PlaNYC Program Will Bring 1,000 Sleek New Benches to City Sidewalks

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan with City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito (left) and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs (background right). Photos: Brad Aaron

Joined by East Harlem seniors, advocates and City Council members, transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today kicked off a program to provide new and improved sidewalk seating.

CityBench, a product of PlaNYC 2.0, will bring 1,000 shiny steel benches to locations across the five boroughs. The first two were installed outside the Leonard Covello Senior Center on E. 109th Street, where Sadik-Khan said the primary aim of the initiative is to make streets and sidewalks more accommodating to seniors and the mobility-impaired.

“CityBench brings a new design standard that elevates our streetscapes and simply makes it easier and more enjoyable for New Yorkers of every age to walk and take transit,” said Sadik-Khan. The benches will be sited strategically near bus stops, commercial districts and areas with large populations of seniors and the physically disabled. Members of the public may also recommend locations via 311.

“Not only will these benches allow seniors and other residents to sit down and rest, they will also enable them to chat with their neighbors about their day, their families, and the overall state of the community,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was lauded by Sadik-Khan for her work in bringing separated bike lanes to First and Second Avenues. Council Member Jessica Lappin and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs were also on hand.

The lion’s share of funding — 80 percent — for the $3 million CityBench program comes from the Federal Transit Administration, with New York State DOT covering another 10 percent.

After the crowd from the presser had for the most part dispersed, I spoke with bench designer Ignacio Ciocchini, who is director of design for Chelsea Improvement Company. Ciocchini said every facet of the bench was developed with the city in mind, from the powder-coated steel, designed to dissipate heat and shed snow, to the 26-inch seats, allowing for what Ciocchini described as “proper social space” and intended to leave room for whatever a pedestrian might be carrying, from a shopping bag to a small child.

“It fits all sizes,” said Covello Center executive director Suleika Cabrera. “It’s fantastic.”

Residents can suggest a CityBench location by calling 311.
  • CICo

    See more pictures of the CityBench here

  • Glenn

    CityBench is one of those things that once people see them and use them, they will wonder “why we didn’t do this 30 years ago?” And it only costs $3 million of mostly Federal money. That’s a great Return on Investment!

    Just as an ancedote of how important benches are to disabled people, when I was on crutches for 6 weeks, I planned my routes to and from my apartment based on where there were public benches.

    And now as a parent, these will be perfect for feeding, changing or just “getting organized” time.

  • Anonymous

    This is great news and I apologize for being slightly negative, but…

    there are a lot of things that take up pedestrian sidewalk space.  newspaper machines, garbage cans, comercial garbage, restaurant seating, increased bicycle parking, and now more benches.  It seems like 9 times out of ten new stuff on our street landscape falls on pedestrian space.  Parking spaces are nearly sacrosanct.  We can’t keep taking up sidewalk space.

  • Michael Pedron

    mistermarkdavis- I hear your cry, for sure,and NYC is really a pedestrian city that is just underserved in the seating department.  Since this is a DOT project, I think its safe to assume that they’ll be utilizing their own guidelines for street furniture placement which absolutely account for maintaining a wide, walkable pathway.  In other words, their not going to be putting them on narrow sidewalks with tons of other furniture and obstructions.  Pretty much all of the time that pedestrian sidewalk space is compromised, creating a choked sidewalks, its a result of private businesses or individuals putting stuff there, NOT the city fixtures like benches, newsstands, bus shelters, etc.  Of all of these things, benches in particular must be understood as pedestrian amenities, not obstacles.  These benches encourage walking.

  • Driver

    Unfortunately these benches will probably be magnets for smokers.  At
    least when it’s not too cold to sit on them.  

  • • There she be a big thick ecology-symbol loop off each side, for bike-parking.

  • Anonymous

    Radical concept du jour:  Along busy shopping streets, such as 7th & 5th Avenue in Park Slope, instead of taking up precious pedestrian space, start building more bulb outs/curb extensions, and place the benches there.  They will increase visibility for pedestrians and cars at intersections — it’s a lot easier to see around people and perforated benches than it is to see through a parked car.

  • Yes to bulb outs

    What jooltman said.

  • J

    Great news for the city. THere are precious few places to sit and take a load off in this town. It will be a godsend not to have to sit on the ground or on someone’s stoop the next time I want to take a break while walking.

  • ben from bedstuy

    Usually when Sadik Khan has a press conference, I want to stand up and cheer. This time I’ll sit down and cheer!

  • awaiting bike share anxiously

    As far as sidewalk crowding goes, just replace the phone booths with benches!  They are only there to serve billboard advertisements as the phones aren’t profitable because of cell phones.  The city got rid of hitching posts when horses went the way of the car, why not get rid of phone booths as pay phones have gone the way of the cell phone.

  • Ibgeebee

    A good idea but, since some of the goals are directed specifically towards the needs of the elderly and handicapped, a population that  will only increase as this population continues to increase, more explicit consideration should be given to the design requirements to cater for their needs.  

    Their most important and prevalent disability is rising from a low seat. 
    Consequently, 1) seat surfaces should be about 2″ higher than normal and 2) the leverage surfaces for hands and arms to recruit upper body strength should be safe and comfortable to hold on to and I would also suggest that there be more arm rests/bench on some benches. 

    Bare skin, particularly the thin fragile skin on the hands of the elderly  can be severely injured by instantly freezing and adhering to frigid metal surfaces and intolerably cold and hard for them to sit upon, particularly if they do not have adequately warm clothing or gloves.Durable wood on these horizontal surfaces, particularly arm rests and front seat slats which are the major leverage points used when rising, would be warmer, safer and more comfortable. The designers should consult with physiatrists or physical therapists as to what would be most desirable.

  • Stu

    In addition to calling 311, residents can suggest a CityBench location by filling out the online form at

  • Andrew

    @google-159e20850c50b87f11f02ae287fb6abf:disqus I would agree if driver amenities were in the roadway.  But, in fact, driver amenities are on the sidewalk along with pedestrian amenities.  So, while the entire roadway is available for motor vehicles and bicycles, much of the sidewalk is not available for pedestrians.

    @SB_Driver:disqus Good point about the cold.  These benches will be unusable in very cold weather, and possibly in very hot/sunny weather as well.  There’s a reason that the standard park bench is wood.

  • Great news. This initiative step  increases the number of walkers in the streets.These benches allow seniors and other residents to sit down and relax.

  • Anonymous

    “Their most important and prevalent disability is rising from a low seat. ”
    Ibgeebee, you got that right! 

    Getting up puts a huge strain on a body’s time-weakened hip and knee joints. At least one seat on each bench should have high arm rests, and most seats should be higher off the sidewalk. Maybe a bench doesn’t really work, one size doesn’t fit all. Take a parking space and put in three two-seat benches? (But have to say, This is a GREAT start!)

    Not so worried about cold surfaces. Us elderly do everything we can to avoid going out in the cold, and wear gloves when we do.

    And I saw a bench, NE corner 96th St @ Broadway, with no back. Uh oh, TOO LOW TO SEE. Wonder how long before someone stumbles over it and has a bad fall.


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