Pedestrian plaza quiets once-bustling Jackson Heights business center

February 20, 2012 08:30AM

Jackson Heights businesses are slamming a pedestrian plaza the Department of Transportation commissioned on a main thoroughfare, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Plaza, along 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets, blocks off traffic to a once-bustling South Asian business hub in Queens.

Shop owners claim the area has become dead, that business has declined 60 percent and that they’ve had to lay off workers as a result. The owners of the old Eagle theater on the street, who plan an ambitious market at the site, are now reconsidering their plan because of The Plaza.The Journal Pointed Out The Plaza isn’t even an aesthetically pleasing one, with just a handful of benches and no greenery. Unlike other pedestrian plazas in the city, there’s no local Business Improvement District maintaining it, because of the opposition.

But supporters, including City Council member Daniel Dromm say The Plaza itself was an “afterthoughtt,” the focus of the initiative was to close down the street. Traffic was too congested, they say, and safety was becoming an issue. Now, traffic is smoother in Jackson Heights, but cars are funneled towards the highway instead of to local businesses. For now, The Plaza is temporary and the Department of Transportation will review it soon. But the Journal said it would be a shame to see a business district — especially one that thrived during the downturn — collapse. [WSJ]