Today’s news:

New public plaza opens in center of Queens Blvd.

TimesLedger Newspapers

Sunnyside has a new public space directly under the No. 7 subway station at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard, thanks to a collaboration between the Sunnyside Shines BID and the city Department of Transportation’s NYC Plaza Program.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Business Improvement District Executive Director Rachel Thieme welcomed the community to “Bliss Plaza,” a 5,500-square-foot oasis in between the westbound and eastbound lanes of the boulevard that runs straight through the middle of the neighborhood.

“This plaza will bring both sides of Queens Boulevard together as one community,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “This is a very big development for us all.”

Delilah Hall, the Queens DOT commissioner, called it Sunnyside’s front porch, adding that the agency is months away from opening a second plaza in the neighborhood, under the 40th Street No. 7 station. It will basically be the same as Bliss Plaza.

At 46th Street, the DOT filled in the roadway with concrete to give it a level surface. A dozen moveable tables with 24 chairs were set out and 16 large planters were positioned along the plaza’s borders.

“It turned out even better than I thought it would,” Thieme said. “I didn’t think the planters would be as big as they are — it adds so much to a space that had zero color.”

Dozens of residents played a role in the plaza’s design through a series of public workshops. The space will be open to visitors from 9 a.m. to dusk each day and a non-profit group called The Neighborhood Plaza Partnership will be in charge of putting away the tables and chairs each night while maintaining the planters.

“Ten years ago you’d see Jersey barricades along the borders here —now you see potted plants,” Van Bramer said. “Newcomers who come to try out one of our restaurants will see this great plaza and have an image of Sunnyside that will be better than last week and that’s a big win.”

Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, had had his eyes on the space for years.

“It’s one of the busiest subway stations in the borough. Over 4.7 million people come through that station every year — that’s twice the population of Queens,” he said. “I always thought it could be more presentable and leave a better impression.”

Conley led a crusade last winter against a number of vendors who set up shop at the location paving the way for the project.

“I think it’s a neat first step, but there are other things we have in mind for the plaza. We’ll have better lighting and way-finder signs. I also want to have all the newspaper boxes centralized. The vision we have is much bigger, but this is a good start.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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