Tag Archives: pedestrian plaza

Sunnyside performance series to kick off under 7 train

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Street Beat Brass Band

A Sunnyside pedestrian plaza will become a new venue for the arts starting this month as two local groups launch a series bringing free performances to the surrounding community.

The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District and the coalition ReCreate Queens have come together to kick off a new series called “Third Thursdays in Bliss Plaza,” expected to bring entertainment from Queens-based musicians and performers.

In March, the groups launched a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $5,000, in hopes of bringing the new series to Bliss Plaza, which opened last October under the 7 train at Queens Boulevard and 46th Street.

The series received initial funding from the Queens Council on the Arts and the rest came from the successful campaign.

Bliss Plaza (Photo by Angy Altamirano)

Bliss Plaza (Photo by Angy Altamirano)

“We are really looking forward to programming this great new public space,” said Rachel Thieme, executive director of Sunnyside Shines.  “Bringing arts programming to Bliss Plaza helps create a more dynamic place and generates foot traffic and activity in the neighborhood, which benefits businesses, residents and visitors alike.”

The series, which kicks off on June 18 with a performance by the Sunnyside-based Street Beat Brass Band, will bring a new act to the plaza on the third Thursday of each month through October. Each performance will go from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

According to organizers, “Third Thursdays in Bliss Plaza” will not only delight commuters but also serve to highlight the vital role artists play in the community.

“As a coalition of neighbors and creative professionals who want to ensure that the arts thrive in the area, it’s critical to us to showcase local artists and make their work accessible for everyone,” said Nancy Kleaver, founding member of ReCreate Queens. “With support from the community we are able to pay our artists what they deserve and establish an annual series that will grow over time. We can’t wait to launch this new tradition.”

The performances include the following:

July 16 – Alí Bello & The Sweet Wire Band
Aug. 20 – Dilemastronauta
Sept. 17 – McManus Irish Dance
Oct. 15 – Afro Latineers

For a detailed schedule, click here.


Parking in Ozone Park pedestrian plaza still not reinstated

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Though a part of a controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza has been removed and is ready for parking, customers at local businesses still cannot use the area for parking because issues over signage have to be addressed.

In the beginning of November, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that they will be pulling back a section of the pedestrian plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, to reinstall parking. This announcement came after business owners complained that the lack of parking, among other issues, has caused their sales to drop drastically.

But even though the DOT has removed the portion of the plaza already, signs have been put up reading “No Standing Anytime,” stopping people from parking there.

According to a DOT spokeswoman, interim parking signage is expected to be installed in the coming weeks. She also said the DOT is in the process of planning a more permanent parking measure in the area and that they continue to work with the community on the issues with the plaza.

Business owners in the area complained that the lack of parking and the cutoff of the two-way traffic, which was allowed before the plaza was installed on Drew Street, has crippled their business.

photo 2 (4)

They held a meeting in August with the DOT and the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS), which is the organization that is in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of the plaza, to talk about the issues they have faced since it was installed in November of 2013.

There, Dalila Hall, DOT commissioner for Queens, said the DOT would review the issues with it and come up with a plan. The reinstatement of parking was the outcome of the meeting, but the business owners have said they won’t stop fighting until the whole plaza is removed so they can have the two-way street back.

They have started a petition signed by both Brooklyn and Queens storekeepers, as the plaza is on the borderline of the boroughs, that asks for it to be removed entirely.


City considers new pedestrian plaza in Flushing

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

In response to a Flushing group’s demand for more public space, the city is considering a pedestrian plaza for Leonard Square.

Between all of the construction and rush hour traffic, residents and local politicians say there are too few places for people to just stop and take a break.

“There’s no space for people to get together,” said Paul Yoo, president of the Korean American Association of Queens. “We need something big enough for the kids and adults.”

The Korean association applied to the Department of Transportation’s plaza program. The department will make a decision early next month, according to a spokesman. And if the Flushing square is chosen, city officials would work with local officials and the community to hold public workshops and develop a design.

“As Flushing becomes more and more developed, we need to make sure that we’re setting some space aside for the public good,” Yoo said.



Second Sunnyside pedestrian plaza officially opens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Sunnyside residents will now have more room to get together and enjoy the outdoors.

The second of two new pedestrian plazas opened in the neighborhood Friday afternoon at the intersection of 40th Street and Queens Boulevard, under the elevated No. 7 train.

Transformed from an underutilized underpass, the plaza includes tables, chairs and decorative plants. It was named Lowery Plaza after 40th Street’s original name, Lowery Street.

“The opening of Lowery Plaza is great news for Sunnyside residents,” Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall said. “This new local destination will significantly improve the life of residents and the vitality of local businesses in Sunnyside and Queens.”

The plaza is part of the DOT’s NYC Plaza Program and will be managed by the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District.

Local elected officials, leaders and business owners cut the ribbon opening Lowery Plaza.

Local elected officials, leaders and business owners cut the ribbon opening Lowery Plaza.

“This is something that the community is starving for, more open space and more space to come together as a community,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris said. “The opening of this plaza on 40th Street, just like Bliss Plaza on 46th Street, is a sign of Sunnyside’s continued growth as a destination neighborhood for New Yorkers.”

In July, Bliss Plaza opened at the intersection of 46th Street and Queens Boulevard. The site also includes tables, chairs and planters. This project included leveling out a street to create a one-level pedestrian area

“We have received such positive feedback from community members and business owners about the success of Bliss Plaza, and I’m delighted to replicate this success at Lowery Plaza,” said Rachel Thieme, Sunnyside Shines BID executive director. “The plazas are fantastic neighborhood amenities and true gathering places in Sunnyside.”


Residents and business owners lock horns over Ozone Park plaza

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Supporters of the controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza defended the space during a meeting about the plaza’s future, calling it an oasis in a neighborhood that is starved of public space.

But others said the plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, is detrimental to business owners who feel that the loss of parking and the cut-off of two-way traffic is causing sales to drop.

“We wanted to create an open environment for the community,” said Darma Diaz, chief operating officer for the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS), which is responsible for the upkeep of the plaza. “This plaza gives the opportunity for the community to have a place to go.”

She noted that public space is so minimal in the area that children have to use the nearby municipal meter lot, located at Elderts Lane and Glenmore Avenue in Brooklyn, for activities.

“This is the only place we have in our neighborhood where children could get together,” said one attendee of the Aug. 21 meeting at Queens Borough Hall. “We have never had a place for us to get together [until the plaza].”

But Khemraj Sadoo, owner of Super Clean Laundromat, located on the same street as the plaza, said there is viable space just two blocks down on Elderts Lane in Brooklyn and wants the plaza moved.

“We need the plaza moved,” Sadoo said. “Who will accept such a plaza in front of his face with such loss of business?”

The plaza was first put in the area in the fall of 2013. Originally it was only designed to take up the tiny intersection of Drew Street where vehicles were once able to turn from Liberty Avenue to 101st Avenue. But Dalila Hall, DOT commissioner for Queens, said when the department came to assess the area they came to the conclusion that part of 101st Avenue would also have to be used for the plaza, which now has taken away parking spaces for customers.

Hall said the DOT did realize that many parking spaces were cut off, which is why they implemented a municipal meter on the Liberty Avenue side of Drew Street recently. She says with the introduction of the metered parking there is only a net loss of one or two parking spots.

But business owners say they need more than just the parking spaces back to survive. Restoration of two-way traffic and the removal of garbage were other top priorities for those who were against the plaza.

“We need two-way traffic back,” Sadoo said. “All the garbage from the plaza flies into my Laundromat. I have tickets from the city.”

Hall said the department is working with the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) for more frequent pick-ups of garbage. The DSNY picks up twice a week in the plaza now, but Hall is hoping to increase that number to keep litter minimal.

Giving two-way access to the street again would mean the plaza would either have to be placed entirely on the sidewalk or be moved elsewhere. Issues such as that will have to be looked at more deeply, Hall said.

“We need to take this information in as an agency to see if more can be done to address everyone’s concern,” Hall said. “We will listen to both sides of course.”


Ozone Park plaza getting makeover

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Salvatore Licata

A pedestrian plaza in Ozone Park that has become a detriment to local business is getting a makeover, according to the community group charged with maintaining it.

Shortly after The Courier published an article on the forlorn plaza at 101st Avenue and Drew Street, the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS) organization placed a sign in the plaza announcing a re-make of the plaza.

There have already been changes made. BACDYS has scheduled an event for the plaza on Aug. 21 and also added umbrellas and chairs to better accommodate locals.

The sign hung up in the plaza reads, “A new plaza is proposed here,” and there is a meeting planned by Community Board 9 to discuss further solutions.

“When Community Board 9 voted in favor of the pedestrian plaza, we did so with the understanding that we would monitor the plaza’s local impacts and keep an eye on whether it remained an asset to the community,” CB 9 chairman Ralph Gonzalez said. “With this meeting, we hope to give all sides of this discussion a seat at the table, and we are aiming to arrive at the best resolution possible.”

Local business owners complained about the plaza because of the number of parking spaces it took up on 101st Avenue and Drew Street.

The meeting will be held on Aug. 21 at Queens Borough Hall at 4:30 p.m. Expected to attend are representatives from Community Board 9; the Department of Transportation’s Queens Borough Commissioner, Dalila Hall; representatives from the BACDYS organization and merchants from the area who have complained about the plaza.





Sunnyside welcomes first of two public plazas

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Sunnyside Shines BID


It’s pure bliss in Sunnyside.

Bliss Plaza, the first of two new public plazas constructed in Sunnyside, opened Tuesday. The project was spearheaded by the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District (BID).

Last year, the Sunnyside Shines BID submitted an application to the city’s Department of Transportation Plaza Program and with the support of local leaders such as Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the application was accepted this April.

“Bliss Plaza is an oasis for pedestrians along busy Queens Boulevard and will be a fantastic place to have an outdoor lunch,” said Rachel Thieme, Sunnyside Shines BID executive director. “This is a huge benefit to neighborhood residents and businesses. We are thrilled with the high quality of work that the NYC Department of Transportation has put into this project and extremely grateful to Councilman Van Bramer and our other partners for supporting our application.”

Bliss Plaza is located at the intersection of 46th Street and Queens Boulevard under the elevated No. 7 train. The plaza has transformed an otherwise useless underpass into a lively and public space. The area includes tables, chairs and decorative planters. The project included leveling out a street to create a one-level pedestrian area and was completed by the DOT in early July.

“I commend the city’s Department of Transportation for all the work it has done to make this new neighborhood plaza a reality and I thank the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District for initiating this project and for its commitment to maintaining the plaza and to providing the programming there,” Borough President Melinda Katz said.

The second plaza, the Lowery Plaza at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard, is expected to open this fall. It will also be located under the No. 7 train and will have the same amenities as Bliss Plaza.

“These new public plazas have transformed the space under the 7 train with green space, ample seating and cultural programming,” Van Bramer said. “Tens of thousands pass these spaces every day but with these changes they will use them to meet friends, enjoy their neighborhood and create community.”



Ozone Park street plaza not living up to expectations

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata


It started out as a beautification and community development project, but a pedestrian plaza on the Brooklyn-Queens border is an eyesore that is detrimental to business, locals say.

Five parking spots were permanently removed last November when the Department of Transportation (DOT) built the plaza at Drew Street and 101st at City Line.

“This plaza has totally crippled my business,” said Ahmad Ubayda, owner of the 99 Cent Ozone Park Discount Hardware store on the corner of the block. “This has been my worst year of business because they took away parking spaces for my customers but aren’t even using them.”

The site has deteriorated since its opening, locals charged.

Four tables and 12 chairs set up in a small section of the plaza while most of the space isn’t used.

Initial plans called for ample seating space, permanent bench seating and bike parking. When the plaza was first built there were plenty of chairs and tables, some even with umbrellas.

But a few weeks after its grand opening much of the furniture, which was chained up to a nearby light pole, was stolen and it hasn’t been fully replaced since, according to residents.

Now the plaza has just four tables, 12 chairs, two permanent benches and no bike parking space.

Moreover, the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS), a local nonprofit organization, is responsible for the plaza’s upkeep, according to the DOT. Yet garbage overflowed from several cans and littered the floors on Monday.

BACDYS, which teamed up with the DOT to create the plaza, got support from local businesses and from Community Board 9 of Queens and Community Board 5 of Brooklyn before they went through with the project.

Many of the businesses on the strip did agree to the proposed idea under the impression that it would be good for the growth of their stores.

Photo courtesy of DOT

But Ubayda said it has done the exact opposite for his, which has put his store and livelihood in limbo.

Steve Melnick, a former resident of the area, shared his concern at the meetings that were held for the plaza before it was built. He said this plaza is nothing like it was planned.

“This [plaza] is something that this nonprofit group wanted but they are not following through,” Melnick said. “As tax payers, we have the right to know what’s going on with the property.”

Mary Ann Carey, District Manager of Community Board 9, has reached out to the DOT about the plaza, according to a spokeswoman from the board, but it is not yet known if they have responded.

A phone number for BACDYS was not accepting calls; there was no answer at another number for the group.

The DOT also did not immediately respond for comment.



Second Myrtle Avenue pedestrian plaza gets community support

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of the Department of Transportation

Call it the Myrtle Avenue makeover.

Community Board 5 (CB5) is in favor of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to transform the corner of Myrtle and 71st Avenues into a pedestrian plaza.

The plan to makeover the space was almost fully accepted at the board’s most recent transportation committee meeting, except for a few minor changes.

Photo courtesy the Department of Transportation 

“It’s a nice attribute for the community,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and a member of the community board. “Pedestrian plazas have become very popular throughout the city.”

The DOT will install new lighting, bike racks, plants, chess tables, chairs and umbrellas for shade, and raise the sidewalk for the new square.

Renz said the BID will look to create art and music programs and variety of services at the plaza for the community to enjoy when it is completed.

But before that, the DOT has to tweak the plan and present the final designs to the community board’s transportation committee for approval at an upcoming meeting.

The plaza is just one of two coming to Myrtle Avenue. The city’s Department of Design and Construction is in the final design phase for another public square at the intersection of Myrtle and Cooper Avenues in Glendale, which is known as the Glendale Veterans Triangle. It is expected to go out to bid and start construction by next year, according to Renz.

Rendering courtesy of the Department of Design and Construction



Astoria passes on a proposed pedestrian plaza

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Opposition by Astoria merchants pushed Community Board 1 to pass on a proposed pedestrian plaza, to the dismay of many local residents.

During the group’s monthly meeting, Community Board 1 members voted 25 to 7 against the Department of Transportation (DOT) initiated venture, which would have installed a pedestrian plaza at the intersection of Newtown and 30th Avenues.

According to Community Board 1 district manager Lucille Hartmann, the group rejected the proposal predominantly after concerns arose about nearby Mt. Sinai Hospital and traffic patterns for emergency vehicles. She claimed the hospital’s new cancer facility also factored into the board’s negative vote.

Hartmann said the board suggested adding safety sidewalks to make the notoriously perilous intersection less dangerous.

“I think pedestrian plazas are nice in the right area,” said Hartmann. “Hopefully another site can be picked where there is more agreement on it.”

On Saturday, August 25, the DOT set up a temporary pedestrian plaza, outfitted with tables, chairs and umbrellas, allowing residents to sample their neighborhood with the additional outdoor space. During the trial-run, the plaza garnered mixed reviews from residents. Some enjoyed having an open area to relax and enjoy coffee with friends while others feared the closed street could cause traffic backups in an already congested area.

Frank Arcabascio, owner of the Redken Salon on 30th Avenue and president of the 30th Avenue Merchants Association, said his group was largely against closing the street. The business owner also believes the plaza could threaten emergency vehicle access to Mt. Sinai Hospital. According to Arcabascio, the DOT only presented the options of a pedestrian plaza or no changes at all, adding that DOT representatives were unwilling to take input from locals.

“We can keep the street open and have a beautification going on, which we feel should be the third alternative,” said Arcabascio. “They were only offering to close it or leave it open.”

Arcabascio suggested spreading the “Green” concept along the 14-block radius his group oversees, benefiting a larger section of the neighborhood rather than just a small patch. He hopes the DOT will sit down with the merchants to discuss the future of the plaza and consider merchants’ suggestions.

Eddie Hernandez, a local resident and member of pro-plaza group Friends of Newtown Plaza, thought the proposed plan was a great way to convert a dangerous intersection into a beneficial aspect of the community. Friends of Newtown Plaza collected 630 signatures from locals in favor of the plaza.

“This was a great location,” said Hernandez. “It was a location where hundreds if not thousands of people walk every day. There’s clearly a desire in the community to have somewhere to sit where you don’t have to pay.”

Hernandez claimed there was a rigid line between merchants and residents during the Community Board meeting, during which, according to Hernandez, several merchants expressed animosity towards locals.

“The merchants were against [the plaza],” said Hernandez. “I guess they have the Community Board’s ear.”


One day plaza met with mixed feelings

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Walk this way, just for a day.

On Saturday, August 25, the Department of Transportation (DOT) set up a temporary pedestrian plaza in Astoria, allowing residents to relax, stroll and sample their neighborhood with more open space, after locals expressed mixed feelings about the proposed piazza.

DOT officials set up tables, chairs, umbrellas and planters along the intersection of 30th Avenue and Newtown Avenue. Residents sat at tables, sipping coffee and chatting with friends while enjoying the sunny summer weather.

“I feel like Astoria lacks outdoor spaces where people can sit around,” said local resident Bryan Cronk, who was spotted sitting in the pedestrian plaza. “If it’s kept clean, it could be kind of cool.”

Cronk said he avoids the nearby Athens Square Park — another outdoor space — because of its lack of cleanliness and upkeep.

Passers-by had mixed feelings about the shut-down street, however.

“Is this permanent?” shouted a man walking by, who said he was skeptical of how traffic patterns would be managed in the already somewhat congested area.

“This one-day event provided Astoria residents and visitors the opportunity to experience a plaza in the neighborhood and to see for themselves the benefits that safe, accessible pedestrian space can provide,” said DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel.

Community Board 1 District Manager Lucille Hartmann said the group supported the trial run but could not comment on her opinion of the plaza. She said the possibility of installing a permanent plaza would be discussed during a public hearing on September 11.


Owners say Jackson Heights plaza hurts biz

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Jackson Heights store owners say sales have been pedestrian since a new plaza opened — moving a bus stop and closing off the street to cars.

The pedestrian plaza on 37th Road between 73rd Street and 74th Street, which consists of mostly South Asian businesses, opened in September of last year to create a court for residents to walk, sit and relax, but local store owners say it has driven customers away.

“The customers that we had left, and new customers come once and never come back because it is too difficult to get here,” said Shiv Dass, president of the Jackson Heights Indian Merchants Association.

The bus route that used to stop in front of the train station on 37th Road was rerouted, limiting the many straphangers that would stop by the shops for a cup of coffee, newspaper or a bite to eat.

“This plaza is closing down [the merchants’] livelihoods,” said Mohammad Rashid, a local volunteer and advocate for Jackson Heights residents.  “We’ve lost customers and revenue.  It will be difficult to get them back.”

The lack of business may force some merchants to make difficult decisions.

Nooruddin Dashti, who owns two stores on the block, said he is two months late on his rent and has been forced to begin laying off employees.

The owner of several of the block’s properties, Julio Fernandez, said he has not seen anything like this in his 30 years of ownership.

“Nobody can pay the rent because no one has any business,” Fernandez said, adding that shops have been paying them what they can in the interim.

Murad Rahman, who works in his brother’s shop on 37th Road, recently had a rent check bounce because of low business.  “We will have to close or move,” he said.

The plaza was opened for a six-month trial period ending in March. A decision will be made before then whether to make the plaza permanent or reopen the street to traffic.  The DOT will also discuss making changes to surrounding streets to make the area more conducive to shoppers and will continue to monitor the area, a spokesperson said.

“We would like to see [the plaza] work,” said Len Maniace, vice president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, a community organization. “We think it would work with some support from the merchants.”

Maniace, who said he has spoken with some of the business owners and is willing to see if they can find a common ground, said the plaza’s potential would have been better realized had the trial been during the spring and summer — a time more conducive to walking and sitting outside.

“We had a six-month trial period.  It didn’t work out,” Dass said.  “It’s time to move it somewhere.  I support the plaza, just in the right place.”

Both Dass and Rashid suggested moving the plaza down one block, a spot Maniace believes may cause even more problems than currently exist.

“I don’t see why you’d want to put it on a block that has people living on it,” said Maniace, who envisions the plaza as a destination.

If made permanent, the plaza, which now has several blue tables and chairs placed on the block, would be beautified with trees and planters.

“I think they are missing an opportunity to have this turn into a really nicely manicured pedestrian plaza,” he said.  “I could see that becoming a place where restaurants would want to move to.  I think it could turn into a destination for New Yorkers, not just the surrounding neighborhoods.”