The Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens has one of the lowest levels of park space available per resident in New York City. In 2008, a volunteer-run non-profit organization called the Jackson Heights Green Alliance (JHGA) led a grassroots effort to address this issue with a “Play Street” along a section of 78th Street every other Sunday during summer months. The street is adjacent to the single, heavily used park and playground in the neighborhood.
The project gained popularity each summer, and JHGA began closing the street for longer periods of time. Through this incremental approach, JHGA volunteers were able to overcome neighbors’ and businesses’ fears about losing parking spaces. In 2012, JHGA worked with the NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Plaza Program to transform the street section into a year-round plaza. The plaza now closes 78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard to through traffic, adding 10,000 sq. ft of recreation space for the neighborhood.
Thus far, funding for the initiative has been largely supported by grants from local city Council members. The plaza has also received assistance from NY State Senator Jose Peralta, who assisted the JHGA in setting up a maintenance collaboration with the Doe Fund’s flagship workforce development program, “Ready, Willing & Able”. Although it is an independent non-profit, JHGA’s status as an all-volunteer organization makes it a unique plaza sponsor within NYC DOT’s Plaza Program. JHGA continues to rely on an engaged network of community volunteers to lead maintenance and stewardship of the Play Street.
Primary Model Type
New York, NY
Volunteer-run non-profit: JHGA
Cost to set-up/create
Manager resource level