Urban landscapes are chock full of odd confluences of roadways that meet at weird angles. These awkward intersections are often home to small parks and green spaces that aim to bring some greenery to a world of concrete and asphalt.
The meeting point for Jamaica Avenue, the Van Wyck Expressway, Kew Gardens Road and Metropolitan Avenue is one of these oddball intersections. Twenty-five years ago, this corner was the site of an elevated train station — the Metropolitan Avenue station on the J line.
But in the late 1980s, the elevated tracks over Jamaica Avenue were torn down east of Richmond Hill and the E train was extended to Jamaica Center, passing directly below the intersection. A new station was built along the E line, this time underground, and the DOT restructured the roads to make the intersection safer and help traffic flow better.
The end result was a triangle-shaped plaza, two blocks north of Jamaica Hospital, bordered by the Van Wyck Expressway service road, Jamaica Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue. In the center of the plaza is a kiosk that serves as an entrance to the Jamaica-Van Wyck subway station, which opened on Dec. 11, 1988.
The plot also includes benches and trees. On warm summer mornings, the plaza is a popular place for commuters to stop for a cup of coffee and read the newspaper before catching their train or bus. At least four bus lines stop only steps from the plaza.
Often, nurses and doctors from Jamaica Hospital and nearby medical facilities can be seen in scrubs having lunch on the plaza’s benches.
When the plaza was built in the late 1980s, future-Queens Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy told Community Board 9 that he wanted to have it added to his agency’s jurisdiction.
But that never happened, and today no one is sure which agency is responsible for the plaza and CB 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey wants someone to take on its maintenance.
“The park is a mess,” Carey said. “And we have no idea whose responsibility it is.”
A flagpole on the site is littered with sticker ads and blue graffiti scars the concrete barriers that separate the sitting area from green spaces, and much of the latter is overgrown with unkempt shrubbery. Litter, everything from old newspapers to empty potato chip bags, is scattered on the ground around the benches.
“It’s a rat’s paradise,” one commuter said.
Carey said the Sanitation Department comes and cleans the site on a regular basis at the request of the community board, but Carey would like to see the site put under the domain of a specific city agency.
A spokesman for the MTA said the agency takes care of the subway station entrance, which includes a good portion of the plaza. She has even reached out to the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services but has not heard back. “I just want it to be taken care of,” she said.
Carey also sent a letter to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, asking for some clarity on who controls the plaza and asking for the Parks Department to take it over, as was the plan when the plaza was first built more than 20 years ago.
“The 200-feet-by-200-feet plaza is a disgrace to our community,” Carey wrote. “The benches so carefully designed and placed are currently filled with derelicts, homeless, garbage and debris.”
She added that the street reconstruction that took place in the 1980s is “marred” by the derelict nature of the plaza and the situation makes it more difficult for the adjacent commercial strip along Jamaica Avenue to thrive. Carey also slammed the city on what she described as its general lack of attention to its green spaces.
“It is a testament to the failure of the City of New York to maintain its infrastructure,” she wrote.
DOT and the Parks Department did not respond to requests for comment.