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Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, The Greenest Fern, and BD Feliz joined Banana Kelly to reactivate community gardens in Longwood, Hunts Point, Morrisania, and Mott Haven, allowing for safe outdoor activities and services that address neighborhood needs.
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. Launched in May 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. What was intended to be a six-week sprint turned into long-term partnerships, and nearly all of these working groups continue to collaborate beyond their initial scope.
In February 2021, we expanded the initiative with new working groups based in Chinatown, the East Village and Lower East Side, and the South Bronx. With new coalitions of designers, engineers, and landscape architects, each working group aims to convert underutilized outdoor spaces as sites for community programming and cultural revitalization. The Forum and Van Alen have granted each new community partner $10,000 to implement these strategies, and will provide additional fundraising support as funds become available.
Who We’re Working With
Goals and Outcomes
The team collaborated with garden leaders and used Neighborhoods Now funding to hire youth organizers to become stewards and leaders in their communities and spur engagement of younger residents.
Community Garden Plans
The team assessed five community gardens on Banana Kelly properties, which each presented unique opportunities and constraints. They created site-specific visions for each garden, plus toolkits that can be deployed across many sites. Visions range from the simple—such as turning readily available buckets into modular rolling garden beds—to complex, such as creating new and ADA-accessible access points that require negotiation with an adjacent property owner, now in progress.
Transformation and Activation
Through an arrangement with New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Banana Kelly plans to acquire a vacant lot on East 163rd Street. Transformation and activation strategies ranged from rearranging garden bed layouts to dynamically fit real-time needs, to building kiosk structures for information sharing and sun protection.
BD Feliz developed a series of vinyl stickers to optimize wayfinding and enhance gardens’ visibility on the street. The markers can be easily installed or removed at a moment’s notice to guide visitors to entrances and contribute to the greater garden identity.
The Sustainability Index Plan (SIP), developed by The Greenest Fern, is a guide to facilitate the long-term planning of community gardens as well as the sustainable reporting and management of these spaces.