Corona Plaza in Queens, N.Y., is a pedestrian open space with moveable furniture and planted containers, programmed throughout the year with arts and culture, and family activities. New York City built it in 2012 as part of a citywide program to bring attractive open spaces to dense urban areas. Local business support is critical to the long-term success of the plaza as a clean, safe, vibrant community space, and volunteer Edgar Gutierrez has been key to informing and engaging local businesses in the day-to-day as well as big-picture activities on the plaza. (Read about him receiving his Daily Point of Light Award in the Queens Courier.)
During the past year, Gutierrez has been the "eyes and ears on the plaza," keeping residents and businesses apprised on goings-on, and providing valuable feedback to the Queens Economic Development Corp. (QEDC) whenever issues arise. When the City or the QEDC calls community meetings, without request or prompting, Gutierrez prints and distributes notices, goes door-to-door to encourage other business managers and owners to participate, and is always at the ready to help the plaza manager with programming ideas and implementation. The plaza is located in the heart of one of New York's (and the country's) most diverse and dense neighborhoods. Immigrants from around the world live there, and desperately need the open space this plaza provides, as well as the cultural programming it makes possible.
Gutierrez's outreach to businesses – many of them immigrant-owned and struggling – is in close cooperation with the QEDC. He is helping the QEDC develop long-term relationships with business owners who can then benefit from a range of other small business assistance programs.
Gutierrez's outreach efforts are ensuring that these businesses are engaged in the city-sponsored visioning sessions for the plaza's re-design and permanent construction. Having their voices heard in this process will ensure that official decisions are made with a balanced community input. Long-term, when these businesses feel engaged the plaza will be well cared for and better serve this distressed community.
Gutierrez grew up in Queens' Washington Heights neighborhood and has worked at the Walgreens on Corona Plaza in Queens for the past six years. He is motivated to go above and beyond his managerial duties because he cares about this community, and he has observed first-hand that the plaza has improved business, pedestrian safety, and community interaction. He is a natural leader, an unofficial “Mayor of the Plaza” and feels both a personal and professional duty to serve his community.