This chapter provides general guidelines for public programming in the public right-of-way, and outlines existing programs and permit processes sanctioned by DOT and SAPO.

Programming activates roadways, sidewalks, and pedestrian plazas, and is essential to the ongoing success of any public space. Markets, public art, performances, and other events support a vital public realm, increasing pedestrian activity; supporting local businesses; connecting residents with resources; celebrating community, culture, and diversity; and encouraging local ownership of the public spaces in which they occur.

From a block party, which opens a single block to community activities for a day, to Summer Streets, which dedicates over 7 miles of streets to pedestrians, runners, and cyclists, programming reminds New Yorkers that streets are public space, and should support active, healthy, and sustainable lifestyles.

Nonprofit organizations (e.g., business improvement districts, community-based organizations, block associations, and arts institutions) are encouraged to contribute to the vitality of New York City by applying to participate in one of the programs described in this chapter or to host one of the events. Funding through several DOT programs is available to assist organizations interested in certain programming or event types. Permits are provided as needed by DOT and SAPO, and, at times, by other city agencies such as FDNY, NYPD, or DOB.

Summer Streets 2019: Park Avenue, Manhattan

Guidance Sources

Guidance and application materials related to public programming can be found on the SAPO website, as well as on the various city programs’ websites (Weekend WalksPlaza ProgramDOT Art ProgramSummer Streets). In addition, interested parties should consult the Comprehensive Event Permitting Guide for The City of New York (CECM, 2018), the NYC Plaza Program Application Guidelines (DOT), and the DOT Art Program’s Site Selection Guide.

Programming Categorization

Programming process diagram

Community Initiated & Funded

Events initiated by a community-based organization and hosted on city property, specifically plazas, sidewalks, or roadways. Applications are reviewed and approved by SAPO, DOT, and other relevant city agencies.

Community Initiated & DOT Funded

Programming that is initiated by a community-based organization in response to an open call from DOT to activate the public realm. Organizations apply to an agency program, which provides funding to support the organization’s efforts. Applications are reviewed and approved by SAPO, DOT, and other relevant city agencies.

DOT Initiated & Funded

Large-scale, annual car-free events initiated by the city. DOT issues an open call to community-based organizations, artists, and performers to enhance the specific event routes with activities, public art installations, and music, dance, and theater performances. Funding is available to support the programming partners’ efforts. Applications are reviewed and approved by SAPO, DOT, and other relevant city agencies.