Times’ Ped Plaza-Bashing Queens Reporter Enjoys Using Queens Ped Plaza

What is it with the New York Times and the Jackson Heights pedestrian plaza?

Yesterday, the paper published a piece by Sarah Maslin Nir on a mugger in the plaza who was tackled to the ground by witnesses. It’s a good story — two of the good Samaritans were missionaries up from North Carolina, another was a firefighter who barely escaped being shot. Rather than leave it that, Maslin Nir casts the plaza itself as one of the actors, a seedy setting tailor made for gritty urban drama.

But if the plaza was really “bare and blighted,” as Maslin Nir writes, what about the missionaries who “had spent the day on the plaza … chatting with passers-by”? What about the firefighter, who was reportedly there with a colleague? Could it be that without the plaza, no one would have been around to thwart the dastardly thief?

This isn’t the first questionable story about the Jackson Heights plaza filed by Maslin Nir. And while she blames the plaza for everything from purse snatching to police brutality to public nudity (really, it’s all in there), she seems to enjoy the space quite a bit herself.

  • Subscriber

    If a purse snatching means the plaza is dangerous, what does stepping away from your expensive MacBook to snap a picture and tweet from your iPhone mean?

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Look at all the blight in this photo.  I have photo after photo of blight in the Plaza. 🙂  Seriously though, if no one ever uses it, how come I am now on my sixth time in a row getting take out food and not being able to ever get a chair (or stone!) in the plaza to sit on?

  • Bolwerk

    Could it be that without the plaza, no one would have been around to thwart the dastardly thief?

    That’s not how it works. If the ped plaza weren’t there, the mugger would have died a horrible death in Queens traffic. Silly libruls.

    Seriously, though, I have trouble reading the NYT these days. Maslin Nir is better suited to writing fluff for gawker than for working for what was once a serious paper.

  • J

    Sad days for NYTimes, when they have to resort to disingenuous tabloid-style, conflict journalism in order to garner readership. It appears that they don’t even believe half the crap that they write.

  • Hell Gate

    Is Sarah’s editor Gersh Kuntzman? This is Brooklyn Paper-quality material.

  • Len Maniace

    * If this plaza is “bare and blighted” now, I’m interested in how the reporter would characterize it before its conversion – when it was congested with cars and buses, before there were perennials in bloom and colorful tables and chairs on the street for residents and shoppers to converse.

    * The only sign of vagrancy on the plaza is one disheveled man who stands near the subway entrance on 37th Road, the same man who frequented this location before the street was turned into a plaza.

    * Most of the people who sit at the tables are immigrants, who seem to be employed. They sit conversing, drinking tea or food purchased nearby. Characterizing them as vagrants seems to be inaccurate and mean-spirited.

    * The fact that the people who foiled the robbery were on the plaza seems to indicate that the area is attractive some unusually positive elements. ( a point made previously)

  • So, according to the linked Times article, when the judge was allegedly struck by a cop, it was on a “busy commercial strip” (with cars in the picture) that a jeering crowd gathered and interfered with two police officers making an arrest. 

    But on the nearby “trash strewed plaza”  with “reduced traffic”, a crowd consisting of missionaries and a NYC firefighter worked together to try and apprehend a gun toting purse snatcher. 

    Guess which location I’d feel safer in?

  • Leighmasoncombes

    I think the “plaza” was ill conceived and is usually used by mostly men from the sub-continent.  I have lived in Jackson Heights for 45 years and would love to see a real plaza, in a different location, but sorry, this is not it.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Queens needs livable streets like the other four boroughs. Because it has people, and people need to live! That’s the story, New York Times, now run with it!

  • New circulation demographic are out.  The average age of a NYT subscriber is now 112 years.

  • Anonymous

    No mention of a need for police presence?  If this snatching had occurred an a street with cars, would anyone question the physical form of the street?  Of course not.  They would say there needs to be more cops on the beat.

  • Anonymous

    Seems (from far away) that there are some serious problems – if only in the minds of people who use it, with the plaza.

    SARAH MASLIN writes: “Bystanders on Thursday were quick to blame the plaza, saying the reduced traffic had decimated businesses, with tables perpetually staked out by vagrants.
    “The quality of the neighborhood has gone tremendously down,” said Agha Saleh, who owns the Internet cafe next to the shop that was struck. Last week, he said, a man stripped naked and ran into a nearby store. “Robberies, guns, drugs — so many things are happening every single day.”As a reader, I would agree.

  • Lenmaniace

    I just want to point out that the only bystander she quoted was the owner of an internet cafe on the block. I don’t think that qualifies as a convincing poll of plaza users.

  • Pizza4one

    Hector Canonge and QMAD has brought ART Performance to the PLAZA too- bringing  thought provoking social commentary to a very diverse crowd -every race and very age took photos and ask the artist questions too.

  • The fact remains, it’s an eyesore, it’s an impediment to business, it cuts off western Jackson Heights (the Muslim and Nepali communities) from the Indian (Hindu), it’s a magnet for drifters and vagrants and winos, and NO ONE IN THE COMMUNITY USES IT.

  • And some of the people quoted in this column are puppets who receive government money for their alleged ”community” or ”civic” groups–they’re not about to bite the hands that fed and continue to feed them. Here’s the real truth about this criminally ugly plaza: http://queenscrap.blogspot.com/2012/06/crappy-jackson-heights-plaza-site-of.html


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