At the foot of the Queensboro Bridge, Queens Plaza is known as the gateway to Queens. However, in recent years its reputation has been one of confusing traffic patterns, unsafe pedestrian crossings and blight. In an effort to revive Queens Plaza, the Department of City Planning (DCP) conducted a study that would be used to redesign the area. The project is being managed by the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
The renovations that were selected are intended to make automobile traffic smoother and safer for the nearly 70,000 motorists who come through daily, as well as encourage alternate means of transport such as biking, walking, to make movement on the public transportation that serves the are (several bus lines and the 7, N, W, E, V, G, R) more efficient, and to create new green space.
Design plans include new medians to smooth traffic flows, new greenery and landscaping, a bike path, new sidewalks, new lighting and a 1.5 acre park. Many of the changes will make the space more pedestrian friendly. The project is also meant to help enable the surrounding area to realize its full potential following a rezoning of Long Island City in 2001, which made the area the city’s fourth largest central business district.
The federal government approved construction and redesign plans in November 2006. Following that approval, construction on the project was set to begin in early 2007 and last for 18 months. Several elected officials in Queens as well as community leaders became frustrated by the end of 2007 when design plans had not been finalized and construction had not yet begun.
Despite initial delays, the project went out to bid in September 2008. In April 2009, it was announced that the project would receive $39.4 million in federal stimulus funds, the most for any project in Queens, and that this would allow the City to contribute a large portion of the project’s total cost, which has grown to $135 million.
Construction began in April 2009 and Queens Plaza’s renovation is now expected to be completed by Spring 2011.