Telma Reid now has a place to sit outside and eat lunch.
The child care center employee, whose Corona office is just around the corner from the neighborhood’s new pedestrian plaza, is excited for the development.
“It’s definitely an improvement in the neighborhood,” said Reid. “It looks nice.”
Once a parking lot, the pedestrian haven, now filled with chairs, tables and umbrellas and known to locals as “La Placita,” shines as a symbol of growth and development among western Queens neighborhoods. With the help of the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) and New York Community Bancorp, the first phase of the plaza was completed, with officials and locals excitedly awaiting the next steps.
“With this first phase, we already have a great public space that is business and people friendly, and it’ll only get better after the second phase,” said QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to install permanent street furniture, flagpoles and a water fountain as part of phase two.
Alexander Polanco, who works at the Walgreens next to the plaza, took a quick midday break in the open space, smoking a cigarette and chatting on his cell phone. He frequently comes outside during his breaks and relaxes at one of the tables. Polanco said response from the community has been predominantly positive, but some older patrons don’t like the lack of parking in front of the store. Regardless, he said the plaza has brought positive changes.
“Business has gone up,” he said. “Everyone loves it.”
Councilmember Julissa Ferreras is ecstatic that the plaza project has finally taken off. She hopes development in the neighborhood brings more safety and structure to the Roosevelt Avenue corridor.
For many years, her office received countless complaints about the dilapidated drive, overrun with seedy bars and prostitution. The councilmember said she looked forward to assisting the neighborhood’s return to prosperity.
“People want a clean space and a space they can maintain and bring their families to,” said Ferreras. “We have to take pride in our community and pride in the different projects that are rolling out so our community can improve.”
Ferreras, who grew up in the neighborhood, said residents have approached her at church, the supermarket and the hairdresser, just to tell her how happy they are to have the plaza.
The councilmember said the plaza awakened the volunteer spirit in many of her constituents, who have a newfound sense of community.