Dante Park Plaza?

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The Dante Park area may be free from cars in 2013, if local groups pushing to create a public plaza get their way.

With the Department of Transportation enlisting nonprofits to draft plans for pedestrian plazas in their neighborhoods, the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District (BID) suggested Dante Park, a triangle-shaped plot of land across the street from Lincoln Center, between West 63rd and 64th streets.

“It’s worth looking at,” said Monica Blum, the BID’s president. “The community loves it. Every chair and table is taken in that little park.”

The BID and other community organizations have wanted to expand the tiny, 6,200-square-foot park.

“There’s just very little space for people to sit,” Blum said. “There’s clearly a need for people to sit outdoors. There are lots of possibilities that could be explored.”

A public plaza like this one, along Broadway and Fifth Avenue, might be coming to the Lincoln Center area. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Maysa Bazna, who was recently feeding her daughter in Dante Park during lunchtime, said she would enjoy more seating and upkeep.

“It’s a great idea, especially if you have a kid,” Bazna said. “It’s great to be able to stop somewhere, eat something and enjoy.”

After creating a high-profile pedestrian plaza in Times Square, the department asked groups to draft proposals for additional plazas to be constructed in 2011. Twenty-two applications were submitted, and nine public plaza proposals were chosen, including projects in Midtown East, Harlem and Lower East Side.

This is the department’s third call for applications, which are due June 30. Once an application is chosen, the department will finance the proposal design and construction.

A possible hitch for the Upper West Side is that the city is prioritizing the plazas based on need. The neighborhood already has park space and a public plaza project on Frederick Douglass Circle, on West 110th Street and Central Park West. The East Side of Manhattan and central Brooklyn are areas with a great need for open space, according to the department, but the agency also wants nonprofits to be able to host community events, like fairs and farmers markets, and contribute to maintenance.

The BID has already been involved with the park, recently adding nine tables and 22 chairs with help from Borough President Scott Stringer’s office.

“We got the staff and ability and wherewithal to maintain a public space,” Blum said. “We do it already.”

The Dante Park bid has vocal supporters already.

“It’s mostly pedestrian traffic,” said Council Member Gale Brewer. “You can’t have enough places to sit, converse, have a cup of coffee and listen to music. You put more tables and chairs in that location, they will be immediately filled.”n

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