Tourists Flock To Redbird Nest At Borough Hall
“Tourism brings in over $3 billion a year,” Queens Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Seth Bornstein said during a recent update on the Initiative at the June meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet.
In February, the inactive Queens Tourism Council was given a kick start when 20 new members came together intent on promoting the borough’s tourist businesses and attractions.
“The idea is to get people to spend money in Queens instead of Manhattan,” QEDC Director of Marketing and Tourism Rob MacKay said.
The new membership, representing hotel owners, sporting venues and cultural organizations of the Queens Tourism Council, was described by MacKay as a “self-driven organization”.
“We want to work with all of the groups,” MacKay told community board district managers at the meeting. “We’re really excited [and] getting new members every week,” he said.
A fun, free resource for tourists is the reconverted redbird subway car located on the east lawn of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
“It’s important to go in and see it,” Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said. Marshall rescued the car after learning it was going to be sunk with other retired redbird subway cars in the Atlantic Ocean to form a barrier reef.
Now officially known as the Redbird Tourist Information Center, the 50-foot 80,000-pound subway car, built in 1959, holds tourism material about borough attractions from the Hall of Science to Rockaway Beach.
“People are very nostalgic [about the redbird],” Director Roxanne Solarsh said. “They’ve taken it to go to school, they’ve taken it to go to work.”
More than 10,000 visitors have availed themselves of it since its opening in January, 2008.
“Most of the visitors are from Queens, but we’ve had people come from all over the world,” Solarsh said. “It’s a nice experience.” The most requested items are street maps of Queens and Queens in Your Pocket, a new guide to the borough.
The Redbird is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while the Queens Visitor’s Center at the Queens Center Mall, 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, is also a source for tourist information.
“We think Queens is a great place, and that is the whole idea,” Marshall said of the Tourism Initiative.