Pedestrian plazas have been the subject of contentious debate in neighborhoods throughout the borough, but Corona has embraced its new public space near the 103rd Street subway station.
Amid visitors sitting at the seats and tables, the Queens Economic Development Corp. thanked its many supporters and advocates last Thursday in Corona Plaza, which became part of the city Department of Transportation’s pedestrian plaza program a few weeks ago.
“It’s a beautiful space,” said Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy. “I hope everyone can enjoy it for a very long time.”
Ricardi Calixte, director of neighborhood economic development of the QEDC, said the corporation had been interested in turning the parking spaces commonly frequented by trucks into a pedestrian plaza since the DOT announced its program in 2009. While the QEDC was initially not able to manage this due to funding issues, it secured multiple partners and was able to open.
“So far the feedback from the people has been overwhelmingly positive,” Calixte said.
One of the principal partners was former Borough President Claire Shulman, now president of the Flushing Willets Point Corona Development Corp. Calixte said Shulman helped connect QEDC with private funding through New York Community Bank and its foundation. The bank has a location within walking distance of the new open space.
“This plaza should add some beauty and opportunity to the people of this area,” Shulman said.
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) also encouraged the project and provided $10,000 in funding toward the plaza. She described the plaza before as like “the ‘Wild Wild West.’” She said this had transformed a place that was once just a parking lot.
“This is really the anchor for us to improve the rest of Roosevelt Avenue,” she said.
She said as soon as the plaza was installed, however, people asked her if they were really allowed to sit there.
“Absolutely,” she said. “This is yours. This is your space.”
The Queens Museum of Art will also be hosting programs at Corona Plaza as part of a partnership.
“Even we didn’t realize how great this was going to be until the moment it opened,” said Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the museum.
Calixte said the QEDC has a $3 million budget to maintain and run programming in the plaza. Now that the first phase has been completed, the plaza has 75 seats, 24 tables and six large umbrellas. A second phase will add more permanent features that are still to be determined.
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) praised Ferreras’ work and goals to make Corona a destination for visitors.
“This is the kind of forward thinking we need from elected officials,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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