EDC’s Queens Plaza Project Adds Better Bike-Ped Routes, Subtracts Parking

QueensPlazaNorth.jpgThe Queens Plaza North bike lane will run in a center median. Image: NYCEDC

Protected bike paths are coming to Queens Plaza as part of a major redesign of the area by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Construction work to transform the dangerous, overwide streets and surface parking at "the gateway to Queens" has been underway for about a year. In a project update presented to the board of the Long Island City BID last month, EDC detailed the substantial bike and pedestrian improvements that are in the works [PDF].

Currently, Queens Plaza is a snarl of traffic around three surface parking lots, hardly a fitting entrance to Queens. EDC plans to turn the plaza into a one acre park while putting in place a major street redesign. Construction started last summer and will be finished in 2012, thanks partly to a boost from federal stimulus dollars.

When the project is complete, cyclists will be able to travel safely between Vernon Boulevard and Northern Boulevard, at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge. Between Northern Boulevard and 23rd Street, said EDC VP Tracy Sayegh, cyclists will be able to ride along a ten-foot, two-way fully separated bike lane running in a landscaped median along Queens Plaza North. A pedestrian path will run adjacent to the bike lane.

Between 23rd Street and 21st Street, said Sayegh, less space is available, so the plan calls for a shared bike-ped path. That multipurpose path will then be extended to Vernon Boulevard in the second phase of construction, following the route of an existing, but inadequate, path. EDC worked closely with DOT to plan the street redesign, and the lane is designed to connect with the rest of the Queens bike network.

The redesign features ample pedestrian safety improvements, too, said Sayegh. Signal retiming will give people more time to cross the street while new medians will serve as pedestrian refuges on both Queens Plaza North and Queens Plaza South. Currently, she said, most pedestrians cross those streets using a subway station overpass rather than brave the at-grade crossing.

It’s encouraging that this project removes three parking lots and doesn’t replace the parking elsewhere. In a neighborhood with so much attractive transit, said Sayegh, the city should be supporting non-automotive modes of travel. If the market demands parking, she said, the market will build garages, as it does across the river in Midtown. That statement seems to be a major departure from the standard EDC position on parking, which includes vigorous public sector activism to ensure that parking is provided beyond what the market demands.

Sayegh also highlighted one group that has already expressed its pleasure about the new bike infrastructure: the NYC Department of Health. More than 2,000 health department employees are moving into new Long Island City offices and there are many cyclists among its workforce.
  • Ian Turner

    This is great news. The area is astonishingly pedestrian-hostile at present given that it is also a major pedestrian hub. If it becomes more pleasant, it would enable people to walk between the F, 7/N/Q, and E/R/M stations in the vicinity, currently islands in a sea of traffic danger.

  • The Queens Plaza redesign has been in the works for over 5 years. It started as a Department of City Planning project and was helped along by a great design competition hosted by the Van Alen Institute. Congresswoman Maloney earmarked funding for the project. Even the pre-Sadik-Khan DOT supported this project.

    Here’s what then-Commissioner Weinshall said about the project in an April 15, 2005 press release when Maloney announced her funding:

    Commissioner Weinshall said, “I’m confident that this project will enhance safety and the overall quality of life for those who live, work or visit Long Island City…”
    http://maloney.house.gov/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=111&Itemid=61%22

    Nice to see some inter-agency coordination on this. It’s about time it gets built!

    You can read some history on page 2 of this .pdf:
    http://www.transalt.org/files/newsroom/magazine/2005/fall/4-8.pdf

  • it’s been a long time coming but a change will come. can’t wait to see these improvements. currently that area is a traffic clogged nightmare buried in the shadows. A green oasis sounds refreshing and is certainly needed. However, the fact that this was in the works for years already goes to show just how slowly EDC work can be. NYC DOT transformed Times Square, Herald Square, Madison Square Park all within a year and change with a, relatively, inexpensive pricetag. EDC’s saving grace on their sluggish-ness is the long overdue realization that ‘hey, we’re next to a half dozen subway lines AND you can just walk over the bridge! why build space just for cars!’

    final rant, in slide 7 I realized a park replaces the parking lot, but what about the line of cars entering onto the bridge itself. I do get a little bored of renderings showing only sparse traffic volume and big smiles on people’s faces. I’m optimistic about these changes but don’t think they’ll get the area entirely car free. Sadly there’ll still be a van or two of TEA agents ‘trying’ to direct traffic flow I bet.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    As someone who has to navigate this a few times per week, this is a welcome change. Particularly, for those exiting the QBB in Queens wanting to go east it is a nightmare of no good choices right now.

  • It’s interesting that this documents touches on the improvements to Jackson Avenue that are currently being constructed. I walk from the G to the 7 every day and have not been at all impressed with the quality of the concrete pour there. It looks pretty shoddy.

  • J:Lai

    This will be a good change for qns plaza, and hopefully also an indicator of a shift in the city-wide priorities. That corner of long island city is filled with transit options and does not need subsidized parking.
    Also, it may lead to lower recidivism among those released from Rikers Island.

  • Queens Walker

    I would like to see an improved/widened pedestrian walkway on the Queensboro Bridge. Whenever I walk over this bridge I risk being run over because the path is too narrow to be shared by walkers and bikers.

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