FRIENDS OF DIVERSITY PLAZA: building a community vision for the plaza

Friends of Diversity Plaza. Meeting at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights (November 26, 2013)

Friends of Diversity Plaza. Meeting at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights (November 26, 2013)

Hibridos Collective will lead a community visioning process through socially engaged art activities whereby local stakeholders will transform the Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza into a public space that fosters a sense of place and identity. As residents, artists and advocates, We strongly believe in engaging our neighbors in dialogue and seeking their perspective about what they envision for the plaza. Unlike other pedestrian plazas in the city, Diversity Plaza was created as a result of a Department of Transportation traffic study, which recommended the permanent closing of 37th Road and disregarded a community process for its implementation. This top-down approach has left us with a public plaza that requires community funding for maintenance, security and programming without a long-term community vision.

Hibridos Collective ’s primary goal is to engage residents and stakeholders in a dialogue to create a shared vision for the plaza that takes into consideration the interests, needs and values of long-time residents, new immigrants, merchants, and plaza partners. Hibridos Collective believes creating a shared vision requires relationship building among community residents, civic groups, merchant associations and government. Hibridos Collective also believes creating a shared vision requires a collaborative process that challenges the community and stakeholders to create a new meaning for the plaza and diversity where everyone has an equal stake. In this context, the visioning process also takes the form of problem solving given that the community was not involved in the creation or vision of this plaza.

Hibridos Collective  will facilitate a community vision through a series of hands-on activities designed to engage a diverse audience using mediums such as photography, mapping, sculpture, writing, oral history and storytelling; keeping in mind the linguistic and cultural diversity of the audience. Our project will enact social change by translating the community’s ideas, hopes and dreams for the Diversity Plaza through a bottom-up approach. This process will spark ongoing conversations about how to transform public space and address issues of shared decision-making and plaza stewardship, in addition to access to green space, wayfinding, design, and waste.

Community members will be directly involved in designing the vision for the plaza and visualizing how the plaza can bring a diverse community together. Hibridos Collective  established relationships with key community stakeholders in the Diversity Plaza as part of organizing the first Jackson Heights Arts Festival, engaging over 40 local artists and more than 400 residents and visitors through art exhibitions and interactive workshops. Hibridos Collective  worked closely with Sukhi, the plaza partner and Council Member Daniel Dromm’s office. Currently, Hibridos Collective  is leading the Community Engagement Committee in the newly formed Friends of the Diversity Plaza group.

Next steps…

Community-led Visioning Sessions

2nd Jackson Heights Arts Festival

Press Clip: "Festival in Jackson Heights Celebrates Artistic Diversity", Queens Courier

Press Clip: “Festival in Jackson Heights Celebrates Artistic Diversity”, Queens Courier

Friends of Diversity Plaza coalition members

Friends of Diversity Plaza coalition members

Visioning Sessions Led by City Agencies

Visioning Sessions