Problem DescriptionA lot of us are driven by the urge to fix damaged things, make broken things work, if not actually heal the landscape. In the early 20th Century, Queens Plaza, where the borough of Queens’ major thoroughfare stops just short of Manhattan, was a grand civic square. After decades of huge infrastructure projects, Queens Plaza was considered a terrible place. A tangle of elevated trains and bridges, it spread out in a chaotic sea of roadbeds and parking lots, run through by a depressed business corridor. Among the few businesses to thrive were a number of gentlemen’s clubs, supported by both the sex and drug trades that found a haven in Queens Plaza. To top it off, when prisoners were released from Rikers Island they were dropped off at Queens Plaza, under the elevated, in the middle of the night, with several dollars to get them wherever they were going.
Starting in the late 1990s, the New York Department of City Planning and several nonprofits launched an effort to transform Queens Plaza—to make it less dangerous, more welcoming, and to attract businesses to the area. An ideas competition run in 2001 by the Van Alen Institute yielded compelling visions for the area that built on, rather than tried to mask, the imposing infrastructure.
In 2003, building on the enthusiasm that the ideas competition sparked, the Department of City Planning launched the Queens Plaza Pedestrian Bicycle Improvement Project. The goal was to humanize the massive swath of concrete and metal—the broad roadbeds, the elevated train tracks, the bridge itself. The project also sought to mitigate the noise and pollution from traffic on and off the Queensboro Bridge and the sound of the elevated trains that had come to be known as “the screech.”
- Cleaning up a mess in Long Island City
How landscape and urbanism came together to transform Queens Plaza—a hostile place for people on foot or bicycle.
- Margie Ruddick, Congress for New Urbanism
Solution StageOne of the 7 stages of an innovation. Learn more
|STAGE||SPECIALIST SKILLS REQUIRED||EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES||RISK LEVEL AND HANDLING||FINANCE REQUIRED||KINDS OF EVIDENCE GENERATED||GOAL|
|Developing and implementing5||Strong leadership, management, implementation skills|
|A robust and detailed case developed through formal evaluation and evidence gathering – use of a control group to isolate impact||An implemented and sustainable innovation|