Supporters of the controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza defended the space during a meeting about the plaza’s future, calling it an oasis in a neighborhood that is starved of public space.
But others said the plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, is detrimental to business owners who feel that the loss of parking and the cut-off of two-way traffic is causing sales to drop.
“We wanted to create an open environment for the community,” said Darma Diaz, chief operating officer for the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS), which is responsible for the upkeep of the plaza. “This plaza gives the opportunity for the community to have a place to go.”
She noted that public space is so minimal in the area that children have to use the nearby municipal meter lot, located at Elderts Lane and Glenmore Avenue in Brooklyn, for activities.
“This is the only place we have in our neighborhood where children could get together,” said one attendee of the Aug. 21 meeting at Queens Borough Hall. “We have never had a place for us to get together [until the plaza].”
But Khemraj Sadoo, owner of Super Clean Laundromat, located on the same street as the plaza, said there is viable space just two blocks down on Elderts Lane in Brooklyn and wants the plaza moved.
“We need the plaza moved,” Sadoo said. “Who will accept such a plaza in front of his face with such loss of business?”
The plaza was first put in the area in the fall of 2013. Originally it was only designed to take up the tiny intersection of Drew Street where vehicles were once able to turn from Liberty Avenue to 101st Avenue. But Dalila Hall, DOT commissioner for Queens, said when the department came to assess the area they came to the conclusion that part of 101st Avenue would also have to be used for the plaza, which now has taken away parking spaces for customers.
Hall said the DOT did realize that many parking spaces were cut off, which is why they implemented a municipal meter on the Liberty Avenue side of Drew Street recently. She says with the introduction of the metered parking there is only a net loss of one or two parking spots.
But business owners say they need more than just the parking spaces back to survive. Restoration of two-way traffic and the removal of garbage were other top priorities for those who were against the plaza.
“We need two-way traffic back,” Sadoo said. “All the garbage from the plaza flies into my Laundromat. I have tickets from the city.”
Hall said the department is working with the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) for more frequent pick-ups of garbage. The DSNY picks up twice a week in the plaza now, but Hall is hoping to increase that number to keep litter minimal.
Giving two-way access to the street again would mean the plaza would either have to be placed entirely on the sidewalk or be moved elsewhere. Issues such as that will have to be looked at more deeply, Hall said.
“We need to take this information in as an agency to see if more can be done to address everyone’s concern,” Hall said. “We will listen to both sides of course.”