About the Project:
In 2015, New York City Department of Transportation commissioned an urban design plan for Queens Boulevard, the pinnacle boulevard within the agency’s Great Streets program. To increase safety for all users along this dangerous corridor, DOT determined that two of the roadway’s twelve lanes would be converted from vehicular use into bicycle and pedestrian space on widened malls which divide the central carriageway from service roads. Our plan identifies the form and function of this new public realm by developing guiding principles for the redesign of the street and by establishing strategies to improve social and ecological health along the corridor. In total, the enhanced roadway will create five miles of linear parkland to connect the disparate neighborhoods of Queens.
The urban design plan for Queens Boulevard anticipates that nearby residents will extend their lives into the boulevard as soon as it becomes safe and hospitable. Lines of thriving trees with a continuous canopy will define and protect this new public space by reducing the perceived width of the street, slowing driving speeds, and creating a sense of enclosure and refuge within the new pedestrian malls. Continuous bike lanes integrated into the malls will connect to the partial Queens bike network to provide an east-west bicycle boulevard for the underserved borough.
To create spaces worth visiting, the plan builds upon the variation present on the boulevard, such as long views, slopes, and adjacent neighborhoods. For example, where the roadway rises to a high point, the pedestrian malls emphasize the view toward Manhattan. A level “valley” section surrounded by apartments incorporates more social seating areas with a dense tree understory to provide additional protection from cars and trucks.
The plants and materials selected for Queens Boulevard are both tough and ecologically beneficial. The expanded medians will capture road runoff before it enters the sewer system in this stormwater priority zone. To enable the trees to reach their mature
size, the new wide medians will have continuous planting beds with ample soil and access to air to support healthy root development. In locations where the roadway configuration compresses the medians, suspended pavements allow pedestrians and healthy trees to share the space. A wildflower meadow within the center median will support birds and butterflies migrating along the Atlantic flyway, while the 4500 new trees will repair a void through the urban forest of Queens.
The Queens Boulevard Urban Design Plan integrates mobility, ecology, and place- making into a 21st century boulevard. It is a model for transforming roadway infrastructure into high-performance public space.