Rest stops are not just for turnpikes anymore 1

George AbiZeid, president and CEO of Airport Plazas, holding scissors, is joined by other dignitaries as he prepares to cut the ribbon at the JFK Travel Plaza last Thursday.

Rest stops are commonly affiliated with the highways that spread out across the country serving drivers making the long trek between destinations; roads like the New York State Thruway, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Mass Pike. Rest stops — with the exception of a couple of gas stations on the Grand Central Parkway — are not something you see in Queens.

Until now.

Nestled in the heart of the airport’s cargo area, the new JFK Travel Plaza in Building 125 is located at a former garage for city buses at 147th Avenue and 147th Street, just a block from the JFK Expressway, the main route into and out of the airport used primarily for those heading east.

Similar to the thruway and turnpike rest stops, the JFK Travel Plaza offers fuel, food and other services, including a car wash and a dry cleaners. The new plaza employs around 80 people.

George AbiZeid, president and CEO of Airport Plazas, a company that operates similar service areas in other airports, including Indianapolis and Newark, said the idea for the facility first started in 2007 when he was asked to take part in a Request for Proposals for a Sunoco gas station at the site, which at the time was a vacant overgrown lot surrounded by a dilapidated fence.

“Little did we know then that it would turn into this,” AbiZeid, who built several rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike, said at the JFK Travel Plaza’s official grand opening last Thursday, though the plaza had been operating for several months.

Besides the Sunoco gas station that was the original intent of the site, the plaza boasts several eateries, including a Wendy’s, Qdoba and a Max’s Pizza. It is anchored by a 7-Eleven store.

The plaza even offers recharge facilities for Tesla electric cars on site.

Though it’s located off the main routes into and out of the airport, operators are not concerned about that. A tall sign promoting the concession at the plaza hovers overhead and is easily seen from the Belt Parkway and JFK Expressway.

The plaza was constructed fairly quickly. Ground was broken on the project in October, 2012 and it opened for business 14 months later.

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