Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) announced a plan on Oct. 11 to allocate $500,000 in capital funds for improvements to the 37th Road pedestrian plaza commonly referred to as Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights.
“Diversity Plaza has become an integral part of our community,” Dromm said in a written statement. “These improvements will go a long way to build out an asset that our community has come to adopt as a town square. Despite its slightly rocky start, this truly is the ‘little plaza that could.’ I am pleased to be able to help bring it to the next level.”
The improvements will include added seating, lighting and trash cans, daily maintenance and cleaning services, monthly power washing and horticultural care.
In addition, the Department of Transportation has earmarked $2 million for separate improvements to Diversity Plaza. Those may include the addition of public toilets, improved street surfacing, permanent seating and other amenities.
“I think it’s great that they’re doing something to clean it up,” said Lisa Lopez, a Jackson Heights resident who regularly eats her lunch at the plaza. “I spend a lot of time here. It’s a great place to meet friends, read a book, people watch and things like that, so any improvements would be greatly welcomed, by me at least.”
In the past, surrounding business owners had shown resistance to updating the plaza to accommodate regular events as they thought that would restrict parking and put a dent into their sales.
However, according to Dromm’s office, during the past several months of outreach and working with nearby business owners, their attitudes have changed after realizing the benefit of regular events on the plaza as well as the temporary seating.
“This is an idea that I have always been for,” said one business owner who resides near the plaza and asked not to have his name included. “I think fellow business owners may have not understood exactly what it was or what it would do but now I think people are warming up to it, which is a beautiful thing.”
Last June, the plaza hosted Community Board 3’s monthly board meeting. It was the first-ever open-air community board meeting held in the entire city.
“We know that when communities feel ownership of public spaces, those spaces thrive,” said Laura Hansen, the director of the neighborhood plaza partnership, a project of the Horticultural Society. “We are excited to be part of a new wave of civic engagement on behalf of Diversity Plaza and look forward to help sustain a beautiful, clean, safe plaza in partnership with SUKHI NY and the residents and businesses of Jackson Heights.”
Dromm is also looking to install navigation amenities such as community maps that guide visitors and residents to the area’s many businesses and attractions.
The project is in the design phase and updates will take some time to implement.
There is no set date for work to begin yet.