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02/11/2016
Building Equity

Our senior centers, police stations, libraries, and dozens of other public facilities are some of our most important shared spaces, as well as powerful physical and symbolic reminders of the role government plays in our everyday lives. How can designers, government officials, residents, and many other stakeholders ensure that these civic spaces truly serve everyone equally?

To approach this question, Van Alen Institute and a New York City agency organized two workshops on equity and city government, services, and spaces. The second workshop focused on the neighborhoods surrounding the Langston Hughes Library – including Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Flushing.

This workshop site was selected based on recent demographic changes in the area. Corona was at one time predominantly and African American community, and over the past 15-20 years it has become a majority Latino neighborhood. This demographic shift raises questions around how public buildings can be designed in ways that remain relevant and welcoming as users needs and cultures change. Additional questions discussed at the workshop were:

How can the design of public buildings and spaces…
– allow users to feel entitled to its use?
– provide opportunities to gather with others?
– improve access to services?
– serve needs across generational, economic, and/or cultural lines?
– promote neighborhood histories, identities, and cultures?
– inspire ownership and upkeep by users?

Participants: Andrew Burdick, Ennead Lab; Arli Cornejal, Queens Neigborhoods United; John Crow, Langston Hughes Community Library; Eilidh Dickson, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design; Beatriz Gil, Hibridos Collective; Larinda Hooks, Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities; Sahar Khan, Chhaya CDC; Isabelle Leighton, Asian Americans for Equality; Clara Londono, Plaza del Sol Health Clinic; Prerana Reddy, Queens Museum; Jessica Sanclemente-Gomez, NYC Housing Preservation & Development; Rachel Schwartz, Public Health Solutions; Eduardo Staszowski, Parsons DESIS Lab; and Lester Youngblood, NAACP Corona.