On a summer evening in June, Queens Community Board 3 held its monthly public meeting outdoors at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. More than a hundred people attended the event, while dozens of passersby lingered to watch the proceedings. Last fall, hundreds of immigrant New Yorkers gathered in this same plaza to watch live screenings of the Presidential debates. This was democracy in action, in the public realm, in the heart of one of New York’s most diverse neighborhoods.
Diversity Plaza’s non-profit manager, Sukhi New York, is led by a Pakistani couple, whose small business fronts the plaza. Their creativity and sweat equity have resulted in place-making of the best kind. Each neighborhood plaza reflects its unique setting, and Diversity Plaza – decorated with flags from every nation represented in Jackson Heights – is a united nations in the street. Nepalese residents gather to discuss politics, Muslims celebrate Eid, and the annual Jackson Heights Pride Parade makes a stop here.
Small plazas have a big impact. But that doesn’t happen without an investment of time, money and sweat equity by local partners. Diversity Plaza’s non-profit manager, Sukhi New York, is led by a Pakistani businessman and his wife. Their creativity and hard work has resulted in place-making of the very best kind. It is well understood that dysfunctional neighborhoods are an economic and social drain on the city. When neighborhoods have robust citizen action, public gatherings, and democratic public space as exemplified by Diversity Plaza — all New Yorkers benefit.
Neighborhood Plaza Partnership has been created to give Sukhi, and dozens of other hard-working, under-resourced plaza managers, the help they need to create lasting change in the public realm, in neighborhoods where it’s needed most.