|Neighborhood of Queens|
Hillside Avenue in Jamaica
Frederick Ruckstull's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (1896) in Major Mark Park
|City||New York City|
|• Total||2.670 sq mi (6.92 km2)|
|• Density||81,000/sq mi (31,000/km2)|
|ZIP Codes||11433, 11423, 11432, 11435, 11434|
|Median household income||$47,944|
|New Netherland series|
|The Patroon System|
|People of New Netherland|
Jamaica is a middle-class neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 12, which also includes Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Pond Park, Rochdale Village, and South Jamaica. Jamaica is patrolled by the NYPD's 103rd, 113th & 105th Precincts.
It was settled under Dutch rule in 1656 in New Netherland as Rustdorp. Under British rule, Jamaica 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). In 1814, Jamaica became the first incorporated village on Long Island. 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. Today, some locals group Jamaica's surrounding neighborhoods into an unofficial Greater Jamaica, roughly corresponding to the former Town of Jamaica, including Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, St. Albans, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Hollis, Laurelton, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Howard Beach and Ozone Park.
Jamaica is the location of several government buildings including Queens Civil Court, the civil branch of the Queens County Supreme Court, the Queens County Family Court and the Joseph P. Addabbo Federal Building, home to the Social Security Administration's Northeastern Program Service Center. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Northeast Regional Laboratory as well as the New York District Office are also located in Jamaica. 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. 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). John F. Kennedy International Airport and the hotels nearby also use Jamaica as their address.
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics and neighborhoods
- 3 Economy
- 4 Transportation
- 5 Education
- 6 Neighboring areas
- 7 Notable residents
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Although many current residents of the Jamaica neighborhood are immigrants from the country of the same name, the two names have different derivations. The name of the neighborhood derives from Yameco, a corruption of a word for "beaver" in the Lenape language spoken by the Native Americans who lived in the area at the time of first European contact. The "y" sound in English is spelled with a "j" in Dutch, the first Europeans to write about the area. This resulted in the eventual English pronunciation of "Jamaica" when read and repeated orally. In the Caribbean, the Arawaks, people of the nation of Jamaica, named their land Xaymaca, which meant "land of wood and water".
Precolonial and colonial periods
Jamaica Avenue was an ancient trail for tribes from as far away as the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, coming to trade skins and furs for wampum. It was in 1655 that the first settlers paid the Native Americans with two guns, a coat, and some powder and lead, for the land lying between the old trail and "Beaver Pond" (later Baisley Pond). Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant dubbed the area Rustdorp ("rest-town") in granting the 1656 land patent.
The English took over in 1664 and made it part of the county of Yorkshire. In 1683, when the British divided the Province of New York into counties, Jamaica became the county seat of Queens County, one of the original counties of New York.
Colonial Jamaica had a band of 56 minutemen who played an active part in the Battle of Long Island, the outcome of which led to the occupation of the New York City area by British troops during most of the American Revolutionary War. In 1790, in William Warner's tavern. Rufus King, a signer of the United States Constitution, relocated here in 1805. He added to a modest 18th-century farmhouse, creating the manor which stands on the site today. King Manor was restored at the turn of the 21st century to its former glory, and houses King Manor Museum.
Late 18th and 19th centuries
By 1776, Jamaica had become a trading post for farmers and their produce. For more than a century, their horse-drawn carts plodded along Jamaica Avenue, then called King's Highway. The Jamaica Post Office opened September 25, 1794, and was the only post office in the present-day Boroughs of Queens or Brooklyn before 1803. Union Hall Academy for boys, and Union Hall Seminary for girls, were chartered in 1787. The Academy eventually attracted students from all over the United States and the West Indies. The public school system was started in 1813 with funds of $125. Jamaica Village, the first village on Long Island, was incorporated in 1814 with its boundaries being from the present-day Van Wyck Expressway (on the west) and Jamaica Avenue (on the north, later Hillside Avenue) to Farmers Boulevard (on the east) and Linden Boulevard (on the south) in what is now St. Albans. By 1834, the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad company had completed a line to Jamaica.
In 1850, the former Kings Highway (now Jamaica Avenue) became the Brooklyn and Jamaica Plank Road, complete with toll gate. In 1866, tracks were laid for a horsecar line, and 20 years later it was electrified, the first in the state. On January 1, 1898, Queens became part of the City of New York, and Jamaica became the county seat.
20th and 21st centuries
The present Jamaica station of the Long Island Rail Road was completed in 1913, and the BMT Jamaica Line arrived in 1918, followed by the IND Queens Boulevard Line in 1936 and the IND/BMT Archer Avenue Lines in 1988, the latter of which replaced the eastern portion of the Jamaica Line that was torn down in 1977–85. The 1920s and 1930s saw the building of the Valencia Theatre (now restored by the Tabernacle of Prayer), the "futuristic" Kurtz furniture store and the Roxanne Building. In the 1970s, it became the headquarters for the Islamic Society of North America.
The First Reformed Church, Grace Episcopal Church Complex, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Building, Jamaica Savings Bank, King Manor, J. Kurtz and Sons Store Building, La Casina, Office of the Register, Prospect Cemetery, St. Monica's Church, Sidewalk Clock at 161-11 Jamaica Avenue, New York, NY, Trans World Airlines Flight Center, and United States Post Office are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Demographics and neighborhoods
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Jamaica is large and has a diverse population. It is mostly African American, with sizable Hispanic, Asian, and White populations. While the corresponding figures represent a certain portion of Jamaica, official statistics differ by the area's numerous zip codes such as 11411, 11428, 11432, 11433, 11434, 11435, and 11436. The total population of Jamaica is estimated to be a bit over 200,000 with all neighborhoods taken into consideration.
Jamaica was not always as diverse as it is today. Throughout the 19th to early 20th centuries, Jamaica was mainly populated with whites as new Irish immigrants settled around the places known today as Downtown and Baisley Pond Park. However, in the 1950s, what was later called white flight began and middle-income African Americans started taking their place. After the 1970s, as housing prices began to tumble, many Hispanic such as Salvadorans, Colombians, Dominicans, and West Indian immigrants moved in. These ethnic groups tended to stay more towards the Jamaica Avenue and South Jamaica areas. Yet it wasn't until the late 1990s and early 2000s that immigration from other countries became widespread. Gentrification and decrease in crime attracted many families toward Jamaica's safe havens. Hillside Avenue reflects this trend. Along 150th to 161st streets, much of the stores and restaurants are of South American and Caribbean culture.
Farther east is the rapidly growing East Indian community. Mainly spurred on by Jamaica Muslim Center, Bangladeshis have flocked to this area due to easy transit access and the numerous Bangladeshi stores and restaurants lining 167th and 168th Streets. Bangladeshis are the most rapidly growing ethnic group here; however, it is also an African-American commercial area. Many Sri Lankans also live in this area for similar reasons as the Bangladeshi community, evidenced in the numerous food and grocery establishments catering to the community along Hillside Avenue. As well as the large South Asian community thrives significant Filipino and African communities in Jamaica, along with the neighboring Filipino community in Queens Village and the historic, well established African-American community that exists in Jamaica.
From 151st Street and into 164th Street, many groceries and restaurants pertain to the West Indies. Mainly of Guyanese and Trinidadian origin, these stores serve their respective population living in and around the Jamaica Center area. East from 167th Street to 171st Street, there are East Indian shops. Mainly invested by the ever growing Bangladeshi population, thousands of South Asians come here to shop for Bangladeshi goods. Also there are restaurants such as "Sagar", "Ambala", "Ghoroa", and countless more in the Bangladeshi stronghold here. Some people call this area another "Little South Asia" similar to that of Jackson Heights. Jamaica, Queens is another South Asian ethnic enclave popping up in NYC, as South Asian immigration and the NYC South Asian population has grown rapidly, as well as new South Asian enclaves.
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Economic development was long neglected. In the 1960s and 1970s, many big box retailers moved to suburban areas where business was more profitable. Departing retailers included brand name stores and movie theaters that once thrived in Jamaica's busiest areas. Macy's and the Valencia theater were the last companies to move out in 1969. The 1980s crack epidemic created even more hardship and crime. Prime real estate spaces were filled by hair salons and 99 cent stores. Furthermore, existing zoning patterns and inadequate infrastructure did not anticipate future development.
Since then, the decrease of the crime rate has encouraged entrepreneurs who plan to invest in the area. The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC), the local business improvement district, acquired valuable real estate for sale to national chains in order to expand neighborhood commerce. As well they have completed underway proposals by allocating funds and providing loans to potential investors who have already established something in the area. One Jamaica Center is a mixed-use commercial complex that was built in 2002 by The Mattone Group housing Old Navy, Bally Total Fitness, Walgreens, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, a 15-screen multiplex theater and for a while a Gap. Banking has also made a strong revival as Bank of America, Sterling National Bank, Chase Bank, and Carver Federal Savings Bank have each created at least one branch along various major streets: Jamaica Avenue, Parsons Boulevard, Merrick Boulevard, and Sutphin Boulevard. A $75 million deal between the developers, the Mattone Group and Ceruzzi Enterprises, and Home Depot cleared the way for a new location at 168th St. and Archer Ave. All approvals were obtained within three months of the application dates.
The most prominent piece of development has been the creation of the Jamaica Station, which was fully completed in 2003. It includes Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport subway station (E J Z trains), the LIRR, and the Airtrain JFK to John F. Kennedy International Airport; the latter remains the central figure for ongoing economic progress. With the growing number of riders each day passing through this station, the city is providing some major changes to the surrounding blocks of this massive hub of transport.
Efforts have been made to follow the examples of major redevelopment occurring in Long Island City, Flushing, and Downtown Brooklyn. In 2005, the New York City Department of City Planning drafted a plan that would rezone 368 blocks of Jamaica in order to stimulate new development, relieve traffic congestion, and shift upscale amenities away from low-density residential neighborhoods. The plan includes up-zoning the immediate areas around Jamaica Station to accommodate passengers traveling through the area. To improve infrastructure the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has agreed to create more greenery and open spaces to allow pedestrians to enjoy the scenery. At the same time, the city has reserved the right to protect the suburban/residential charm of neighboring areas. Several blocks will be down-zoned to keep up with the existing neighborhood character. On September 10, 2007, the City Council overwhelmingly approved the plan, providing for structures of up to 28 stories to be built around the main transit hub as well as residential buildings of up to 7 stories to be built on Hillside Avenue.
Several projects are in progress. The New York City Economic Development Corporation has issued an RFP for redevelopment of a 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m2) abandoned garage located at 168th Street and 93rd Avenue. Plans are underway to convert this space into retail and parking spots. "TechnoMart Queens" was the first approved project. Located at Sutphin Blvd. and 94th Ave., Korean-based Prime Construction Corp., Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, and several other partners have signed a deal to create a 13-story mega-mall. 9 floors will be dedicated towards wholesale electronics, 3 floors to retail space for shopping, and it is estimated to contain parking for up to 800 cars. Groundbreaking on this site will initiate in late 2008 and is slated for completion by mid-2011. However, in Q3 2008, Technomart announced that it would not be moving forward with its plan to bring a retailer to the community.
According to real-estate listing service StreetEasy, Jamaica's real-estate prices are rising the fastest out of all localities in New York City. The community's median home prices rose 39% in 2015. The median sales price for a small row house in 2015 was $330,000, and the median asking rent for a three-bedroom house in 2015 was $1,750. Sutphin Boulevard has been described as "the next tourist hot spot." Jamaica's proximity to the JFK AirTrain has stimulated the development of several hotels.
Several businesses are at the distant John F. Kennedy International Airport. North American Airlines has its headquarters on the property of JFK. In addition, Nippon Cargo Airlines maintains its New York City offices there.
Jamaica Station is a central transfer point on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which is headquartered in a building adjoining the station; all but one of the commuter railroad's lines (the exception being the Port Washington Branch) run through Jamaica.
The New York City Subway's IND Queens Boulevard Line (E F trains) terminates at 179th Street station, at the foot of Jamaica Estates, a neighborhood of mansions east of Jamaica's central business district. The Archer Avenue Lines, which opened in 1988 (E J Z trains), terminate at Jamaica Center – Parsons/Archer station, but also serve Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport station. Jamaica Center is not just a transit hub; it is also the name of a business and government center that includes a federal office building, and a shopping mall and theater multiplex (One Jamaica Center), and is adjacent to various other businesses and agencies, such as the main forensic laboratory facility for the New York City Police Department.
Jamaica's bus network provides extensive service across eastern Queens, as well as to destinations as distant as Hicksville in Nassau County, the Bronx, the Rockaways, and Midtown Manhattan. Nearly all bus lines serving Jamaica terminate there; most do so at the 165th Street Bus Terminal or the Jamaica Center subway station, except the Q46 bus which operates along Union Turnpike which serves as the northern border of Jamaica.
Greater Jamaica, a large, sprawling neighborhood, is also home to John F. Kennedy International Airport—one of the busiest international airports in the United States and the world— public transportation passengers are connected to airline terminals by AirTrain JFK, which operates as both an airport terminal circulator and rail connection to central Jamaica at the integrated LIRR and bi-level subway station located at Sutphin Blvd and Archer Avenue.
Major streets include Archer Avenue, Hillside Avenue, Jamaica Avenue, Liberty Avenue, Merrick Boulevard, Parsons Boulevard, Guy R. Brewer Boulevard (formerly known as New York Boulevard but renamed for a local political leader in 1982), Sutphin Boulevard, and Union Turnpike, as well as the Van Wyck Expressway (I-678) and the Grand Central Parkway.
Jamaica Avenue is Jamaica's busiest thoroughfare. It begins at Broadway Junction in Brooklyn, near the boundary of the East New York neighborhood. The Avenue enters Jamaica east of the Van Wyck Expressway, and passes the Joseph Addabbo Social Security Administration Building, courthouses and the main building of the Queens Library, along with many discount stores. The 200-year-old King Manor Museum, once home to Rufus King, a founding father of the United States, is located at the corner of 153rd St. and Jamaica Ave. It includes a 2-story museum with over an acre of land and a public park. Directly across from the Museum is the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, part of the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, represents a long-sought adaptive reuse of the landmark, 150-year-old former Dutch Reformed Church. It was completed in 2007.
Hillside Avenue is one of the main thoroughfares of Jamaica. It is served by the E F trains, from Sutphin Boulevard to its 179th Street terminus. Hillside Avenue runs east from Myrtle Avenue in Richmond Hill, along the length of Jamaica, into Queens Village, and finally, Nassau County. It is a wide six-lane street with numerous commercial activities. The Q43 bus runs its entire eastern length starting at Sutphin Boulevard to the city line. Hillside Avenue separates Jamaica from Briarwood, Jamaica Hills and Jamaica Estates on the southern boundary.
Sutphin Boulevard is Jamaica's second busiest thoroughfare. It has two subway stations, as well as stations for the LIRR and the AirTrain JFK, and two Queens courthouses. It begins at Hillside Avenue and 147th Place in the north and works its way south and downhill connecting with Jamaica Avenue, Archer Avenue, Liberty Avenue, South Road, Linden Boulevard, and terminates at Rockaway Boulevard. At first it is a small four-lane street, but in the downtown area it provides six lanes. At 95th Avenue, it reemerges from the LIRR underpass and becomes a four-lane street to its southern endpoint.
Union Turnpike travels through, and serving as the northern border between the towns of Flushing and Jamaica. Though both towns were absorbed into New York City in 1898, the division is evident today in the addresses. Buildings on the north side generally begin with a 113- ZIP code, indicating Flushing, and buildings to the south side begin with a 114- ZIP code, indicating Jamaica. Union Turnpike separates the northern boundaries of Briarwood, Jamaica Hills and Jamaica Estates from the southern boundaries of Flushing and Fresh Meadows.
Colleges and universities
Several colleges and universities make their home in Jamaica proper or in its close vicinity, most notably:
- York College, a senior college of the City University of New York
- St. John's University (Queens Campus), a private Catholic University founded by the Vincentian Fathers (Lazarists)
- Queens College, a nearby senior college of the City University of New York
- New Brunswick Theological Seminary offers classes at a satellite campus on the St. John's University campus.
Primary and secondary schools
Jamaica's public schools are operated by the New York City Department of Education.
Public high schools in Jamaica include:
- Springfield Gardens Educational Campus (formerly Springfield Gardens High School)
- August Martin High School
- Thomas A. Edison Vocational and Technical High School
- Hillcrest High School
- Campus Magnet Educational Campus (formerly Andrew Jackson High School)
- Jamaica Campus (formerly Jamaica High School), an official municipal landmark
- Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
- Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School
- High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety
- The Young Women's Leadership School of Queens
- York Early College Academy
Public elementary and intermediate (junior high) schools in Jamaica include:
- I.S. 231
- P.S. 80
- P.S. 45 Clarence Witherspoon
- P.S. 50 Talfourd Lawn Elementary School
- P.S. 86
- P.S. 95
- P.S. 131 Abigail Adams Elementary School
- P.S. 160
- P.S. 182 Samantha Smith
- I.S. 238 Susan B Anthony
- P.S. 48 William Wordsworth
- I.S. 8
- J.H.S. 72, Catherine and Count Basie
Private schools in Jamaica include:
- Al-Iman School, an Islamic PK-12 school.
- Archbishop Molloy High School, formerly an all-boys' Catholic high school, now co-ed.
- Immaculate Conception School, a co-ed Catholic school from pre-K to 8th grade. The school is a local landmark located on the property of Immaculate Conception Church and Monastery, run by the Passionist Congregation of priests.
- St. Nicholas of Tolentine, a co-ed Catholic school from pre-K to 8th grade, run by the Sisters of Charity
- The Mary Louis Academy, a Catholic girls' high school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
- United Nations International School, a private school in Jamaica Estates.
- Cariculum Academy Preschool of Southeast Queens, a community schoolhouse
The Catholic schools are administered by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
The Central Library of the Queens Borough Public Library, the nation's highest-circulation public library system, is in Jamaica. The Baisley Park Branch and the South Jamaica Branch are also located in Jamaica.
Neighboring areas are Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Holliswood, Bellerose, Briarwood, Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Hollis, Queens Village, South Ozone Park, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Laurelton, Rosedale, Brookville, Rochdale, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, Hillcrest, Kew Gardens Hills, Fresh Meadows, Meadowmere Park, and Woodhaven.
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Notable current and former residents of Jamaica, with (B) denoting that the person was born there, include:
- 50 Cent, rapper and entrepreneur (B)
- Cecily Adams, actress
- Khandi Alexander, actress and dancer
- Lloyd Banks, rapper and member of hip-hop group G-Unit
- Bob Beamon, Olympian and world record holder for long jump
- Fritz Billig, stamp dealer and author of Billig's Philatelic Handbooks
- Don Blackman, jazz-funk pianist, singer and songwriter
- Paul Bowles, writer and composer
- Jimmy Breslin, author and columnist
- Harvey Brooks, musician and composer
- Tina Charles, WNBA player current with the New York Liberty
- Sri Chinmoy, philosopher and spiritual teacher
- Chinx, rapper
- Buck Clayton, jazz trumpeter
- Desiree Coleman, singer, actress
- Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York 1983–1995 (B)
- Nelson DeMille, author (B)
- Rocco DiSpirito, chef (B)
- Alan Dugan, poet
- Ann Flood, actress
- Ashrita Furman, most Guinness World Records holder with 88 Guinness World Records
- Alonzo Holt, singer
- Marc Iavaroni, basketball player, former head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies
- K. Sparks, Christian hip hop musician
- Kamara James, Olympic fencer
- James P. Johnson, "stride" pianist and composer
- William T. Kane, physicist; (B) born in 1932
- Crad Kilodney, writer
- Rufus King, signer of the United States Constitution
- Len Kunstadt, jazz/blues historian, record label owner
- Gerald S. Lesser psychologist, Sesame Street programming developer
- Sally Marr, stand-up comic, dancer, actress and talent spotter, mother of comic Lenny Bruce, whose act she influenced
- Debi Mazar, actress
- Darryl McDaniels (DMC), rapper
- Metallica briefly lived here in April 1983 before recording their debut Kill 'Em All
- Marcus Miller, jazz composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist
- Nicki Minaj, rapper, born in Trinidad, brought to Queens at 5 years old
- Charles Mingus, jazz bassist, composer and autobiographer
- Lamar Odom, NBA star, former reality TV star
- Walter O'Malley, former owner of the Brooklyn and L.A. Dodgers. Lived in Jamaica from 1917 to 1920.
- Richard Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup and former chairman and CEO of Time Warner
- Letty Cottin Pogrebin, writer/journalist
- Freddie Roman, comedian
- Salt-n-Pepa, rappers
- Al Sears, jazz saxophonist
- Joseph Simmons (Run), rapper/pastor
- Russell Simmons, entrepreneur/producer
- Heathcliff Slocumb, former pitcher
- Fredro Starr, actor, rapper and member of hip-hop group Onyx
- William Grant Still, "dean of American black composers"
- Sticky Fingaz, actor, rapper and member of hip-hop group Onyx
- Eva Taylor, 20s vocalist known as the "Dixie Nightingale"
- Donald Trump, real estate developer
- Ben Webster, jazz tenor saxophonist
- Marinus Willett, mayor of New York 1807–08
- Clarence Williams, jazz pianist and composer
- Fess Williams, jazz clarinetist
- Bernard Wright, pop/funk/jazz composer, keyboardist and singer
- Tony Yayo, rapper and member of hip-hop group G-Unit
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- Strickland, Carol. "Novelist Uses The Island's Gold Coast As A Setting For A Clash of Cultures", The New York Times, April 8, 1990. Accessed December 13, 2007. "Mr. De Mille was born in Jamaica, Queens, and educated at Elmont High School and Hofstra University, and so he knows the area well, although he calls himself a member in good standing of the middle class."
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- "Walter F. O'Malley, Leader of Dodgers' Move to Los Angeles, Dies at 75; Unqualified Success", The New York Times, August 10, 1979. "The son of a commissioner of markets, he attended Jamaica High School in Queens and Culver Military Academy on Indiana, where he played on the baseball team until a broken nose finished his playing career."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jamaica, Queens.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Queens/Jamaica.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Jamaica, Queens.|
- Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (the source of much of the historical information in this article)
- The Cultural Collaboration of Jamaica, JAMS (Jamaica Arts & Music Summer festival) sponsor
- "A Road Not Taken, Much" NY Times City Section, April 15, 2007
- Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning
- Map of Queens neighborhoods
- 1873 map of Village of Jamaica
- 1873 map of Town of Jamaica
- History of Queens County: Jamaica New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 193–257.