Many New Yorkers recognize the set where rapper LL Cool J filmed his music video “Hush” or the location where the Wu-Tang Clan made their video clip “Ice “Cream”–that place is the Colosseum Mall in Queens.
The mall is located in the heart of the busiest shopping district in downtown Jamaica at the corner of 165th Street and 89th Avenue. In 1985, the Colosseum Mall began as an indoor flea market, but today there are more than 100 retail stores with a variety of merchandise such as sneakers, jewelry and clothing.
Several rappers and hip-hop artists, including 50 Cent and Run DMC, have shopped in the Colosseum Mall. Performer and entrepreneur Jay-Z, for instance, mentioned it in his song “Supa Ugly.”
Unfortunately, Jamaica, Queens, is also known for its high rate of violent crime and gang activity. But in the past few years, crime has decreased, according to the New York City Police Department, and as a result shoppers and local merchants have become more secure and confident walking around the mall.
David Mysaev, 19, a York College student who lives in Rego Park, said he can find everything cheaper than anywhere else at the Colosseum Mall.
“I love shopping at the Colosseum. It’s not just the prices,” Mysaev added. “The quality is pretty good too, and they have my shoe size.”
Thomas Logan, property manager at the mall, said the crime rate around Jamaica Avenue has been going down steadily for years.
“If you go to the 103rd [Precinct], I am sure the statistics will show that the crime has dropped a lot, particularly in the Jamaica shopping district,” Logan said.
A recent check of NYPD statistics show 32 crime complaints in the 103rd Precinct, which covers the mall and surrounding shopping areas. These incidents, covering the week from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2, include nine robberies and 11 assaults, which represents a 39 percent spike from the 23 crimes reported last year. However, the NYPD data also reveal that, overall, annual crime totals in the same area have decreased 77 percent since 1990.
“I don’t shop in Jamaica because of the environment–a lot of gang activities. I am living in Ozone Park. I prefer shopping around my area because it’s pretty safe,” said Jonathan Medina, a York College psychology student.
Last year, MTV reported that Waka Floka Flame, a popular New York rapper, was arrested in the parking lot of the mall for allegedly possessing marijuana. The rapper spent one day in jail and was released without criminal charges.
In addition, mall property manager Logan confirmed that many celebrities, including rappers, R&B singers, comedians and actors, visit the place on the regular basis.
“Everything that glitters is not gold. You see the rappers, and you believe they are what they sing. The reality is they are not. A lot of them are broke,” Logan added. “Waka Floka’s incident is one of many.”
According to the Real Deal, a magazine about New York City real estate, Manhattan-based developer United American Land has paid $14 million for a 57,000-square-foot multi-level property in Jamaica, Queens, that comes with 100,000 feet of air rights. The building, located at 160-08 Jamaica Ave., will be redeveloped and leased to a big-box retailer.
News of the new retail tenant has yet to reach the majority of shoppers, who in recent years have seen the addition of a Home Depot and Old Navy clothing store in the transit hub that once had a Macy’s department store where the Colosseum currently stands.
“There are always police in this area. There is not a lot of crime. People like to buy here not only because the prices, but also because they can find the latest sneakers,” said Jessica Martinez, 32, owner of a beauty salon on the first floor of the Colosseum Mall.
Furthermore, the New York Post reported this year that the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, the nonprofit local development agency for projects in Jamaica, faced a federal probe over the $9.2 million secured to improve a Long Island Rail Road underpass and create a shopping strip just blocks from the United American site on Jamaica Avenue.