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DOT unveils project for plazas around city at spot in Corona

Singer David Byrne (l.) of The Talking Heads joins community leaders at Corona Plaza for launch of pedestrian plaza funding program. Photo courtesy QEDC
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Corona Plaza was the scene of the announcement last week launching the city’s new Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan joined City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) to detail the new initiative that provides financial and logistical support to 59 pedestrian plazas throughout the city.

Using an $800,000 gift from JPMorganChase, the partnership will provide maintenance and landscaping while creating jobs for 100 former convicts.

“They chose our plaza to make the announcement because we’re so exemplary,” Queens Economic Development Corp. President Seth Bornstein said at the Nov. 26 event.

Corona Plaza was an unused space along Roosevelt Avenue between National and 104th streets before August 2012, when Ferreras and the QEDC turned it into a 13,000-square-foot space with seating and planters. In August, the DOT announced it would be upgraded to a permanent pedestrian plaza, with more seating, improved lighting, additional green space and seating and a stage for musical performances. The DOT hopes to finish the project by 2015.

“Thanks to this innovative partnership we’re building a better city,” Sadik-Khan said, “not only with concrete but through new jobs, new local partnerships and new opportunities in every borough.”

“Corona Plaza is the perfect place to announce this visionary philanthropic gift from Chase,” Ferreras said, “because our communities deserve the same kind of public amenity as any other.”

Speaking of the cash infusion, JPMorgan Managing Director Vincent Padula said, “We know that capital turns around communities. An investment like the one we made spurs development in and around neighborhoods, strengthens the economy and improves the lives of people who frequent the plazas day to day.”

The launch announcement featured a surprise guest. David Byrne, singer of The Talking Heads and an advocate of public space initiatives, dropped by on his way to a fund-raising performance for the Philippines.

“I’m just here to be supportive and hope that this kind of initiative continues around the city,” Byrne said.

“We were really glad to see him show up,” Bornstein said. “He’s very committed to making the city more beautiful using pedestrian plazas. He’s very supportive and he has a great head of white hair to match his white jacket.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-620-4538.

Updated 7:33 pm, December 5, 2013
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