BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
The underbelly of the 7 train in Sunnyside got a little brighter this week.
Bliss Plaza, the first of two new public plazas coming to the neighborhood, officially opened Tuesday afternoon. Cutting the ribbon were Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Rachel Thieme, executive director of Sunnyside Shines BID, as well as DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall and Community Board 2 chair Joe Conley, among others.
Following Bliss will be Lowery Plaza at the 40th Street stop.
Sunnyside Shines will manage these plazas, which are made possible through the DOT’s Plaza Program. Through the program, organizations throughout the City can apply to have sites in their neighborhoods transformed into open pedestrian spaces.
The DOT could not immediately confirm the cost of building the plaza. According to Thieme, maintenance will run the BID around $15,000 this year, after help from a Neighborhood Plaza Partnership subsidy.
This cost does not include cultural programming or installing Wi-Fi, which Thieme said the organization is interested in accomplishing in the future.
Bliss Plaza is located under one of the City’s busiest turnstiles, at the 7 train’s 46th Street stop. According to Conley, approximately 4.7 million people – twice the population of the Borough – pass through there every year.
“It’s transforming a place that tens of thousands of Sunnysiders and Woodsiders come to every single day,” Van Bramer said.
“People are embracing it, they like it,” Conley said. “It really sets an identity in the neighborhood.”
At the ribbon cutting, many of the plaza’s 24 seats were already filled.
Harriet Cummings has been a Sunnyside resident for 35 years. She said that the spot used to be dirty, littered with garbage and bird droppings. Now, she said, “I think it’s beautiful.”
Cummings added, “people come off the subway, they can sit down, they can have coffee, they can relax before they go home. And the people that used to sit outside in the sun, they can come here and sit down and relax.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.