The parking-flanked space in the middle of Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, beneath the vaulted elevated train viaduct at 40th and 46th Streets, today looks more forgotten than fun. The Sunnyside Shines BID is hoping to change that, and their plan to upgrade the pedestrian space was recently accepted by NYC DOT’s pedestrian plaza program.
While these two plazas will not reclaim any space from motor vehicles, they will turn the area from a drab concrete zone into a more inviting place to sit. The spaces are already busy with pedestrians walking to the subway and across Queens Boulevard, which Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks as the borough’s third most-dangerous street for pedestrians.
“They’re already plaza-like. They’re closed off to car traffic,” Sunnyside Shines BID executive director Rachel Thieme said of the spaces. “Through the plaza program, we are going to get things like planters and benches.” The location at 40th Street will be called Lowery Plaza, and the space at 46th Street will be called Bliss Plaza, Thieme said, referencing historic street names in the neighborhood.
The BID has already hosted some events in the pedestrian zones, including concerts as part of Make Music New York. “No one’s ever utilized these spaces before in any kind of active way, that we’re aware of,” Thieme said. “People really responded well to that concept.”
Sunnyside Shines applied to the plaza program last year, gathering 13 letters of support from elected officials, business owners, and community groups. The BID received word from DOT a couple of weeks ago that both applications had been accepted.
“I am proud that we were able to successfully secure not one, but two public plazas for Sunnyside,” Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Sunnyside Shines BID, members of the community, and local arts groups to bring the space to life through a diverse array of public events, programming and cultural performances.”
Thieme said that in addition to things like tables, chairs, and planters, she is hoping to add more lighting beneath the elevated train. While the space will continue to be city-owned, the BID has signed on as a maintenance and events partner. A public meeting [PDF] is scheduled for Wednesday, April 30, to consider design and programming options for the plaza spaces. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-13 39th Street.