215 Park Avenue South, 1901
New York, NY 10003
212 962 6307

Public Space for Free Expression

A Letter to Mayor De Blasio


Safe Spaces for Demonstration


Design Trust for Public Space, Gehl Institute, The Horticultural Society of New York, Institute for Public Architecture, Municipal Art Society, Project for Public Spaces, Regional Plan Association, Street Plans, Transportation Alternatives, Van Alen Institute, WXY Architects


New York City-Wide

Civic participation has always been important to New Yorkers, but in today’s political climate, the rights to protest and free expression have become an increasingly pressing issue. Historically, protest sites in New York have been located in Manhattan, from Union Square, to the Great Lawn in Central Park, to Adam Clayton Powell Plaza. As the city’s population increases, especially in the outer boroughs, and as the need for action becomes evermore urgent, it has become clear that New York must address the physical limitations of these spaces.

In partnership with twelve other local architecture, urban planning, and public space advocacy organizations, PAU drafted a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio recommending seven actions the city can take to support and encourage demonstrations, political speech, and other expressions of civic engagement in the city’s public spaces. The letter emphasized the importance of policy initiatives as well as the physical characteristics of public space in fostering an environment of free expression in the public realm.

One of the actions proposed in the letter to the mayor was the creation of a network of protest sites spanning all five boroughs. To support this recommendation, PAU produced a series of analytical maps illustrating the potentially exponential impact of this action: A much broader cross-section of New Yorkers—in terms of income level as well as race and ethnicity—could more easily participate in free expression. And instead of being held at a single location, marches and protests could be staged at multiple locations, facilitating larger turnout overall, enabling MANY more voices to be heard.