July 29, 2014 By Christian Murray
The gritty entrance to the 46th Street subway station—long known for its pigeons, ratty newspaper stands and street vendors—has been transformed into a tidy plaza complete with tables, chairs and planters.
Sunnyside Shines cut the ribbon today to what’s now called the “Bliss Plaza” that features 16 planters, 12 tables and 24 chairs. The plaza includes a level surface—as the old roadway that used to cut through the area beneath the subway has been filled with concrete—creating 5,500 square feet of space that can be used for concerts and cultural events.
The planters have also been systematically placed alongside Queens Boulevard, as a means to create a green buffer and soften the noise from traffic.
“This space has been transformed into a vibrant, colorful oasis,” said Rachel Thieme, the executive director of Sunnyside Shines, which is commonly referred to as the BID. “Sunnyside now has a cool green place to eat lunch outside.”
The BID is currently working with the Department of Transportation to create a second plaza underneath the 40th Street station, which would also come with planters, tables and chairs. That plaza—to be called the Lowery Plaza– is expected to be ready by October.
The opening of the second plaza has been delayed since the exercise equipment/artwork that is currently located there cannot be taken down until October. The artist and the DOT entered into an arrangement where it would be up for a year.
However, the Lowery Plaza will be put together quite quickly since the existing roadway is already level. Therefore, all that is required is power washing the existing concrete then adding the planters, tables and chairs.
The two plazas stem from an application the BID filed with the DOT last summer for the two sites to be included as part of the NYC Plaza Program. The DOT approved the BID’s proposal and agreed to help design the plazas and provide the funding.
The DOT held a public workshop in April to get feedback from the community to help it come up with the designs. The designs were then approved by Community Board 2 in June.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who spoke at the ribbon cutting, said that that the new plaza has “transformed a place where tens of thousands of Sunnysiders and Woodsiders go to every single day. People will now see a green Sunnyside, a beautiful Sunnyside a peaceful Sunnyside—not just a place to pass through.”
Van Bramer said that the plaza will act as a good place for people to connect. “It has the ability to bring both sides of Queens Boulevard together, where everyone can meet.”
Several people were drawn to the plaza and decided to sit at the tables. Bharat Patel, a Sunnyside resident who was with his wife, said: “I was walking around and I saw a nice place to sit down. We then decided to eat our lunch here.”
The plaza(s) will be open from 9 am until dusk. The Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, a non-profit group that is dedicated to maintaining public plazas, will be in charge of putting away the tables and chairs each night as well as looking after the planters.
Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said that there is more work ahead on improving the plaza. He said he was working on bringing better lighting, wayfinders and tidier newspaper stands.
Thieme said that the BID has also filed an application with the DOT’s art program to add a ground mural. However, “It’s nice and colorful the way it is now.”