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Queens’ Corona Plaza: A Community Place Rises

Something special is happening in Corona, Queens.

Last week, Streetfilms visited Corona Plaza -- the city's newest car-free space, next to the 103rd Street stop on the 7 train -- and found it already packed with families, children, and shoppers.

This plaza has been in the works for many years, and the local community has taken ownership of it immediately. Volunteers help in locking up the tables and chairs at night and assist in cleaning the space themselves.

The area previously had no public seating whatsoever, which is astonishing considering the dozens of restaurants nearby. Now it is a magnet for people, especially kids, who give the place a vibe that feels different than most other pedestrian plazas. To watch parents sit calmly while their kids play would have been unheard of before the street was reclaimed from traffic and parking.

Andy Wiley-Schwartz, an assistant commissioner at the NYC Department of Transportation, tells us about the future of this space and the thinking behind its current incarnation:

We're planning long term for what we call a capital reconstruction -- where we would build this plaza out completely with concrete and pavers and fixed seating with permanent plantings in the ground and really make it into a beautiful, permanent plaza.  But for the moment we can capture this space by putting things on the surface.  So we paved over the asphalt with epoxy gravel - loose gravel that is glued to the ground to make it look like a public space. We moved in planters to green and beautify the space. We have moveable seating that people can move in or out of the sun and also the umbrellas. And blocking off the space with granite blocks so that cars cannot drive in it. That way we can create this space for a few years while we are planning and constructing the capital portion.

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Iamtoddedelman Todd Edelman

    Hooray! I suppose ourists need something like Times Square but this is the real deal, and also a great model for transit planners. I hope that the activity stays grassroots.

    Curious is the Walgreen's a former movie theater? I assume this part of Queens is now used to multiplexes but wonder if an old-new tenant will come back. Of course Walgreen's is probably doing better...Great stuff in Spanish too - essential for this.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    It is a former theater.  Unfortunately there are many places in Queens (and NYC) that used to be great movie theaters.  If I were a millionaire I would buy a few up and just run them at cost.  It makes me sad.  But at least they aren't sitting vacant anymore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502668980 Naomi M. Doerner

    My absolute favorite plaza project yet. It's a bright and shining example for planners, placemakers, and liveable street advocates -- every where.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1406365370 Seth Bornstein

    A great new public space in Queens that the QEDC helped make happen

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1406365370 Seth Bornstein

    Delighted the Queens Economic Development Corporation played a role in making this happen and will assist in the upkeep - a great partnership that makes our Borough more exciting

  • Maegan La mala

    As a former Corona resident the framing of this is really interesting. That space used to be where day laborers with trucks would park to move people. I know that many people wanted those trucks and vans gone but I do wonder what happened to those workers. Additionally it's interesting how people sitting on the stump of the tree is used as a way to show how there is a lack of public space. That stump is fairly new, the result of a tree being split after a tornado hit last year and there is a large park/playground half a block away that has been used by the community for years. That's not to say the space isn't needed. 

  • Anonymous

    An inspirational project. The way children and families are enjoying the space is great to see. As former mayor of Bogota Enrique Penalosa says, children are an indicator species for cities, and this plaza shows what can happen when we pay attention to their needs.

  • Helen4713

    This a great thing for our children and our community I love it!

  • Phillip

    Nice job! Great spirit captured in the film.

  • Alexis Dewendt

    THE SPACE IS AN EXCELLENT AREA FOR THE PEOPLE WHO BUY FOOD FROM THE STORES OR WHO JUST WANT TO SET DOWN..COME OUTSIDE AND IT EAT THEIR FOOD INSTEAD OF EATING INSIDE THE STORE....THE PARK IS FOR SITTING DOWN AND  CHILLING OUT..TRYING TO KEEP THE PARK CLEAN.. .

  • Lance P.

    This is wonderful.  I love how happy everybody seems.  Every district needs this type of public space.

  • http://paulschreiber.com/blog/ Paul Schreiber

    It'd be nice if the video talk to regular people, not just politicians, bureaucrats and professional spokespeople.

    BTW Julissa: something can't be "incredibly unique." It can only be unique.

  • Mariakalaff

    That is Wonderful news for Corona, Queens! I grew up in Corona, and I now live in the South. I would have loved fr my 9 year old to have experience that kind of living.

  • denise taveras

    Very nice! Now I know a place where to go and sit  and entertain myself. Thank you for creating this  beautiful place. 

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Wow Paul, I guess you didn't really watch the video. Over half of the people are neighborhood residents, visitors to the space or volunteers.

  • http://paulschreiber.com/blog/ Paul Schreiber

    I watched it again. Here's who got screen time:
    CM Julissa Ferrreras x 5
    ED Queens Museum x 2
    Asst Commissioner DOT x 2
    CoS for CM Ferrreras
    ---------- 10
    volunteer #1 x2
    volunteer #2 x2
    barbershop owner
    President, Community Association
    visitor #1
    visitor #2
    --------- 8

    Sure, six of the ten people were residents. You're technically right. But they got relatively little screen time (44% by clip count, less by duration).

    CM Ferrreras is not that interesting to most people. And she's not a particularly engaging storyteller. This video felt like it was more about congratulating the people who made the plaza than about the community and the plaza.