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In Defense of Plazas… from Times Square to Brownsville

Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to remove the Times Square plazas to rid them of desnudas is not just about the future of one of the world’s best urban commons. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater will undermine a policy that has literally transformed New York’s public realm. Miles from the crowds on 42nd Street, that transformation is playing out at the neighborhood scale, where pedestrian plazas are delivering big impacts – improving safety, local businesses, and community engagement.

For every aggressive Elmo or desnuda at Times Square there is a child playing hide-and-seek among plaza planters in Corona; there’s a yoga class in Brownsville; there’s a family reading together in Ozone Park; there’s a health screening or nutrition class in Jackson Heights; and there are the regulars playing chess in Clinton Hill. On any given day, the more than 70 neighborhood plazas give people much-needed places to relax, meet with friends, to eat lunch, or simply sit. More than half are located in some of the city’s densest neighborhoods, where open space is scarce.

Pedestrian plazas are an easy, inexpensive, effective way to advance Mayor de Blasio’s agenda for a more equitable city. Plazas can easily help the Mayor achieve collective impact around health & wellness, social cohesion, public safety, arts & culture, and open space: the basic tenets of his admirable OneNYC Plan.

The Times Square Alliance’s creative solutions need to be seriously considered by the Mayor and his taskforce. We owe it to every neighborhood, and to the millions of New Yorkers now enjoying these important urban commons, to solve the Times Square problems without undermining one of New York’s most progressive amenities.
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2 weeks ago  ·  

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