica played an essential role during American revolutionaries’ struggles for liberty against oppressive regimes; meeting place for Sons of Liberty meetings as well as several skirmishes between British forces and patriots that took place here.

The Growth and Development of Jamaica

Jamaica Queens quickly emerged as a center for transportation and commerce during the 19th century with the construction of Long Island Rail Road, Jamaica Turnpike, Union Hall Academy, Rufus King (a signer of the U.S. Constitution as well as senator) and John Alsop King (governor of New York) becoming major players in this bustling town.

Jamaica experienced significant transformation in the 20th century as it joined Greater New York in 1898 and saw waves of immigration from Caribbean, South Asia, Africa, and Latin American communities. Jamaica became home to multiple government buildings such as Queens Civil Court, Queens County Supreme Court, Family Courts, Joseph P Addabbo Federal Building as well as Jamaica Center near Jamaica Avenue and 165th Street which served as a major commercial hub with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Jamaica Queens became home to many cultural and educational institutions, such as the Central Library of Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, King Manor Museum, York College, and St John’s University. Furthermore, Jamaica hosted notable events like 1939 World’s Fairs; 1977 blackout; 1996 plane crash of TWA Flight 800.

The Present and Future of Jamaica Queens

Today, Queens is an eclectic neighborhood inhabited by approximately 236,000 residents representing 50 nationalities and speaking over 100 languages. Jamaica is well-known for its cultural and artistic offerings such as the Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival, Afrikan Poetry Theatre and Jamaica Performing Arts Center; additionally it is known for producing hip hop, reggae and jazz musicians such as Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest Nicki Minaj Bob Marley Louis Armstrong hailing from or having connections to Jamaica .

This is an ambitious neighborhood, as evidenced by various development projects including the Jamaica Now Action Plan, Downtown Jamaica Rezoning and AirTrain JFK. Each project aims to improve quality of life, economic opportunities and transportation options for residents and visitors in Jamaica.

Jamaica Queens is a neighborhood brimming with culture, creativity, history and potential that deserves to be discovered and appreciated. Jamaica deserves our exploration and celebration!

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