Queens Blooms With New Parks, Development, Jobs
On April 4, Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened one of the latest jewels in Queens’ crown. Dutch Kills Green, a 1.5-acre former parking lot at the east end of Queens Plaza, is now a wetlands park of 489 native trees and grasses that will naturally filter pollutants from storm water and sits alongside pedestrian walkways and bike paths to create a usable, peaceful green space in what is a rapidly evolving postindustrial Queens waterfront neighborhood.
On the same occasion, the mayor announced the completion of JetBlue corporate headquarters in the former Brewster Building, bringing 1,000 of the airline’s workers to Queens Plaza. JetBlue had pondered moving its headquarters, originally in Forest Hills, to other locations, including Orlando, Florida, but decided to stay in the city and borough where the company had started. Completion of JetBlue headquarters caps the Queens Plaza improvement project, which started in 2009 with $25 million in city funds and $20 million in federal monies dedicated to redevelopment of Queens Plaza.
The effort to remake Queens Plaza got underway even earlier, in October 2008, when demolition of an unused five-level municipal parking garage began. In place of the parking garage, which had opened in 1976, Two Gotham Center, a 21-story, 662,000-square-foot office building that is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-certified with LEED silver interiors arose as the new, centralized home of the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. All Health Department employees are in their new headquarters, which includes 8,000 square feet of retail and 160 parking spaces.
All around Queens, new projects are underway. On April 1, 20 notable figures in the New York boxing world were inducted into the inaugural class of the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame at ceremonies in Howard Beach. The New York State Boxing Hall of Fame honors boxers whose careers did not warrant their induction into the international Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, but who nonetheless notably pursued the “sweet science” to meritorious levels. A plaque of all the honorees will be placed at the Waterfront Crabhouse in Long Island City and the Hall’s organizers hope that a statue will someday be erected.
Queens welcomes new members to its family as well. In addition to the immigrants from the rest of the country and the world who flock to the borough every day, Phineus and Taylor, two young male sea lions, now share the sea lion pool at the Queens Zoo with 20-year-old Butch, who came to the zoo at its reopening in the early 1990s. Two-year-old Taylor was transferred from the Bronx Zoo in late fall 2011 and Phineus, six years old, moved from the New York Aquarium in Coney Island over the winter. All three delight visitors to the zoo in Flushing Meadows- Corona Park.
We have staunchly maintained for the past 30 years in this newspaper that Queens is the heart and soul of New York and we feel that way even more strongly now. Join us. Take a walk on any block in any neighborhood and see for yourself how new jobs, new parks, new buildings, even new animals at the zoo all come together to point to the start of a wonderful new season of growth and development that exemplifies all that’s best in the borough we call home.