Proposed Jamaica Pedestrian Plaza Would Displace Commuter Vans

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on March 20, 2014 10:25am 

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 The proposal aims to beautify the busy area.
Pedestrian Plaza Planned Near Jamaica Center Subway Station
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QUEENS — A proposed pedestrian plaza near the Jamaica Center subway station would include bistro tables, chairs and planters, but it would also displace some of the popular vans that have been shuttling commuters throughout Queens for years.

The proposed plaza would be built on Parsons Boulevard, between Jamaica and Archer avenues, according to the Jamaica Center BID, which developed the project.

“This is a prime location for creating a plaza because this is really the gateway for many people to downtown Jamaica,” said Felicia Tunnah, the BID's executive director.

“I think providing this amenity for the people of downtown Jamaica where they can relax or eat and continue their shopping will encourage people to spend more time in downtown Jamaica.”

Tunnah said she hopes that the plaza, which needs approvals from Community Board 12 and the Department of Transportation, would open in mid to late April.

The BID is also working with the DOT and the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a local nonprofit development group, to get 7-foot tall art panels that would be installed along the proposed plaza for six months, showcasing work from artists from the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.

In order to ensure the safety of plaza users, BID officials said, some of the commuter vans, which for the past two decades have used the lane along the south-bound side of the street to pick up passengers, would have to move.

Currently, about seven to eight vans can be parked along the lane, which is recognized as an official commuter van pick-up location.

For the price of $1.50 to $2 the vans take customers around Southeast Queens, from St. Albans to Far Rockaway.

The BID and van operators said Tuesday they are working on a compromise that would possibly limit the number of vans parked on the lane to four. They would also be parked near the Archer Avenue end.

“We can co-exist at that location,” said one of the operators, Hector Ricketts of Community Transportation Systems. “We understand how a beautiful environment can attract business and customers.

“But we also want to make sure that beautification does not displace our business."

According to Tunnah, two other locations — 153rd Street and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, between Jamaica and Archer avenues — are also being considered as spots to accommodate commuter van operators.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said in an email that the agency is going to work with the BID “as they prepare a submission through the existing Plaza Program application process.”

Yvonne Reddick, district manager for Community Board 12, said the board will discuss the project in the near future.

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