For the past five years under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has re-appropriated underused street space as public plazas for pedestrians. The Bloomberg Administration–initiated projects have been well received in neighborhoods like Herald Square and Tribeca; however, some of the less affluent neighborhoods who would like to have a plaza have been hindered by the cost. Each plaza is sponsored by local businesses and fundraising for construction and regular maintenance can seem a daunting task. Until now.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that NYCDOT launched a plaza assistance program for neighborhoods currently inhibited by the space’s price tags. Instituted after an $800,000 grant acquisition from J.P. Morgan Chase, the program will give financial instruction to local sponsor groups and provide maintenance workers at subsidized costs.
Expanding the current program into the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, a collaborative effort by NYCDOT and the Horticulture Society of New York, will allow public plaza initiatives to reach lower-income areas of the city. Although the current program creates plazas of inexpensive materials chosen by their communities’ budgets, partially alleviating sponsors of the continued cost of care will encourage more hosts to apply.
“We can’t have a public space program that’s only in areas that have the financial resources to do it,” commented NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a press conference about the expansion at Corona’s Plaza in Queens. “It can’t be only in areas with a business improvement district. We actually have to have a public space program that works in every single community.”