QUEENS — Three pedestrian plazas that are being built along Queens Boulevard in the Briarwood and Kew Gardens area seek to beautify the neighborhood which has been overtaken by a 6-year-long construction project, state officials and residents said.
The plazas will be located above the Van Wyck Expressway between Main Street and Hoover Avenue — two on the north side of Queens Boulevard and one on the south side, according to Diane Park, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Transportation.
They will feature planters and ornamental fencing as well as several “canopies that will extend over the seating areas," according to Park.
The plazas are being built as part of the Kew Gardens Interchange project, a lengthy multimillion dollar undertaking started in 2010 to widen the Van Wyck Expressway and rebuild its bridges and ramps between Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue.
“As part of our Kew Gardens Interchange project, the Department is improving traffic and mobility for vehicles and pedestrians on Queens Boulevard,” Park said in an email. “We are also including design elements to upgrade the aesthetics and provide a more user-friendly environment for pedestrians.”
Local residents said they hope the plazas will benefit the area after years of traffic disruptions.
“The neighborhood has been severely inconvenienced and put through a lot of hardship for 6 years of this construction project so any amenity that we receive from this project is appreciated,” said Aida Vernon, who lives near the construction site.
“Hopefully, it will benefit the community in terms of providing comfort to neighborhood residents and maybe even a little beauty if we get some plantings,” added Vernon who also serves as the president of the Briarwood Action Network, a local civic association.
The construction project has created a number of problems in Briarwood along Queens Boulevard, including shifting traffic patterns and closing a subway entrance closest to the residential part of the neighborhood for 4 years.
The $159 million portion of the project where the plazas will be located is "slated to be substantially complete by the end of the year, which means that traffic and pedestrians will be in their final configuration," Park said.
"Weather-sensitive finishing work will take place next spring, such as asphalt paving, plantings, installation of stone pavers," she added.