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Photo caption (left to right): SUKHI New York President & Co-Founder Agha Saleh, Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Daniel Dromm, Friends of Diversity Plaza Chair Shekar Krishnan, SUKHI New York Co-Founders Shazia Kausar and Fatima Baryab celebrate the co-naming of Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, Queens.

On Saturday afternoon, May 21st NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst), US Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), NYC Public Advocate Letitia James (D-NYC), Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (D-Queens), NY State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens), Community Board 3 Queens District Manager Giovanna Reid and representatives from the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), the Friends of Diversity Plaza, SUKHI New York and the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership were joined by Jackson Heights residents to co-name the northeast corner of 73rd Street and 37th Road “Diversity Plaza.”

The name “Diversity Plaza” was coined by Dromm’s former chief of staff Will Sweeney, who lives in Jackson Heights.  The co-naming ceremony coincided with World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, designated by the United Nations in 2002.  A special performance by Calpulli Mexican Dance Company followed Dromm’s remarks and the unveiling of the official “Diversity Plaza” street sign.

“Diversity Plaza has truly become a neighborhood gathering point for Jackson Heights and Elmhurst residents,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst).  “The plaza serves as a town square, concert stage, festival space and cafe year round.  There is always something exciting taking place there.   On the occasion of Diversity Plaza’s co-naming, I would like to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, Friends of Diversity Plaza, the Neighbor Plaza Partnership, the NYC Department of Transportation and the many other stakeholders who have worked with me to make Diversity Plaza the vibrant and welcoming place it is today.  Together we will continue to bring additional programming and improvements to this invaluable public space.”

In 2011 Dromm, the DOT and community stakeholders implemented Diversity Plaza as part of a larger neighborhood transportation study that sought to increase pedestrian safety and decrease congestion in the area.  The plaza also serves to increase open space in a neighborhood where it is scarce.   Dromm has worked closely with the DOT and local organizations to manage, maintain and enhance the plaza.  Because of these coordinated efforts, the plaza has become an integral part of the Jackson Heights and Elmhurst communities.  The plaza is home to a variety of festivals and cultural events throughout the year.  The plaza has also served as a central gathering point for immigrant communities when disasters occur in their homelands. Following the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, the Nepali community held a multi-day vigil in the plaza to collect donations and share information about conditions and relief efforts in Nepal.

In 2012, Dromm allocated $500,000 for the capital reconstruction of Diversity Plaza. When complete, the plaza will feature a raised street bed, new lighting as well as new planters and trees. Construction on the plaza is set to start later this year with completion in late 2017.

Vita Coco, a coconut water company, has signed on as a sponsor of Diversity Plaza and will be funding additional cleaning and horticultural services for a full year as well as free programming for the community. The plaza is also receiving support from DOT in the form of funding for programming, day to day operations as well as maintenance services and technical assistance for plaza managers.

“Diversity Plaza has been a mainstay of Jackson Heights – ‎one of the most diverse neighborhoods in one of the most diverse cities on earth – for years,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.  “We are proud to stand with Council Member Dromm and the people of Queens to formally recognize the importance of this plaza for the folks here — who speak over 150 languages. From providing a central space for community members to hold vigils and seek support from their neighbors in difficult times, to cultural festivals in the summer, Diversity Plaza will represent something powerful for this city and this community for years to come.”

“In many ways, Diversity Plaza has become the town square not just for the Jackson Heights community but for immigrant New Yorkers all around the city,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “Its name is befitting and signals to residents and visitors alike, that Jackson Heights is proud to celebrate our differences and promote inclusiveness. I thank Council Member Dromm and all of the caretakers who have made the plaza such a success!”

“As the most diverse neighborhood in the country, there is no place more fitting for ‘Diversity Plaza,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “This plaza has consistently provided a safe and accepting place for New Yorkers of all religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders to gather without fear of bigotry or hatred. This plaza will serve as a constant reminder to Jackson Heights and all of New York that we are a City that proudly celebrates the diversity of our people.”

“Diversity Plaza here in Queens serves as the community’s hub for free speech,” said Borough President Katz. “Over the years, Diversity Plaza has organically become a central, cross-cultural venue for the robust exercise of speech, assembly, religion, expression. Thanks to investments secured by Councilmember Dromm and the programming committed by Vita Coco and the Department of Transportation, the new features and attention to Diversity Plaza will help enhance safety, aesthetics and utility at this intersection of the world.”

“Diversity Plaza is an anchor in the Jackson Heights community. From cultural festivals and celebrations to outdoor community board meetings, this space is truly woven within the fabric of this neighborhood,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “Not only does Diversity Plaza provide much needed open space, it also reminds us how lucky we are to live in this borough. Queens is one of the most diverse areas in the world, a fact that should be celebrated as much as possible. The melting pot that is our borough is demonstrated all around this plaza. For example, we have Bangladeshi clothing shops along 73rd Street, Colombian bakeries on 37th Avenue and Korean BBQ on Roosevelt Avenue. Together, they all culminate right here in Diversity Plaza, and what a better day to recognize that than the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.”

“Since it opened, Diversity Plaza has become the beating and bustling heart of Jackson Heights,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.  “Through our One NYC Plaza Equity Program, DOT is proud to partner with Council Member Dromm to support this welcoming space with maintenance and technical assistance.  With 53 plazas currently open to the public citywide and more on the way, Diversity Plaza has set the bar high on what communities can do to creatively transform their neighborhood public spaces.”

“New York City is proud of our immigrant heritage, and Diversity Plaza is an important symbol of our pride,” said MOIA Commissioner Kavita Pawria-Sanchez. “We thank Council Member Daniel Dromm for hosting this important commemoration of Diversity Plaza as it provides a venue in which to reflect on New York City’s commitment to include all New Yorkers in the fabric of our City.”

“Diversity Plaza is the meeting place where cultural groups and religious organizations hold vigils and festivals to celebrate their heritage and customs,” said Community Board 3 Queens District Manager Giovanna Reid.  “We commend Council Member Dromm for having the foresight to create a much needed public space and providing the funding for its upgrade.  Community Board 3 is proud to have played a small role in lending our support for the co-naming of this important public space and destination where diversity is celebrated every day.”

“We are very excited about the co-naming ceremony and the designation of our special public space as, officially, Diversity Plaza,” said Shekar Krishnan, Chair of Friends of Diversity Plaza.  “As the gateway to Jackson Heights, it is a reflection of the incredible cultural vibrancy and diversity of our neighborhood.  Following the recent installation of overhead lights and the beautiful street art by a local business owner and resident, this is a wonderful day for our Plaza, the town square of our community.  We are grateful for the efforts of Council Member Daniel Dromm, the Mayor’s OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, and Neighborhood Plaza Partnership for working with us and our community to bring these significant improvements to this important open space.”

“It is wonderful to have the city officially recognize the symbolic importance of a public space that celebrates diversity,” said Laura Hansen, Managing Director of Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.  “From day one, Diversity Plaza named itself – as host day and night to New Yorkers who hail from every nation, and as the venue for every kind of cultural event.   All that is possible because Council Member Daniel Dromm had a vision for this little stretch of 37th Road, and because of the tireless efforts of SUKHI New York and the Friends of Diversity Plaza to nurture one of the city’s most welcoming, popular and exciting public spaces.”

“I’m proud to see my vision of Diversity Plaza as the capital of the living United Nations in New York City became real,” said Agha Saleh, founder of SUKHI New York.  “SUKHI’s inclusive team of diversity lead by two women, Shazia Kausar and Fatima Baryab, and their dedicated work with Council Member Daniel Dromm at 37th Road during the past four years made this plaza famous around the world.”

“We find the world in Queens,” said Calpuli Mexican Dance Company Co-founder and Managing Director Juan Castaño.  “Calpuli Mexican Dance Company is delighted to be part of this celebration of diversity, proudly representing our Mexican and Mexican-American community.”

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