Tag Archives: plaza

Plaza a place to relax in Ridgewood

| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison

A quarter century after the idea originated, the plan for a Ridgewood pedestrian plaza finally came to fruition.

The plaza, situated on 71st Avenue between Myrtle Avenue and Stephen Street, was closed to traffic during the first week of October. Chairs and tables were expected to be delivered to the street as The Courier Sun was going to press.

Granite blocks and planters line the plaza in the center of the Myrtle Avenue retail corridor. A pedestrian triangle with benches already existed as a barrier between Myrtle and 71st avenues.

When Venditti Square and Ridgewood Memorial Triangle were built 25 years ago, the 71st Avenue Triangle was to be constructed as well, but city cutbacks caused the plan to be scrapped.

The design was reset in motion when a proposal was submitted in 2011 to the city’s plaza program.

“After 25 years, we’re finally coming full circle and creating what was supposed to have been built back in the 80s,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation and the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District.

After the plan was approved, the DOT offered to construct the temporary plaza instead of the community waiting a couple of years for the permanent space to be designed. The temporary plaza allows the space to be utilized while a permanent one is planned. Renz said workshops will be held in the coming months regarding the permanent plaza.

“I like the idea, I’m interested in how it will be used,” said Ridgewood resident Debra Fairs.

The triangle will be home to local events — such as pictures with Santa — as well as a spot people can congregate to sit and relax, Renz said.

The space will be maintained by the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation and the Myrtle Avenue BID.

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.


Leaders, merchants reach deal on Jackson Heights plaza

| brennison@queenscourier.com


An agreement reached by store owners and local leaders aims to rid a year-old Jackson Heights plaza of vagrants and begin bringing business back.

A pedestrian plaza on 37th Road between 73rd Street and 74th Street, which consists of mostly South Asian businesses, opened in September 2011 to create a court for residents to walk, sit and relax, but local businesses said it instead drove customers away.

Stores complained the plaza was plagued with homelessness, drunkenness and crime, forcing some shops to close early.

To combat these problems a nonprofit partnership — Social Uplift Knowledge and Hopes Initiative (SUKHI) — was formed to take ownership of the plaza, make it a vibrant shopping area and deal with the issues that arose there.

“This plaza without amenities, safety measures, development and management would create problems, and that’s what we saw,” said Agha Saleh, founder of SUKHI.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm said it was not easy to reach this “historic day” at a Friday, August 10 press conference announcing the agreement.

“We have gone beyond any differences that we may have had in the past,” Dromm said. “We have established a relationship of trust.”

SUKHI — a Punjabi word meaning prosperity and happiness — was formed by husband and wife Saleh and Shazia Kausar, the group’s president.

Kausar said the partnership changed what was a nightmare into “a dream of prosperity.”

“If we don’t work together, we will lose everything,” said Kausar, who also owns a shop on the block.

DOE Fund workers are now cleaning the plaza thrice daily and security cameras are being installed.

Events are also planned for the plaza including an Eid Bazar and Chand Raat Festival that will take place from August 16 through August 20.

“The object of this plaza is to promote this area, to bring more customers from outside,” said Mohammed Pier, president of the Bangladeshi Merchants Association.

Saleh said his dream for the plaza is a place where residents “can walk and talk and enjoy music every single night.”

“A small block, but very vibrant.”

DOT presents plan for Glendale plaza

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Department of Design and Construction

Some locals are worried a proposed pedestrian plaza won’t be a walk in the park for drivers.

Under the plan, a public space would be constructed between famed German restaurant Zum Stammtisch and the Glendale Veterans Triangle, closing off 70th Street between Myrtle and Cooper avenues. Benches, greenery and outdoor seating for Zum Stammtisch would be installed, with the Glendale Veterans Memorial standing in the center.
The project, first proposed in February, was presented to the Glendale community by Department of Transportation (DOT) representatives at a meeting on Wednesday, May 2 at Redeemer Lutheran, a block from the selected location.

Raising the concern of residents was the inability of drivers to turn onto Myrtle or Cooper Avenues at the intersection adjacent to the plaza, removing another central access point for the major arteries in the area with 70th Street to be closed.

“It’s a little bit of give and take, we’re not going to make everybody happy,” said Emily Weidenhof, project manager of public spaces.
Rich Huber, who is on the Transportation Committee of Community Board 5, said that while he does not think the plaza is a bad idea, he is worried about the congestion confused drivers and those circling for parking will cause.

“There will be an adjustment period,” said Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy. “But as people get used to the closed street, they will find their way.”
Ted Renz, executive director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation (LDC), said the organization will be responsible for the upkeep of the plaza — sanitation, removing tables nightly and maintenance. The LDC provides a similar service for the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District in Ridgewood.

Community Board 5 (CB5) is still awaiting DOT revisions and the plaza’s final plans, said District Manager Gary Giordano, before making a recommendation.

“I think having a pedestrian plaza at that location could be a lovely addition to the neighborhood,” Giordano said. “But we need to make sure that traffic concerns, especially safety, are addressed and need to prepare for any security issues that might arise.”

Though the DOT said that no security cameras would be installed, Zum Stammtisch’s owners said they would place a surveillance camera outside the restaurant.
The approximately $1.5 million plan, which has not yet been finalized, must still be presented to CB5’s transportation committee, voted on and reviewed by the Public Design Commission.

If approved construction would not begin until the fall of 2013 or spring of 2014.

‘Bowne’d for Renovations: Upgrades coming to Flushing park

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Steve Mosco

No matter the weather or time of year, crowds gather on a daily and nightly basis at Bowne Park in Flushing, where the game is bocce ball and everyone plays.

“Sometimes you can wait an hour to play,” said Sime Stulic, who has played at the park for more years than he can remember. “We have been asking for a long time for a second [bocce] court.”

Now Stulic and his fellow players are getting that second court — and a lot more.

Community Board 7 (CB7) voted unanimously on February 13 in favor of renovating the park and adding another bocce ball court. Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of CB7, said this is something the community wanted, and construction is set to begin this fall.

“We will be replacing benches, picnic tables and adding tables and places to sit,” she said. “Really, an entirely new plaza will be put in, and the existing court will be renovated.”

Bocce players, who have been advocating for improvements to the park for a number of years, couldn’t be happier to hear the news. Peter Salamon, a resident in the neighborhood for over 30 years, said people come from all over Queens to play in this park.

“In the springtime, we have hundreds of people here,” he said. “Even people in Whitestone, where [the city] just built a new court, come here.”

Salamon went on to say that the surrounding community appreciates and welcomes the bocce players. He believes that having such a strong presence in the park deters criminal activity and makes the entire neighborhood safer.

“Years ago, you would never walk through this park at night because it was filled with bad activity,” he said. “People know that we will call the police if we see something. The community appreciates us because we keep the bad elements out.”

The bocce players also have a hand in keeping the park clean. In the early morning hours, Salamon can be found sweeping the grounds around the bocce court and picking up any trash lying around. He even tried to plant a few trees in the park, but the city cut them down because he didn’t have the appropriate permit.

“We come and we take care of this park, not the city. We buy our own equipment and even the special sand for the court,” he said. “We don’t ask for anything.”

The park’s new amenities come with a $500,000 price tag.

Councilmember Dan Halloran, while very happy the park is getting a renovation, wasn’t thrilled with the cost.

“An extra bocce court will be a good thing for Bowne Park, and I’m proud to have helped provide one [through funding],” he said. “But nothing comes cheap through city government.  I’m pressing for Parks to make this happen as affordably as possible.  I’ve asked the department to account for all discretionary funding over the last 10 years, and I am looking at the costs of Parks construction, including the Little Bay Park overruns.”