For First Time, NYC Will Fund Plaza Maintenance in Low-Income Areas

Since it launched nearly eight years ago, DOT’s public plaza program has relied on a public-private model: The city funds plaza installation and construction, while local partners pick up the tab for maintenance and operations. This works well in some parts of town but is a more difficult proposition in low-income communities. Now, for the first time, the city budget will fund plaza maintenance in neighborhoods that could use additional help.

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Spaces like New Lots Triangle could get a boost from new city funding for plaza maintenance in low-income communities. Photo: Noah Kazis

The de Blasio administration’s latest executive budget [PDF] includes $5.6 million over four years for plaza maintenance as part of its OneNYC environmental and equity plan.

“Previously, the plaza program, there’d been no city money put in. We just called on all the community partners to come up with the funding,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Some neighborhoods, it’s easier to do that than others. It’s an equity measure, making sure these kinds of programs can be in every part of the city.”

The city funds are intended to supplement, rather than replace, local partners, though exact details of how DOT will distribute the funds have yet to be worked out. “This is money that’s supposed to continue to leverage other sources and work with community groups,” Trottenberg said. “We just got this money a little while ago, so we’re now putting together a plan about what we think makes sense and how we want to spend it.”

Plaza advocates welcomed the new funding. “It’s so good because the agency and the mayor are acknowledging that plazas are part of their equity agenda,” said Laura Hansen, managing director of the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership. NPP, a program of the Horticultural Society of New York, relies on donations to assist the work of plaza partners in low-income areas.

There are currently 49 plazas across the city, with 22 more underway, according to the mayor’s budget.

  • iSkyscraper

    This is amazing! There is a city-owned plaza area in Inwood, for example, where former streetcar tracks used to cross on Broadway near W218th St. It’s a huge area but there are no local BIDs or groups to manage a furnished plaza, so we never got one. Cars would park there instead. Now we might have a shot at a real beautification… exciting.

  • Mark Henselt

    Maybe there really isn’t much local support for even the idea of such plazas.

    Maybe the DOT should worry more about keeping the streets paved.

  • Schellie Hagan

    “Low income” is whatever DOT says it is. These plazas are put wherever the local BID and the DOT want to put them. The BID acts as the “voice of the community,” that is, the voice of the DOT. FAB, the Fulton St (Bklyn) BID and the DOT will spend over $8,000,000 on a pedestrian plaza. This plaza faces a day care and senior center which have lost their lease. Goes to show where the priorities are in Bill de Blasio’s NYC.

  • Schellie Hagan

    The plazas in the main are neither “parks” nor beautifying. What they often end up being is dead spaces that attract deadbeats, litter and trouble. That’s been our experience with Putnam plaza in Clinton Hill, where the planters are full of weeds, where the police are being called all the time, where the small businesses by the plaza have been abandoned to flounder as best they can. Now they all face a portable toilet the BID has deposited for the non-buying audiences it recruits for entertainments the stores are forced to fund.

  • iSkyscraper

    That’s a fair point – much depends on the context. But something should be done with dead areas other than illegal parking.

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