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DOT announces grant for public plazas



Pedestrian plazas will soon no longer cater merely to the midtown work crowd thanks to an $800,000 grant aimed at maintaining public space on streets in far-flung outerborough neighborhoods.

City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan joined Queens elected officials and musician David Byrne at Corona Plaza on Thursday to announce the two-year grant from JP Morgan Chase.

"We can't have a public space program that's only in areas that have the financial resources to do it," Sadik-Khan said. "We actually have to have a public space program that works in every single community."

The grant would go to Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, a program that will offer neighborhood groups that want a public plaza low-cost maintenance and advice on organizing and fundraising. The program will also have a workforce development component for 100 formerly incarcerated or homeless people.

The goal for the program is 20 public spaces, some of which are already installed or are in development in neighborhoods such as Prospect-Lefferts Garden, East New York, Washington Heights and Jamaica. The DOT said there are 59 public plazas in operation or in the works.

Councilman Danny Dromm of Jackson Heights called pedestrian plazas a "social justice and economic justice" issue.

"Our communities," he said, "deserve to have plazas just as much as the other communities hwere there are large corporate sponsors."

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