By David Brand
Local lawmakers and New York City officials joined hundreds of community residents and performers to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Department of Transportation Plaza Program and the grand re-opening of Corona Plaza on Saturday.
The plazas cover 30 acres across the city and serve as gathering spaces and arts centers for neighborhood residents. The Corona Plaza closed for renovations in April 2017 before reopening Saturday with a slate of children’s activities and dance performances in partnership with the Queens Museum. The Mercado de Corona Plaza also provided food to plaza visitors.
“Great cities are known for their public plazas, and DOT’s plaza program brings beautiful public spaces to neighborhoods all over the City,” said NYC Department of Design and Construction Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio. “We look forward to opening more plazas in every borough.”
Borough President Melinda Katz hailed Corona Plaza, Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights and similar expanses as a “boon for Queens neighborhoods and families” whose ideas influenced the development.
“[The plaza program’s] success has been in large part due to the valuable community input from local stakeholders – including residents, businesses and civic organizations – as well as the City’s inclusion of such input in designing and reconfiguring the City’s streetscape,” Katz said.
Until about seven years, Corona Plaza had fallen out of public disuse and had become a parking lot. In 2011, the Queens Museum and local organizations, responding to residents’ feedback, took action to revive the plaza and make it a vital part of the neighborhood once more.
State Assembly Member Ari Espinal said the plaza reflects the diverse character of the neighborhood and provides residents with the “high quality public space they deserve.”
“Corona Plaza has always been a vital part of the neighborhood that I was born and raised in,” Espinal said. “Its renovation and transformation into a vibrant public space for all residents to enjoy is an important positive development for our community.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley said similar projects throughout Queens facilitate inclusion and interconnectivity within the world’s most diverse urban center.
“New York City’s public plaza program has brought our residents together and created pockets of calm throughout our bustling streets,” Crowley said. “I know I speak for all Queens residents in being delighted by the new and improved Diversity Plaza, a wonderful slice of our borough’s vibrant culture.”