When one thinks of Jamaica, well of course you think, garbage, ghetto and other bullshit or they think black community or Bangladeshi/Hispanic or West Indian immigrants, but there is a small Portuguese population (not as big as in the day) along with Portuguese restaurants, bars and a social club along Sutphin Blvd, a few blocks north of the LIRR train station and in the 101st Avenue area, west of Sutphin.

138-40 101 Ave

138-40 101 Ave

Heading a few blocks west from another Portuguese place (my favorite Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant) is O Lavrador Bar & Restaurant (138-40 101 Ave) which actually has a separate entrance to both the bar and restaurant, plus has a parking lot and plenty of off street parking.

Very cool door. One is well advised to enter O Lavrador by the barroom at the left, through a rustic door with the word BAR spelled out in bullet holes, and a gnarled limb as a door pull.

Very cool door. One is well advised to enter O Lavrador by the barroom at the left, through a rustic door with the word BAR spelled out in bullet holes, and a gnarled limb as a door pull.

Several years ago I went to the restaurant which was great and has an old school feel to it, but a few times I have popped into the bar side to grab a drink. It is a great place to hang out either by yourself or with friends. Cozy atmosphere, great eclectic mix of music and there is always soccer on one of their many big screen TV’s. The downstairs actually has a couple of pool tables and a soccer table game. You will definitely see a mix of people there but differently Portuguese folks. O lavrador bar

So if you are looking for a nice neighborhood friendly bar and want to feel comfortable, give O Lavrador a shot, hell even grab some of their delicious food. With O Lavrador, Sangria, A-Churrasqueira Restaurant & Bar (a few doors north of Sangria) and South Jamaica Portuguese Social Club (also on Sutpin), Jamaica has a Little Portugal.O lavrador bar 4

You can read about the O Lavrador Bar & Restaurant article from 2010 in the Village Voice at

Their website is




Let’s take a look at Jamaica in 2014, what happened, how much garbage, what elected official was arrested, who was shot and where we might head in 2015.

RESTAURANTS: While Jamaica has never been a hot bed of great food establishments, it is slowly improving and if the supposed development in Jamaica actually takes place, I am sure we will see more food establishments (and hopefully good ones) open. This year only one new establishment opened, Spicy Lanka on that horrid Hillside Avenue at 159-23. A good Sri Lanka place and most definitely spicy. While not my favorite, others thought so. The Daily News gave it rave reviews and it seems to be a winner with many on Yelp. I  liked it, but Hillside Avenue is just one ugly big garbage mess and that ruins it for me. But you cannot go wrong with some of the older establishments (Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Rocoto Restaurant, Annam Brahma) and some of the newer kids on the blocks (Amina Thai, Charcoal Kabab). But overall we still lack quality nice sit down restaurants, just way too much crap with poor service. Dirty establishments and fast food shit.

Sir Lanka at 159-23 Hillside Avenue

Sir Lanka at 159-23 Hillside Avenue

LANDMARK BUILDINGS:  Although no new landmarks this year (June 2013 saw the old Jamaica High School  on Hillside Ave get landmark status), believe it or not Jamaica has the most landmark buildings in all of Queens (20 I think, I started to lose count) with the crowning jewel, the former Lowe’s Wonder Theatre on Jamaica Avenue, now the Tabernacle Prayer of Church. Next time you are walking along Jamaica Avenue, make sure to look up at some of the amazing architecture. Too bad our useless leaders have not done enough on the upkeep of these great buildings.

The Auditorium of the former Lowe's Wonder Theatre on Jamaica Ave

The Auditorium of the former Lowe’s Wonder Theatre on Jamaica Ave

BARS: Something that is VERY lacking in Jamaica, at least nice, relaxing places where you will not get shot or have to put up with bad ghetto behavior. CityRib is your best bet for great drinks, relaxing atmosphere, friendly & hot looking people, good music and just a plain good place to hang out. For true classic dive bars though, you cannot beat Hillside Inn or Maloney’s, the one place where you will actually see many white people. Both are hard core dive bars, where people take their drinking serious and you can drink cheap. Worth seeing since many of these dive bars vanished in most of NYC. On a side note, this year, a Bangladeshi immigrant died after two years in a vegetative state after he was beaten in the Hillside Inn bar after trying to break up a fight back in 2012 on Christmas Eve,  although there is talk that the two guys supposedly fighting actually beat Isteak Quadir since no one else was in the bar at the time. The bar closed after that for about 6 months with a sign stating, “closed for renovations”. You can read this story at

CityRib at 89-04 Parsons Blvd, Downtown Jamaica

CityRib at 89-04 Parsons Blvd, Downtown Jamaica

RETAIL: If you think  Jamaica has a poor selection of restaurants, the retail scene is just plain awful and ugly. With few exceptions like Porta Bella Menswear & Fino Menswear, where you can get great Italian stylish shoes and stylish clothes with European cuts and Mubarak Health & Beauty (one of the few black owned businesses specializing in amazing oils, soaps, skin care products, incense, etc.), most of Jamaica Avenue is cheap crap clothing, third world retail junk and way too many health and beauty supply stores, wig stores and hair salons. Oh and some of the worst customer service on the planet. But Jamaica Avenue seems like Rodeo Drive compared to that horrible third world shit hole, Hillside Avenue, just a mess of garbage, filth, junk stores and dirty stores. CRAP-CRAP-CRAP.

Mubarak Health & Beauty 92-18 Guy Brewer Blvd

Mubarak Health & Beauty
92-18 Guy Brewer Blvd

ELECTED OFFICIALS: What can I say, the majority are useless and some of the others are crooks. This year Senator Malcolm Smith had a mistrial for corruption charges but will be tried again this coming January. Both Councilman Ruben Wills and Assembly Member William Scarborough were both arrested on corruption charges and Assembly Member Vivian Cook was her normal self, not worth a piece of shit. While Senator Tony Avella, Senator James Sanders and Councilman Donovan Richards do their best, newcomer Councilman I. Daneek Miller might actually do some good as well (he took on some garbage issues and the dollar vans). This was his first year in office (replacing that totally useless Leroy Comrie, who unfortunately will be our new Senator come January), but you might want to keep an eye out for him. But he can go either way in his second year, only time will tell. I do predict that in 2015 we will see Wills and Scarborough go to jail, Congressman Meeks will finally be arrested, Comrie will prove again that he should have stayed a wedding photographer and Vivian Cook will continue to collect political welfare for doing jack shit. Overall the Jamaica political scene looks bleak.

Councilman Ruben Wills being arrested in November of 2014

Councilman Ruben Wills being arrested in November of 2014

QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES:  One word, HORRIBLE. Garbage continues to be a major problem, along with illegal conversions, illegal curb cuts, illegal driveways, noise issues, illegal placement of signs all over city property (Cash for Cars, We By Houses, etc.), garbage strewn vacant lots, cars parked on sidewalks, cars without plates, poor development that has caused so many nice one family homes to be torn down only to be replaced by shit cheap third world dreck and section 8 run by slum lords (mostly immigrants) and filled with low-class slob low life people who have turned Jamaica into a shit hole. The ever growing problem of trucks driving illegally on residential streets for years still has not been addressed and is becoming a huge problem. The only bright spot was the elimination of those god awful clothing bins removed by the 103rd precinct’s “The Untouchables” who tackled that issue quickly, pretty much like they tackled the auto body shops placing their smashed cars on streets and sidewalks. But overall the quality of life issues in Jamaica are HORRIBLE and not being properly addressed by the powers to be, our elected officials and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who has also done a bad job her first year. So bad, she could be a Jamaica politician.

Shoppers World in the background.

Shoppers World in the background.

CRIME: I don’t care what some of these statistics say, crime is a big problem in Jamaica, especially shootings, robberies and assaults. This year two officers were attacked on Jamaica Avenue by a lunatic with a hatchett, a woman was raped in the early morning on 171st street, several shootings lead to the death of several black men, one on Father’s Day at a bar on Merrick Blvd and of course who could forget the fool in McDonald’s bleeding with a huge knife in his back while talking on a cell phone, hell that one made it on Real Time With Bill Maher. This is something that the this black community needs to for once finally address properly. As one person of color stated on my one posting about Christmas Day shootings, “I agree with you, sadly the black community, won’t address this issue. I am a black, from the Caribbean, I side mostly with the police. If we didn’t harbor so many criminals in our communities, maybe we would get more respect from the police. But look at the way a lot of us live and carry ourselves. The black community needs to focus more on educating ourselves and our children, and stop blaming white people for our problems. But nothing changes as a group we are still at the bottom of the barrel…….by choice.” I could not have said it better. Overall crime is an issue and saying that it is still better than East New York, Brownsville or parts of Bed-Stuy is not a compliment.

The now classic photo. Andrew Hardy, the Jamaica "human pin cushion".

The now classic photo. Andrew Hardy, the Jamaica “human pin cushion”.

MEDIA COVERAGE: Jamaica got major media coverage (print, TV, radio, blogs) this year between garbage, elected officials being arrested, shootings, crazy hatchet man, crazy man at McDonald’s with knife in back while chatting on cell phone, more garbage, illegal truck driving, fires and explosions in illegal conversions and all the talk about the “gentrification of Jamaica” and it being the next hot neighborhood (if you really believe that shit). You could not read a paper, hear a radio show, read Queens Chronicle, Times Ledger, Queens Crap or Progress Queens, see Greg Mocker or NY1 without hearing about Jamaica, good and bad. But the biggie was from NY1 and reporter Ruschell Boone. Ms. Boone, who has been a major advocate for the Jamaica garbage problem doing several stories on this issue, which helped to bring it to public attention and this blog as well, won an award this year from the New York Association of Black Journalist on her great 4-part Jamaica garbage series which aired in 2013 ( We here at Clean Up Jamaica Queens and team P/J are very proud of Ms. Boone winning this award. Ms. Boone also did a story on our own precinct’s Sgt Cedillo & The Untouchables (  who have helped us out tremendously with quality of life issues in our community. With so much bad press on the police this year, it was good to see positive press on the NYPD and in our own community of Jamaica. The Untouchable have been a force to reckon with in Jamaica and it was good to see a story on them.

 TWC News: NY1 Reporter Honored by New York Association of Black Journalists Play now

TWC News: NY1 Reporter Honored by New York Association of Black Journalists
Play now

So as we end 2014 and head into 2015, I think many eyes will be on Jamaica and what happens in the coming year and more. Could this be the next hot neighborhood, will the area become a whiter shade of pale, will we see improvements in quality of life, will some of our crooked politicians walk the walk of disgraced former Senator Shirley Huntely, we will see our jazz history become the focus again………………………..or will it just be more garbage, shootings, crooked politicians, crap retail, fried chicken shacks, bad ghetto behavior and more importing of low-class people from all over the world, in other words the usual Jamaica shit.???????????????????????????????

Large tractor trailer trucks barrel through 170th St and other residential streets daily

Large tractor trailer trucks barrel through 170th St and other residential streets daily

Beautiful Hillside Ave

Beautiful Hillside Ave


Leroy Comrie stated "We are aware of this and we will clean this up after I order 3 quarter pounders with cheese, 2 large fries and a shake. Oh, throw in a dozen White Castle sliders."

Leroy Comrie stated “We are aware of this and we will clean this up after I order 3 quarter pounders with cheese, 2 large fries and a shake. Oh, throw in a dozen White Castle sliders.”

Millers district and in front of Rev Floyd Flake's parking lot.

Millers district and in front of Rev Floyd Flake’s parking lot.


WE ARE AWARE OF IT. Miller's District

Miller’s District


What quality of life issue, this is called free enterprise.

What quality of life issue, this is called free enterprise.

Garbage10.5.14 012???????????????????????????????168th St LIRR Tunnel


sangria outside 3I have written a few time before about Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant in Jamaica located at 95-41 Sutphin Blvd, a Portuguese and Spanish eatery, and for good reason, it is not only the best place to eat in Jamaica (which is a rarity), but one of the best places anywhere. With its beautiful nice French wooded doors, lush red velvet drapes and great wooden interior, most will be taken back that this place is not only in Jamaica, but on not such a great stretch of Jamaica as well, a few blocks south of the Sutphin Train Station. I LOVE this place. Great drinks and food, top notch service, good atmosphere and a very eclectic mix of people that you will not find in other places  in Jamaica. On any given day or evening, especially Wednesday and weekends you will find Portuguese, Hispanic, Black, White and any others who are looking for amazing food and drinks. YES, it is that good.

Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant

Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant

On a most recent visit, after seeing MOTOWN: The Musical (GREAT SHOW) on  Broadway, Delinda and I headed straight there to have some good drinks and food. Their homemade Sangria (4 types) is really good but we opted for a Red Devil and a Cosmos and then ordered the very large and very tasty Sangria Salada, which came with bread and olives (this actually comes not matter and please make sure you get the bread and olives). We then ordered the fried calamari (a favorite), Pimientos Rojos con Mariscos (imported red Spanish peppers stuffed with seafood and a most delicious sauce), this is a MUST and Pincho Morunos (spicy Moorish kabobs with some intense hot sauce on the side). All was delicious, in fact, I have never been disappointed with all of the dishes I have gotten over the years there. For dessert, the Tres Leches is another must.Sangria Red Spanish peppers with seafood and sauce.

I am a huge fan of Sangria and with a personable owner, Joe, great tasty food and drinks, such good service by the female waitstaff who not only happen to be really good but some pleasing eye candy, a great atmosphere, it makes you feel you are not even in Jamaica or what Jamaica might become somewhere done the road.Sangria Fried Calamari

For those living in Jamaica and are looking for a great place to eat in a good atmosphere, go there. For those living outside Jamaica, way worth a trip and only a couple blocks from the Sutphin Blvd train station, very easy to get there. In fact many of the patrons live outside the area, but know this place well. On a side note, even though the area is not the greatest, it is safe,  I have never had an issue going there and sometimes I have been there late at night.

So do yourself a favor and check it out if you have not. A BIG MUST!


Coming Saturday, May 17th

Coming Saturday, May 17th

A Better Jamaica’s 3rd Annual Jamaica Ball

May 17 @ 8:00 pmMay 18 @ 1:00 am

Don’t just party, party with a purpose! Party on behalf of the non-profits that work for the betterment of Jamaica, Queens! Don’t miss the 3rd Annual Jamaica Ball — an opportunity to dance, eat, drink, and raise money for Jamaica-based non-profits at the same time. Drinks are complimentary!
– Tickets Are $50 Per Person
– Only 250 Tickets Will Be Sold
– Tickets Are Sold Exclusively Online at
– 90% of every $50 Jamaica Ball ticket ($45) will go directly to the Jamaica, Queens-based non-profit of your choice!

The Jamaica Ball is sponsored by:
Resorts World Casino New York City
The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

Exquisite DJ Entertainment by:
The Brown’s Sounds

Complimentary beer provided by:
The Harlem Brewing Company (brewer of “Sugar Hill Golden Ale”)

Friend The Jamaica Ball on Facebook:

To purchase tickets, visit:



May 17, 2014 8:00 pm
May 18, 2014 1:00 am
Event Category:


Let’s take a break from garbage,  crooked Jamaica politicians getting arrested and people shooting and killing each other over a parking space. Let’s walk down memory lane, when Jamaica was actually a nice place to live, not the cesspool that it turned into because of low-class ghetto slobs, low-class third world immigrant slobs and crooked politicians.

From Brownstoner Queens:

Queenswalk: The Old Jamaica Savings Bank

jamaica savings

Photos: Michael Caratzas for LPC.

Most people don’t think of Beaux-Arts architecture and Queens as having much to do with each other. This Classically inspired, highly ornamented and usually monumental style of architecture is best illustrated in NYC by great buildings such as Grand Central Station, the James Farley Post Office and the Brooklyn Museum, among others. It seems quite at odds with the more low-key, suburban, and much more mid-century or modern architecture that Queens has in abundance.

With that paucity of style in mind, you’d think that any example of Beaux-Arts architecture in the borough would be an automatic save. Especially if that building was a really fine example of the style, designed by an accomplished architect, and built for one of Queens’ most important institutions; the Jamaica Savings Bank. You’d think it would be easy, but of course, it’s not.

The building in question stands at 161-02 Jamaica Avenue, in the heart of Jamaica’s historic commercial and shopping district. As the county of Queens developed from a group of small towns rather artificially lumped together, into a more unified borough, Jamaica emerged as an important transportation and commercial hub; the gateway to greater Long Island.jamaica savings2

The Jamaica Plank Road stretched from the Brooklyn waterfront to Queens, making transportation of produce and farm goods from Long Island to Manhattan possible, beginning in the early 1700s. Later, stage coaches, then horse drawn trolleys traveled the road, joined by the Long Island Railroad in 1834. Jamaica was the terminus for those lines. As the town grew, more roads, trains and surface transportation became available.

Since transportation to and from Jamaica was very convenient, Jamaica became a suburban retreat, home to wealthy Manhattanites and others who built large summer homes there. They were joined by those of lesser means, and more local concerns, so that by the 1870s, a good sized town with a flourishing downtown had been established. There was plenty of money to be made, and a place was needed to deposit it all, giving rise to the birth of the Jamaica Savings Bank.

The bank was established on April 20, 1866, making it the oldest banking institution in Queens. It opened in the basement of the County Clerk’s Office with fifteen customers who deposited a total of $2,675.00. The bank was started by a group of nineteen prominent local citizens, including John A. King and Aaron DeGrauw. King was the eldest son of Rufus King, one of Queens’ most distinguished and important citizens, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. His home is a nearby national and city landmark.

John A. King was no slouch either. He trained in the law, but became a cavalry officer during the War of 1812. Following that, he became a State Assemblyman, State Senator, and a U.S. Congressman. A life-long Whig, he became one of the first to join the new Republican Party, in 1856, and went on to become the Governor of New York, in 1857. King probably would have become president of the new Jamaica Savings Bank, but he was struck with paralysis soon after the founding, and died the year after, in 1867.

The presidency of the bank went to Aaron DeGrauw, another prominent Jamaica citizen. He had been a Colonel during the Civil War, one with a distinguished record. His job as the first President of the Jamaica Savings Bank would last 33 years, ending in 1899. He was characterized as an “energetic capitalist,” a man who was also responsible for many transportation concerns, including operating several local turnpikes, as well as the East New York and Jamaica Railroad Company. He also was the president of the Village of Jamaica and was in charge of the commission that built the Jamaica Town Hall on the corner of Fulton Street (Jamaica Avenue) and Flushing Avenue, built in 1870.

The Jamaica Savings Bank began small, but soon grew with more and more depositors and customers. They moved into a small wood-framed building next door to the County Clerk’s Office, which happens to have once been right next door. The present day bank building sits on the location of their first bank. By the turn of the 20th century, it was evident that they needed to build a new building, one that was large enough for business. The buildings also needed to be impressive enough to show customers, would-be customers, and the rest of the banking and business establishment that the Jamaica Savings Bank had arrived and was a contender.

The new Beaux-Arts architecture was a perfect medium to convey that message. Banks had found it important to impress. A truly successful banking institution wanted to convey two important facts through its architecture. First, that your money was safe. In the days before the FDIC and other protections, a bank needed to show customers that their money would not be easily stolen. That is why so many older banks have huge vault doors or large safes so prominently displayed. Secondly, an impressive looking bank looked prosperous and successful. We have always been impressed by shows of wealth and power, and that is certainly true with banks.

Beaux-Arts design is based on the forms of Greek and Roman architecture, with a lot of Baroque extras. The City Beautiful Movement, which was best expressed in the recent 1893 Chicago World’s Exhibition, emphasized beautiful, gleaming, and highly ornamented architecture in limestone and marble, as the highest form of modern expression. Beauty, power, money, American success, this architecture for a powerful and rich society was what was needed to show that the Jamaica Savings Bank was a player. After all, what says “success” more than a Temple of Money?

They bank hired the firm of Hough and Duelle to design their fine new bank. Rather than squeeze a Classical temple bank building into the space, the firm designed an equally impressive bank building that resembles a prosperous private club or a fine townhouse. William C. Hough and Edgar Duelle, Jr. became partners just before getting this commission. Hough was an established architect who had been practicing since 1886.

In partnership with Halstead P. Fowler until 1897, they had been responsible for a number of impressive and large buildings in Brooklyn, including the 23rd Regiment Armory, on the corner of Bedford and Atlantic Avenues, and the Bushwick Congregational Church and Sunday School. Hough had gone on to design the Dudley Memorial Building for student nurses at Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill, in 1902.

Hough & Duelle’s bank was designed to quietly impress people in an old money European sort of way. Its scale is appropriate to the block and other buildings around it. They purposely complemented the building being built about the same time, next door, now the Jamaica Arts Center. The bank is made of white limestone, with a rusticated base. The entrance is almost austere, without the heavy columns and ornament usually associated with banks. Two ornamented oculus windows flank the opening, and all of the windows are protected by decorative wrought iron bars. The focus of the eye is instead drawn upwards, to the second and third stories, with more fine ironwork balconies and ornately carved ornament.

This is all pure Beaux-Arts ornamentation, in glorious French Baroque style, with garlands, baskets of fruit, acanthus leaves, pilasters, pediments, scrollwork, cartouches and tracery. Just below the exquisite third floor single balcony is a carved beehive, surrounded by more scrolls and leaves. The beehive is a classic motif for saving and thrift, the raison d’etre of a savings bank. All of this impressive work is just that, but also a non-verbal advertisement for the bank itself. “Bank here,” it says, “We have the wherewithal to keep your money safe, and make it grow.”

The bank opened with great fanfare in 1898, the same year Queens entered into the great merger that became modern New York City. The institution, as well as Jamaica, and the rest of Queens, continued to grow. By 1924, this stretch of Jamaica Avenue was called “Financial Row,” with “Bank of the Manhattan Company on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Union Hall Street, two doors east of the Jamaica Savings Bank; the Title Guarantee & Trust Co. to the west of the Jamaica Savings Bank on the same block front; the Jamaica National Bank across the street at the corner of Herriman Avenue; and branches of the Corn Exchange Bank, the American Trust Company, and the First National Bank. In 1927 the National Title Guaranty Company erected a ten-story building adjacent to the Jamaica Savings Bank at 160-16 Jamaica Avenue (the Jamaica Savings Bank acquired that property in 1941).” (from LPC Designation Report, 2008)

Fast forwarding, in 1964, the Jamaica Savings bank moved into a new modern building across the street. In 1974, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building a landmark, over the bank’s objections. They called it, rightly, one of the best Beaux-Arts buildings in the entire city. The local community board and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce disagreed, and called the building “an eyesore.” The building’s new owner wanted to turn the ground floor into the same kind of retail shop now populate Jamaica Avenue, and said that the designation was causing him financial hardship. The designation was overturned.

The owner never touched the building, even though he could have, and left it empty for over ten years. He died in 1988. In 1989, an appraisal called the building unsound, with gaping holes in the roof. In 1990, the LPC tried again to landmark the building, and again, the Chamber of Commerce loudly objected, as did the Jamaica Savings Bank and the estate of the deceased owner. But surprisingly, the designation had the support of Chase Manhattan Bank, located a block away, and the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a non-profit community organization. They felt it was a shame to have this great building rotting on Jamaica’s main street.

Meanwhile, the city deemed the building unsafe, and ordered it sealed up and stabilized. It was finally designated as a landmark in 2008. The building is now owned by the landlord of the building next door, in the also beautiful old Title Guarantee Building, who was not particularly thrilled by the designation. Hopefully, this magnificent structure can become a part of the Jamaica Arts Center, or be restored by another organization or individual who will give it the care it so rightly deserves. GMAPjamaica savings3jamaica savings4jamaica savings5



Another great story on Jamaica’s rich history. Too bad for decades Jamaica has gone to shit, while no one did anything about it. I love the line in the article “They formed committees to aid in bringing better streets, schools and other municipal necessities to Jamaica.” Well, we certainly do not have any aid of betterment like that today, not from our community board or our useless elected leaders.

From Queens Browntowner:

Queenswalk: The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Building

Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Buidling, JHenderson for Wiki 1

Every city has a Chamber of Commerce, or at least they used to. The name doesn’t seem to be in as much use as it once was, although commercial interests certainly make their presence and power known today. The name has an almost nostalgic connotation, and for me, brings to mind a group of middle-aged business men in suits and fedoras who look like a central casting call for a Jimmy Stewart movie. That’s totally inaccurate today, where such organizations are now made up of all manner of folk, and include minorities, women, and business people of many different ages, professions and persuasions.

The Chambers of Commerce across the country can look back to the medieval European guilds as their forefathers. Then, as now, people have found it advantageous to organize as a united front in protecting the needs of their members and their larger business goals. While some may be very rich and powerful on their own, it still made sense to have a formal organization, so that business interests are protected and represented in the halls of government, whether that be under a king or Congress.

Here in the United States, the first Chamber of Commerce was organized, appropriately, in New York, in 1770, chartered by King George III. The United States Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1912 by President Taft, in part as a countermeasure to the labor movement. It is a lobbying group, a very powerful one, but is not directly affiliated with local Chambers. But about the same time the national group organized, local business groups were springing up in cities large and small, all calling themselves “Chambers of Commerce.”

New York, being a consolidated city made up of smaller municipalities and cities, with different needs and populations, has several local Chambers of Commerce. In Jamaica, that organization started out as the Jamaica Board of Trade, founded by 17 civic-minded businessmen in 1919. Their first meeting place was the Butler Building, on the corner of Parsons Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue. They formed committees to aid in bringing better streets, schools and other municipal necessities to Jamaica.

Jamaica, at that time, was growing fast, with a growing shopping and civic district along Jamaica Avenue, with important stores, banks and government buildings on its length. Jamaica had become the financial center of Long Island, with major banks, trusts and insurance companies along Jamaica Avenue. The LIRR had made the area a transportation hub, and the easy commute into Penn Station or Brooklyn made Jamaica one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Queens. The Jamaica Board of Trade was going to make sure that continued.

But growth meant they needed a larger meeting space. In 1927, the Board of Trade changed its name to the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce. A committee was formed and it was decided to build a building that would suit their needs and would be a powerful physical representation of the Chamber and its work. To raise money for the building, members were able to buy into 5,000 shares of preferred stock, at $100 a share. Rules were established so that no member could buy a controlling interest. A plot of land on 161st Street was purchased in 1928.

The committee chose the designs of architect George W. Conable for their building. He was a Jamaica resident, and a member of the Chamber. He designed a ten story office building that had a commercial ground floor and seven stories of rentable office space. The storefronts and office rentals would give the COC more operating capital for its programs. Two stories would be reserved for the Chamber’s offices, meeting rooms and dining/banquet rooms. Ground was broken in 1928 and the building was dedicated a year later, with great fanfare and praise for its design and function.

George Conable, as a member of the COC may have had a leg up on any competition for the commission, but he was a skilled and talented architect, and worthy of the job. He had attended Cortland State Normal School (now SUNY Cortland) and went on to get a degree in architecture from Cornell University. He then came to NYC and worked in the offices of C.P.H. Gilbert, Barney & Chapman and Ernest Flagg. He had prepared the drawings for Flagg’s famous Singer Building, once the tallest building in NYC, sadly long gone.

In 1908, he struck out on his own, and designed Trinity Lutheran Church on 100th Street, in Manhattan. That commission led to a partnership with Hobart Upjohn, the son and grandson of famed architects Richard and Richard M. Upjohn, both best known for their churches. Upjohn & Conable were in partnership from 1908 to 1914, during which time they designed many churches. Back on his own after 1914, Conable specialized in churches, schools and hospitals. In the NYC area he designed St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the Bronx, Main Hall of Wagner College in Staten Island, and the Central Queens Branch of the YMCA. That building was one of the influences for his choice of the Colonial Revival style for the Chamber of Commerce Building.

The COC Building is inspired by the symmetry and style of Georgian architecture, a part of the great Colonial Revival style that was popular from the turn of the 20th century well into the 1930s. This was “America’s architecture,” based, often rather freely, on the colonial styles of America in the 18th century. The building is in many ways, a typical late 1920s office building, with a tripartite massing, that is, Conable designed the building in three parts. The verticality is realized in the lower base, slightly projecting middle section three stories up, and the top pavilion above the seventh floor.

The materials are good old Colonial American red brick and cast stone. The white stone quoins at the sides and paired lines up the front help guide the eye upward to the setback on the top two floors, accented by the pedimented temple at the top, complete with pilasters and a large center cartouche flanked by two pairs of Georgian style ornamental urns. Downstairs, the entrance is designed as a triumphal arch. “Jamaica Chamber of Commerce” is carved into the frieze, announcing to all the strength of Jamaica’s business interests and the organization’s civic interests.

The building is really an interesting combination of Art Deco style setback office buildings and a Colonial Revival school or hospital building. It works, especially for the times. Jamaica continued to grow, especially after the construction of the Grand Central Parkway and the extension of the IND line to 168th Street. But the area was not immune from change. After World War II, the suburbanization of Queens began taking place. Suburban white flight, changing demographics and the popularity of suburban shopping malls changed the Jamaica shopping district for good.

In the 1980s, the city began investing in government projects designed to revitalize the Jamaica Avenue hub. The construction of the Archer Avenue station was the lynchpin of the effort. The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce instituted the Greater Jamaica Redevelopment Corporation and set up smaller Business Improvement Districts to spark business creation and growth. In 2010, a new Jamaica Chamber of Commerce building opened on Rockaway Boulevard, the building also housing a business incubator for eight start-up minority and women-owned businesses. This building was sold in 1999, and remains an active office building. Its address is 89-31 161st Street, between Jamaica and 89th Avenues. The building was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and was designated a New York City landmark in 2010. GMAP

(Photograph:Jim Henderson for Wikipedia)

Photo: Christopher D. Brazee for Landmarks Preservation Commission

Photo: Christopher D. Brazee for Landmarks Preservation Commission


???????????????????????????????South Jamaica, located behind York College, is one of my least favorite places, dirty, garbage strewn vacant lots & abandoned houses, crappy low-class apartment buildings which replaced some of the homes, no grocery stores, dirty delis with little on the shelf, the area is like time forgot it.

Maima'sBut in the midst of the ugliness is a gem, Maima’s Liberian Bistro & Bar, located at 106-38 Guy Brewer Rd (718-206-3538). Specializing in African food, but not just any old African food, Liberian food, in fact it is the only Liberian restaurant in New York City and was featured on Food Networks show Bizarre Foods hosted by Andrew Zimmerman. Maima’s has been around for some time, but was located on the other side of the street further South, but I never really paid attention to it, till they moved about a year ago into their new spot and the outside and the inside caught my attention. It looks like something you would find in Williamsburg or West Village not South Jamaica. It is decorated nicely and has a cool kind of  African vibe to it.Maima's 2

Riding my bike, I stopped in to sample the food and what tasty food it was. Maima is the owner of the establishment and many of her family work there. She is character that makes you feel like you are eating at your grandmother’s place. She told me what the specials were, but since they all contained meat (I am a vegetarian), she told me she could make me some fish. I order the whole porgie and had it steamed (you can get it grilled or fried). The big whole fish came with cabbage and a big side of rice with some majorly hot sauce, majorly.

Steamed whole Porgy with cabbage/okra and rice.

Steamed whole Porgy with cabbage and rice.

The fish was seasoned perfectly and so moist and the cabbage was out of this world.  I wish I would have gotten one of their drinks such as the ginger beer, which I  hear is amazing and their desserts. Next time and there will be a next time. You get an amazing amount of food that is very reasonable. My total was only $15.



Maima’s Liberian Bistro is non-pretentious, but cozy with a cool African flair. Maima after serving my food took a seat at one of the tables and watched an African movie on the television, which I got caught up in.

While South Jamaica gets a bad wrap and deservedly so, I felt totally comfortable eating there and even left my bike outside in front of the large window unchained.

While a little off the beaten pack from the subway, about a fifteen minute walk from the E train at Jamaica Center, it is worth checking out, especially since there is no where else you can get Liberian food. The food is worth the trip. Service is no thrills, but very adequate and Maima makes you feel at home.

Maima’s is a definite gem in this land that time forgot.???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????You can check out their Facebook page at