Good. More JC competition and friendlier streets.
BTW are there any renderings of the Metlife extension?
Bloomberg Announces Program To Clean Up Queens Plaza
by Paul Menchaca, Western Queens Editor February 27, 2003
* The longtime effort to clean up Queens Plaza in Long Island City has received another major boost, as Mayor Bloomberg introduced the “Queens Plaza Clean-Up” this week.
* The year-long program, which is being done in collaboration with the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice coordinator, will aim to remove graffiti and litter, clean signage and “implement open space improvements such as planting and weeding.” *
* The workforce for the program will include low-level criminal offenders who have been assigned to perform community service, volunteers and day laborers supervised by the Salvation Army. The Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator will oversee the work.
* At his press conference announcing the implementation of the program, Bloomberg indicated that the cleanup is part of the city’s efforts to create central business districts outside Manhattan.
* “With Long Island City’s proximity to midtown and accessibility to public transportation, it has enormous potential to be the city’s next successful business district,” he said.
* It is significant that Bloomberg chose to hold the news conference in front of the MetLife Building in Queens Plaza, which opened last June. The building is home to over 1,000 employees, and will be bringing in an additional 800 in the coming year.
* Although the cleanup of Queens Plaza began before MetLife moved into Long Island City, some believe its presence has lit a fire under the efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building last summer, MetLife Chairman Bob Benmosche admitted that he had some concerns about the condition of the area.
* “We’ve been on this for a very long time, but MetLife has really helped change things around, because they came in and they demanded that the area be cleaned up,” said Community Board 1 Chairman George Delis. “They brought a lot of workers into the area, and they have had a very positive influence and impact on our community.”
* Queens District Attorney Richard Brown recently took a tour of Queens Plaza to observe the quality of life conditions of the area. Complaints have been made in the past about prostitution at Queens Plaza.
* Although Delis only sees prostitution as being a “piece” of the overall problem, he was happy to see Brown pay a visit to the neighborhood. He also offered this message to both the prostitutes and the “johns” who seek their services: “Tell them to stay out of Queens Plaza. Tell them to go back to New Jersey.”
* The low-level offenders who will be working to clean up the area, will be ones who have committed “quality of life” crimes, such as graffiti, prostitution and criminal mischief. Approximately 1,300 offenders will be assigned to the 37-block redevelopment area around Queens Plaza.
* Similar programs have been done in Times Square, Harlem and Red Hook, Brooklyn. The Center for Court Innovation released a report about the efforts to clean up Times Square, and found that prostitution arrests dropped 56 percent over the first 18 months of the program.
* Queens Borough President Helen Marshall believes that the program is a clear indication that the area is moving in the right direction.
* “Queens Plaza is the gateway to our borough,” Marshall said. “This innovative program is a clear indication that the revitalization and development of Long Island City is a top priority for the administration. I look forward to working with the mayor as it becomes a destination of choice for the business community.”
* City Councilman Eric Gioia echoed Marshall’s sentiments, saying that the program “builds on the positive momentum” that has been started by the presence of MetLife, MoMA QNS., P.S.1, Silvercup Studios and Citigroup.
* *“We’re sweeping the stoop, shaking out the welcome mat and hanging a sign on the front door of Queens that says we’re open for business. This is one more piece of good news for Long Island City.”
* Dan Miner, senior vice president of business services for the Long Island City Business Development Corporation, said that the program “offers solutions” to business owners, property owners and tenants who want better city services.
* “The LICBD is very excited about the administration’s proposal to make Long Island City into the fourth central business district in the city,” he said. “Although we think the area is quite safe, we also know that perception is a reality, and the older perception about Queens Plaza needs to be positively changed. We believe the mayor’s program will go a long way toward doing that.”
* The 37-block area around Queens Plaza was rezoned in 2001 to allow for up to 15 million square feet of commercial development and additional residential development. As part of this rezoning, the Economic Development Corporation and City Planning are designing a new transportation network to reduce traffic congestion and make the area more friendly toward pedestrians and bicyclists.
Good. More JC competition and friendlier streets.
BTW are there any renderings of the Metlife extension?
They can do whatever they want to L.I.C, it's still never going to be a good place.
As long as that El is there, the area is going to look like a dump. Then again, if you've driven under that thing lately (and I have) you wonder what's keeping it from collapsing.
Last edited by MikeW; June 15th, 2006 at 04:56 PM.
I was going to say rust, but those too.
July 9, 2006
For Joey Hot Dog, a World on the Wane
By JEFF VANDAM
Slide Show: Queens Plaza
TO all the sock vendors, insurance executives, transit employees, exotic dancers, commuters, cabdrivers and chicken fryers who move through Queens Plaza each day, Joey Hot Dog is the mayor. He has worked the same corner for almost 50 years, and nobody knows more people in Queens Plaza.
"This is Ralph," he said one recent morning, as the traffic light at 23rd Street and Queens Plaza North turned green and a tan minivan pulled up to Joey Hot Dog's cart, blasting "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." "He's a regular. He's a sausage guy, but he's a pain in the neck. If I put a little too much ketchup, he gets all bent out of shape."
Joey Hot Dog was wearing his trademark black sneakers, sunglasses and magenta jeans, and a black apron that said "Beaujolais Georges Duboeuf." A smiling 68-year-old, he is so short that he needs to stand on a box to work his cart. The box, stenciled with the logo from "The Sopranos," was a gift from crew members of the show, who work around the corner at Silvercup Studios.
These days it's hard to tell if Joey Hot Dog likes what he sees in the neighborhood where he grew up. "It's changing around here, I think," he said one recent morning, sitting in a rusted metal folding chair while waiting for the day's trade to begin. One newcomer to the plaza was apparent: money. "For a broken-down house," he said grudgingly, "they'll give you a million and get you out of there."
Given the past lives of Queens Plaza, many people would say change is a good thing. The area, at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge in the borough for which it is named, is made up of a wide, noisy roadway darkened by elevated subway tracks and flanked mostly by squat, dingy buildings. As drivers jockey to find a place in the 11 lanes of traffic, they may first notice the strip clubs, plastered with posters promising free lunch buffets and appearances by performers with names like Olivia O'Lovely. Trains of the N, W and No. 7 lines screech around curves at all hours on the tracks overhead.
Lining the north and south sides of the plaza are aging Chinese takeout restaurants, humid fried-chicken joints and sad-seeming doughnut shops. Completing the tableau is the Queens Plaza Municipal Parking Garage, a brown concrete structure resembling a 1970's filmmaker's idea of an intergalactic battle station.
Queens Plaza feels tired, and for decades it seemed defeated. Prostitutes, pimps and gangs roamed freely. Crime was so out of control that some people living nearby hated even to walk to the subway. If the view of Manhattan from the Queensboro Bridge, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in "The Great Gatsby," seemed to promise "all the mystery and the beauty in the world," the view of Queens Plaza from that vantage point offered neither. But change is afoot, and Joey Hot Dog isn't the only one who sees it.
Workers for a year-old business improvement district can be seen patrolling the gum-spotted sidewalks in red jumpsuits, sweeping up debris and emptying trash baskets. Guards from private security forces are visible from afternoon till night, and the police are more of a presence than ever.
The city has announced plans to add greenery and pedestrian walkways. Met Life, now one of the area's largest employers, has moved hundreds of employees from its former headquarters on Madison Square Park to an old carriage factory, officially christened One MetLife Place, and a developer plans to replace the parking garage with a 1.5 million-square-foot office complex. Perhaps most telling, condominiums in a new luxury tower called the Queens Plaza, just north of Queens Plaza North, went on the market in April.
Whether any of those developments will truly transform the area is not in dispute — some have already begun to do so. But as the neighborhood begins to change, Joey Hot Dog and other plaza regulars often wonder if anyone can ever forget what the place used to be.
The Noble Gateway
Until 1909, Queens had no plaza to speak of. That was the year the arched steel spine of the Queensboro Bridge was completed, 11 years after Queens officially became part of the City of New York, a moment when the population of Manhattan was poised to burst into the relatively untouched borough to the east. The bridge and the plaza that was created to accompany it on the Queens side were a sight to behold, and arrived with appropriate fanfare.
When work on the bridge was finished, 50,000 people gathered to celebrate its opening, according to Vincent Seyfried's book "300 Years of Long Island City." The mayor, the governor and the secretary of war made speeches, a parade passed through the new plaza, and thousands of red lamps glowed from the bridge's cables. The ceremony culminated in a fireworks display, designed to resemble Niagara Falls, which poured over the side of the bridge.
To accommodate all the people who would pour in from Manhattan, a byway called Jane Street was widened by 90 feet to become Bridge Plaza North and South (today's Queens Plaza North and South). Dividing the inbound and outbound traffic lanes was a series of grass-covered squares, separated by cross streets. Inside each square, landscapers used flowers and shrubs to create horticultural sculptures, including a 75-foot crescent with a Japanese cherry tree at its center.
Photographs of the plaza taken in the weeks before it opened show a startlingly spacious and uncluttered setting. Few buildings lined the plaza, and a flagpole at its center, made from the mast of Shamrock, the yacht of Sir Thomas Lipton of tea fame, stood in proud isolation. Queens Plaza at its inception was nothing less than a dignified, serene portal of a great city.
Almost immediately, however, the plaza began falling victim to its success. The bridge, designed to accommodate multiple lanes of horse-drawn buggies, automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians, could not possibly accommodate all who wanted to travel between Queens and Manhattan. By 1915, a great tangle of elevated subway tracks had been strung over the heart of the plaza, producing one of the most complex overhead interchanges of all time and bringing ear-splitting noise to those below.
Still, business boomed as companies moved into the open spaces near the plaza, which provided easy access to the city. The Brewster Building, a large brick factory that was topped by a clock tower and was completed in 1910, turned out horse-drawn carriages and later automobiles, including, for a few years, Rolls-Royces. Businesses like the Long Island Savings Bank and the Silvercup Bakery — which would tout itself in neon as maker of the "world's finest bread" — also established quarters. Development brought traffic. In 1909, the year the bridge opened, 459 vehicles crossed the span in a single day. By 1928, the count was 86,000.
From the 1920's through World War II, Queens Plaza evolved into an ever-busier nexus of factories, warehouses and commuters — always commuters. By the 1950's, when Joey Hot Dog — real name, Joseph Calasso — took over his father's cart and corner, the plaza was often so crowded that pedestrians couldn't pass one another without bumping shoulders.
"We sold a lot more hot dogs," Joey Hot Dog said of that period. A frank cost 15 cents — the typical truck driver ate five — and a Coke was a dime. Workers at Silvercup and the Barricini candy factory nearby provided a steady customer base, and youngsters from Queensbridge Houses, a public housing project near Queens Plaza on the East River, would stop by with quarters for a hot dog and a soda, the Joey Hot Dog version of a combo meal.
If Joey Hot Dog had a heyday, this was it, and perhaps it was also the heyday of the plaza that surrounded him.
But in the late 1950's and the 1960's, urban decay began eating away at many corners of New York, including once-vibrant business districts that saw their tenants flee for the suburbs. Queens Plaza was no exception. By the 1970's and 80's, the streets had been taken over by trash, broken glass, drugs and pimps. Newly freed inmates from Rikers Island began disembarking daily in the plaza, courtesy of an early-morning bus that deposited them there from the jails.
Prostitution spread through the neighborhood, to the point that women employed by local businesses complained of being followed around by men when they left work at the end of the day. The Q-Plaza Motel, at Vernon Boulevard and Queens Plaza South, became notorious as a hot-sheets establishment. "They had sheets on the windows — no curtains," said Joe Cancemi, a longtime customer of Joey Hot Dog.
Every day, the area seemed to have more ex-cons, more pimps and hookers, more squeegee men and pushers. "I don't know how anybody could have lived in the neighborhood years ago," Mr. Cancemi said. "Because it was so desolate, at any time, anything could crawl out of the works."
After Bad Times, Good Times
The arrival of strip clubs that had been driven out of Times Square in the 1990's, as a result of a crackdown by the Giuliani administration, did not help the plaza's reputation. Paradoxically, it was at that time the plaza began springing back to life.
Crime dropped, as it did throughout the city, and police crackdowns and dogged courtroom work by the Queens district attorney's office began to suppress prostitution. Prostitutes still show up occasionally, say people who work in the area, but a huge difference is visible between current conditions and those a decade ago.
In the last years of the 20th century, public officials and private developers also seemed to realize that a largely underdeveloped area only one subway stop from Manhattan offered immense potential. In 2001, the Department of City Planning rezoned a 37-block area of Long Island City, which included Queens Plaza, to allow larger-scale residential and commercial buildings. That November, Met Life moved 900 employees into a renovated Brewster Building, its red brick scrubbed and its large arched windows adorned with crisp green paint.
Then the city began looking for a developer willing to scrap the crusty brown municipal garage and replace it with an office tower. Officials settled on Tishman Speyer, which has said it will begin to build after securing an anchor tenant. In January, a developer announced plans to convert the Q-Plaza Motel into a luxury hotel.
With changes afoot, several businesses in the plaza, including Graybar Electric, agreed to help finance the new Long Island City Business Improvement District. Last July, the group began sending out daily security patrols; its workers also collect several hundred 30-gallon bags of trash a day.
"It's quite a bit," said Andrew Ebenstein, operations manager for the business improvement district. "If you're around Queens Plaza in all the a.m. hours, the thousands of coffee cups that used to litter the south side are no longer there."
In April 2005, the push to beautify Queens Plaza went federal. Congress approved a $10.6 million grant to help convert the John F. Kennedy Commuter Triangle (read: parking lot), the 1.5-acre parcel at the plaza's eastern end, into a park. New pedestrian crossings will be installed, along with greenways stretching west to the bridge's entrance. Construction is expected to begin in a year and be completed by 2009, when the bridge celebrates its 100th anniversary.
In an interview, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden expressed excitement about plans for the site. The desolate space, she said, "is going to be the most magnificent, verdant, luxurious green park."
Newcomers, Flush With Money
Despite all the improvements, Queens Plaza is not exactly a real neighborhood, since few people live in or around it. The low-lying streets running north and south from the elevated subway station, the heart of the plaza, are home to barely 1,000 people, according to the 2000 Census, most of them living in small apartment buildings and the occasional tenement.
That is poised to change. By summer's end, the first tenants will move into the Queens Plaza, the 10-story, 66-unit red brick condominium on 27th Street, a half-block from the plaza itself. A recent tour of model units revealed GE Profile stainless-steel appliances, two-person showerheads, video intercoms, granite countertops and, on one side, balconies with views of Manhattan. One-bedroom apartments start at $420,000.
The Developers Group, which built the Queens Plaza, is planning another condo tower in the area, this one directly on the plaza at Crescent Street, a space currently occupied by an unprepossessing white two-story building. The site is just two blocks from Joey Hot Dog's corner.
A few months ago, Joey watched solemnly as workers hauled out machinery from the Venus Trimming and Binding Company, just across the street, which was closing its Queens Plaza factory. Joey got the movers as customers, but the workers, like many others, are gone now.
Around noon, business began to pick up. Several men wearing work uniforms or construction outfits crowded around the cart. A white Cadillac stopped by, then a mail truck. Soon, eight people were standing around, eating one or two or three hot dogs. "You want more?" Joey Hot Dog asked each customer. Everyone did. The mayor of Queens Plaza was once again holding court.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
This would certainly be a welcome change:
Courtesy of Thomas W. Schaller, Property of the Department of City Planning
In April 2005, the push to beautify Queens Plaza went federal.
Congress approved $10.6 million to help pay for the conversion of the 1.5-acre John F. Kennedy
Commuter Triangle (read: parking lot) at the plaza’s eastern end into a park.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Yeah, anything's better than a parking lot, but it won't really look like the watercolor. Anyone can render something in optimistic pastel hues, but reality comes in grittier tones. Notice also that the artist is working in medieval conventions: the train is drawn at half the scale of the people. And the elevated structure has the gossamer insubstantiality of a spider's web.Originally Posted by lofter1
And is that a single-track trestle?
If I were a dead president I wouldn't want my name attached to a parking lot....the 1.5-acre John F. Kennedy Commuter Triangle (read: parking lot)...
Yes; some heady optimism clearly went into that painting...similar to Columbia's treatment of the elevated 1 line near its planned new campus. As if els weren't still noisily and aesthetically disruptive. If only the city had the foresight, or the funds, to bury them.
The drawing is wrong. The large area shown as a park on the bottom of the picture will be an office building. The park is the small area between the els.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Paving a Parking Lot To Put Up a Paradise
By Nik Kovac
Downtown Queens? Some people say it's finally happening, and of course it's happening in Long Island City.
"Everywhere you look," declared Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from the top of the borough's only skyscraper so far, "there are cranes and the skeletons of buildings rising up. There are 39 new development projects already in the ground, and 4 million new square feet of new space on the drawing board."
There are now so many shovels in the ground and iron skeletons in the sky, that even the federal government is seeing fit to invest millions of dollars into the area where the 59th Street Bridge dumps Manhattanites upon our borough.
"Queens Plaza," smiled Maloney, to a group of business leaders at a breakfast last Wednesday morning, "will be transformed into a welcoming gateway for Long Island City and the borough of Queens." That's because Maloney, who represents eastern Manhattan and Western Queens, made the Queens Plaza renovations her #1 budgeting priority this fiscal year.
"When the Queens Plaza project is finished," she promised, "and it should be finished by 2009, the change will be dramatic. This place will look and feel like the exciting, dynamic, wonderful place that it already is."
The project has been designed by the Department of City Planning (DCP) and will be managed, during construction, by the city's Economic Development Corporation. "It's going to start sometime next year," confirmed Penny Lee, the LIC team leader for DCP, "and should take about 18 months."
The basic idea of the project, which has been in the works for several years now, is to realign traffic lanes and entire streets in order to achieve several goals: make automobile traffic smoother, encourage alternate means of transport, like biking, walking, buses and subways, and to create new open space.
"Where there used to be traffic islands and medians and a parking lot," explained Lee, referring to the JFK commuter triangle near where Jackson Avenue turns into Northern Boulevard, "we're going to redevelop and relocate those things to build new open space, and humanize the entire environment."
Speaking of the current environment at the Queens end of the Queensborough Bridge, Community Board 2 Chair Joe Conley described it as "just steel and asphalt, so that you feel like a piece of protoplasm trying to get across the street."
"It's not an area that's known for it's human face," agreed Maloney. "It wasn't designed for people to walk around or spend time. Unfortunately, there are places where the traffic is appalling and you practically feel that you take your life in your hands when you cross the street. There aren't a whole lot of trees on the street, or benches to relax on."
That will all start changing some time next year, and the details of the plans should be immediately forthcoming. "It is full steam ahead on this project," reassured DCP spokesperson Rachelle Raynoff. "Commissioner [Amanda] burden has been very hands-on with this project from the beginning. We're trying to create a more pleasant environment for the future workers and residents of that area."
When asked if this project was causing or being caused by much of the new mid-rises going up and high-rises possibly going up in the area, Raynoff hedged that, "It's hard to say what's the chicken and what's the egg. This should enhance and spur new development. It's very important to have quality open space. It changes the perception of an area."
The rough boundaries of the $22 million project will be the East River, Queens Plaza North, Queens Plaza South, and Queens Plaza East. It will include new bike lanes, landscaping, public art, lighting, crosswalks, street furniture, directional signs, and artistic banners. The parking spaces at the JFK commuter triangle will be relocated to the municipal garage (a location across Hunter Street that itself may soon be developed into a skyscraper on top of a parking garage) and will be replaced, further to the north (after all the traffic patterns are redirected) by what DCP is tentatively calling JFK Park.
Maloney indicated that an official announcement with more detail should be forthcoming soon. "It's going to be a lot greener and livelier," predicted Conley. "It won't just be steel and asphalt anymore."