CEC, DCLA and PAIR Roll Out 'The People's Bus'

NYC’s Civic Engagement Commission is taking democracy to the streets by transforming a retired City bus into a community center on wheels.

By: Jun. 11, 2021
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CEC, DCLA and PAIR Roll Out 'The People's Bus'

Today, the NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC), Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), and Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) Yazmany Arboleda officially unveiled "The People's Bus," a mobile unit designed to engage residents in a direct, artistic, and sensory celebration of democracy. Over the past year, the CEC has worked with Arboleda as part of DCLA's PAIR program to develop The People's Bus, an ongoing, transformative process to reimagine public space in partnership with New Yorkers. The process will galvanize greater civic participation through the physical transformation of the look, use, and feel of a retired bus from the New York City Department of Correction into a community center on wheels geared toward engaging people in NYC's civic life through beauty and joy. The transformation will continue through various participatory events and projects throughout the summer, culminating in The People's Festival in August.

"Civic engagement doesn't have to be inaccessible or uninspiring. The People's Bus will tap into the transformative power of art to excite and engage New Yorkers, particularly those who have historically been underserved and overlooked. The reimagination of The Peoples Bus in all its phases will allow the public to participate in moving beyond simply restoring broken spaces to completely transforming the space for a new purpose and life. The origin of the bus as a former corrections vehicle is an undeniable aspect of its story. The participatory process to transform the bus into a space of connection, resilience, and joy, now will become part of its new legacy." - Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair & Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission.

"For Democracy to be sustainable it must prioritize the role that beauty and joy play in all parts of city governance. The People's Bus is a gymnasium for the human imagination--now more than ever, we must create spaces where our communities can practice imagining our collective future--a future that takes care of all living creatures." - Yazmany Arboleda, Public Artist in Residence with the NYC Civic Engagement Commission.

"The People's Bus is an exciting, inspiring expression of the power of art to reframe, reimagine, and reengage us with the world around us," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. "With this amazing platform, Yazmany Arboleda and the Civic Engagement Commission are inviting New Yorkers to think of our democracy as something that unites us extends far beyond the polling site on election day. Our Public Artists in Residence program seeks to foster just this kind of dynamic exchange and engagement, and we encourage all New Yorkers to visit a stop of The People's Bus this summer."

The People's Bus makes its debut this weekend with a city-wide tour promoting voter education, from Saturday, June 12 through Wednesday, June 16, the first 5 days of early voting in the upcoming primary election. This tour will stop at one site in each of the five boroughs and bring information about the upcoming election, ranked choice voting (RCV), and the Civic Engagement Commission's poll site language assistance program. Tour stops, dates, and times are listed below. At each stop, New Yorkers will be invited to practice ranked choice voting, by using a mock ballot to vote on what the bus should look like and what it should bring into communities during The People's Festival in August. The People's Festival will bring civic education and the arts to the five boroughs, focusing in particular on communities that were most impacted by COVID-19, and its programming will be shaped by the months of engagement that kick off this weekend.

The bus, formerly a Department of Correction vehicle, departed Rikers Island earlier this month and will be stationed at the Queens Museum between engagements. Additional events, activations, and partnerships will be announced throughout the summer.

In addition to inviting all New Yorkers to participate in the transformation of the bus, CEC and Arboleda have launched The People's Fellows, a youth-led group that will help direct the bus's transformation and shape its summer programming. The bus will recruit additional members of The People's Fellows on its tour, and NYC youth interested in joining can apply to join at www.participate.nyc.gov .

The Civic Engagement Commission was created in 2018 through a Mayoral Charter Revision Commission and citywide vote. CEC's Mission is to enhance civic participation in order to increase civic trust and strengthen democracy in New York City. The Commission is committed to engaging and listening to communities, while lifting up the voices of all New Yorkers, particularly the underserved and marginalized.

Voter Education Bus Tour (Dates, Times, Locations)

Saturday, June 12th


Flatbush Avenue between Empire Boulevard & Lefferts Avenue

12 PM to 3 PM

Tuesday, June 15th


Union Square

4 PM to 7 PM

Sunday, June 13th


Diversity Plaza

12 PM to 3 PM

Wednesday, June 16th

Staten Island

St. George Ferry Terminal

4 PM to 7 PM

Monday, June 14th


3rd Avenue between East 149th Street & East 148th Street

4 PM to 7 PM