It’s Thursday afternoon in Corona Plaza, Queens, and the heavy summer air is alive with noise. Trucks zoom loudly up and down Roosevelt Avenue, and the deafening racket of the 7 trains—screeching to a halt and rumbling away on the overpass above—makes children clamp their hands over their little ears.
Signs crammed with colorful lettering stand tall above the pharmacies, restaurants, and small shops that surround the small plaza. Despite the heavy late-summer heat, few of the brightly painted metal tables scattered around the small triangle of asphalt are unoccupied; residents of Corona are everywhere. Families sit on metal garden chairs, red, orange, and yellow, talking in the shade of big umbrellas. A bearded youth in a filthy sweater eats the contents of a paper bag, alone, a hood pulled over his head. Two gentlemen with greying mustaches sit side by side. They are deep in conversation, but they gaze steadily ahead, their arms crossed.
Nobody is speaking in English, not even the children running around the center of the plaza. In fact, they aren’t talking at all: they are too busy chasing winged invaders away from the plaza. Some have effective strategies, like a dark-skinned boy in a green baseball cap. He sprints after the birds, shrieking and flapping his arms up and down like a skinny featherless eagle. He has the pigeons on the run, but they never fly too far, landing lazily only feet away from their pursuer.
Others are not so successful. A girl no older than three runs awkwardly after a particularly audacious specimen, which simply struts away from her, head bobbing back and forth arrogantly, not even bothering to unfold its wings. Yet the girl is undeterred. The pink bow in her hair glints as the glitter on its edges catches the light; she trots in circles around a huge flowerpot, in hot pursuit.
One kid has it all figured out: he ploughs through the square on his red bicycle, scattering birds by the dozen as he giggles in triumph.