Skip to content

Posts from the "Public Space" Category

1 Comment

Monday: Help “Post Plaza” Take Shape Across the Street From Peter Luger

Image: NYC DOT

We’ve got a heads up for an event early next week. There’s a public plaza in the works for the triangle where Bedford Avenue meets Broadway in Brooklyn, right by the Williamsburg Bridge. As you can see, there’s currently a lake of asphalt occupying some space that could be doing a whole lot more for the neighborhood than it is now.

NYC DOT is hosting a workshop to collect ideas for the new plaza. The agency will present existing conditions and collect feedback to help develop a proposal for the site. If there’s enough local support, implementation could come as soon as spring 2013. Here are the details:

6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Williamsburg Art & Historical Center
135 Broadway

I won’t be attending, but I’d like to see the benches arrayed so everyone can peek over at Peter Luger, where history gets made.

3 Comments

Businesses on Fowler Square Plaza: Go Ahead, Make It Permanent

DOT is scheduled to go before Community Board 2′s transportation committee on December 18 with plans to make the new pedestrian plaza at Fowler Square in Fort Greene a permanent redesign. Before the city went ahead with reclaiming this block of North Elliott Place for the plaza, a small, vocal contingent — mostly upset that they would have to slightly alter their driving routes — predicted that the new public space would be unsafe for walking. Previously, another opponent claimed the plaza would “split the neighborhood apart.” Now that everyone has had the summer and fall to see the plaza in action, we thought we’d check in with some local business owners about what they think of the project.

Getting Fowler Square plaza in Fort Greene ready for business yesterday morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

By and large, nearby business owners either actively welcomed the plaza or had no objection to giving people a place to sit, even if it changed their commutes a little bit.

J.J. Lee, owner of La Bagel Delight, supported the plaza. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “It’s for everybody in this neighborhood.” Lee had heard some people complaining that the plaza removed parking spots. If they think that losing a handful of parking spaces would make or break the neighborhood’s businesses, he said, “they’re out of their mind.”

Ed Tretter owns 67 Burger on Lafayette Street and said he’s heard plenty of arguments for and against the plaza, but he likes what it’s done for the area. “It’s nice and clean and people are enjoying their neighborhood,” he said. He did say he would prioritize other initiatives above the construction of a permanent plaza, and wants something done about speeding. “We call this the Lafayette 500,” he said. “They don’t care if the light’s red or green.”

Jay Rajani owns the Sahil Magazines and More bodega. “I don’t care, actually,” he said. “I lost my parking, that’s it,” he said, adding that it didn’t have an impact on his business.

Sung Lee, manager of Luxury Nail and Spa, said he experienced one big change since the plaza was installed. “Now I have to go around” the block when driving, he said. “I don’t mind.”

Shira Glouberman lives in the neighborhood and was walking on Lafayette Avenue yesterday morning. “It’s a wonderful idea,” she said, noting that the plaza serves a different need than the grassy expanses of nearby Fort Greene Park. “A lot of people use it.”

2 Comments

Trick or Treat in the Street

All photos: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

We interrupt our post-Sandy coverage to bring you these pictures from Halloween last night at the 78th Street Play Street in Jackson Heights. The Jackson Heights Green Alliance put on the event, “Trick or Treat in the Street,” and Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson sent over these photos. This is the kind of thing residents can do in the neighborhood after a successful grassroots campaign to permanently repurpose this block, which used to be a through street for motor vehicle traffic, as a public space.

7 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Filling the Void Left By Astoria’s Missing Plaza

A Key Food delivery truck in Astoria blocks the crosswalk and a fire hydrant, forcing pedestrians into Newtown Avenue. Photo: Todd Schultz

Last month, Queens Community Board 1 voted down DOT’s proposal for a pedestrian plaza at the intersection of 30th Avenue, 33rd Street and Newtown Avenue, opting instead for curb extensions that will keep the block open to vehicle traffic.

The curb extensions are set to be installed next year. In the meantime, as shown in this photo sent in by reader Todd Schultz, trucks unloading at the Key Food on Newtown Avenue are parking illegally in the crosswalk, endangering pedestrians crossing the intersection.

At the CB 1 meeting, Thomas Anderson of Key Food spoke against the plaza, saying it would “eliminate convenient access to our store” and “potentially threaten our viability,” despite a DOT survey of the store’s shoppers showing that 90 percent arrive on foot or by transit.

16 Comments

How Will Soccer Fans Get to Proposed MLS Stadium in Queens?

A proposed Major League Soccer stadium in the middle of Queens’ largest park might have some cheerleaders in Albany, but lots of questions must be answered before the first game can be played. Perhaps the biggest issue is the stadium’s transportation plan, the details of which — those that have been made public, at least — differ from what neighborhood advocates say MLS is telling them.

Parked cars sit in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park during the recent U.S. Open. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

On Monday, a coalition of groups known as the Queens Coalition for Fairness, including Make the Road New York and Queens Community House, hosted a meeting in Corona. Donovan Finn, an urban planning professor at Stony Brook University, explained to the crowd of hundreds why the current MLS proposal is a bad proposition.

“I’m not necessarily against the idea of a soccer stadium in this part of Queens,” Finn told Streetsblog. “But I do not think that the specific site MLS has chosen is the best choice.”

“I don’t think MLS has really thought the transportation issues through very much,” said Finn.

MLS is proposing a new, 25,000-seat stadium at the current site of the Fountain of Industry, more than a half-mile from the Mets-Willets Point subway station. That’s twice as far from the subway as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and eight times farther than Citi Field.

The league says it will build an undisclosed number of parking spaces beneath the adjacent Van Wyck Expressway, but that none of the currently-estimated 13 acres of park land taken for the stadium would be used for parking.

Instead, MLS says that most attendees arriving by car are expected to use existing parking at Citi Field, an arrangement that’s likely subject to negotiation with Mets ownership. One potential problem Finn identified with this plan is double-booking Citi Field parking lots and overloading the 7 train, since soccer and baseball seasons occur at the same time of year.

Citi Field parking is up to three-quarters of a mile away from the proposed MLS site. The league says shuttle service to the subway or Citi Field parking lots is not currently part of its transportation plan, though community activists including Finn say MLS has told them otherwise.

No Comments

The New Corona Plaza, One Frame at a Time


In existence for just a few weeks now, the pedestrianized Corona Plaza has the makings of a livable streets success story. Check out this time-lapse video from DOT depicting the evolution of a new community space.

22 Comments

Astoria Community Board Votes Against Plaza, Will Get Curb Extensions

Astoria residents got one day to experience "Newtown Plaza" last month, but they won't have a permanent new public space after Community Board 1's vote on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT went before Queens Community Board 1 on Tuesday to propose a pedestrian plaza at the intersection of 30th Avenue, 33rd Street and Newtown Avenue. The audience at the meeting was split on the proposal, but CB members were not: They voted against the plaza 25 to 7.

Since the board rejected the plaza, which would have cost $75,000 to install, the location will be receiving three smaller, but permanent, curb extensions at a cost of $400,000. The project could begin as soon as spring 2013. Legally, community boards serve only an advisory role, but DOT representatives said at the start of the meeting that the agency would not install the plaza if the community board voted against it.

Plaza supporters had formed Friends of Newtown Plaza to advocate for a community board “yes” vote, but the plaza was opposed by Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., who favored a smaller intervention that would have preserved through traffic (which DOT had previously rejected). Local business interests, including the 30th Avenue Business Association, were also vocal in their opposition.

Newtown Plaza was the site of DOT’s first one-day demonstration plaza on the last Saturday in August. At the event, DOT staff surveyed passersby about their preferences for the location. Support for the plaza was overwhelming, with 96 percent saying they would like a permanent plaza. And the vast majority — 88 percent — said they got to the plaza by walking. Most respondents came from the immediate neighborhood or adjacent zip codes and cited safety, cleanliness and public space as their top priorities. Few respondents identified parking as a priority.

A plaza would also have helped address the lack of public space in Astoria. According to DOT, city guidelines call for a minimum of 65 square feet of open space per person. Queens has 206 square feet per person, while Astoria has only 16 square feet per person.

Read more…

2 Comments

Tonight: Important Queens Community Board 1 Meeting on Astoria Plaza

The Astoria plaza plan is up for a community board vote tonight. Image: DOT

The intersection of 30th Avenue, 33rd Street and Newtown Avenue was the site of DOT’s first-ever one-day demonstration plaza. Will it get a permanent public space enhancement?

In June, DOT presented two options for this location: three curb extensions at a cost of $400,000, or the plaza at a cost of $75,000.

So far, Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. has sided with a group of vocal business owners who oppose the plaza. But tonight, the plaza will be up for a vote at Queens Community Board 1, and the dynamic could change.

A strong showing of neighborhood support for the 78th Street Play Street helped sway Queens CB 3 to support a car-free block in Jackson Heights in 2010. Public support for the Astoria plaza could shape the outcome of this project, too.

Merchant attitudes toward pedestrian plazas also have a way of changing after seeing the results in practice. Business owners who started out opposing the 37th Road plaza in Jackson Heights were eventually won over, and announced last month that they would help maintain what they now call “Diversity Plaza.”

Tonight’s community board vote is advisory but figures to factor strongly in DOT’s decision-making process. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. at 25-22 Astoria Boulevard. Stay tuned for coverage here tomorrow.

StreetFilms 16 Comments

Corona Plaza: A Community Gathering Place Rises in Queens

Something special is happening in Corona, Queens. Last week, Streetfilms visited Corona Plaza — the city’s newest car-free space, next to the 103rd Street stop on the 7 train — and found it already packed with families, children, and shoppers.

This plaza has been in the works for many years, and the local community has taken ownership of it immediately. Volunteers help in locking up the tables and chairs at night and assist in cleaning the space themselves.

The area previously had no public seating whatsoever, which is astonishing considering the dozens of restaurants nearby. Now it is a magnet for people, especially kids, who give the place a vibe that feels different than most other pedestrian plazas. To watch parents sit calmly while their children play would have been unheard of before the street was reclaimed from traffic and parking.

3 Comments

Eyes on the Street: The Weekend Scene at Corona Plaza

Families are already enjoying Corona Plaza. Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

It hasn’t been open a week yet, and Corona Plaza is already a popular gathering spot. In the next few days, Streetfilms will be posting a video about the new plaza featuring Council Member Julissa Ferreras. In the meantime, enjoy some more photos of the plaza getting lots of use over the weekend courtesy of Clarence. “It was almost like a mini Summer Streets,” he said.

No need to sit on an old tree stump now that Corona Plaza is open. Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.