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NYC DOT Celebrates the Tenth Anniversary of Its Public Plaza Program

City now has 74 plazas – over 30 acres of land transformed for use by pedestrians and neighbors in every borough

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg today joined elected officials and community leaders at Corona Plaza in Queens to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the plaza program, and to showcase a record number of completed plaza projects -- which now cover 30 acres of land Citywide -- almost 23 football fields.

“Over the past decade, we have grown from small beginnings on Pearl Street in Downtown Brooklyn to 74 plazas citywide,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “But while our work in Times Square may the most famous, our work in other boroughs has been just as important.  With the support of the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, DOT has provided vital maintenance and technical assistance to dozens of our most high-need plaza partners, organizations providing vital maintenance and programming.  From Corona to Washington Heights and from Bushwick to Fordham Road, our partners are delivering beautiful public space and great programming in neighborhood space that was once limited to cars and traffic.”

“Great cities are known for their public plazas, and DOT’s plaza program brings beautiful public spaces to neighborhoods all over the City,” said NYC Department of Design and Construction Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio. “DDC is proud to be a partner in the program, working with DOT on projects such as Astor Plaza in Manhattan and Myrtle-Cooper Plaza in Queens, which have reclaimed space for pedestrians, calmed traffic and increased safety. We look forward to opening more plazas in every borough.”

Recent and upcoming ribbon cuttings on plazas include Diversity Plaza in Queens, Pershing Square in Manhattan, Fowler Square in Brooklyn, and Roberto Clemente Plaza in the Bronx.

Saturday’s event featured food from the new Mercado de Corona Plaza, a showcase of some of select plaza partners, including GrowNYC, the Neighborhood Plaza Program, and the Queens Museum, live performances, and an exhibition about the transformative NYC Plaza Program.

"When they're done right, plazas help our streets come alive and help bring neighborhoods together," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "I'm glad the Department of Transportation is focused on making at-grade spaces, both in Manhattan and in the other boroughs, where people can live life. A city where every scrap of space is filled with cars or people hustling to avoid them isn't a healthy city."

"The public plaza program has been a boon for Queens neighborhoods and families. Its success has been in large part due to the valuable community input from local stakeholders – including residents, businesses and civic organizations – as well as the City’s inclusion of such input in designing and reconfiguring the City’s streetscape,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

"New York City’s public plaza program has brought our residents together and created pockets of calm throughout our bustling streets,” said Congress Member Joe Crowley. “I know I speak for all Queens residents in being delighted by the new and improved Diversity Plaza, a wonderful slice of our borough’s vibrant culture and an excellent example of the NYC plaza program’s full potential. The 10 year celebration of this program will shed light on the crucial ways it has improved the quality of life for all New Yorkers and I encourage all to participate!”

“Public plazas and spaces are magnets for social gatherings and community empowerment,” said State Senator Jose Peralta. “Corona Plaza is a staple in the community and is now finally stepping into the 21st Century. With this new modern public space available, neighbors and children will enjoy their free time and hang out with family and friends. I applaud the city’s Department of Transportation for transforming this plaza and making it more accessible and friendly.&rdquo

“Corona Plaza has always been a vital part of the neighborhood that I was born and raised in,” said Assembly Member Ari Espinal. “Its renovation and transformation into a vibrant public space for all residents to enjoy is an important positive development for our community. I thank the Department of Transportation and all other parties involved in this project and look forward to continued collaboration with the NYC Plaza Program to ensure all residents of the 39th Assembly district have access to the high quality public space they deserve.”

“I want to commend the Department of Transportation and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on their advocacy to make the NYC Plaza Program a success,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “Now in its 10th year, the Public Plaza Program has made a significant improvement in how our public spaces are utilized. The new plazas have helped revitalize our neighborhoods through the implementation of greenery and seating areas for residents to enjoy. In addition, they provide a welcoming environment for visitors to New York and to so many who call our city home. It is my hope that by working together, we can continue to beautify our public spaces for the next generation of New Yorkers.”

“Through the New York City plaza program, my district was able to see Avenue C Plaza completed, which now provides extremely popular and exciting programming to reflect the diverse community it serves,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “I’m pleased to celebrate 10 outstanding years of the plaza program, and I look forward to many more. Huge thanks to the Department of Transportation and its plaza partners for their work to complete a record number of plaza projects that benefit communities across the City.”  

“The OneNYC Plaza Equity Program is a wonderful tool for our city to provide residents with quality public spaces and foster a real sense of community, all with the benefit of increasing pedestrian safety,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “By focusing on moderate to low income neighborhoods and using an approach that incorporates community members in each step, DOT’s work is sure to benefit all New Yorkers. I congratulate the Department of Transportation on this 10-year milestone achievement.”

“The expansion of plazas through the OneNYC Plaza Equity program will ensure communities have vibrant spaces that are accessible to residents and available to meet the diverse needs of the neighborhood,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “I look forward to partnering with DOT to bring more open spaces and plazas to the Bronx.”

“The plaza program started with the idea that neighborhood streets can be places,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, former Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, who founded the NYC Plaza Program in 2008 under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “A decade later, we’ve gone from zero to 60, and today the plaza program has found its own place in the city’s neighborhoods.”

“The City’s plaza program is a brilliant way to create open space in dense environments, providing hubs for communities to do everything from sell produce to dance,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “Years ago, I saw firsthand as local residents reclaimed Corona Plaza as their own, making it into a place to eat, perform, exercise, access services, rally, and to weave a richer social and civic fabric. Congratulations on the first decade of the program, and I look forward to many more.”

"The pedestrian plaza program has transformed once traffic-clogged intersections into iconic and engaging public spaces. These plazas convey an important message: New York is a city where people come first -- not cars," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "We congratulate the Department of Transportation on a successful first 10 years of the plaza program, and we look forward to being a partner in reclaiming our streets for people during the next 10 years."

DOT partners with selected organizations to transform underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces. Pedestrian plazas enhance safety, accessibility, and create more walkable neighborhoods throughout New York City. Through a citywide competitive process, eligible organizations apply annually to the NYC Plaza Program to propose new plaza sites in their communities. DOT prioritizes sites in low to moderate income neighborhoods that lack open space, and community groups commit to manage and maintain these spaces.

Plazas begin as one day events which allow communities to test their ideas and witness the outcomes first hand. Then DOT and the plaza partner solicit feedback from local stakeholders in a series of public workshops and eventually present a concept the community board. With local support on a developed proposal, DOT implements interim plazas using gravel, planters, and moveable furniture. Plaza partners keep the space clean and program local events.

DOT continues to monitor the space and work with the community on a permanent plaza design. Permanently redesigned plazas build out a flush surface building to building and feature new trees, plantings, green infrastructure, seating, pedestrian lighting, drinking fountains, and artwork in some cases.

The Mayor’s OneNYC Plaza Equity Program ensures that all New Yorkers have access to high quality public space throughout the city. Through this program, DOT is able to provide daily maintenance, horticultural care, technical, and financial assistance to Plaza Program partners of varying organizational capacities.  This assistance enables community stewardship of vital public spaces in places that might not otherwise be able to reap their benefits.  

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