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March 15, 2024
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NYC DOT Announces Expanded Resources Available to In-Need Open Streets, Plazas, and Other Public Spaces for 2024 Season

NYC DOT’s Public Space Equity Program to provide full suite of resources to in-need Open Streets, Plazas, and other public spaces through newly awarded contract

Resources include direct funding for public programming, maintenance and horticultural care, technical assistance, and support to pilot new public spaces

NEW YORK — New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced today the agency will be expanding the variety of resources available to a dramatically larger number of public spaces like plazas and Open Streets—in time for the 2024 Open Streets program to launch this spring. The wide-ranging set of tools and services will be available through the agency’s Public Space Equity Program thanks to a new $27 million contract the city has awarded to the Horticultural Society of New York (The Hort), another new $3 million contract with Klen Space, and a new $500,000 partnership with the nonprofit Street Lab.

NYC DOT will distribute these resources to Open Streets, plazas, and other public spaces in under-resourced neighborhoods that do not otherwise have the means to support such locations. Sites are selected to receive this support through a formula that considers partner capacity, site context, and equity goals set forth by NYC DOT.

“Every New Yorker deserves convenient access to safe and welcoming plazas and public spaces to enjoy with friends and family and to serve as a cultural hub for their communities. With this new contract, NYC DOT will be able to dramatically expand the resources available to cultivate these spaces with local communities leading the way,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “We have been thrilled with our partnerships with The Hort and Street Lab and look forward to expanding their offerings to more New Yorkers.”

Twenty two percent of the Hort’s contract will be spent with Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE), further advancing the City’s goal to expand opportunities for minority and women entrepreneurs to access government contracts and grow their businesses. The Hort contract additionally includes a signature workforce development program, HortNYC, which provides jobs and training opportunities to New Yorkers looking to strengthen their employment skills and move forward with meaningful careers, especially those that support a sustainable green city and its public realm. NYC DOT in May 2023 announced it was in search of applicants for the contract.

The $3 million contract with Klen Space, which is the prime M/WBE contractor, will provide snow and ice removal, graffiti removal, and waste hauling services in NYC DOT public spaces citywide. Klen Space was selected through a competitive bid process open only to qualified M/WBE proposers. The contract is currently with the Comptroller, pending registration.

Additionally, NYC DOT is supporting Street Lab’s work to help grassroots groups, schools, and other community-based organizations pilot and establish new Open Streets, providing immediate benefits to communities in need while also laying the groundwork for permanent changes to the streetscape that will enhance safety and well-being in these neighborhoods.


The Hort currently provides maintenance, operations, and horticultural care at 30 plazas, 25 Open Streets, and other public spaces in underserved communities across the city. Through the new contract, those resources will be expanded to 100 public spaces in underserved neighborhoods to ensure all New Yorkers have better access to high quality and vibrant public spaces. The Hort will also provide technical assistance to community partners, which includes permitting and administrative support, community outreach, promotion, fundraising, grant writing, and more. Klen Space will supplement these maintenance services by providing snow and ice removal during the winter, graffiti removal as needed, and waste hauling to supplement Department of Sanitation services in NYC DOT public spaces.

NYC DOT also provides direct funding to community partners to cover the cost of staffing, maintenance, programming, and more


The Open Streets program can serve as an incubator for the creation of permanent public spaces and street redesigns, such as plazas and bike-priority streets that enhance safety for everyone. Through Street Lab’s new contract with the city, NYC DOT will aim to create new, public spaces in underserved communities that thrive and endure as new neighborhood assets. To help these new public spaces succeed, Street Lab is providing consistent programming on the streets, as well as providing extensive support to local community groups with logistics, outreach, partnerships, community engagement, and documentation. In addition, Street Lab is developing and sharing new designs that empower and equip local groups stewarding new public spaces, including a block party kit and an outdoor classroom kit. Currently, Street Lab is working with 16 sites, with more on the way supported by a grant from Con Edison.

The Public Space Equity program grew out of the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program (OPEP), which was originally launched in 2015. OPEP addressed the needs of NYC plazas in under-resourced neighborhoods where community-based partner organizations struggle to maintain a high-quality public space. The program provided partners a suite of horticultural care, maintenance services, financial subsides, and a host of technical assistance tools. When it launched in 2015, the program managed approximately $3 million in funding, which has now greatly expanded to nearly $30 million as part of the Public Space Equity Program.

“It is our honor to continue and expand our work with DOT on Open Streets and public plazas under this new contract, and we thank DOT and Commissioner Rodriguez for their continued partnership,” said Sara Hobel, executive director of The Horticultural Society of New York. “The Hort is uniquely positioned to provide support and programming to community partners throughout our city, ensuring they can enjoy well-maintained, clean and planted public spaces. Our commitment to community extends to local job creation, and through our Workforce Development program HORTNYC as well as our preference to work with NYC- based M/WBEs we help support the city’s investment in building local good, green businesses and jobs!”

“With this support from NYC DOT, Street Lab is making an all-out effort to help communities pilot and launch new public spaces, bringing new physical designs, new programs, and everything it takes to open up these spaces for the community to enjoy, now and for years to come,” said Leslie Davol, Street Lab’s executive director.

“New Yorkers appreciate the importance of open spaces, recognizing them as vital to our well-being and enjoyment of the city,” said Brit Rawlings, CEO Klēn Space Inc. “It’s a privilege to contribute to enhancing lives through the Public Space Equity Program and NYC DOT, ensuring clean and safe public spaces for all.”

“The maintenance and beautification of public spaces can transform a neighborhood, especially in communities that have historically been underserved and neglected,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “By distributing resources to areas in our city with the most need and ensuring Minority and Women Owned Businesses also benefit from this initiative, the NYC Department of Transportation is demonstrating their commitment to equity while simultaneously prioritizing safety, and the overall look of our city. Thank you to New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and his team for investing in our plazas, Open Streets, and other heavily-utilized public spaces in our city. I look forward to seeing how this initiative will benefit our borough and further enhance our communities.”

“The Open Streets program has paid off big time for Queens residents looking for new and better ways to enjoy the outdoors and to experience the vibrancy of our borough and city,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “The new funding announced today will strengthen and solidify this amazing program and help ensure Open Streets remain available to Queens residents for a long time to come. I encourage Queens residents and all New Yorkers to make full use of the Open Streets that are being supported by this critically important funding.”

“The Open Streets program has been an amazing infusion of life into our neighborhood, and I'm excited that more neighborhoods will now be able to share in the magic," said Councilmember Tiffany Cabán. “Walkable public space contributes to public safety, public health, the economy, the climate, our quality of life, and more. Hats off to The Hort for making it possible to expand this vital community resource to neighborhoods that stand to benefit the most.”

"I want to extend my sincere gratitude to the Horticultural Society of New York’s Public Space Equity Program and the NYC DOT for their unwavering dedication to enhancing our public spaces. Their collaborative efforts, exemplified by the new $27 million contract and $500,000 partnership, reflect a profound commitment to equity and community well-being,” said Councilmember Shahana Hanif. “The Hort’s Public Space Equity Program has been integral in upkeep for important spaces in our district, particularly the Kensington Plaza and Avenue C Plaza in Kensington. Our community is more vibrant, safer, and stronger because of these plazas. NYC DOT’s funding of these programs is more important than ever!"

“Having green space and public space in your community is not only vital for public health but also integral to addressing housing, racial, and immigrant justice issues,” said Councilmember Shekar Krishnan. “We commend the Department of Transportation on allocating public space funding through the Public Space Equity Program. This investment will enhance Open Streets, plazas and public spaces while addressing inequality in New York City.”

“Enriching public space should not be a luxury, and this funding will provide crucial support to the communities who need it most. We’re glad to see PSEP provides assistance in administration, outreach, and permitting, because we know it takes more than just money to make public space a success,” said Jackson Chabot, director of advocacy and organizing at Open Plans. “Paired with Street Lab’s unmatched ability to bring fun and connective programming to our streets, this is an exciting step on the journey towards more permanent and holistic transformation to our streets, bringing a well-managed public realm to many more New Yorkers.”

“Public spaces lead to more vibrant and connected neighborhoods and every community in this city deserves its fair share of public plazas and Open Streets,” said Ken Podziba, CEO of Bike New York. “These significant investments by the Department of Transportation will help prioritize the residents of some of the most under-resourced neighborhoods and enable them to live with greater joy, freedom, social connection, mobility, and health-boosting recreational activities in new, high-quality public spaces. This is what public resources should be used for -- to improve the quality of life in communities that need public open spaces the most and we thank Commissioner Rodriguez and his team at DOT for taking action to level the playing field.”

“NYC DOT's PSEP initiative contributed immensely to the Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID's ‘Raindrops @ the Junction’ hyper-tourism initiative that attracted local, national and international visitors and supported our local businesses,” said Kenneth Mbonu, executive director and president, Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID. “We appreciate the financial, creative, and maintenance support the initiate provides.”

"Ever since the inception of this highly successful program, NYC DOT has provided Chinatown BID with annual funding and programming support,” said Wellington Chen, executive director, Chinatown BID. “As an example of its enormous success, it transformed a historic Doyers Street from a dormant alley into a vibrant public space with beautiful asphalt ground murals as well as a lively get together meeting place for so many to enjoy and support small businesses.”

“The Brownsville Community Justice Center (BCJC) is continually grateful for partnership with DOT and for the Public Space Equity Program (PSEP). With the support of PSEP we are able to manage and operate three active DOT public spaces,” said Mallory Thatch, senior program manager, Brownsville Community Justice Center. “With the support of the Hort, these spaces are clean and improved with seasonal plantings. We rely heavily on our public spaces for programming, community events, and relief from harsh cityscapes. PSEP helps us continue to serve the Brownsville community.”

“The Van Duzer Civic Association is thankful of New York City Department of Transportation Public Space Equity Program’s continued support in maintaining NYC Open Streets Stapleton Saturdays on Staten Island,” said Peter Lisi, president of Van Duzer Civic Association, NYC Open Streets. “Their vital services and financial subsidies directly address the struggle of programs in under resourced neighborhoods, allowing high quality public spaces throughout New York City.”

“PSEP's backing enhances the credibility and attractiveness of our Open Streets, and I am thrilled to witness the expansion of this program by the NYC Department of Transportation,” said Gregory Anderson, president and CEO of Bridge Street Development Corporation. “This investment reflects a commitment to fostering vibrant, inclusive public spaces that serve as catalysts for community engagement and economic development. We’re proud to be a part of this transformative initiative and enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers everywhere.”

“Marcus Meets Malcolm, a non-profit partner of DOT’s Open Streets Program on 120th St, Harlem, extends our gratitude for the operational maintenance support provided by the Public Space Equity Program (PSEP). This operational assistance has allowed us to focus more on revitalizing the corridor with inclusive and enriching cultural programming, including yoga, Zumba, basketball, music events, chess tournaments, and holiday celebrations,” said Tressi Colon, President, Marcus Meets Malcolm. “Thanks to PSEP's support, we're able to enhance the vibrancy of the Harlem community today and for generations to come.”