May 16, 2023
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NYC DOT Announces up to $30 Million to Dramatically Expand Available Resources for Management of Plazas, Open Streets, Other Public Spaces
New Request For Proposals (RFP) will expand DOT’s current Plaza Equity Program, bring resources to more public spaces in underserved communities
NEW YORK – New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez today announced up to $30 million toward a Request For Proposal (RFP) to create and sustain high-quality public spaces, like plazas and Open Streets, and support community partners in neighborhoods across the five boroughs. The investment will support a new, expanded “Public Space Equity Program” to provide an innovative, wide-ranging set of tools and services in over 100 public spaces in under-resourced neighborhoods that do not otherwise have the means to support such locations. This represents a 233% increase from the original scope of 30 plazas receiving financial and maintenance resources through DOT’s public space equity efforts, first announced in 2015.
“We’ve been clear that public space is a critical ingredient in the recipe for a strong, inclusive economic recovery for our city. That’s why we’re investing $375 million to create vibrant, new public spaces in all five boroughs and now creating the Public Space Equity Program to ensure that every community can take full advantage,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “This administration understands that every community has different needs to create assets like Open Streets, and we will always keep equity at the center of our public space work.”
“Every neighborhood deserves safe, accessible, and vibrant plazas and Open Streets. This new funding recognizes the increased value of our streets as public space and this administration’s commitment to equity,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Rodriguez. “New York City’s Open Street program is the largest in the nation and we thank all of our community partners who have helped this program thrive.”
“This investment reflects our commitment to equity and providing diverse, vibrant public spaces accessible to all New Yorkers,” said Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. “I’m thrilled that this funding will enable DOT and the administration to further support community partners who are activating our public spaces.”
DOT currently provides a range of resources to plazas and Open Streets through the DOT’s OneNYC Plaza Equity Program (OPEP) and Open Streets program. To achieve the goal of equitable public space throughout the City, DOT currently provides horticultural care, maintenance services, financial subsidies, and a host of technical assistance tools to public space partner organizations. Through a new RFP, DOT will be able to better meet the needs of the diverse variety of public spaces the agency now creates in addition to plazas, like Open Streets, Street Seats, and Shared Streets.
The new Public Space Equity Program will provide additional resources to support all the new types of public spaces and partners in New York City. The program will provide operational and maintenance support for a broader set of gateways and street designs, horticulture care, workforce development options, enhanced accessibility, streamlined inspections and reporting, technical assistance, community engagement services, partner networking and organizational development, grant writing, programming, and funding to support equitable, inclusive, community-driven public space. The program will focus on partners and locations in higher areas of need, with the agency continuing to work with local organizations who can directly support Open Streets where possible.
DOT officially launched this effort with the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP), issued on May 2, 2023, to seek a contractor to provide these services. More details about this opportunity can be found on DOT’s website, Passport (EPIN; 84122P0017), and in the City Record.
OPEN STREET PARTNER SUMMITS
DOT will also convene several summits with all Open Street partners later this year to foster community and growth among participating organizations. The meetings will allow location partners to share experiences and discuss day-to-day operations with their peers and DOT. The summits will build on previous partner meetings both advocates and DOT helped organize in recent years. The first summit will be held on May 25 to discuss how to run an inclusive public space, covering themes of both physical and digital accessibility.
PERMANENT REDESIGNS UNDERWAY
The agency remains committed to both expanding the Open Streets program with new locations while delivering permanent upgrades to existing locations. DOT is also implementing new Open Street Parking Regulations this year at 19 sites to help ensure streets are clear for successful activations.
Open Streets with permanent upgrades completed or planned in 2023:
- Berry Street, Brooklyn
- Beverley Rd, Brooklyn
- N 15 St, Brooklyn
- Underhill Avenue, Brooklyn
- Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn
- W 9th Street, Brooklyn
- Sharon Street, Brooklyn
- W 22nd Street, Manhattan
- Broadway, Manhattan
- W 103rd St, Manhattan
- Dyckman St, Manhattan
- 34th Avenue, Queens
- 31st Avenue, Queens
Open Streets with funded capital transformations in the planning process*:
- 34th Avenue, Queens
- Woodside Avenue, Queens
- Willis Avenue, the Bronx
- Underhill Avenue, Brooklyn
- Minthorne Street, Staten Island
- Dyckman Street (Quisqueya Plaza), Manhattan
- Broadway, Manhattan
“Public spaces are critical to the physical and mental health of New Yorkers, and help to bring communities together. There are countless stories of Open Streets and public plazas that have successfully made our communities more vibrant,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “That’s why I’m thrilled DOT is investing in making public spaces across the city more equitable and inclusive through this RFP and the upcoming Open Street Summits.”
“Acknowledging and addressing disparities in public spaces throughout different communities in our City is critical in improving quality of life and reducing equity challenges faced every day by many New Yorkers. The expansion of DOT’s ‘Public Space Equity Program’ addresses this issue head on,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “Thank you to NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez for understanding that public spaces, like plazas and Open Streets, are essential for community-building and public health and making the right investments in them.”
“This RFP is a great way to create new public spaces and strengthen the Open Streets program, which has already strongly benefited Queens residents by offering new and better ways for us to enjoy the outdoors and experience the vibrancy of our borough and city,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “The COVID-19 pandemic showed us the importance of making sure all city residents have access to open space, so I’m strongly in favor of any effort that brings more and better public spaces to under-resourced communities. All New York City neighborhoods deserve high-quality public spaces.”
“As Manhattan Borough President, I published a report called ‘The Future of Open Streets’ that highlighted program successes and room for improvement. I commend Commissioner Rodriguez and the Department of Transportation for continuing and expanding the program in a way that increases access for all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “Opening our streets to the people has been a major benefit for residents looking for extra open space and for struggling restaurants and small businesses.”
“Everyone in New York City deserves access to clean and well-cared-for public space,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler. “I'm particularly excited for real upgrades to Berry Street and Banker’s Anchor to help the Open Streets program continue to thrive and better meet the needs of our neighborhood.”
“By pedestrianizing spaces and opening our streets to people, we have unlocked so much creativity and made our communities stronger and more vibrant,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “Over the past few years, communities across the city have been reimagining their relationship with the built environment and public realm, and I commend Mayor Adams for committing resources to create and sustain public spaces like plazas and Open Streets. I look forward to continued partnership with neighbors and the Mayor’s Office to enhance street safety and community wellbeing.”
“The Public Space Equity Program will open opportunities for minorities to start a new business. REMA4US thanks DOT for providing the support needed to activate public spaces, especially in underserved areas like Far Rockaway,” said Leonor Reina, Executive Director at REMA4US and Beach 21st St Plaza Partner. “We have introduced great events at the Beach 21st Plaza and look forward to continuing to provide additional plaza activation programs to support our small businesses.”
"We are thrilled to see DOT make this strong investment in transformative public space," said Jackson Chabot, Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Open Plans. "Open Streets are proven to boost business, health and happiness. But there are communities across the five boroughs that simply don’t have the time and money to undertake management of a public space. This support levels the playing field and shows a real commitment from the city to prioritize joyful, healthful, and safe public space in the areas that need it most."
"Across the City, volunteers and community groups help maintain vital open spaces and implement programming to provide recreation, support local businesses and build a sense of community amongst neighbors. Too often, however, success for these efforts relies on the time or financial support from community members, which creates inequities in our public space since many of our most underserved communities lack these necessary resources," said Maulin Mehta, New York Director, Regional Plan Association. "The Public Space Equity Program will continue to address this imbalance by providing much needed financial resources and capacity to give more communities the benefit of the multitude of public space programs that have helped create safer and livelier streets. We applaud the NYCDOT for this investment and look forward to supporting more efforts to expand public realm benefits throughout the five boroughs."
“Commissioner Rodriguez’s announcement today of the ‘Public Space Equity Program’ is a big step forward in making Open Streets, plazas, and other public spaces more accessible and easier to manage. This new effort will have a direct and significant impact in prioritizing these programs in underserved communities,” said Eric McClure, Executive Director at StreetsPAC. “We know that successful public spaces even in well-resourced neighborhoods – like the Fifth Avenue Open Street in Brooklyn’s Park Slope – are often challenging for the facilitators to stay and run, and this new program and the operational resources it will deliver will help develop and sustain great public spaces throughout the five boroughs.”