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As No. 7 train passengers disembarked and filed down the stairs of the elevated tracks Sunday, they were greeted by a Corona Plaza many probably did not recognize.
“It’s great. You get a new audience every 15, 20 minutes,” Queens Museum of Art Director Tom Finkelpearl said, with a jazz band swinging away on a temporary stage set up on the opposite end of the plaza.
The museum was one of several partners present on the bright, sunny afternoon to introduce the Corona community to the new public space, which the Queens Economic Development Corp. is sponsoring through the city Department of Transportation’s public plaza program.
With the stated mission of providing a quality open space within 10 minutes of every city dweller’s front steps, the program closes underused streets to vehicular traffic and transforms them into open pedestrian spaces, which become permanent.
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) secured funding for the project a few years ago out of money set aside when the Port Authority negotiated its lease with LaGuardia Airport.
The DOT closed the street off a week earlier, laid down a gravel surface and installed some large granite blocks, planters and tables with chairs. Over the next year, architects and designers will work with the community through an open design process to create a space that meets the community’s needs.
“Today we’re just seeing what works and what doesn’t,” Finkelpearl said, pointing out the jazz band’s crowd had actually gathered behind the stage, seeking shelter from the sun in the shade provided by the shops fronting what used to be 41st Avenue.
“What would be a good setting for the stage? What is a good use for this plaza?” he asked, adding that as the sun moves through the sky throughout the course of the day, the crowd might relocate. “Maybe as the day goes on we’ll find out.”
The museum has scheduled a workshop for Sept. 28 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., at 108-59 Roosevelt Ave., when the community will have the opportunity to give its input to the project’s planners.
Larissa Harris, a curator with the museum, said the cultural partners were important in helping the neighborhood realize the space was undergoing a change.
“Art and culture animate things in a special, concentrated way. This festive atmosphere makes it clear that we’re participating together to make this space as fully developed as we can do it,” she said. “It helps transition this place from a point to a destination.”
Long Island City artist Adam Schecter’s project BCAST mirrored the transformative nature of the plaza’s future and paid homage to its transit roots.
Schecter had laid down a blanket and covered it with DVDs of his animation piece, just like vendors selling movies in the subways do. Schecter’s movie, though, which he described as his “version of a Saturday morning cartoon but with serious themes,” were free for those who grabbed some faux money from the Queens Library’s tent nearby.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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