The crowded streets of Corona, Queens will receive a welcome infusion of public space this July, thanks to the New York City Department of Transportation’s plaza program. With wide-ranging community support, DOT will close a block of service road between National Street and 104th Street to traffic and fill it with plants, tables, chairs and bike racks [PDF].
Corona Plaza is already a popular neighborhood space; the area is used for holiday gatherings and a weekly greenmarket. But it lacks basic amenities like public seating, and an existing strip of parkland is cut off from local shops by the service road. Local merchants — sometimes a skeptical constituency when it comes to pedestrian plazas — believe the plaza will be a boon for business. Corona CAN, a volunteer network of local business owners, has written in support of the plaza, and its members have convinced the larger Queens Economic Development Corporation to formally sponsor and maintain the new space.
“This plaza is the heart of Corona and the engine of Roosevelt Avenue,” said Ricardi Calixte, neighborhood development director at Queens EDC. “This will get people to actually hang around the area more, frequent the businesses more. It’s going to bring so many more people to the plaza that the businesses will gain more from all the business they bring than they lose from a few parking spaces.”
Support for the pedestrianization plan came from across the community. Community Board 4 voted unanimously in support of the proposal at a meeting last Tuesday, according to the Queens Chronicle.
City Council Member Julissa Ferreras is also a supporter. “It’s so we have a nice place to sit and a place to be proud of,” Ferreras told the Chronicle.
The Queens Museum of Art, which testified in favor of the plaza at the City Council last year, will provide programming for the new space.
In Corona, losing a few parking spaces didn’t concern the business community. “Right now, the parking spaces are not really being used by customers of local businesses,” explained Calixte. Many of the angled spaces are filled by large moving trucks, which Calixte argued actually hurt merchants. “When these trucks are parked in the plaza, they pretty much block the view of all the businesses in the plaza,” he said.
Construction on the plaza should start with temporary materials mid-July, taking a week to complete. DOT will come back to community members later this year to assess how the pedestrian plaza is functions. If everyone likes what they see, a permanent design for the plaza will follow, with construction perhaps taking place in fall 2013 or spring 2014. Calixte said he’s already looking forward to weighing in on the long-term design of the space. “We expect this plaza to succeed.”
[Editor’s note: This post originally stated that the new pedestrian plaza would be located on a block of 41st Avenue. The site is actually a service road for Roosevelt Avenue. The post has been amended.]