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Neighborhoods Now:
Community League
of the Heights

Outdoor dining adapted for winter conditions. Courtesy: Woods Bagot
Proposed pop-up for Word Up Community Bookshop displays and programming. Courtesy: Gensler
Designed to be inexpensive and accessible, this kit of parts can be set up to facilitate outdoor programming and learning. Courtesy: Arup
Designs for safely extending restaurant seating areas into the street. Courtesy: Arup
Playful and mobile designs for plywood barriers for street closure. Courtesy: Arup
Playful and mobile designs for plywood barriers for street closure. Courtesy: Arup

In collaboration with the Urban Design Forum, Neighborhoods Now connects neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with leading design firms. In Bed-Stuy, Jackson Heights, Kingsbridge, and Washington Heights, these working groups are collaborating to develop safe and effective reopening strategies.

The outcomes are a set of design recommendations, prototypes, and installations empowering communities to respond to their immediate needs, while contributing to the city-wide strategy on pandemic response. In some neighborhoods, prototypes have already been implemented, and Van Alen and Urban Design Forum are actively fundraising to support additional implementation.

Learn more about Neighborhoods Now.

Working Group

CLOTH identified the following priorities:

  • Safe extension of restaurants into the street with protection from traffic
  • Configuration of public spaces to allow for socially-distanced activities
  • Creative communication of COVID-19 safety guidelines in public spaces
  • Use of available interior and outdoor spaces for educational programs
  • Improved coordination with owners of vacant storefronts to facilitate temporary uses and activities

Considering the many needs of outdoor dining through the city’s Open Restaurants program, the working group proposed low-cost, easily movable barricades with built-in waste management, signage, and ventilated canopy designs to retain much-needed table space in the colder months. The working group is in the process of installing one of these outdoor dining prototypes, and connecting with additional businesses in the neighborhood who could use pop-up spaces through flyering.

Their proposal also includes flexible retail display systems using off-the-shelf materials and an educational “kits of parts” for safe outdoor education at significantly lower cost than existing public space kits. They are now sourcing materials for this kit that can be used for programming by Word Up Community Bookshop, an important neighborhood civic space.

The use of the information contained in this proposal document, “Neighborhoods Now: Washington Heights Working Group Final Report,” is at the sole risk of the user, and Van Alen Institute shall not be responsible for, or liable in any way for, the accuracy, completeness or any other matter with respect to the contents herein. The user hereby assumes all risks of the use of the information, and irrevocably and unconditionally waives, releases and discharges Van Alen Institute and its direct and indirect members, directors, officers, employees, agents, affiliates, volunteers and representatives, from any and all liability of any kind or nature whatsoever, in connection with the matters contained herein, and the use of the information contained herein.