Queens Plaza To Be Fixed Next Year
By MATT HAMPTON
At the foot of the Queensborough Bridge, elevated train tracks weave rusty spider webs above cracked and craggy pavement. Gridlock is often the order of the day, as cars follow wavy traffic pat terns, dodging subway girders and avoiding a parking lot used largely by municipal vehicles.
At Queens Plaza in Long Island City, the gateway to Queens is often the last thing people want to see.
“For too long, Queens Plaza has been a place where people get off the bridge, and they want to hit the gas and get out of here,” said Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside).
On Thursday, city officials announced concrete plans for a $22 million redevelopment project that would turn the plaza from a terrifying blight to the lush front yard of the borough.
“The project has been one of my top priorities,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (DAstoria). “The redevelopment of Queens Plaza will complete the transformation of Long Island City.”
The Plaza redevelopment is pulling a vast majority of funding from the federal government, just over $19 million. Maloney gestured at mock-ups of the new site as she jokingly added, “it’s not easy to get this money in a Republican-controlled Congress.”
Jerry Walsh, President of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, expressed excitement and gratitude that the redevelopment is moving forward.
“There’s nothing negative about the project that I can think of,” Walsh said. “That area’s gonna look great.”
“City Planning has been on our side 100 percent,” Walsh continued. “I thank everybody involved, I can’t say it enough.”
The project, which is slated to break ground at the end of 2007, is scheduled to be completed in 18 months, and is designed to alleviate traffic and make the neighborhood more desirable for businesses.
Walking and bike paths will be a staple of the area, as will new, safer crosswalks. Road crossings at Queens Plaza in the past had garnered a reputation for being Russian Roulette, Long Island City-style.
One concern of the plan is the elimination of the municipal parking lot that has long served as an island of automotive refuge in an already congested area. The parking in Queens Plaza is just about impossible as is, between no parking zones, scant meters, and the abundance of municipal vehicles from the nearby buildings.
Joe Conley, Chairman of Community Board 2, dismissed concerns about parking, saying t hat par t of the intention of redevelopment is to encourage more people to leave their cars at home.
“Queens is growing by leaps and bounds,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “We’re beginning to be real pros at redistributing traffic.”
“We are a transportation hub,” said Walsh, listing MTA outlets in the area. “We have seven ways into Manhattan. Mass transit is the way to go.”
Walsh believes that ultimately the net gain for Long Island City will outweigh the loss of parking spaces. “You got to give up something to get something great,” he said.
In spite of the automotive concern, city officials are both hopeful and excited that the Queens Plaza redevelopment will work wonders for the borough.
“Long Island City just about has it all,” Maloney said. “What we need to do now is to make it more user-friendly.”