NYC Plaza Program

plaza website photo

DOT works with selected 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 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 organizations in any area of the City.

Applicants must be:

  • Organizations operating in New York City
  • Incorporated in New York State and compliant with annual State and Federal filing requirements
  • Located near or have a mission that serves or relates to the geographical target area of 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.

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 these workshops.
  • Design: A team of designers will be responsible for the design process. 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: 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: Partners must provide appropriate insurance on the plaza.
  • Maintenance: Before construction is complete, the Partner 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 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 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, DOT website, 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 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 has an insufficient amount of open space
  • Community initiative: the extent to which the applicant had developed and executed a community outreach plan, built consensus for the site, and solidified local stakeholder support
  • Site context: the proposed site's appropriateness to the adjacent land uses, population density, proximity to transit, safety, and other nearby open space.
  • Organizational and maintenance 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 as designated by the US Department of Housing & Urban Development as eligible for Community Development Block Grants.

Applying

The NYC Plaza Program is now accepting applications! For questions, please email plazas@dot.nyc.gov

Applicants must demonstrate local support for the proposed plaza by providing at least 8 letters of support from 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, and neighborhood residents.

Any organization interested in applying to the Plaza Program must submit an application to DOT no later than Wednesday, August 31, 2016.

2016 Guidelines (pdf) 2016 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?

Applications for plaza sites that are 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?

Partners may enter into a concession agreement that gives them opportunities to generate revenue from subconcessions, 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 a 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.

Posting of Notices and Signs on Pedestrian Plazas

When using pedestrian plazas, you must comply with all plaza rules, including DOT Traffic Rules § 4-16(d)(1):
(1) Posting of notices and signs.

(i) No person shall post, display, affix, construct or carry any placard, flag, banner, sign or model in or on any pedestrian plaza or display any such item by means of aircraft, kite, or other aerial device in, on, or above the surface of any pedestrian plaza for any purpose whatsoever, without permission from the Department. Each separate item placed in violation of this paragraph shall constitute a separate violation.

(ii) Notwithstanding subparagraph (i) above, any person may carry any item described in subparagraph (i) above, without the aid of any aircraft, kite, or other aerial device, where the space on which the message of such item is contained has a height no greater than two feet and a length no longer than three feet, and that such item takes up a total area of no more than six square feet.

(iii) Any person who posts or displays a sign in, on, or above the surface of any pedestrian plaza, shall be responsible for removal of such sign. Failure to remove any sign that is posted or displayed in, on, or above the surface of any pedestrian plaza or that remains on such property shall constitute a violation of these rules.

(iv) In the event that a notice or sign, in violation of paragraph (i) above, is posted or displayed in, on, or above the surface of any pedestrian plaza, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that any person whose name, telephone number, or other identifying information appears on such notice or sign has violated paragraph (i) by either: (A) Pasting, posting, painting , printing or nailing such notice or sign, or (B) Directing or permitting a servant, agent, employee or other individual under such person’s control to engage in such activity; provided, however, that such rebuttable presumption shall not apply with respect to criminal prosecutions brought pursuant to this subparagraph (iv).

If you would like to display a sign in a pedestrian plaza that does not comply with DOT Traffic Rules § 4-16(d)(1) (e.g., a sign larger than 3’x2’ and 6 square feet), send an email including the following information to plazas@dot.nyc.gov at least 7 days before you would like to display the sign.

Your request should include:
i. Subject line should read, “Sign Request”
ii. The location where the sign will be displayed (i.e., the pedestrian plaza, specifying the approximate portion(s) of the plaza);
iii. The dimensions of the sign;
iv. The material the sign will be made of;
v. The manner in which the sign will be displayed;
vi. The duration the sign will be displayed;
vii. Contact information where the response can be sent.

The Pedestrian Plaza program will evaluate your request and will let you know if it can be accommodated or if it needs to be modified to ensure safety and pedestrian flow in the plaza.