2011-10-19 / Features

‘Pick-A-Name’, Mayor Announces, For New Queens Plaza Park

BY JOHN TOSCANO


The site of the former John F. Kennedy commuter parking lot has been transformed into a new 1.5 open acre recreational space, thanks to $45 million in roadway, pedestrian and bicycle improvements over the year. 
Photo: NYC Department of City Planning The site of the former John F. Kennedy commuter parking lot has been transformed into a new 1.5 open acre recreational space, thanks to $45 million in roadway, pedestrian and bicycle improvements over the year. Photo: NYC Department of City Planning New Yorkers are getting a chance to leave their imprint on a part of Queens Plaza by naming the new open space area at the site of the former John F. Kennedy commuter parking lot. That property has been transformed into a new 1.5 open acre recreational space, thanks to $45 million in roadway, pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

The space now offers commuters, workers, residents and bicyclists a refuge which includes wetlands, plantings and artist-designed benches. The new space has much to offer…except a name.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the heads of the city Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Department of City Planning have launched a contest that will give New Yorkers the opportunity leave a mark on a piece of the city by proposing a name for the new open space.

In doing so, they feel city residents should consider names that reflect the site’s history, local neighborhoods’ past activities, the natural environment and location and submit their suggestions by Tuesday, October 25. The winning name will be selected by a committee comprised of city representatives and members of the local community.

For a complete list of rules and details on entering the naming contest, visit www.nyc.gov. Online submissions will be accepted until next Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. For the latest contest updates, find NYCEDC on Facebook, follow@ NYCEDC on Twitter or visit NYCEDC on Tumblr.

In announcing the contest, the mayor stated, “Everyone knows New Yorkers are full of opinions, so who better to ask to come up with a great name for the greatest new open space in Queens? The improvements we’ve made to Queens Plaza are making it into a welcoming entrance to the borough for visitors, residents and local businesses.”

Welcoming this new park to the city’s many others, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe declared, “This newly landscaped public space epitomizes the movement toward a greener, greater New York City that has been at the heart of this administration’s PlaNYC program. We look forward to see the creative suggestions New Yorkers have for renaming this important location in Queens.

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), fully agreeing with the mayor’s call for a naming contest, declared:

“I’m delighted that the city is soliciting suggestions from the public for the name of the new park in Queens Plaza. This park will serve the community and should be named by the community.”

Adding his support to the contest idea, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside), stated, “The transformation of Queens Plaza, once dominated by an unsightly parking structure, will gain more momentum when a new park with lots of green space opens soon. This landscape sea change is a reflection of the local community’s demand for positive changes. Thousands of new employees work in the area and new residents move into the neighborhood every day. I am pleased to seek input from the community as we decide on an appropriate name for the space…this decision helps develop a sense of ownership and pride among the people who will use it most.”

CB 2 Chairman Joe Conley, whose community board has had much input on the far reaching developments that have created the new plaza, said, “This is a much-needed improvement to Queens Plaza that improves the quality of life in and around the area. We are looking forward to a new name to the area that celebrates the pedestrian and landscape improvements in the new plaza.”

Addressing the new name contest, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who has had major input to plaza developments all along the way, stated: “This is a great opportunity to be creative, inspired and remembered for naming this living and green space at the gateway to Queens. Let the nominations begin.”

Long Island Partnership President Gayle Baron said: “The new Queens Plaza Park will be a tranquil oasis for office workers, residents and visitors alike…will contribute to the quality of life of the neighborhood while raising property values and encouraging private and public sector investments in services and facilities. Participation in the naming of the park will allow New York City residents to take ownership and brand the park as theirs.”

EDC President Seth Pinsky said, “We believe that the new recreational elements, bikeways and pedestrian improvements made to Queens Plaza in our recent streetscape project will not only make this important hub a more desirable place in which to live and do business, but will also complement the many developments planned and underway in the area.

“As we move to completion, we invite New Yorkers to help us with one crucial remaining element: choosing an appropriate name for the 1.5 acre open space that will be the heart of the plaza.”

Describing Long Island City as a “unique, dynamic neighborhood with enormous potential”, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden added, “The transformation of Queens Plaza into a lush welcoming oasis will give residents and workers a gorgeous new public open space for respite and enjoyment [and] I look forward to learning the unique names New Yorkers come up with for this vibrant new park.”

Queens Plaza will always hold a special place in the mayor’s heart because shortly after the start of his inaugural administration in 2001, he announced his intention of transforming the plaza at the head of the then-Queensboro Bridge into the city’s next major central business district and immediately announced proposed zoning changes to attract more businesses to the area.

This opening salvo to enable high-density, mixed use development in the plaza’s business core, was followed by a number of initiatives focused on realizing Long Island City’s full potential as a major central business district, leveraging its transit assets and proximity to Midtown Manhattan.

To revitalize the visage of the district’s main thoroughfare, Jackson Avenue, NYCEDC completed a full $17 million streetscape project in fall 2010 that transformed it into a tree-lined median with new lighting and a series of new and enhanced open spaces.

At the major and critical intersection of Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue, the unsightly municipal garage structure was turned into an attractive 21-story mixeduse tower and new home for the city Department of Health. Completed in 2010, the building is the first phase of a larger Gotham Center development.

Welcoming the latest new and prestigious tenant to the plaza, JetBlue Airline has selected that area as its new corporate headquarters. About 950 employees will be moving into the historic Brewster Building at 27-01 Queens Plaza North in 2012, sharing the address with MetLife, which pioneered a move into the area about a decade ago.

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