Andy Olivan" />
Council Member Julie Won and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards at the Pop-up Plaza

The path from the 33rd St Rawson Subway Station heading towards LaGuardia Community College is filled with heavy traffic and large industrial buildings. The roads that connect to huge parking lots don’t allow for any adequate space for trees along the narrow concrete sidewalks.

But some students from LaGuardia are determined to change this. In their vision—the campus and surroundings are green and filled with trees. 

“We believe in creating an outdoor space that can benefit not just students at the school, but the entire community,” said Anthony La Mattina, who is an ambassador for the program, President’s Society Environment. This student group is spearheading this effort. The President’s Society Environment program is a year-long program. It provides an opportunity for students to be a part of community-led solutions and projects to address local environmental issues.

Mattina said the goal is to create a green campus space for the school and for the Long Island City community. This will be called the LaGuardia Community Greenway. This college program connects entrepreneurial students with community-based environmental projects aimed at making neighborhoods more sustainable.

Students become ambassadors, they learn how to become activists making their voices heard by collaborating with community and government organizations.

Jennifer Guaraca, who is the program’s coordinator, said “The LaGuardia Community Greenway was conceived through the PSE program in late fall 2020. By the third year, they pitched the idea to President Adams, leaders of nearby business as well as community organizations.”

The Pop-up Plaza/Spring Fest that took place on April 6 and May 11, was an event that was intended to gain support from students and faculty for the vision plan.

By reallocating the street space and reprioritizing the streets adjacent to LaGuardia CC’s buildings, the envisioned outdoor campus would strengthen its relationship with the neighboring community.

Behind the C building of the college, a green plaza will provide space for a multipurpose natural green landscape and incorporate a pollinator pathway to provide vegetation for native pollinators.

“It can help jumpstart the environment’s air quality. It can promote positive mental health since it would allow students to go outside and relax looking at the green view,” said Guaraca.

Guaraca also added how the space will promote and foster experiential learning while special events can take place outside the area where outside organizations can do showcases.

A portion of the road next to the B building will alleviate current vehicle and pedestrian conflict by ensuring a standing and sitting space for food vendors and their customers.

Public water access behind the school is crucial to the vision plan because it provides community involvement in restoring the Creek, since next to it is an epa superfund site full of industrial pollution.

This plan would also integrate with the LIC Bike Neighborhood plan with protected bike lanes.

“We’re gathering community support. We need students and faculty to call and write to their local city council members to demand that this vision be approved. This is a community effort,” said Maria Fonseca, who is another ambassador for the program’s communication team.

“We sent out surveys to see what students and faculty would like to see in the plan. As far as I can tell we’ve gotten positive reactions, the greenway vision would be open to the entire community,” said La Mattina.

The vision plan will offer LaGuardia students and LIC community members the ability to learn more about the natural surroundings. It will balance the existing communities with the proper greenery resilience that it deserves.

Guaraca added, “We were going to be in the planning phase. It took Baruch college 10 years to create the plaza that they have. For us it is said that it’ll take longer to construct. Things like this take time.”

The President’s Society Environment contributions to this plan is made possible by the generous financial support of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation whose meaningful investment is in developing environment activists and for establishing the three-year PSE program.