Since 2009, the NYC Department of Transportation has partnered with community organizations to create new public plazas in neighborhoods lacking open space across the city. Today, there are 61 plazas in all five boroughs. The plazas range in size from 3,000 square feet to 50,000, and in location, from neighborhoods with some of the highest household incomes, such as the Meatpacking district in Manhattan, to predominantly low-income neighborhoods, such as New Lots in East New York, Brooklyn.
Five years after the program was established, a study was undertaken to find out who spends time in the plazas. It asked: What do people like most about them? How does the movement, use, activity, and demographics of plaza visitors and passerby vary across sites? How does each plaza contribute to its neighborhood? Who benefits from these new public spaces, existing residents or newcomers?
Gehl collaborated with the J. Max Bond Center to produce a framework on how the plazas contribute to civic life, neighborhood economy, and human health. The team used public life tools to study six different sites, chosen for their diversity in location, size, and local population. The sites were:
- Corona Plaza and Diversity Plaza in Queens
- Flatiron District Plaza and Meatpacking District Plaza in Manhattan
- Zion Triangle Plaza and Putnam Plaza in Brooklyn