The Jackson Heights Plaza Photo the Times Doesn’t Want You to See

Shocker: There aren't many customers milling around the Jackson Heights pedestrian plaza before stores open for business. Photo: Librado Romero/NYT

Gotta hand it to the Times for some devious photo editing in today’s Metro section. Check out the barren seating and shuttered storefronts in the shot that accompanies Sarah Maslin Nir’s two-sides-to-every-story piece on the new Jackson Heights plaza. That plaza must really be a failure, right?

Except, if you wait until the stores actually open for business, the street looks different. There are all these people hanging out. Here’s another shot from a recent weekend:

Loiterers! Photo: Marcus Woollen/Flickr

In an ironic twist, Maslin Nir holds up the Times Square pedestrian plazas as the ideal which the Jackson Heights plaza can’t match:

But the plaza bears little resemblance to Times Square, just six miles away. A half-dozen traffic-blocking boulders and rickety picnic tables seem to be the sum total of the alterations to the streetscape to date, but business owners say it has been enough to turn a once-bustling block into a barren one.

If you’ll recall, it was just a few years ago that Times columnist Susan Dominus disdained the “tacky chairs” in the Times Square pedestrian plazas. Then as now, the Times didn’t seem to grasp that it can take some time for people to adjust to changes to the street.

And the Jackson Heights plaza actually shares much in common with the Time Square plazas. As Streetsblog reported last month, the subway station next to the plaza is incredibly busy, with more than 40,000 daily boardings, and the overwhelming majority of people in Jackson Heights don’t get there by driving. If the merchants who have shops on that block don’t capitalize on having a car-free space next to all that foot traffic, the ones who replace them will.