Jackson Heights Turnaround: Business Owners Will Help Maintain Plaza

A group of business owners who decried the 37th Road pedestrian plaza in Jackson Heights after it opened have come around and launched a group to act as stewards of the new public space. This turn of events comes after persistent work by Council Member Danny Dromm’s office and local merchants, who are now working together to ensure the plaza is a long-term success. The plaza’s undeniable popularity as a gathering place also hasn’t hurt.

Business owners and Council Member Daniel Dromm announced the creation of a group to maintain the new Jackson Heights pedestrian plaza last Friday. Photo: ##http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2012/33/plazareconciled_at_2012_08_16_q.html##Times Ledger##

A few months ago, Internet Café owner Agha Saleh and Bombay Chat café owner Shazia Kausar were two of the business owners unhappy with the new plaza. Saleh was quoted in the New York Times saying that it had contributed to crime in the neighborhood, while Kausar told the Times Ledger that soon after the plaza opened in October 2011, her business had dropped and she was having trouble paying employees.

Citing a “gap of communication” between business owners, DOT, and plaza supporters when the project was implemented, Saleh credited months of work by Dromm’s office and DOT to address the business owners’ concerns. “We’re really proud that we brought people on board,” Saleh said.

Now, Saleh and Kausar are working with adjacent business owners to create a new group called Sukhi NY, which will manage what is being called Diversity Plaza. “Sukhi” is an acronym for Social Uplift Knowledge and Hope Initiatives; it also translates from Urdu, Hindi and other languages as “prosperity and happiness.” Council Member Dromm, whose office had until now been coordinating plaza upkeep, joined Saleh and Kausar at an event on the plaza last Friday to announce the formation of Sukhi NY, which is still in its formative stages. Official approval by DOT as a plaza partner is expected to come in September. In the meantime, the organization is kicking off its stewardship of the plaza by hosting a festival that ends today, marking the end of Muslim holy month Ramadan.

“This plaza can benefit the stakeholders who depend on this place for their livelihood,” Saleh said.

Saleh and Kausar aren’t the only former plaza opponents to welcome this latest development.

Mohammed Pier, president of the Jackson Heights Bangladeshi Business Association, had been a plaza skeptic. “Our customers come to do shopping, not to sit,” he told Streetsblog in February. Now, he’s welcoming the debut of Sukhi NY. “This is a great day,” he told the Times Ledger. “After months of misunderstanding, we have restored our differences.”

In January, Shiv Dass, president of the Jackson Heights Merchants Association, felt the plaza was hurting businesses. “We made this place a prime area, but now they’re trying to kill us,” he said. “The bottom line is they have to move this plaza.” On Friday, he joined Mohammed Pier at the plaza for the Sukhi NY announcement.

Saleh had some harsh words for some of the reporters who wrote about the plaza. “A lot of press people came in and they took our interviews and they took our quotes and changed our positions,” he said.

After months of the plaza filling with potential customers every day, business owners who once opposed the plaza now see it as an opportunity for growth and are taking a hand in its upkeep. Will reporters stop pretending that it’s a failure?

  • Tgoldman0

    I love the NY Times, but this really makes them look bad.

  • Triple Prime

    Cheers to CM Dromm. What a contrast to Do Nothing DiBlasio. Here CM Dromm stepped in and helped create a terrific, New York flavored, solution, that’s bringing business owners together and creating a new public mindedness and understanding of the benefits of good public spaces.

  • Albert

    I love this stuff.  Amazing what non-misinformation can accomplish!

  • Public Abdicate

    This would’ve worked better with an incremental approach.  Maybe 100 square feet the first year, another 100 the next year, and so on.  Less radical.

  • The plaza looked great on Saturday night for the end of Ramadan – a little stage had been set up, the place was packed of happy-looking people, and a canopy of blue lights had been strung across the plaza – I especially hope the overhead lights stay – the created a great sense of place. 

  • Do you think they actually opposed the plaza or is Saleh telling the truth when he said: ”
    A lot of press people came in and they took our interviews and they took our quotes and changed our positions. . .”? We know the media has a clear history of distorting truth to meet an agenda.

  • Do you think they actually opposed the plaza or is Saleh telling the truth when he said: ”
    A lot of press people came in and they took our interviews and they took our quotes and changed our positions. . .”? We know the media has a clear history of distorting truth to meet an agenda.

  • Clarence eckerson

    Marcus, I saw that they strung up the lights, can’t wait to see them in action.

  • I’ve been by there several times in the last week and every time I pass it’s full of people.  It’s as busy as Times Square!  So outrageous that Maslin Nir changed the facts to fit her stupid story about a desolate plaza. 

    Pix:
    https://twitter.com/BicyclesOnly/status/234855867487506433/photo/1
    https://twitter.com/BicyclesOnly/status/237387931403288576/photo/1

  • Mark Walker

    I often pass from the 7 train station to the restaurants on 74th Street. It’s great to see the plaza in operation — but it’s even greater that crossing 37th Road is no longer a near-death experience.

  • J

    Great work and vision by Daniel Dromm. This is the kind of leadership that we need, leadership that sees a good idea and works with his citizens to bring them on board instead of simply caving to knee-jerk reactions. We’re seeing more and more of this, with the work of Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brad Lander, Steve Levin, Gale Brewer, and Tish James, who have all stood up for controversial projects. I, for one, will not forget this kind of leadership when the next election rolls around.

    Hear that de Blasio?

  • Miles Bader

    Wait, wait, hollld on… isn’t this how local government is supposed to work?!

    @875ca3e1f5770ee2e0a70b8265dae003:disqus I like the NYT in general too, but their coverage of transportation issues seems almost universally horrible and ideologically driven…

  • carma

    in the end its all about business and profits.  if business is up, of course they will embrace it.

  • Ian Turner

    @d8d46f16f380afef59ca318522397233:disqus : Not necessarily. If the plaza causes rents to rise, then it’s possible that land owners, not business owners, will capture the value created. Also, business owners might think that improved business is due to improvement in the economy generally, and not due to the plaza itself. Finally, business owners might decide that their revenues would have improved even more without the plaza.

  • carma

    @7c177865bd107a919938355fe93de93a:disqus 
    agree with what you said

    however, the general economy is not improving.  and we dont know whether rents are up.  (not likely down)

    bottom line.  still, if business is up, they will embrace anything change that helps that change, whether it was the sole contributor or not.

  • I really appreciate the work done by Daniel Dromm and I think this would lead to a good success.

  • Stan

    This is just patent nonsense. The entire ”traffic plan,” which wasted–how much???–over $1.3 million dollars is a bust. The ”pedestrian plaza” is a bust–unless you think repurposing big blocks of stone that looks like something out of 1980s Albania is a good idea for Jackson Heights, or unless you think galvanizing the vagrants and winos from blocks around is a great way to add to ”community.” Who pays you to write this crap? No politican has addressed THE RESIDENTS’ OBJECTION TO THIS EYESORE AND USELESS TRAFFIC-JAM ADDITIVE. The economy for people on that block is NOT IMPROVING, and to think that a beautiful old Art Deco movie theater was gutted for something called ”The Jackson Heights Food Court,” a place that all the atmosphere and aesthetic refinement of a combination Arby’s/Nathan’s/Papa John’s pizza s—hole.

  • Rod

    This Plaza looks dirty, It is not getting any better,
    Just compare with other plazas. 
    Business Owners are not doing enough to keep it clean

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