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  1. Launching Neighborhoods Now: Forward

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    Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute Launch New Cycle of Neighborhoods Now, Pandemic Recovery Initiative

    Supported by a grant from Wells Fargo, seven community-based teams will lead long-term recovery at the neighborhood scale

    Contact: Alisha Kim Levin, Director of Communications, press@vanalen.org

    (New York City—March 17, 2022) — The Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute announce a new cycle of Neighborhoods Now, their initiative launched in spring 2020 to support local NYC organizations leading their communities’ pandemic recovery. Under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative will extend through the end of 2022 and transition from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities.

    Across four boroughs, teams are led by the 82nd Street Partnership; Asian Americans for Equality and Think!Chinatown; Bed-Stuy Gateway BID; Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation; Community League of the Heights; FABnyc; and the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition. Building on the lasting partnerships forged over the past two years, these community partners will collaborate with architecture, design, economic development, legal, and planning firms. 14 firms are continuing their engagement with the initiative; firms new to the initiative include Barretto Consulting, Beyer Blinder Belle, BJH Advisors, Dash Marshall, HLW Architects, Gehl Studio, MA’AM, NHDM, Smart Design, and The Working Assembly.

    Neighborhoods Now: Forward is made possible through a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund. With yearlong funding in place, each team is developing projects to build long-term resiliency in neighborhood economies. To strengthen learnings across communities, teams will also meet up throughout the year to exchange their experiences and spark creativity.

    Neighborhoods Now started as a design sprint, and it’s evolved — beyond our wildest expectations — into a platform for enduring partnerships and collective activism,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “We’re immensely grateful to Wells Fargo for making this level of strategic planning possible by recognizing that communities need to drive their own recovery and futures.”

    “Collaborating with our brilliant community partners has reassured me that the future of New York City is bright,” said Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum. “We are delighted that our members are continuing to help small businesses and cultural organizations recover from the pandemic and thrive.”

    “Working with Neighborhoods Now and the Wells Fargo team has been a great support and opportunity for Bed-Stuy Gateway BID,” said Ms. Dale Charles, Executive Director, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID. “These relationships have allowed us to engage, support, and give opportunities to the small businesses of our commercial corridors struggling because of COVID-19. This process has brought the community together in so many ways, culminating in our annual Winter Wonderland holiday market.”

    “Last year, through the process of developing our Vision Plan with the Neighborhoods Now team, FABnyc was able to think deeply about how we could bring together three goals — supporting local cultural organizations, activating public spaces, and advancing cultural equity — into a single vision,” said Ryan Gilliam, Executive Director, FABnyc. “I’m very excited this year to be creating tools with our team to move that plan forward, building our capacity to activate public space, collaborate with community partners, and engage local artists and cultural organizations.”

    “We are excited to embark on a new phase of Neighborhoods Now to build upon our Chinatown Nights festival to make it into a sustained cultural night market for Chinatown and beyond,” said Thomas Yu, Executive Director, Asian Americans for Equality.

    Added Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown, “Working together with neighboring organizations and designers has catalyzed rooted change that can be seen in our free cultural programming. The spirit of Neighborhoods Now shines at Chinatown Nights.”

    “New York’s small businesses and cultural organizations have been hit especially hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and neighborhoods where many business owners, entrepreneurs and employees live and work have been severely affected,” said Catherine Domenech, Senior Social Impact & Sustainability Specialist at Wells Fargo. “Now more than ever, we are actively investing in the communities we serve and providing meaningful support and resources for the places that need it the most. Wells Fargo is proud to partner with the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute on the Neighborhoods Now initiative, which will help many New Yorkers get back on their feet and accelerate their communities’ pandemic recovery.”

    Neighborhoods Now: Forward Teams and Projects

    JACKSON HEIGHTS, QUEENS

    Community lead: 82nd Street Partnership

    Team: n-architects; SO-IL; MA’AM; NHDM

    The Jackson Heights team will create a roadmap for the 82nd Street commercial corridor to rebuild from the pandemic. Jackson Heights’ Dunningham Triangle is at the center of this goal, envisioned as a safer, welcoming space for children and families that encourages foot traffic to nearby small businesses.

    CHINATOWN, MANHATTAN

    Community leads: Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown (T!C)

    Team: Joseph J. Barretto, Barretto Consulting; di Domenico + Partners; Leroy Street Studio; The Working Assembly

    The Chinatown team will expand the night market Chinatown Nights — launched at Forsyth Plaza in 2021 with support of Neighborhoods Now — through new community outreach and a redesign to accommodate a wider array of food and arts vendors. They will also work with designers to transform a vacant storefront owned by AAFE into a cultural workshop space for T!C’s ongoing public programming, gathering and organizing work for the Chinatown community.

    BED-STUY, BROOKLYN

    Community lead: Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

    Team: Moody Nolan; Dash Marshall

    The Gateway BID team will build on Winter Wonderland, an open-air holiday market supporting local small businesses launched through Neighborhoods Now. After two successful pilot markets in 2020 and 2021, the BID hopes to build this event into a hallmark of holiday activities in Central Brooklyn that strengthens Bed-Stuy’s social cohesion.

    Community lead: Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration)

    Team: Farzana Gandhi Design Studio; James Corner Field Operations; KPF

    The Restoration team will develop new financial and spatial resources for the Brooklyn Business Center (BBC) at Restoration, in order to support small businesses in Brooklyn and build BBC’s capacity to share compelling success stories that inspire other local entrepreneurs.

    KINGSBRIDGE, BRONX

    Community lead: Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC)

    Team: Dattner Architects; Scalar Architecture

    The Kingsbridge team aims to complete a neighborhood assessment to understand the current challenges and long-term opportunities for small businesses and tenants along Kingsbridge Avenue & Jerome Avenue. The assessment will lead into an action plan to support the community and avoid displacement, centering the community at each phase of the process.

    LOWER EAST SIDE, MANHATTAN

    Community lead: FABnyc

    Team: DLR Group, Marvel, Smart Design

    Having completed FABnyc’s 20/20 Vision Plan through Neighborhoods Now, the Lower East Side team aims to strengthen existing and new sites for cultural activity. They aim to build on existing Open Streets programming, expand the Open Arts Lower East Side event to build sustainability, and create long-term strategic plans for new sites and platforms.

    WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, MANHATTAN

    Community lead: Community League of the Heights (CLOTH)

    Team: Beyer Blinder Belle, BJH Advisors, HLW

    The Washington Heights team will conduct a needs assessment of businesses to help create a thriving and vibrant commercial corridor. The team will also provide technical support for small businesses who need to update their facades and improve their interior layouts.

    WRAPAROUND EXPERTISE

    As needs arise, legal firm Fried Frank, community development and research firm Gehl Studio, and graphic design studio Pentagram will support each team.

    About Urban Design Forum

    Urban Design Forum mobilizes civic leaders to confront the defining issues facing New York City’s built environment. We are an independent membership organization that empowers professionals of diverse backgrounds, industries and perspectives to shape a better future for all New Yorkers. We investigate complex challenges in the built environment, study alternative approaches from cities around the world, and advance progressive strategies to build a more dynamic and democratic city.

    See all work at urbandesignforum.org.

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    See all work at vanalen.org.

  2. Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm

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    Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm, Outdoor Theater at the Plaza at 300 Ashland

    “Drive-Thru” reimagines the classic drive-in movie experience with rotating media selections from local artists and cultural organizations

    Download images of Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm

    Contact: Alisha Kim Levin, Director of Communications, press@vanalen.org

    BROOKLYN (February 18, 2022) – Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and Van Alen Institute, in partnership with Two Trees Management, today announced its annual public art installation, Soft-Firm’s Drive-Thru at the Plaza at 300 Ashland. A reconfigurable outdoor theater, Drive-Thru will feature a series of videos and performances by Brooklyn artists, filmmakers, and cultural organizations. Drive-Thru will be on view from February 17 to April 14 of 2022.

    Inspired by the classic drive-in movie experience, Drive-Thru reimagines how shared public spaces can be activated during the winter months to connect communities. By incorporating light through rear projection, Drive-Thru serves as a cinema for pedestrians and is visible from the highly utilized intersection of Flatbush and Lafayette Avenues. The design, fabricated by Datum Zed, echoes surrounding urban infrastructure, such as the rotating Brooklyn Academy of Music sign, billboards, and construction scaffolding — incorporating landmarks signature to the Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood. 

    Drive-Thru will showcase film and video by eight Brooklyn-based artists and filmmakers that highlight Brooklyn communities, explore themes of urban life, and connect to Black History Month and Women’s History Month. Live performances will be held to complement a selection of the featured films, starting with a Black History Month celebration event on February 23. 

    “Our latest public art installation, Drive-Thru, builds on DBP’s mission to connect people through the power of shared spaces, storytelling and public art,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Supporting local artists is at the core of our vision for the Plaza and by bringing diverse voices and perspectives to the forefront of the public realm, Drive-Thru exemplifies how individual experiences can become shared when viewed as a community. We invite all New Yorkers to visit Drive-Thru and enjoy the unique work that Soft-Firm has created and the Brooklyn-inspired videos it is providing a stage for.”

    Drive-Thru provides a democratic platform that celebrates neighborhood voices,” said Talitha Liu, Co-Founder of Soft-Firm. “After another year of distance and uncertainty, the installation projects a portal into the rich cultural fabric of Brooklyn.”

    “Soft-Firm is passionate about seeding interventions that come to life with public engagement,” said Lexi Tsien, Co-Founder of Soft-Firm. “We’re excited to create an armature that doubles as canvas and backdrop, animated by Brooklyn artists.”

    “Public spaces are most alive when they’re sites of storytelling,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “To create equitable cities, Van Alen Institute works to center communities in designing shared spaces. With this elegant portal into Brooklyn’s voices, cultures, and histories, Soft-Firm’s installation Drive-Thru shows the human connections that become possible in the spaces where our shared lives unfold. We applaud the generous civic vision of DBP and Two Trees in making this happen.”

    “We are thrilled to have Drive-Thru at the Plaza and to see Brooklyn’s artists and cultural organizations collaborate to maximize this space’s potential as a venue and gathering space,” said Kate Gavriel, Cultural Affairs Director at Two Trees Management Co. “The Plaza at 300 Ashland was designed as a space for the community to come together and celebrate Brooklyn and the people in it—a role that has never been more important than during the pandemic.”

    Drive-Thru projects video on two 13.5’ x 7.5’ screens that rotate around a pivot at the center of a 30’ circular wooden platform. These screens also act as outer walls of two wedge-shaped open-air spaces. On the interior of the installation, the pivot allows varying configurations of space while on the exterior, the screens can be oriented towards major view corridors at the site, visible from Lafayette Ave. and Flatbush Ave., and the stepped seating of the Plaza. 

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland has served as a hub for the arts since its unveiling in 2017, hosting events year-round, including film screenings, concerts, theater performances, dance and fitness classes, readings, community gatherings, and more – all free and open to the public as a part of DBP’s ongoing series Downtown Brooklyn Presents

    Video & Live Performance Schedule 

    February 17–23 

    Ali Santana, Community: Rhythm / Movement / Joy (2022)

    • Filmed on Lafayette Ave in 2012, this scene captures the rhythm, movement, joy and community tradition of BAM’s Dance Africa Street Bazaar. 

    February 23 | 5:30–6:30 pm

    LIVE PERFORMANCE

    Launch of Drive-Thru honoring Black History Month: Senegalese Taneber Sunu Birr (Drum and Dance Circle)

    • Mirroring the electrifying Senegalese drum and dance in the opening film, artist Babacar Top will lead a Sabar dance instruction followed by a Taneber, an open drum and dance circle “sunu birr” (Wolof for “between us”) that celebrates the power and culture of Senegalese tradition, honors African descendants who fought for freedom and liberation, and community.

    February 24–March 2 

    Nicholas Fraser, Follow/Unfollow (2016)

    • Nicholas Fraser’s Follow/Unfollow captures New Yorkers as they travel the city’s ever-changing streetscape. As their paths cross in frame, a single person grows to two, two form a trio, the trio morphs into a crowd, stopping, shifting, and changing direction to a hypnotic effect. 

    March 2–8 

    Simon Benjamin, Errantry (2021)

    • Named after Édouard Glissant’s theory, Simon Benjamin’s Errantry is centered on the polyphonic rhythms of coastal space, the Caribbean sea, and the life sustained by it in a non-linear narrative that raises questions about time, labor, environmental degradation and the ongoingness of colonialism. 

    March 9–15

    Luna X Moya, What the Pier Gave Us (2021)

    • In Luna X Moya’s What the Pier Gave Us, a fisherman’s ordinary day at an undisclosed New York City pier becomes a visual metaphor for the immigrant experience in the United States. This short film is part of an upcoming feature-length documentary.

    March 16–23 

    Olalekan Jeyifous, The Frozen Neighborhoods (Fly-through) (2021)

    • Olalekan Jeyifous’s The Frozen Neighborhoods (Fly-through) depicts a speculative future where poor and marginalized communities are cut off from travel,  forcing them to develop advanced ecological technologies This deceptively dystopian vision imagines the potential of community-focused innovation, creating a sustainable and self-contained world in Brooklyn.

    March 25–30

    Tanika I. Williams, (construct)Clearing (2021) and Sanctuary (2021)

    • As a meditation on quiet care, intention, intergenerational movement, and labor, (construct)Clearing seeks to understand how we wear and repeat family patterns of silence and separation. Sanctuary illustrates the aftermath of African-Caribbean mothers leaving their daughters to immigrate to the United States, combining academic research, autobiographical expression, and archival interviews.

    March 31–April 5 

    Series of shorts by Ezra Wube: Flatbushtopia (2017), Bridge Street (2015), At the Same Moment (2013), Words of Wisdom (2016)

    • This series of shorts by Ezra Wube offer snapshots of life across New York. These stop-motion animations, often developed with community input and participation, depict scenes in Flatbush, DUMBO, Jamaica, and on the subway. 

    April 6–13 

     Aisha Amin, Choir (2020) and Friday (2019)

    • Aisha Amin’s film Choir explores the world within one of New York’s most competitive youth choirs, while Friday is a portrait of the community within a historically black Brooklyn mosque as it fights gentrification

    Additional events honoring Women’s History Month and the closing of Drive-Thru will be announced soon.

    Visiting Drive-Thru

    Drive-Thru is best viewed starting at dusk.

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland is conveniently situated in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, at the intersection of Lafayette Ave and Flatbush Ave. The plaza is easily accessible – located only a short walk from the B, Q, 2/3 and 4/5 subway lines at Atlantic Barclays, the G train at Fulton St, and the C train at Lafayette Ave, as well as a number of bus stops. There is also paid parking along the surrounding streets.

    ###

    About Downtown Brooklyn Partnership: 

    The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential, and retail destination. Managing three Business Improvement Districts 

    (BIDs) that cover Downtown Brooklyn – the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID – the Partnership’s diverse activities include attracting new businesses and improving the environment for existing companies, facilitating the construction of public spaces and streetscapes that promote an active and cohesive community, supporting and promoting Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural assets, and encouraging a sense of place and an engaged civic community. 

    About Van Alen Institute:

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    See all work at vanalen.org.

    ​​About The Plaza at 300 Ashland:

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland is a 15,000-square-foot public space located at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, adjacent to the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. Since its opening in 2017, DBP has partnered with premier Brooklyn arts organizations such as BAM, BRIC, Brooklyn Public Library, Mark Morris Dance Group, MoCADA, 651 Arts, and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) to offer free, high-quality programming for everyone. Programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland is made possible by support from Two Trees Management.

    About Soft-Firm: 

    Soft-Firm is an interdisciplinary practice and flexible platform off which to expand design hunches into architectural ideas, spaces, and artifacts.  Soft-Firm is speculative and concrete: taking a playful and lo-fi approach to visual perception, elemental forms, and material contrast.  Using design as a tool of activism, Soft-Firm engages collaborative and progressive programs to promote equity in institutions and the architectural practice as a whole. The practice has designed interactive exhibitions and installations, residential and commercial projects, and published work in design magazines and academic journals. Soft-Firm project team includes Lexi Tsien and Talitha Liu with fabrication by Jono Isbell from Datum Zed.

  3. On View: Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

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    Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Winner of 8th Annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition:

    Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

    View photographs of Interwoven.

    For questions or interview requests, email press@vanalen.org.

    (New York City—November 24, 2021) — On Monday, November 22, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute unveiled the winner of the eighth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition: Interwoven, an interactive installation by design firm Atelier Cho Thompson. Interwoven is on view through January 2, 2022 in the Flatiron North Public Plaza on Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, creating a highly visible landmark in the heart of Manhattan throughout the holidays.

    Since 2014, this annual competition has brought people together in public space through innovative design installations. Now, at the end of another year marked by isolation, the Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute seek to strengthen community bonds with Interwoven. Inspired by New York’s tapestry of cultures and people, Interwoven celebrates the joys of reconnecting in public space. Its interactive archways are activated by color-coded sensors; when two or more people pass through sensors of the same color, Interwoven responds with corresponding lights and musical compositions by local artists inspired by the installation’s themes.

    The installation’s interactive story wall, made of backlit papers hung on a grid, invites visitors to share responses to the prompt: “I dream of a world where together we can…” The resulting narratives will become a patchwork of voices documenting this challenging yet hopeful moment. The prompt was selected by Youth Fellows from the People’s Bus NYC, a community-led, intergenerational initiative focused on engaging people in New York City’s civic life through beauty and joy.

    “One of our key tenets as a firm is that we can build community around design,” said Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, Co-Founders of Atelier Cho Thompson. “Interwoven highlights our fundamental desires to connect with each other through shared experiences and to celebrate our differences. Interwoven offers a platform for stories and dreams of our future.”

    “Located at one of New York City’s most iconic intersections, the Flatiron North Plaza is the perfect setting for Interwoven, an installation that provides a powerful, yet playful reminder that human interaction is essential,” said James Mettham, Executive Director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. “As we welcome New Yorkers and visitors to explore Interwoven this holiday season, we are proud to once again collaborate with Van Alen Institute on our tradition of presenting thought-provoking public art in Flatiron.”

    Interwoven‘s playful design unites us through joy,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “As part of Van Alen’s Public Realm R&D initiative — which celebrates the serendipity of connection and power of shared stories — we’re honored to collaborate again with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership to test new ways to bring people together in one of NYC’s most iconic public spaces.”

    Inspired by the dynamic geometry of intersections that form the Flatiron Building, Interwoven’s archways, hammock, and benches are constructed with a steel framing, netting, resin panels, and high-density cork. As a firm committed to sustainable design, Atelier Cho Thompson carefully selected Interwoven’s materials including its rapidly renewable cork and steel, a material made of mostly recycled content.

    The project team includes in-kind sponsors MHA Engineering, Lam Partners, Indistinguishable from Magic, Hunter Douglas and 3form, LLI Architectural Lighting, EcoSupply, Fusion Optix, and Cadwell Signs. Grant funding was made possible by Stand with Asian Americans / Asian Pacific Fund and an anonymous donor. Fabrication and site installation will be completed by Smart Department Fabrication, Inc. After debuting Interwoven on the Flatiron North Public Plaza, the firm will partner with community organizations in New Haven, CT to bring the installation to a local public park.

    Since its inception, the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition has been a platform for the Partnership and Van Alen Institute to deepen their connections with emerging designers, bring people together, and support inventive visions for an iconic urban plaza. Atelier Cho Thompson was selected by the Partnership and Van Alen Institute from a shortlist of three firms, each recommended by design experts in Van Alen’s network. The other shortlisted firms were AD-WO and Isometric Studio.

    Nominations for the shortlisted firms were provided by Nina Cooke John, Founder and Principal of Studio Cooke John; Justin Garrett Moore, Program Officer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Mark Gardner, Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects; and Ashley Mendelsohn, Architecture Curator and Educator.

    The installation is presented in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program and will be open to the public daily, weather permitting. The Partnership is encouraging visitors to use #InterwovenFlatiron on Twitter and Instagram to share images of the installation.

    About the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership

    The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, formed in 2006, is a nonprofit organization and Business Improvement District whose mission is to enhance the reputation of Flatiron and NoMad as two of New York’s most vital and exciting neighborhoods. This is accomplished by maintaining a clean and safe environment for the district’s businesses, residents and visitors; by spearheading area improvement projects; and by marketing the diverse business and retail options in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

    FlatironDistrict.nyc
    info@flatirondistrict.nyc
    Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: @FlatironNY

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities.

    For 127 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, civic advocacy, community engagement, preservation, and public policy.

    vanalen.org
    Instagram, Twitter: @van_alen
    Facebook: @vanaleninstitute

    About the NYC DOT Art Program

    The New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art) partners with community-based, nonprofit organizations and professional artists to present temporary public art on NYC DOT property throughout the five boroughs for up to eleven months. Artists transform streets with colorful murals, dynamic projections and eye-catching sculptures. Sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, public plazas and pedestrianized spaces serve as canvases and foundations for temporary art. Over the past 12 years, DOT Art has produced over 300 temporary artworks citywide.

    nyc.gov/dotart
    Instagram: @nyc_DOTArt
    Facebook: @NYCDOT
    Twitter: @nyc_DOT

    About Atelier Cho Thompson

    Atelier Cho Thompson is a bi-coastal design and concept firm, working between the disciplines of architecture, interiors, graphics and design strategy. Founded seven years ago by Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, the firm has embarked on a number of ambitious goals: to design beautiful and functional projects around the globe, to deeply engage our community around design, to promote equity in architecture and beyond. For more information, visit chothompson.com.

  4. Neighborhoods Now: Bed-Stuy Winter Wonderland 2.0

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    Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, Neighborhoods Now, and Wells Fargo Present Winter Wonderland 2.0, A Holiday Experience

    (November 19, 2021—Brooklyn, NY) — Following its success last holiday season, the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District (BID) is bringing Winter Wonderland 2.0 to the village of Bedford-Stuyvesant. An open-air holiday market supporting local Bed-Stuy small businesses, Winter Wonderland 2.0 is a collaboration between the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID; the Neighborhoods Now program organized by Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum; and Wells Fargo’s “Hope, USA” initiative. The effort is being supported by Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

    In celebration of Small Business Saturday, this family-friendly, fresh air affair launches on Saturday, November 27 with a ribbon cutting at Restoration West Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY. Winter Wonderland 2.0 operates from 11 am to 6 pm every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    “We are truly thankful to Neighborhoods Now and Wells Fargo for providing a safe, sound space for our merchants and community to come together to shop, explore, and celebrate the holiday season,” said Lynette Battle, Deputy Director, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID.

    “With this generous support from Wells Fargo, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID brings its beautiful and strategic vision for community gathering to life,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “Small business health and community wellbeing are one and the same, especially in a community like Bed-Stuy where most local business owners live right here.”

    “We can’t wait to be back in Bed-Stuy to shop and spend time with family and friends at Winter Wonderland 2.0,” said Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum. “New York’s small businesses need our support more than ever this year, so we’re glad to partner with Bed-Stuy Gateway BID and Wells Fargo to bring the holiday market back and make it better than ever.”

    “Small businesses have been through so much over the past two years due to the pandemic and other hardships,” said Krissy Moore, Senior Vice President, Northeast Community Relations for Wells Fargo. “That’s why this holiday season – and year-round – Wells Fargo is involved in initiatives that support and provide hope to business owners to assist them during these difficult times. The additional funding for Winter Wonderland will provide local residents with the opportunity to shop local from businesses in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood.”

    This holiday season, through its “Hope, USA” campaign, Wells Fargo is beautifying business districts in 16 cities across the country, including Brooklyn, and encouraging everyone to join in giving hope a hand by supporting small businesses and shopping locally this holiday season. In Bed-Stuy, the “Hope, USA” support will allow Winter Wonderland 2.0 to double vendor space from last year, create an outdoor dining experience, and provide a safe staging area for families to meet, greet, and take photos with Santa.

    Wells Fargo volunteers will help to prepare Restoration Plaza and Marcy Plaza for the Winter Wonderland 2.0 by participating in graffiti removal and engaging in some holiday beautification efforts. Architecture firm Moody Nolan created this updated design of Winter Wonderland 2.0; Moody Nolan has been collaborating with the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID since last year as part of Neighborhoods Now.

    “Not only are we able to bring a world-class holiday tradition to our community,” said Dale Charles, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID’s new Executive Director. “Merchants within our business corridor are getting the support they need to build back better.”

    This moment also highlights Wells Fargo’s commitment to Neighborhoods Now. Launched in May 2020 by the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, Neighborhoods Now partners with local organizations leading their communities’ recovery by building coalitions of architects, designers, and engineers. With a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, Neighborhoods Now will continue throughout 2022 in Bed-Stuy, Chinatown, Jackson Heights, Kingsbridge, the Lower East Side, and Washington Heights.

    About the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

    Centrally located in Brooklyn, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID has proudly stood as one of the borough’s most prominent commercial and cultural focal points. Since 2009, the agency has partnered with local neighbors, and stakeholders to enrich its community through economic development while promoting its rich history of cultural diversity. Through a wide array of programs and services, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID is committed to seeing the community thrive and blossom into the popular destination for all things Brooklyn.

    About Neighborhoods Now

    A collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, Neighborhoods Now connects New York City neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network. Since May 2020, Neighborhoods Now has mobilized more than 85 firms to support hundreds of restaurants, small businesses, and cultural organizations across New York. Nearly all of the initiative’s neighborhood-based teams continue to collaborate and are advancing plans for recovery on a wider community scale. For more information, visit vanalen.org and urbandesignforum.org.

    About Wells Fargo

    Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is the leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories. Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.

    Press Contacts

    Bed-Stuy Gateway BID: Keith Forest, keithlforest@gmail.com
    Urban Design Forum: Janrey Serapio, janrey@urbandesignforum.org
    Van Alen Institute: Alisha Kim Levin, press@vanalen.org
    Wells Fargo: Kevin Friedlander, Kevin.Friedlander@wellsfargo.com

  5. Flatiron 2021: Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

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    Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Winner of 8th Annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition:

    Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

    View renderings of Interwoven and shortlisted proposals.

    For questions or interview requests, email press@vanalen.org.

    (New York City—October 27, 2021) — The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute today unveiled the winner of the eighth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition: Interwoven, an interactive installation by design firm Atelier Cho Thompson. Interwoven will be on view November 22, 2021–January 2, 2022 in the Flatiron North Public Plaza on Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, creating a highly visible landmark in the heart of Manhattan throughout the holidays.

    Since 2014, this annual competition has brought people together in public space through innovative design installations. Now, at the end of another year marked by isolation, the Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute seek to strengthen community bonds with Interwoven. Inspired by New York’s tapestry of cultures and people, Interwoven celebrates the joys of reconnecting in public space. Its interactive archways are activated by color-coded sensors; when two or more people pass through sensors of the same color, Interwoven responds with corresponding lights and musical compositions by local artists inspired by the installation’s themes.

    The installation’s interactive story wall, made of backlit papers hung on a grid, invites visitors to share responses to the prompt: “I dream of a world where together we can…” The resulting narratives will become a patchwork of voices documenting this challenging yet hopeful moment. The prompt was selected by Youth Fellows from the People’s Bus NYC, a community-led, intergenerational initiative focused on engaging people in New York City’s civic life through beauty and joy.

    “One of our key tenets as a firm is that we can build community around design,” said Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, Co-Founders of Atelier Cho Thompson. “Interwoven highlights our fundamental desires to connect with each other through shared experiences and to celebrate our differences. Interwoven offers a platform for stories and dreams of our future.”

    “Located at one of New York City’s most iconic intersections, the Flatiron North Plaza is the perfect setting for Interwoven, an installation that provides a powerful, yet playful reminder that human interaction is essential,” said James Mettham, Executive Director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. “As we welcome New Yorkers and visitors to explore Interwoven this holiday season, we are proud to once again collaborate with Van Alen Institute on our tradition of presenting thought-provoking public art in Flatiron.”

    Interwoven‘s playful design unites us through joy,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “As part of Van Alen’s Public Realm R&D initiative — which celebrates the serendipity of connection and power of shared stories — we’re honored to collaborate again with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership to test new ways to bring people together in one of NYC’s most iconic public spaces.”

    Inspired by the dynamic geometry of intersections that form the Flatiron Building, Interwoven’s archways, hammock, and benches are constructed with a steel framing, netting, resin panels, and high-density cork. As a firm committed to sustainable design, Atelier Cho Thompson carefully selected Interwoven’s materials including its rapidly renewable cork and steel, a material made of mostly recycled content.

    The project team includes in-kind sponsors MHA Engineering, Lam Partners, Indistinguishable from Magic, Hunter Douglas and 3form, LLI Architectural Lighting, EcoSupply, Fusion Optix, and Cadwell Signs. Grant funding was made possible by Stand with Asian Americans / Asian Pacific Fund and an anonymous donor. Fabrication and site installation will be completed by Smart Department Fabrication, Inc. After debuting Interwoven on the Flatiron North Public Plaza, the firm will partner with community organizations in New Haven, CT to bring the installation to a local public park.

    Since its inception, the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition has been a platform for the Partnership and Van Alen Institute to deepen their connections with emerging designers, bring people together, and support inventive visions for an iconic urban plaza. Atelier Cho Thompson was selected by the Partnership and Van Alen Institute from a shortlist of three firms, each recommended by design experts in Van Alen’s network. The other shortlisted firms were AD-WO and Isometric Studio.

    Nominations for the shortlisted firms were provided by Nina Cooke John, Founder and Principal of Studio Cooke John; Justin Garrett Moore, Program Officer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Mark Gardner, Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects; and Ashley Mendelsohn, Architecture Curator and Educator.

    The installation is presented in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program and will be open to the public daily, weather permitting. The Partnership is encouraging visitors to use #InterwovenFlatiron on Twitter and Instagram to share images of the installation.

    About the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership

    The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, formed in 2006, is a nonprofit organization and Business Improvement District whose mission is to enhance the reputation of Flatiron and NoMad as two of New York’s most vital and exciting neighborhoods. This is accomplished by maintaining a clean and safe environment for the district’s businesses, residents and visitors; by spearheading area improvement projects; and by marketing the diverse business and retail options in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

    FlatironDistrict.nyc
    info@flatirondistrict.nyc
    Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: @FlatironNY

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities.

    For 127 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, civic advocacy, community engagement, preservation, and public policy.

    vanalen.org
    Instagram, Twitter: @van_alen
    Facebook: @vanaleninstitute

    About the NYC DOT Art Program

    The New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art) partners with community-based, nonprofit organizations and professional artists to present temporary public art on NYC DOT property throughout the five boroughs for up to eleven months. Artists transform streets with colorful murals, dynamic projections and eye-catching sculptures. Sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, public plazas and pedestrianized spaces serve as canvases and foundations for temporary art. Over the past 12 years, DOT Art has produced over 300 temporary artworks citywide.

    nyc.gov/dotart
    Instagram: @nyc_DOTArt
    Facebook: @NYCDOT
    Twitter: @nyc_DOT

    About Atelier Cho Thompson

    Atelier Cho Thompson is a bi-coastal design and concept firm, working between the disciplines of architecture, interiors, graphics and design strategy. Founded seven years ago by Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, the firm has embarked on a number of ambitious goals: to design beautiful and functional projects around the globe, to deeply engage our community around design, to promote equity in architecture and beyond. For more information, visit chothompson.com.

  6. Shaping a Better NYC: An Election Primer

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    Shaping a Better NYC: An Election Primer Spotlights Urban Planning and Development Priorities of NYC Mayoral Candidates

    Launch of New Online Resource Developed by Coalition of Eight Civic Organizations Seeks to Educate New Yorkers About Candidate Positions

    Contact: Mark McNulty, Regional Plan Association, mmcnulty@rpa.org, (908) 235-1719

    (May 11, 2021—New York City)—Launching today is a new, online resource–Shaping a Better NYC: An Election Primer–which provides information to help New Yorkers make informed decisions in the upcoming Mayoral election. The website, created by a coalition of civic, planning and design organizations, features interviews highlighting the vision of several top candidates on how the city can recover from the pandemic and build a more just and equitable future. The interviews also focus on candidate proposals that center equitable design, planning, and development priorities across the five boroughs.

    Issues covered in the interviews, available online at shapingabetter.nyc, include homelessness, housing affordability, access to parks and open space, climate change and its impacts on communities of color, underinvestment in transportation and infrastructure, and recovering from COVID-19. The website also features high-level perspectives from each organization on issues central to their constituencies.

    Shaping a Better NYC is the product of eight organizations advocating for thriving neighborhoods, beautiful parks, lively commercial corridors, and welcoming public buildings. Partnering organizations in the coalition reach a collective audience of more than 200,000 New Yorkers. The organizations include: AIA New York, The Architectural League of New York, Design Trust for Public Space, the Municipal Art Society of New York, Open House New York, Regional Plan Association, Urban Design Forum, and Van Alen Institute.

    The coalition invited the top polling candidates for one-hour interviews. Below are the candidates that participated in interviews from March-April 2021. Shaping a Better NYC welcomes the participation of the remaining candidates. To access the interviews, and for more information about the candidates, please visit shapingabetter.nyc.

    Select quotes from the interviews include:

    We have not opened the city to all New Yorkers…people don’t believe that all of the beauty that the city has to offer is for everyone. And so, I want to be intentional about allowing the child from Tilden Houses to feel comfortable, to go into different parts of this city and explore this city and see some of the beautiful architectural designs that are in this city. It can really excite their curiosity.

    …I believe in an open, accessible city where every New Yorker, no matter what neighborhood they’re in, they will see that welcome mat is not based on your economics or your zip code.

    –Eric Adams

    I know what it means to lead through a crisis. And I know that those who are the most vulnerable before a crisis hits are always hurt the worst by it. And that’s why I will lead putting equity at the front.

    …As a designer myself who studied architecture and planning and housing, I fundamentally believe that designers need to be at the center of reimagining this as a city that works for everyone.

    …At the center of my platform as mayor are 15-minute neighborhoods…where every New Yorker has within 15 minutes of their front door access to everything that they need for opportunity.

    –Shaun Donovan

    When we rethink the public realm, it is about making sure that we are engaging with architects, with landscape architects, with design professionals, and with communities—that this needs to be something where we are creating real function, but also real beauty, because it makes us, it makes the city, a more livable city.

    …Whether you’re thinking about building affordable housing, or designing a park, or about how to build a sanitation garage, where you work and the spaces that you are in, impact your physical health and your mental health and your ability to succeed.

    –Kathryn Garcia

    Critical and central to (my) life’s mission (is) to dismantle structural racism…how we have made decisions and investments in this country, and in this city, in ways that have also shaped the physical space and the experience we have in the city.

    …So, when we think about physical space, I have a very specific plan for how we start to achieve livability, which is focused on creating an Office for Open Space Management, because in a city with our density, space is a critical component to how we create livability, but also how we create justice and fairness and things like environmental health and solving transit deserts.

    –Maya Wiley

  7. Breathing Pavilion by Ekene Ijeoma

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    Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Ekene Ijeoma Public Sculpture in Downtown Brooklyn

    Breathing Pavilion creates an outdoor space for communal meditation and reprieve

    (March 16, 2021—Brooklyn, NY)—Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and Van Alen Institute today unveiled Breathing Pavilion, artist Ekene Ijeoma’s first outdoor installation in New York City. Presented with support from Two Trees Management Co, the immersive installation will be on view from March 16 to May 11, 2021 at The Plaza at 300 Ashland, in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Cultural District.

    Using both computational design and conceptual art strategies, Ijeoma reframes social issues to poetically uncover the truths and injustices and are obscured through various systems of oppression. Created in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racial injustice in the United States, Breathing Pavilion offers sanctuary at a time of intense hardship and loss, suggests a paradigm shift towards communion and meditative stillness, and creates an accessible space of reprieve when the act of breathing itself is under siege.

    “Between the ongoing struggles in the racial and political movements in the United States and the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to find the time and space to breathe deeply and rest well,” said Ekene Ijeoma. “I held my breath for most of last year, waiting to exhale into a new administration and new vaccines. It will still take some time before we see large-scale change. Until then, in these next few weeks, this pavilion is here to invite the public to breathe into the change within each of us, in sync with one another.”

    Breathing Pavilion comprises a 30-foot circle of 20 nine-foot two-tone illuminated inflatable columns that slowly modulate in brightness to illustrate a deep breathing technique designed to bring calm. Viewers are invited to breathe in time with the changing light and attune themselves to a shared rhythm of respite. Over its six-week installation period, Breathing Pavilion will host a series of site-specific events, including musical performances. Musicians in the series include Melanie Charles on flute, Joel Ross on vibraphone, and Baba Don Babatunde of the Last Poets – the full lineup is below.

    “As we head into spring, outdoor public spaces remain at the core of our shared experience and Breathing Pavilion will serve as artwork with intention that can bring us together at a time when we must remain physically distanced,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “This innovative installation stands out as an entirely unique public art project that offers a much-needed moment for reflection after a challenging year. We look forward to sharing this thoughtful new public art project with our community.”

    Breathing Pavilion is part of Van Alen Institute’s Public Realm R&D program, intended to surface the work of emerging designers and test new strategies to bring people together in public space. After 125 years in Manhattan, Van Alen relocated to Brooklyn in 2020, and this is the organization’s first public realm installation in the borough.

    “Last year permanently changed our relationship to public space,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “To create equitable cities, Van Alen Institute works to center communities in designing shared spaces. Ekene Ijeoma’s installation Breathing Pavilion is a profound and beautiful example of how public space can help heal us, safely and together. Breathing Pavilion is an inspiration for the kind of city we want for our future.”

    “We are thrilled to have worked with DBP and Van Alen to bring Ekene Ijeoma’s Breathing Pavilion to the Plaza at 300 Ashland. A graceful and forceful response to our current moment, Ijeoma’s work provides respite and resolve, and spotlights the revolutionary potential of radical rest,” said Kate Gavriel, Cultural Affairs Director of Two Trees Management Co. “Two Trees has a proven commitment to the arts in Brooklyn, and we are excited to continue giving artists a platform to create.”

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland has served as a hub for the arts since its unveiling in 2017, even amid the pandemic. Most recently, it hosted DBP’s Rehearsal Residency Initiative, where arts and culture organizations and individuals used the space for outdoor rehearsals, and in October 2020 hosted the third instalment of the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival. Managed, programmed, and maintained by DBP, the plaza also features a year-round calendar of programming including film screenings, concerts, theater performances, dance and fitness classes, readings, community gatherings, and more – all free and open to the public.

    Musical Performance Lineup

    3/23: Kalia Vandever, Trombone

    3/30: Melanie Charles, Flute

    4/6: Joel Ross, Vibraphones

    4/13: Baba Don Babatunde, Percussion

    4/20: Neil Clarke, Percussion

    4/27: Lakecia Benjamin, Saxophone

    5/4: Participatory Drum Circle led by Mr. Fitz of the Brooklyn Music School

    5/8: Keyon Harrold, Trumpet

    Visiting the Sculpture

    Breathing Pavilion is designed to be experienced in accordance with COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. Signage encourages viewers to wear masks and maintain six feet of distance to ensure everyone can safely enjoy the work.

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland is conveniently situated in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, at the intersection of Lafayette Ave and Flatbush Ave. The plaza is easily accessible – located only a short walk from the B, Q, 2/3 and 4/5 subway lines at Atlantic Barclays, the G train at Fulton St, and the C train at Lafayette Av, as well as a number of bus stops. There is also paid parking along the surrounding streets.

    The 35,300-square-foot public plaza, which is free and open to the public year-round, is designed to overlook Downtown Brooklyn with a capacity of more than 2,000 people and acts as the perfect venue for large-scale festivals, markets, and community events. There is both stepped seating built into the plaza as well as bistro tables and chairs, so visitors can sit outside.

    About Ekene Ijeoma

    Ekene Ijeoma is an artist, professor of Media Arts and Science at MIT, and founder/director of the Poetic Justice group at MIT Media Lab. Through both his studio and lab at MIT, Ijeoma researches social inequality across multiple fields including social science to develop artworks in sound, video, multimedia, sculpture and installation. Ijeoma’s work has been commissioned and presented by art institutions including Contemporary Art Museum of Houston, The Kennedy Center, Museum of the City of New York, Neuberger Museum of Art, and Annenberg Space for Photography. Ijeoma’s practice has also been supported by grants, fellowships and residencies including Creative Capital, Map Fund, Wave Farm, The Kennedy Center, and New York Foundation for the Arts.

    About Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

    The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential, and retail destination. Managing three Business Improvement Districts

    (BIDs) that cover Downtown Brooklyn – the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID – the Partnership’s diverse activities include attracting new businesses and improving the environment for existing companies, facilitating the construction of public spaces and streetscapes that promote an active and cohesive community, supporting and promoting Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural assets, and encouraging a sense of place and an engaged civic community.

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    See all work at vanalen.org.

    About The Plaza at 300 Ashland

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland sits at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, adjacent to the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. DBP has partnered with premier Brooklyn arts organizations such as BAM, BRIC, Brooklyn Public Library, Mark Morris Dance Group, MoCADA, 651 Arts, and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) to offer free, high-quality programming for everyone. Programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland is made possible by support from Two Trees Management Co.

  8. Neighborhoods Now Expands

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    Van Alen Institute and Urban Design Forum Expand COVID-19 Response Initiative Neighborhoods Now

    New community partners in Chinatown, East Village, and South Bronx collaborate with interdisciplinary experts on pandemic recovery

    Since April 2020, initiative has assisted more than 100 restaurants, small businesses, and cultural organizations

    (February 16, 2021—New York City)—The Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute today announced the expansion of Neighborhoods Now, a COVID-19 response initiative that connects New York City’s hard-hit neighborhoods with coalitions of architects, designers, engineers, lawyers, and planners providing pro bono expertise. From February to June 2021, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, and Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc) will lead community working groups in Chinatown, the East Village and Lower East Side, and the South Bronx. Each group aims to convert underutilized outdoor spaces as sites for local programming and cultural revitalization. The Forum and Van Alen have granted each community partner $10,000 to implement these strategies, and will provide additional fundraising support as funds become available.

    “We’re deeply grateful we were able to support hundreds of New Yorkers through direct relief efforts in 2020. This year, our working groups are driven by how the pandemic has permanently changed our use of public space. It’s time to look at what kind of city we want for our future, and start using our gardens, plazas, and sidewalks in new, community-centered ways,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute.

    Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum, added, “I’m continuously inspired by our community partners as they navigate new and tough challenges driven by this pandemic. We’re proud to mobilize the design community to support them, and are particularly excited to see how our new teams help AAFE, Think!Chinatown, Banana Kelly, and FABnyc plan safe outdoor operations this spring.”

    Launched in May 2020, Neighborhoods Now has supported more than 100 small businesses and cultural organizations, including more than 20 restaurants who were able to participate in the city’s Open Restaurants program as a result. To date, the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute have regranted more than $100,000 to community partners to implement the designs and strategies developed.

    Based on the initiative’s work in 2020, Van Alen and the Forum developed 10 policy recommendations to share with New York City’s Departments of City Planning, Cultural Affairs, Parks and Recreation, Small Business Services, and Transportation, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Serving as guiding principles for the initiative’s upcoming work, these recommendations include tactics to provide targeted support to communities in most need and utilize existing community assets such as parks, sidewalks, and vacant lots.

    NEW WORKING GROUPS

    Chinatown, Manhattan

    Led by Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown, the Chinatown working group will develop a proposal to adapt Forsyth Street Plaza into an open-air market supporting local Chinatown businesses and cultural groups. The working group consists of Leroy Street Studio (architecture and design), di Domenico + Partners (architecture and landscape architecture), and Buro Happold (engineering).

    “Asian Americans For Equality (AAFE) is thrilled to partner with Think!Chinatown under the Neighborhoods Now initiative to come up with creative, community-led solutions for Chinatown’s underutilized open spaces, with the twin goals of helping our embattled small businesses and creating a more permanent cultural arts space for the community,” said Thomas Yu, Co-Executive Director, AAFE. “We look forward to working with Leroy Street Studios, di Domenico + Partners, Buro Happold, Fried Frank and all the staff from Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum to make this happen.”

    East Village and Lower East Side, Manhattan

    Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc) is expanding their collaboration with Neighborhoods Now by bringing in four new member organizations: the Gene Frankel Theatre, KGB Bar / Red Room, Loisaida Inc, and Performance Space New York. Together with Buro Happold, Marvel, and SHoP, they will develop reopening strategies tailored to needs of smaller performing arts organizations, which are critical contributors to building community and strengthening the cultural fabric of neighborhoods.

    “FABnyc has been struggling to find real, concrete ways to support our cultural community — our theaters and dance spaces have been shut down since March 2020,” said Ryan Gilliam, Executive Director, FABnyc. “Neighborhoods Now has been a powerful, steady partner through this time, working with our groups to imagine safe, creative ways to bring live performance back to NYC.”

    South Bronx

    Spearheaded by Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, the South Bronx working group will reactivate community gardens in Longwood, Hunts Point, Morrisania, and Mott Haven, allowing for safe outdoor activities and services that address neighborhood needs. Banana Kelly is joined by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (landscape architecture), The Greenest Fern (sustainable design), and BD Felíz (graphic design).

    “In the South Bronx, community gardens are some of the most important assets we have in the fight against dire health disparities that unfairly burden the low-income communities of color we serve,” said Ian Gray-Stack, Director of Community Organizing, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association. “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this fight is more important than ever, which is why Banana Kelly is excited to participate in Neighborhoods Now to develop resident power by safely reactivating our garden spaces through infrastructure improvements and community organizing.”

    Law firm Fried Frank will continue their engagement with Neighborhoods Now to provide legal guidance to all working groups, and the Association of Nonprofit Specialists has joined the initiative to provide fundraising expertise to community partners. Specialized expertise will be provided on an as-needed basis by experts at CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and CUNY Graduate Center, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Drexel University, the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design, Kramer Levin, National Development Council, Sam Schwartz, Silman, Thornton Tomasetti, Two Twelve, and VHB.

    “We are tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work with committed organizations and talented design professionals in addressing the current challenges faced by local businesses and the communities they serve,” said Carol Rosenthal, Partner, Fried Frank. “We seek to bring our legal lens to the multi-disciplinary team that Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum have assembled for this exciting effort.”

    “Small businesses are the beating heart of our communities. Just as we’ve supported struggling enterprises through PPP loans, we’re honored to advance the work of Neighborhoods Now,” said Carlos Naudon, President and CEO, Ponce Bank, a supporter of Neighborhoods Now. “This initiative has really helped small businesses through design expertise and getting boots on the ground, and we’re proud to see our communities pulling together to help each other.”

    ABOUT NEIGHBORHOODS NOW

    In 2020, Neighborhoods Now initially convened eight working groups led by community organizations in Bed-Stuy, Jackson Heights, Kingsbridge, the Lower East Side, and Washington Heights. The outcomes were a set of design recommendations and prototypes addressing immediate needs for COVID-19 awareness campaigns, open air dining, and outdoor education and cultural programming. In some neighborhoods, prototypes have already been implemented, and Van Alen and Urban Design Forum are actively fundraising to support additional implementation.

    Neighborhoods’ needs also went beyond design and physical interventions. Working groups organized financial workshops for small businesses, drafted legal templates, and collaborated with senior staff at City agencies to help neighborhoods navigate programs like Open Streets and Open Restaurants.

    Nearly all of Neighborhoods Now’s participants have continued collaborating beyond their initial scope, resulting in projects such as the Bed Stuy Gateway BID’s recent “Winter Wonderland” designed with Moody Nolan and an upcoming landlord/tenant mediation workshop organized with Alloy and Fried Frank.

    To see the designs, guidelines, and strategies from the initiative’s work in 2020, visit neighborhoodsnow.nyc. Detailed reports from each group, posted on the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute websites, provide full context for each resource and greater insight into this collaborative, community-led process.


    Neighborhoods Now is made possible by special support from Home Depot and the New York Community Trust. Van Alen Institute and Urban Design Forum also thank Neighborhoods Now’s generous sponsors. These include Lead sponsors Citi Community Investing & Development, KPF, and Ponce de Leon Foundation; Benefactor sponsors Alloy, Apple Bank, Ponce Bank, and Snøhetta; Advocate sponsors Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union, DLR Group, the Elmezzi Foundation, Ingram LLP, nARCHITECTS, Studio Libeskind and WRNS Studio; Patron sponsors Bednark Studio, Civitas, COOKFOX, Grimshaw, Perkins & Will, PNC Bank, and Stantec; and Supporting sponsors Daraja Capital, Innisfree, Signature Bank, and Thinc Design.

    About Urban Design Forum

    Urban Design Forum mobilizes civic leaders to confront the defining issues facing New York City’s built environment. We are an independent membership organization that empowers professionals of diverse backgrounds, industries and perspectives to shape a better future for all New Yorkers. We investigate complex challenges in the built environment, study alternative approaches from cities around the world, and advance progressive strategies to build a more dynamic and democratic city.

    See all work at urbandesignforum.org.

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    See all work at vanalen.org.

  9. “Bridges for the People” Statement

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    January 28, 2021

    “Van Alen Institute is thrilled to hear Mayor de Blasio’s plan to convert car lanes into bike lanes on the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges. In Spring 2020, Van Alen collaborated with the New York City Council on Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge, an international design competition to rethink the iconic Brooklyn Bridge walkway. With more than 200 submissions from 37 countries, the competition demonstrated the people’s immense passion for more sustainable and equitable infrastructure. Today’s announcement from the Mayor is a meaningful response to that passion. We are grateful to the New York City Council for their collaboration and to the many transportation advocates and community activists who have pushed this conversation forward over years.”

    Deborah Marton, Executive Director

  10. Point of Action, Studio Cooke John

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    Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil 7th Annual Flatiron Public Plaza Design Installation:

    Point of Action by Studio Cooke John

    (November 24, 2020—New York City)—The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute yesterday unveiled the seventh annual Flatiron Public Plaza Design Installation: Point of Action by Studio Cooke John. Point of Action will be on view through January 1, 2021 in the Flatiron Public Plazas on Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street in Manhattan, creating a highly visible landmark throughout the holidays.

    Point of Action invites New Yorkers and visitors to contemplate the experience of seeing one another—and being seen. Once the viewer steps out of their usual routine and into the installation’s threshold, there are multiple opportunities for connection with fellow viewers and with passersby. Six-foot circles affixed onto the Flatiron Public Plazas create nine “spotlights,” each with its own vertical metal frame. Ropes weave through each frame and part, like a curtain figuratively pulled aside, to make room for the viewer to take the spotlight, connect with other viewers across the Plazas, and take action as they move out and beyond. Lighting emitted from a halo above each circle strengthens the framing; lights embedded into the sides of each frame add another layer to the viewer.

    “We are at a threshold during this pandemic. Now that our eyes have been opened to realities that have been with us all along, how do we move forward? My hope is that Point of Action makes people think about how we connect to the people we see every day so that we can move forward together,” said Nina Cooke John, Founder and Principal of Studio Cooke John.

    As the first Flatiron Public Plaza Design Installation to be spread throughout both the North and South Plazas, Point of Action’s larger footprint allows for more socially distanced engagement. However, the installation’s concentric circles ripple out from each spot, eventually connecting with other circles, and thus other viewers, across the Plazas.

    Point of Action beautifully meets our city’s current moment of uncertainty, provoking us to think not only about our interconnectedness with one another, but the role of our public spaces in creating connected, healthy, and resilient communities as we look toward collective recovery,” said James Mettham, Executive Director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. “There is no better place for this installation than the Flatiron Public Plazas, world-renown public spaces for meeting friends, participating in our public programming, and enjoying art and architecture. We are proud to partner with Van Alen Institute to present Point of Action and we invite visitors from near and far to visit Flatiron this season.”

    “This year has been a profound exercise in finding new ways of connecting, from embracing video calls to coming together in social action. With Point of Action, Studio Cooke John powerfully captures the importance of building new connections and community, which are critical to our city’s resilience,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “The Flatiron Public Plaza Design Installation is an important part of Van Alen Institute’s Public Realm R&D program, intended to surface the work of emerging designers and test new strategies to bring people together in public space. We’re honored to collaborate with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership to activate this iconic plaza, especially as our outdoor public spaces have proven essential to our wellbeing.”

    “This year DOT Art is especially appreciative of Studio Cooke John’s highly interactive response in a time when our city is craving connection,” said Wendy Feuer, DOT Assistant Commissioner of Urban Design + Art + Wayfinding. “For the first time, work will be installed on both the North and South Plazas, which strengthens the theme of connectivity and allows space for reflection.”

    Studio Cooke John is a multidisciplinary design studio with a broad range of expertise that values placemaking as a way to transform relationships between people and the built environment. Led by Studio Cooke John founder Nina Cooke John, the Point of Action project team includes fabricator Charlie Spademan of Spademan Fabrication; Braulio Duran of NY Lighting Group, which is donating in-kind fabrication services; lighting consultant Jimmie Drummond of Drummond Projects; and installation contractor Kathy Lysikowska-Diaz of KLD NY Inc.

    Studio Cooke John was selected by the Partnership and Van Alen Institute from a shortlist of seven firms, each recommended by design experts in Van Alen’s network. The other shortlisted firms were Architensions, Austin + Mergold, Bryony Roberts Studio, Office Lou Arencibia, Studio Ijeoma, and Studio Zewde.

    Nominations for the shortlisted firms were provided by Benjamin Cadena, Founder, Studio Cadena; Justin Garrett Moore, Executive Director, New York City Public Design Commission; Toni L. Griffin, Founder, urbanAC; Nancy Hou & Josh De Sousa, Founders, Hou de Sousa; Jing Liu, Principal, SO-IL; V. Mitch McEwen, Principal, Atelier Office; Ashley Mendelsohn, Architecture Curator and Educator; Leni Schwendinger, Principal, Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD; and Jae Shin, Partner, HECTOR.

    Since its inception in 2014, the Flatiron Public Plaza Design Installation has been a platform for the Partnership and Van Alen Institute to deepen their connections with emerging designers, bring people together, and support inventive visions for an iconic urban plaza. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s installation will offer the neighborhood continuity in uncertain times.

    The installation is permitted through NYC DOT Art and will be open to the public daily, weather permitting. The Partnership is encouraging visitors to use #PointOfAction on Twitter and Instagram to share images of the installation.

    About the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership

    The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, formed in 2006, is a nonprofit organization and Business Improvement District whose mission is to enhance the reputation of Flatiron and NoMad as two of New York’s most vital and exciting neighborhoods. This is accomplished by maintaining a clean and safe environment for the district’s businesses, residents and visitors; by spearheading area improvement projects; and by marketing the diverse business and retail options in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

    FlatironDistrict.nyc

    info@flatirondistrict.nyc

    Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: @FlatironNY

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    vanalen.org

    Instagram, Twitter: @van_alen

    Facebook: @vanaleninstitute

    About the NYC DOT Art Program

    The New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art) partners with community-based, nonprofit organizations and professional artists to present temporary public art on NYC DOT property throughout the five boroughs for up to eleven months. Artists transform streets with colorful murals, dynamic projections and eye-catching sculptures. Sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, public plazas and pedestrianized spaces serve as canvases and foundations for temporary art. Over the past 12 years, DOT Art has produced over 300 temporary artworks citywide.

    nyc.gov/dotart

    Instagram: @nyc_DOTArt

    Facebook: @NYCDOT

    Twitter: @nyc_DOT

    About Studio Cooke John

    Studio Cooke John is a New York-based design studio with a strong focus on high-impact, residential architecture, as well as design for international cultural institutions. With a broad range of expertise, Studio Cooke John values placemaking as a way to transform relationships between people and the built environment. Throughout the design process, its collaborations with clients yield insights that inform how we, alongside a network of craftsmen, fabricators and consultants, transform spaces within the home and in the public sphere. For more information, visit cookejohn.com.

    Media Contacts

    Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership: Zac Roy, zac@anatgerstein.com, 347-361-9072

    Van Alen Institute: Alisha Kim Levin, press@vanalen.org, 212-924-7000 x11