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Design choices ready for Queens Plaza strip

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The designs will be the finale to a $12 million to $15 million re-engineering of a one-mile stretch from the East River to the Thomson Avenue-Van Dam Street intersection, said Penny Lee, team leader for the Long Island City branch of the Department of City Planning.

That project, which was approved by the city Department of Transportation in 2002, is still in the funding stages as the department waits for money promised by the federal government, Lee said.

In the meantime, officials will settle by October on one or a combination of the three landscapes, which Lee said should make the congested commercial strip pedestrian-friendly.

All three designs transform the one-acre plaza near the Queensboro Bridge from a metered parking lot into a public park that could host farmer's markets or concerts, Lee said during a Long Island City Business Development Corp. meeting where she presented the proposals with the design firm that drafted them, Margie Ruddick Landscape.

"We recognize this is never going to be the 'Great Lawn' of Queens Plaza," Lee said. "But we recognize there is a need for civic space."

The most ambitious scheme features two towering scrims, or slender metal screens, jutting from the plaza over the elevated train platform.

The 150- and 100-foot-high semi-arches, topped with yellow billboards saying "Q LIC," could become icons in Long Island City, giving the area a much-needed identity, said Jason Bregman, an associate with the Philadelphia-based Margie Ruddick.

Another plan evokes Long Island City's heritage as a former wetland, with embedded stone walkways that resemble sandy beaches and blocks of marsh-like plantings. It also has meshes of billboards adorning the train platform and rows of 60-foot-high solar light towers, said Margie Ruddick, head of the design firm.

The final design is the simplest, creating a grove of trees in the park - lit from below by lights embedded in the ground - that extends down Queens Plaza, Ruddick said.

Dotted with wooden benches beneath the canopy, she said this design most resembles a typical city park.

The overall idea is to make Queens Plaza, which for years has been marred by prostitution and a slew of adult establishments, more attractive to residents and visitors, Lee said.

The final landscaping scheme, she said, should round out the re-engineering project, which will add more sidewalks and crosswalks and redesign the road to more easily accommodate the nearly 140,000 vehicles that pass through daily.

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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