New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora today announced the ribbon cutting of the Plaza de Las Americas project in Washington Heights. DOT Commissioner Trottenberg also announced the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, a new $1.4 million technical assistance and maintenance program for designated medium and high need plazas citywide, included in Mayor de Blasio’s City budget for 2016
The Plaza de Las Americas project created a town square or plaza for the Washington Heights community turning the block of W 175th Street between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue into a 16,000 square foot of pedestrian space with multiple amenities, including pedestrian lighting and benches, tree planting, decorative paving, a storage/utility column, an automatic public toilet, and an artwork fountain by artist Ester Partegás celebrating the plurality and richness of cultures that make up La Plaza.
“The de Blasio Administration is thrilled to cut the ribbon on New York’s newest plaza — Plaza de las Americas in Washington Heights,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “The de Blasio Administration is also thrilled to announce our OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, which will provide $1.4 million to 30 plazas in need of assistance with maintenance and management. This program will support our plaza partners as they work to offer safe, attractive and enjoyable neighborhood public spaces citywide.”
“DDC is proud to have partnered with the New York City Department of Transportation, our elected officials and community stakeholders for the ribbon-cutting of Plaza de Las Americas. The reconstruction of this new plaza will offer a unique opportunity for the community to enjoy a safe, high-quality open space while providing upgrades to infrastructure facilities. DDC is committed to Mayor de Blasio’s vision for a healthy and sustainable city and to building well-designed, safe environments that enhance our communities and contribute to the City’s growth,” noted Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Design and Construction.
“New York’s public spaces play an essential role in the life of our city, acting as markets, meeting places, and sites for activity and engagement where our neighborhoods coalesce,” said Edwin Torres, Acting Commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. “We are proud to have worked with so many dedicated community partners to commission Ester Partegás’ extraordinary artwork, providing a visual anchor that brings even more energy to this vibrant public space.”
“The Plaza de las Americas and its beautiful center piece fountain will bring our community together, just as plazas do throughout the Americas. I want to thank the artist Ester Partegàs for bringing great beauty and symbolism to the project, and transforming this streetscape. I am pleased to see this project, after years of work by the DOT and DDC, open to the community,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat.
“High-quality public spaces add character and community to our neighborhoods,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “This 10,000 square foot permanent plaza will provide Washington Heights with a beautiful, tree-lined space that can host farmer’s markets and public events.”
“Our community is being revitalized at every corner! After years of planning, today we come together to celebrate a location our community has valued for decades transformed into an even better venue. La Plaza de las Americas will be a focal point for the communities of Northern Manhattan and assuredly a boon to local business and our very active street vendors. I want to thank Commissioner Trottenberg and Commissioner Peña-Mora, Dennis Reeder, the whole team at the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation, the designers Victoria Milne and Xenia Diente, and the Artist Ester Partegàs making Washington Heights even more beautiful!,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
“For the first time Washington Heights has a real center! A central plaza that we can point to and say this is the heart of our community,” said Dennis Reeder, Executive Director Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation.
GrowNYC's Greenmarket has been bringing farm fresh products to the residents of Washington Heights and Inwood for decades and we couldn’t be more excited to start the 2016 season of our 175th Street Greenmarket at the brand new Plaza de Las Americas,” said Marcel Van Ooyen, GrowNYC Executive Director. GrowNYC is grateful to the NYC Department of Transportation and the NYC Department of Design and Construction for creating such a beautiful gathering space and to the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation and neighborhood residents for all of their wonderful support of our farmers over the years.”
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCLA) commissioned Ester Partegás’ artwork for the plaza site through its Percent for Art program. Together, DOT, DDC and DCLA worked closely with the community, conducting interviews, and public sessions to ensure the new plaza design met their needs. The artwork, The Source, is a functioning drinking water fountain that includes brightly colored mosaic patterns that reflect the richness and diversity of cultures that make up New York City, and serves as a distinctive landmark in the community. Partegàs is a contemporary artist who lives and works in NYC.
The Plaza de Las Americas was awarded $5 million in City funding in the first round of the NYC Plaza Program in 2008. The Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation (WHIDC) applied with the vision to make La Plaza a centerpiece of local cultural and economic life. The site has long served as a community marketplace six days a week but lacked any public amenities.
La Plaza was specifically designed to enhance the local vendor market and the Greenmarket serving the Washington Heights community on this small stretch of asphalt since 1994 and 1980 respectively. For the first time, market vendors will be able to access electrical power and water for their booths. La Plaza also features trees, pedestrian scale lighting, an information kiosk with wayfinding, benches, café tables and chairs, an Automatic Public Toilet, and an artwork fountain by artist Ester Partegás that references the style found in many town squares of the Caribbean, Central and South America.
La Plaza, next to the historic United Palace Theater, can also accommodate public events; such as art shows, craft fairs, non-amplified folk music/dance, dramatic performances, poetry readings, and children’s programming.
There are 69 plazas throughout New York City in some phase of design, development or implementation managed and maintained by local not-for-profit partners. These are community based organizations that agree to raise funds necessary to provide plaza maintenance and programming. Plaza partners with limited capacity struggle to meet the demands of providing a high quality public space, particularly in outer borough neighborhoods.
To address this issue, Mayor de Blasio has included $1.4M in the city budget to provide technical assistance and maintenance services to plaza partners. The OneNYC Plaza Equity Program will deliver these services to designated medium and high need plaza partners. Medium and high-need partners are those organizations that have limited organizational capacity, small operating budgets, and lack experience in public space management and the plaza they maintain is located in a neighborhood with an insufficient amount of open space, low to moderate income, and that endures a significant amount of pedestrian traffic adding to the maintenance burden. Using this criterion, NYCDOT has identified 30 plazas that fall in the medium or high need categories.
Providing this support enables every community in the city to have a high quality public space and Partner organizations will get the help they need to maintain the high standards required by the NYC Plaza Program.
“My district is home to two plazas,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Both the 78th Street Plaza and Diversity Plaza are extremely popular, well-used neighborhood destinations each managed by dedicated volunteers. The assistance provided by way of the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program will bolster their efforts to provide our community with amazing public spaces for all to enjoy. With this program, the Mayor and the Department of Transportation have demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring that all New Yorkers can reap the benefits of high quality public spaces right in their neighborhoods.”
“Plaza de las Americas is another shining example of how plazas across NYC are highly valued spaces that bring communities together, from Times Square, to Brownsville, to Jackson Heights, to Kensington,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “The OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, will ensure that all neighborhood plazas, no matter the level of maintenance needs or local capacity, will have equitable access to city resources and support. Thanks to Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, Commissioner Trottenberg, Commissioner Peña-Mora, and Mayor de Blasio for making sure public spaces in all neighborhoods get the attention they need. Thanks as well to Neighborhood Plaza Partnerships for their tireless support, advocacy, and care of plazas in NYC.”
“The OneNYC Plaza Equity Program will provide much needed resources that will allow Fulton Are Business Alliance to respond to repeated requests we get from community residents to keep the plazas open later into the evening especially as days get longer during the warm summer months, and requests to do more free community events and activities that play such a vital role in bringing the community together.” said Executive Director of the Fulton Are Business Alliance, Phillip Kellog
“The OneNYC Plaza Equity Program ensures that neighborhood plazas across our city can become viable, equitable, and accessible public spaces for all New Yorkers. It is a big step forward on behalf of many communities in our city that are in great need of open space but often lack the resources to sustain it on their own. In Jackson Heights, this program provides critical support for Diversity Plaza – a cherished community space that has become the town square of our neighborhood. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Trottenberg, and Council Member Daniel Dromm, Jackson Heights can continue to enjoy this special public place that reflects the remarkable diversity and vibrancy of our neighborhood,” said Shekar Krishnan, Chair of Friends of Diversity Plaza, a member of a coalition of neighborhood groups that manage Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“The creation of the Ozone Park Plaza has transformed our community. It has expanded open space for our seniors, families and youth while making our streets safer. As a small community-based organization, we are constantly stretched thin as we strive to deliver the best services we can. The assistance provided by way of the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program will allow us to focus on bringing much needed programming and amenities to the neighborhood while still providing a safe, clean and welcoming plaza,” said Bangladeshi America Community Development and Youth Services Executive Director, Darma Diaz.
In the coming months, medium needs plazas will receive up to $20,000 and high needs partners will receive up to $80,000 in a range of materials, services, and programs to support the management and maintenance of the public space. Plaza partners will work closely with DOT to develop a support plan that meets the needs of their local group and plaza.
Support from the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program encompasses maintenance services including daily cleaning, trash removal, furniture management and horticultural care. Partner organizations will also receive technical assistance with navigating city permitting systems, maintenance issues and event planning. Additionally, partners will receive training in fundraising, fiscal management, media and public relations and other topics that will enhance their ability to maintain and manage their plaza. Plaza Partners taking part in this program will be eligible for up to three years of assistance and will roll off as their capacity to manage their plaza increases.
For more information about the NYC Plaza Program, and for program guidelines and applications, visit www.nyc.gov/plazas