Plaza Upgrades Planned Beneath Train Viaduct on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside

Roberto Buscarsi plays during Make Music New York at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard. The parking in the background will remain, but space beneath the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside is set for some plaza improvements. Photo courtesy Sunnyside Shines BID
Roberto Buscarsi plays during Make Music New York at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard. The parking in the background will remain, but space beneath the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside is set for some plaza improvements. Photo courtesy Sunnyside Shines BID

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.

  • Ben_Kintisch

    Imagine how great that plaza could be if they took away those cars!

  • Jeff

    That beautiful, historical, unique, delightfully art deco viaduct is essentially reduced to a parking garage. What a waste.

  • Bolwerk

    I wish they’d use it for transit again (used to be a streetcar under there), and took some of Queens Blvd away from cars for ped plazas and bikes. God knows that’s a street that has room for everything.

  • Nathanael

    With some work, this could be a spectacular “canopied linear park”. Queens Boulevard would need to have some lanes removed from the center to make it attractive, though.

    This section doesn’t seem to have much car traffic, frankly, and could easily lose one or even two lanes in each direction. Slice off the inner two lanes from Van Dam St. to 49th St. and you could really do something with this.

    (One lane on each side for an extension of the plaza into sunlight; one on each side for parking, to appease everyone who will complain about parking. Still leaves two lanes each way, which is frankly more than enough moving lanes for any surface road.)

  • lop

    That section has a lot of car traffic during rush hour heading to the bridge. Doubtful you’d get enough cars to take other routes even with a bridge toll for two lanes to be sufficient. Sure you might push them off QB, but then side streets nearby might suffer extensively. if you kill both parking lanes during rush hour for two extra travel lanes that problem would go away somewhat. Would you keep all the cross streets intact? Wouldn’t be a spectacular canopied linear park if it’s broken up every few hundred feet, though would it really be great to make QB a bigger neighborhood divider? Not to mention all the trucks speeding down that part of QB. Even if separated from this ‘park’ by a parking lane and a travel lane it wouldn’t be so great. Extensive plantings in the current left most travel lane might help though not sure how much.

  • Bolwerk

    Modern traffic planning science points to that concern being entirely wrong. When a big, complicated, traffic-infused artery is reduced in scale or is removed, the traffic mostly dissipates as people find other options (e.g., transit) and adjust. And since the surface transit works better on the route, it might even attract some former car commuters.

    It’s why Times Square’s ped plaza both improved traffic flow and reduced congestion. It’s why SBS isn’t a big deal for drivers.

  • neroden

    Due to the particular structure of the roads and railroads in that area, it seems like most of the bridge-bound traffic for that stretch is likely to be using the Long Island Expressway and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I don’t really support urban expressways, but *you already have them*, so why not use them. Van Dam St. might get more traffic; I wouldn’t expect any other local street in the area to get more.

    Don’t worry about the cross streets; they’re OK, because they’re narrow.

    If you reduce the number of traffic lanes on Queens Boulevard enough, the trucks will stop speeding. They speed because there are too damn many traffic lanes, which are all empty, which is an invitation to speed.


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