NYC Plaza Program

DOT works with selected not-for-profit organizations to create neighborhood plazas throughout the City to transform underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces. The NYC Plaza Program is a key part of the City's effort to ensure that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of quality open space.

Eligible not-for-profit organizations can propose new plaza sites for their neighborhoods through a competitive application process. DOT prioritizes sites that are in neighborhoods that lack open space, and partners with community groups that commit to operate, maintain, and manage these spaces so they are vibrant pedestrian plazas.

Eligibility

The NYC Plaza Program is open to all nonprofit organizations in any area of the City.

Applicants must be:

  • Nonprofit organizations operating in New York City
  • Incorporated in New York State and compliant with annual State and Federal filing requirements for nonprofit organizations
  • Certified tax exempt under Internal Revenue Service Code § 501 (c)
  • Located near the proposed plaza

Responsibilities

If your site is selected, DOT will fund the design and construction of the plaza. With community input through public visioning workshops, DOT assists partners in developing a conceptual design appropriate to the neighborhood. A professional team of designers then uses the conceptual design to create formal plans. Partners are involved throughout the design process. Possible amenities may include tables and seating, trees and plants, lighting, bike racks, public art, and drinking fountains.

Not-for-profit partner organizations will be responsible for the following:

  • Outreach: partners will reach out to the public to gather relevant data and to provide active participation in the public workshops, which may include promotion, surveying, and coordination of participants during visioning workshops.
  • Design: A team of designers will be responsible for the design process. Nonprofit partners will be expected to participate in regular design meetings with DOT and the designers so that the design is appropriate to the neighborhood context, that it meets local needs, and that plazas are designed with acceptable materials and amenities.
  • Funding Plan: Nonprofit partners will develop a funding plan that outlines how the organization will fund and manage the plaza for the long term. To demonstrate that steps are being taken toward the funding plan, the nonprofit partner will provide DOT progress reports.
  • Insurance: nonprofit partners must provide appropriate insurance on the plaza.
  • Maintenance: Before construction is complete, the not-for-profit organization will enter into an agreement with DOT for the maintenance of the plaza so that the site is kept clean and in a state of good repair. The specific maintenance services to be provided may include daily sweeping, watering of plants, removing stickers and graffiti, and shoveling snow.
  • Programming & Events: To make the plazas vibrant centers of activity and neighborhood destinations, the nonprofit partner will be expected to program activities and events at the site, which may include holiday events, food or craft markets, temporary public art installations or exhibits, and music and dancing.

As needed, DOT will monitor and inspect the plazas to assess and confirm that the not-for-profit partner organizations are fulfilling their responsibility as set forth in an Agreement with DOT.

Community Outreach

DOT informs the public about Plaza Program opportunities via the City record, Web site, social media, information sessions in each borough and presentations to borough boards and at district service and cabinet meetings. DOT also contacts housing, environmental, business, cultural, and health organizations and nonprofits, as well as all business improvement districts citywide. Check the DOT Events Calendar for upcoming information sessions

DOT holds public visioning workshops that are open to everyone to solicit input that helps to form the basis for all plaza designs.

Priorities

Applications are reviewed and evaluated according to the City's strategic goals as presented in PlaNYC and site-specific criteria, including:

  • Open space: whether or not the neighborhood lacked open space
  • Community initiative: the extent to which the applicant had developed a community plan, consensus for the site, and garnered local support
  • Site context: the proposed site's relationship to surrounding land uses and businesses, proximity to transit, the presence of significant view corridors or historic sites, and pedestrian activity
  • Organizational capacity: the extent to which the applicant is willing and able to program activities, maintain, operate and manage the plaza once it is built
  • Income eligibility: applicants received additional points for proposals located in neighborhoods that qualify as low- or moderate-income

Applying

The NYC Plaza Program is now accepting applications for Round 7 plazas. The deadline for submitting applications is Wednesday, October 1, 2014. Please read the below guidelines thoroughly before applying to the program. For questions, please plazas@dot.nyc.gov.

Applicants must demonstrate local support for the proposed plaza by providing at least 10 letters of support from key community stakeholders, including but not limited to adjacent properties/businesses, nearby institutions (such as churches or schools), elected officials, other not-for-profit groups, neighborhood or block associations, or neighborhood residents.

Any organization interested in applying to the Plaza Program must submit an application to DOT. Please read the guidelines before applying. Guidelines (pdf) Application (pdf)

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of DOT's capital budget include plazas?

About 1 percent.

What’s the minimum size of a plaza?

Sites less than 2,000 square feet are not encouraged.

Is advertising permitted in plazas?

No. Advertising is not permitted in the plazas. Banners on light poles, however, may be installed in accordance with the DOT Banner Permit Program. In general, the banners must promote cultural exhibits and events or public or historical events which foster tourism and/or enhance the image of the City (see section 14 of the City's Highway Rules). Learn more about Banner Permits

Do plazas generate income?

Community partners may enter into an agreement that gives them opportunities to generate income from sub-concessions, limited sponsorships and commercial events. All revenue must go back into the maintenance, management, and operation of the plazas.

Must the organization be registered with the Vendor Information Exchange System (VENDEX) with New York City prior to applying to the Plaza Program?

No. Nevertheless, VENDEX submittal is required prior to executing the Master Concession Agreement. Visit www.nyc.gov/vendex

How has the Plaza Program affected parking?

In some cases a new plaza has a very limited effect on parking. DOT relies on community stakeholders to determine how best to use the streets and can support feasible requests. All plazas go through a review process requiring DOT to evaluate parking impacts and potentially identifying new spaces.

Does reclaiming streets for plazas cause traffic congestion?

In some parts of the city, there is excess road space. In such places, a portion of the road can be reclaimed for pedestrian use without significantly affecting traffic. In other areas, reclaiming street space can have potential impacts on traffic, in which case a traffic analysis would be required. Nevertheless, as a general rule, the Plaza Program will not pursue proposals that would produce significant adverse impacts on traffic.

Does DOT conduct a traffic analysis for plazas?

DOT conducts the same types of analysis for plazas that it conducts for other projects. Analysis may include traffic and pedestrian counts, crash data, parking impacts, nearby bicycle, bus, or truck route impacts, surrounding land uses and access to transit and open space. In some cases, a full traffic study may be required.

How are plazas evaluated?

After plazas are completed, DOT and its partners conduct studies to determine the results. Studies include pedestrian and vehicle counts, accident data, reports from the nonprofit partners and surveys targeted to get feedback from the public, businesses and landlords.

What if the community has concerns about a plaza after its built?

If a community has issues with a plaza that has been built, DOT works closely with area residents, business-owners, elected officials and Community Board to define the issues and make changes to make the project work better.