Eyes on the Street: Foot Traffic Pours Into Jax Heights Plaza

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcuswoollen/6830898402/?v=1##Marcus Woollen/Flickr##

Reader Marcus Woollen submits this picture of the Jackson Heights pedestrian plaza on 37th Road taken yesterday afternoon.

This is the same plaza that some local merchants have described as “a graveyard” and “a ghost town.” What they don’t realize, apparently, is that they’re sitting on a gold mine of foot traffic. Someone just has to step up and manage this space to keep it humming every day of the year.

  • Tom Rorb

    Looks like that often on nice days.

  • vnm

    A few more days like this and I would think the opposition to the plaza would evaporate pretty quickly.  

  • Brooklynite

    Looks like an absolute disaster for local business. Not. 

  • Eric McClure

    More proof that a good number of NYC merchants somehow stay in business despite their complete ignorance of the travel habits of their customers.

  • Local merchants are often not local.  They are the ones driving to work and think it is the end of the world when they can get a spot in front of their shop.

  • Are you taking drugs? You imbicile!

  • Dan

    Looks like a ghost town!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpYyqaSYLyw

  • iamnyc

    While I agree that pedestrian plazas make for great public spaces, it is the height of arrogance from StreetsBlog and the commentators to insinuate that business owners don’t know their businesses. Perhaps they do more business on days when cars dominate the space? After years of the City’s parking and spacial decisions being biased towards the car, is it so surprising that businesses would orient themselves toward a vehicular audience?

    Yes, I personally want that to change, and with the City’s progressive policies, new businesses will come in to service a changing customer base (or existing ones will evolve), but don’t say that business owners don’t understand their bottom line. Many struggle day to day and a slow day for their business means money out of their pockets; it is understandable that after a couple of slow days that they would be opposed to change.

    I trust their own self-interest ($) over anecdotal observations such as this.

  • Anonymous

    I used to live in the area and I could never understand why nothing was done about the vehicular congestion and virtual gridlock that plagued the area daily.  I avoided the commercial streets when possible as a result.  This plaza was implemented with a series of traffic pattern changes in accordance with the recommendations of a DOT study.  This successful project is proof of the effective leadership of the Bloomberg Administration and DOT.  Business owners don’t own the street and are not the sole arbiters of how a street functions.  They do get ample opportunity to be heard though.  I’m sure they will be busily drafting letters of thanks to the Mayor as they see their business improve.  If not, then maybe their auto dependent business do not belong at one of the busiest transit hubs in the borough.

  • Len

    A compromise is apparently in the making. 

    The objection to the pedestrian plaza is not specific to merchants along the pedestrian plaza. It also comes from merchants on 74th Street, the principal South Asian shopping street and 73rd Street. They say the pedestrian plaza prevents their customers from circling the block while they look for a parking space – or perhaps wait for a family member to finish shopping.

    Many residents, activists and Community Board 3 support a change in direction of the adjacent portion of 37th Road that would allow shoppers to circle endlessly around the block just east of the 74th Street shopping street.

    BTW, the merchants have changed the reasons for opposing the pedestrian plaza, originally cited the city’s removal of a bus stop from 37th Road. (they still have a subway entrance there.) And of course the biggest merchant’s group supported the plaza (before  opposing it). that includes Shiv Dass, president of the group who voted for it without reservation as a member of the Community Board.     

  • Killmoto

    @iamnyc, Don’t trust those business self interests too broadly, you’ll end up thinking cycling causes asthma. 

  • Eric McClure

    @iamnyc, you can call me arrogant if you want, but I’m not insinuating anything.  I am saying it’s a fact that I’ve encountered a lot of small business owners who have no clue how their customers arrive at their stores, and that there estimates of mode share greatly overestimate driving.  Reread what I posted — I didn’t say they don’t know their businesses; I wrote that they don’t know how they travel.  Have you ever been in a mom-and-pop shop in which they asked you to fill out a short survey about your travel mode, or anything else?

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I agree with Emmilly.  I have lived in this area for over 3 years now and there used to be gridlock and horrible traffic.  It’s better now – not perfect – but things move.  The area works.  

    In regards to business not knowing where their customers come from – one just need look at the survey Transportation Alternatives did a few years ago.  Business below 59th street in Manhattan always bemoan the lack of parking for their customers and how that takes away from their bottom line.  Well a very well done survey found that only 6% of customers were coming by private car, another 6% from taxis and the rest of the shoppers were using bus, subway, walking and bike to do their shopping.  Once again, many business owners see their shops thru the eyes of their windshield since many use their own cars to bring in products and such.

  • Ben from Bed Stuy

    I think Eric and Clarence are right on point here. When I was pounding the pavement as a volunteer with the Bike Friendly Business campaign, I always asked the shop owners/managers about their perceptions of how customers arrived. Many told me something like, “yeah, we’re seeing more people come in on a bike all the time.” When I brought up bike parking, nearly 100% of those businesses who agreed to hang up the Bike Friendly Business sticker also wanted bike parking installed in front of their shop. They understood the logic here – not too many customers arriving by car (in Bed-Stuy and Fort Greene) and a growing need for these cyclists to put their bike somewhere secure. Even though I’ve seen many commenters here say “Shop owners drive” there are also LOTS who live in the neighborhood and walk/bike/take transit. The next time you’re in your favorite store or shop, start a conversation with the owner/manager and see what you discover! 

  • iamnyc

    So people in general feel that they know the shop owners’ clientele better than the shop owners themselves? Discounting the Manhattan CBD, because anyone who wants more parking there is just wacky,  just think for a second that maybe a shop owner’s motivation to make money is a pretty good indicator of their clientele. Yes, surveys and stats can show a great diversity of transit options makes for a greater diversity of customers, making for a strong business eventually, but…as a store owner, maybe they can’t wait for eventually. Maybe they can’t afford to turn off customers with a survey, or maybe they can’t take the time to reorient their business towards a non-auto clientele because to do so would mean lost profits and they just can’t afford that. Maybe bikers buy one cookie at a bakery and drivers buy 3 pounds of cookies. Who would you rather sell to?

    Again, I believe that these are positive steps for the city as a whole, and I am glad to see them. But in making and advocating for an omelet, let’s not be too surprised when some of the eggs that have to be broken complain.

  • Andrew

    @93eabae49c1d45f0e9ffb02db6bb2ac6:disqus Businesses owners who drive to work do not generally have a good sense of how their customers arrive. This has been established in study after study after study.

    This is a dense mixed use area directly adjacent to an intermodal transit hub. Most of the customers come on foot or by transit. I’d be surprised if as many as 5% of the customers come by car or bicycle. There is no need to reorient anything.

  • J

    @93eabae49c1d45f0e9ffb02db6bb2ac6:disqus Come on, man. We’re not talking about car-dependant east Queens here. This location is literally steps away from 5 subway lines and 5 bus lines. It’s the 14th busiest station in the entire system (beating many many CBD stations), with 16.5 million passengers per year. Do you honestly believe that the businesses there depend on an abundance of parking to stay afloat? Yes, there are issues, such as finding someone to claim ownership for maintaining the space, and those have been pointed out in the article and comments.
    I agree that we shouldn’t put up pedestrian plazas indiscriminately, but this tiny block gets so much ped traffic with so little disruption to car traffic, that it is surely high high on the list of excellent locations for successful ped plazas.

  • Ryan Ng

    I haven’t been to Jackson Heights in years, but it looks as good as the plazas they made on Broadway in Manhattan. It also looks nice for the merchants (who have invaded our space).


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