LaGuardia Community College hosted a pop-up plaza event on 29th Street and Skillman Avenue in Long Island City on Wednesday, May 11, to promote the student-led initiative to convert the strip into a traffic-free public space.
More than 1,000 people showed up to support the LaGuardia Community Greenway Project, which would make 29th Street a designated open space. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Councilwoman Julie Won both attended the event, which had live music, games and a job fair for students.
The student-led President’s Society Environmental (PSE) group, created the LaGuardia Community Greenway vision plan as a way to enhance sustainability and encourage community involvement in restoring the nearby Newtown Creek.
PSE presented the idea to the Department of Transportation (DOT) last year, where the city verbally agreed to include 29th Street from Skillman Avenue to 47th Avenue in the designated open streets program.
The students’ proposal would completely close off 29th Street to traffic and instead line the road with benches, trees and gardens, while 30th Street would be shared with light traffic, pedestrians and cyclists.
The benefits of this plan are extensive, students argue. Closing these streets off to traffic will allow for improved campus life and hands-on learning through access to the waterway, space for agricultural opportunities and increased pedestrian safety.
According to student and PSE leader Arhum Aamir, this project would be a huge benefit to him and his classmates.
“There’s barely any green space in the area. It’s pretty much an urban, concrete jungle,” Aamir said. “LaGuardia students are very social and outgoing, and they don’t really get to mingle as much as they would if we had the green space on campus.”
Aamir commented that his community, in general, doesn’t have enough green space but hopes this project will be a catalyst for change.
“Having such a large area converted into permanent green space should hopefully cascade into other areas of Long Island City,” Aamir said. “The only open space we have on campus is a courtyard in one of our campus buildings. Outdoor classes, gatherings and events — we don’t have a space to do that at all.”
Won said that LaGuardia students deserve to have an open green space to study, congregate and just relax.
“This is a given at most colleges and it’s crazy that we have not prioritized this in previous administrations,” Won said. “I will work with the students and the DOT to ensure that this project becomes permanent. This shows how much potential our streets have when we look past using them solely to promote cars and look to use them to remedy the lack of open space we have in our city.”
LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams emphasized that the open streets wouldn’t just benefit his students, but the community as a whole.
“It’s not just about LaGuardia, it’s about the second word in our name: community,” Adams said. “Everybody will benefit from this. And that’s the function of a community college — to open up our doors, to reach out to the community and produce something that will really have lasting benefits.”