Odd spots in the urban grid? Turn them into plazas
New York City’s Department of Transportation has carved 54 plazas out of streets and other areas. More are on the way.
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In many cities, people complain that transportation officials are so insistent on catering to vehicular traffic that they turn a blind eye to the needs of neighborhoods and pedestrians.
Not in New York. If anything, it’s the other way around in the Big Apple. Some motorists, especially cab drivers, grumble about pieces of the street network being taken away from cars, but neighborhood residents rejoice at obtaining convivial new public plazas.
During a Tactical Urbanism Salon in Long Island City October 15, Andy Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner for planning and sustainability in the New York City Department of Transportation, explained how DOT goes about converting street surfaces to public spaces. New York’s techniques could be applied in many other cities and towns.
In the four and a half years since Wiley-Schwartz left Project for Public Spaces to work for DOT, the department has authorized 54 new public plazas through the New York City Plaza Program. Some plazas remain for a short while. Others become permanent — a response to demand from civic groups.
Finding the right spot
In a dense city of eight million people, you might think it would be difficult to identify streets that could be safely taken out of vehicular service. Not