Reclaiming Streets and Plazas


In nearly each and every community, streets comprise the largest percentage of publicly owned land and are the single largest land use. Yet when we think of public spaces we enjoy, streets don’t typically make that list. They’re designed to get us to and from places, but not necessarily to linger, socialize, and create memories like parks, plazas, and other traditional “public spaces” do.

In one city, the pandemic and closing of restaurants provided an opportunity to reclaim a street in a neighborhood with historical disinvestment through a process directed by residents and business owners, which included a youth education and empowerment component. Another big city’s Department of Transportation created vibrant public plazas while local partners bring them to life and are responsible for daily maintenance and producing public events. This panel will feature an array of examples highlighting how communities can improve their public spaces in underserved communities, equipping local stewards to manage public spaces and program them for local needs.


  • Evaluate the benefits of changes to public space, streets and sidewalks, implemented during COVID through a critical lens
  • Learn to apply a decision-making framework around short-term reinventions to assess their real benefits
  • Analyze your own strategies, advocacy, and potential to incorporate the design and engagement principles used in the project highlighted in this session into your work


Carlos Perez

President, Perez Planning + Design

Cassandra Rice

Landscape Architect and Planner, Site Design Group, Ltd.

Andrew Ronan

Assistant Director - Public Space - Partnerships and Programming, NYC Department of Transportation

Peter Harnik

Author, Self