Flushing Bay Promenade to undergo transformation as part of LaGuardia AirTrain Project

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(L. to R.) Jonathan Marvel, founder and principal of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Firm Marvel. Yadiel Rivera-Díaz, ASLA, PLA, partner-in-charge of the project for Marvel. Photos courtesy of Port Authority NY/NJ.

As part of the LaGuardia AirTrain project, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, Feb. 17, announced the award of the design contract to develop a specific design plan for the top-to-bottom renovation of the Flushing Bay Promenade. 

The contract was awarded to the architecture and landscape architecture firm Marvel, a certified minority-owned firm. Through this contract, Marvel will work with the Port Authority and the New York City Parks Department to create a plan that dramatically improves the green space and amenities of the Flushing Promenade based on input from the local community. 

“Today’s announcement of a new design consultant builds on the Port Authority’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in our capital construction projects that fuel the regional economy,” said Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the Port Authority of NY/NJ. 

Jonathan Marvel, founder and principal of Marvel, said the firm is delighted to work with the Port Authority, city Parks Department and all stakeholders on the Flushing Bay Promenade project. 

“It’s a great opportunity to build a welcoming place where New Yorkers can connect with the beauty of nature. Using our interdisciplinary approach — and our skills in architecture and landscape architecture — our team will create a transformative experience that brings great design to everyone, everywhere,” Marvel said. 

In 2019, the Port Authority had committed to make significant improvements along the full 1.4 mile length of the Flushing Bay Promenade as part of the AirTrain LGA project. The AirTrain would run from LaGuardia Airport in East Elmhurst alongside the periphery of the park beside the Grand Central Parkway to Willets Point, where it would connect the 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington Branch. 

While specific improvements will be guided by community input, the agency committed through the AirTrain LGA project to rebuild promenade walkways and railings, invest in appealing landscaping, create new public activity areas, install public art, upgrade lighting, and improve public access — such as the Ditmars Boulevard entrances to the two pedestrian bridges located at 27th Avenue and 31st Drive. 

Last fall, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the federal agency leading the independent environmental review of the LaGuardia AirTrain project, held a series of public hearings as part of a 60-day public comment period on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement. 

Following the FAA hearings, the city Parks Department, working closely with the Port Authority, held a series of virtual visioning sessions to guide the vision for the improvements to the promenade with community members, park users, and local stakeholders. 

The Port Authority and the Parks Department will build on those sessions with the newly created Community Advisory Committee that will begin meetings later this month. The committee includes representatives from more than 20 local civic, environmental, recreational, and business community stakeholders to provide critical input in designing a park that will meet the needs of local residents and park users well into the future.

Yadiel Rivera-Diaz, partner-in-charge of the project for Marvel, said they look forward to collaborating with neighborhood residents to design a vibrant public space that fulfills the diverse social, cultural, and environmental needs of the community and the city at large. 

“We hope that the Promenade will be Queens’ next great place. Through our timeless design, we will seek to bring positive impact to the local community for both the near- and long-term futures,” Rivera-Diaz said. 

According to Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, not only will AirTrain LaGuardia be a boost for the Queen’s economy, it will also pump millions of dollars into improvements at the Flushing Bay Promenade, which hasn’t seen any major investment since he worked for the late Queens Borough President Claire Schulman 20 years ago. 

“The Queens community deserves a great waterfront park and now they’re going to have a hand in designing it,” Bornstein said. 

Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of NY/NJ, said AirTrain LGA is essential to extend rail mass transit access to the new LaGuardia Airport, and its benefits will extend to the parkland and communities it abuts. 

“The AirTrain will reduce congestion on roads and air pollution in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport. With Marvel’s expertise in attractive, accessible, community-focused design, and with the breadth of the newly-formed Community Advisory Committee, the LaGuardia AirTrain Project will also drive the top-to-bottom renovation of the Flushing Bay Promenade – a renovation that would not happen without the AirTrain project,” Cotton said. 

AirTrain LGA

Today, LaGuardia is the only major East Coast airport without a rail link to the city center. Construction of AirTrain LaGuardia will create a reliable trip between Midtown Manhattan and the airport of less than 30 minutes. The AirTrain LaGuardia Plan has been the subject of an exhaustive and independent environmental review by the FAA. It has emerged as the FAA’s preferred alternative. 

A Record of Decision is expected from the FAA this spring, after which AirTrain construction can move forward, completing the transformation of LaGuardia Airport into a world-class gateway to New York.

LaGuardia Airport Redevelopment Plan 

In 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo first unveiled his vision for the comprehensive redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport. Under his plan, a whole new LGA will provide a world-class, 21st century passenger experience featuring modern customer amenities, state-of-the-art architecture, more spacious gate areas and a unified terminal system.

The $8 billion project, two-thirds of which is funded through private financing and existing passenger fees, broke ground four years ago in 2016.

The selection of Marvel represents the Port Authority’s continuing commitment to Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) participation during the construction of a ‘Whole New LaGuardia Airport.’ 

To date, more than $1.6 billion in contracts have been awarded to MWBE firms at LaGuardia, more than any other public-private project in New York state history. Overall, the LaGuardia project is expected to generate $10 billion in economic activity and $2.5 billion in wages over the life of the project.

Following Cuomo’s vision for ‘A Whole New LGA,’ the Port Authority is working hand in hand with local elected officials, stakeholders and Queens residents to ensure local businesses, MWBEs and jobseekers take advantage of new opportunities as part of LaGuardia Airport’s redevelopment and economic growth. 

Since the beginning of the project, nearly $700 million in contracts have been awarded to local businesses based in Queens.

George Dixon, president of the NAACP-Corona East Elmhurst Branch, said a renewed Flushing Promenade will be a great benefit for the community while advancing economic equity. 

“The Port Authority’s continued and historic commitment to hiring MWBE firms as well as Queens-based companies at LaGuardia Airport’s redevelopment has never been more important than at a time when communities of color and the people of Queens have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dixon said.