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37th Road Plaza draws praise

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

In a capstone to a nearly yearlong fight, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and business owners in Jackson Heights announced Friday the controversy around the 37th Road Plaza was essentially over now that the businesses have created an organization to care for the space.

“I have looked forward to this day coming for a very long time,” Dromm said.

Business owners Agha Saleh and Shazia Kausar instituted the new group, Sukhi NY. The organization, the name of which means “prosperity and happiness” in Hindi, aims to both work with the city Department of Transportation to improve the quality of life in the plaza and hold events there to bring the diverse populations of Jackson Heights together.

“This is the best solution,” said Kausar, who is president of the organization and owns the café Bombay Chat. “We will make this plaza beautiful and more people will come.”

Following the findings of a transportation study for Jackson Heights and with the approval of Community Board 3, the city DOT installed a plaza on 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in October. After 37th Road was closed, many business owners said they experienced large drops in their sales and witnessed an increase in vagrancy. They raised their problems at multiple meetings with the DOT and members of CB 3.

As the weather became warmer, however, more shoppers and residents began to use the plaza. Sukhi hopes to keep the momentum going by using the plaza as a place to hold events.

From Thursday, Aug. 16, to Monday, Aug. 20, Sukhi will hold a Chaand Raat Festival/Eid Baazar to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“You will see this street further transformed into a beautiful area in honor of those holidays,” Dromm said.

Both Shiv Dass, president of the Jackson Heights Merchants Association, and Mohammad Peer, of the Bangladeshi Merchants Association, said they were glad a compromise had been reached.

“This is a great day,” Peer said. “After months of misunderstanding, we have restored our differences.”

Dromm said he believed a solution was able to be reached because throughout the debate the lines of communication were kept open between those who opposed the plaza and those who were for it. He encouraged all residents, even non-Muslims, to take part in the Eid celebration and enjoy the diverse community.

“We are all in this together, and as Agha said, we are all Americans,” Dromm said. “This is our neighborhood. These are all our shops.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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