Transforming a Historic Public Space in Brownsville, Q&A With Danny Murphy, Pitkin Avenue BID

Q: How has Zion Triangle Plaza served as a public gathering space for unique events in your community?

A: We use the space to hold annual events, such as the harvest festival in October, the Holiday Tree Lighting in December, as well as for outdoor free yoga classes during the Summer and Fall.

pitkin harvest fest

Q: What types of user groups are Zion Plaza regulars, e.g., families, shoppers, seniors, etc.?

A: Shoppers use the tables and chairs at the Plaza to rest. Seniors from the residence across the street use the plaza during the warm weather months. Families and children from the adjacent primary school use the space during and immediately after school dismissal to gather. The children often play with the moveable tables and chairs.

Q: What’s the busiest time of day in Zion Plaza?

A: 1 PM to 5 PM

Q: How does Zion Plaza promote the diversity and character of your neighborhood?

A: The Plaza is a natural gateway to the business district and the neighborhood of Brownsville proper, as it stands at the western end of the Avenue. It is at the intersection of several major streets, including Pitkin Avenue and East New York Avenue and as such is a gathering point for both residents and visitors to the neighborhood. It is the home of a war memorial to residents of Brownsville who died in service to the United States. For these reasons, it is a historically significant place of pride for many current and former residents of the area.

Q: Give us a brief statement describing your role in the day-to-day plaza management.

A: The Pitkin Avenue BID is the maintenance partner along with NYC DOT and NYC DPR in programming events at the Plaza. We are especially focused on the plaza’s welcoming design and its security and general state of cleanliness and order. We at the BID believe that vibrant color and lush plant life are important to the idea of drawing users to the plaza.

yoga in pitkin plaza

Q: Managing an active public space and its programming is no small task. What are the next steps for the community-based organizations supporting Zion Plaza as it plans for long-term sustainability?

A: The BID is immediately focused on the following:
• Finalizing a maintenance agreement with our partners in government;
• Ensuring that our plaza is properly planted to sustain vibrant and inviting plant life for the coming months;
• Keeping the plaza as clean and orderly as possible;
• Programming our events for the Spring, Summer and Fall;
• Funding all of the above.

Our long term goals revolve around the full build-out of the permanent plaza and securing a lasting place in the life of the neighborhood.

Q: What advice would you give to other neighborhoods who would like to create a vibrant, shared public space like Zion Plaza?

A: We would advise potential plaza stakeholders to reach out to their neighbors and neighborhood institutions for help in initiating the process of siting and applying for a plaza.

Q: Tell us about your favorite moment in Zion Plaza.

A: It is a tie between the first yoga class at the Plaza and our first Halloween/Harvest festival. The success came not so much from the events themselves, but from the positive reactions to the use of the space from passersby, who were impressed by what could be done to a formerly forlorn piece of public space with a little bit of imagination and a great deal of initiative.

Q: Is there any other information you would like the public and/or elected officials to know about Zion Plaza?

A: I would only like to thank our local elected officials, such as Council Member Mealy and the New York City agencies, especially the departments of Transportation and Parks and Recreation for making the public plaza on Pitkin Avenue a reality.

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