Neighborhoods Now: Asian Americans for Equality and Think!Chinatown

This work is part of Neighborhoods Now, an umbrella initiative; learn more about it here.


    Expanding the night market Chinatown Nights through a redesign and new community outreach.

    About Neighborhoods Now

    Launched in Spring 2020, Neighborhoods Now is a collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute to connect NYC neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network.

    In 2022, under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative is evolving 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.

    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.

    Who We’re Working With

    Current Firms

    Past Firms

    2020-21 Goals and Outcomes

    In 2020-21, Leroy Street Studio, di Domenico + Partners, and Buro Happold partnered with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown to develop a proposal to adapt Forsyth Plaza into an open-air market supporting local Chinatown businesses and cultural groups.

    Plan for Night Market
    The team set out to create the infrastructure to support a night market of food vendors along Forsyth Street and cultural programming on the adjacent plaza. To create more opportunities for neighborhood-specific cultural programming and a food market model, the team worked on financial mechanisms, marketing, design and construction of vending carts, and administration of regulations.

    Pilot Event
    A monthly summer series, Chinatown Nights, kicked off on June 18, 2021. It was the pilot installment featuring a Chinatown-focused film program alongside local street vendors. On the cusp of NYC’s reopening, Chinatown Nights became much more than an open-air festival — it held space for the community to reunite and celebrate.

    Neighborhood Beacon
    Glowing and playful, a movable light box hosts projections created by Think!Chinatown. As a signifier of a community event, the light box brings the party wherever it roams.

    Community Engagement
    Think!Chinatown was able to connect a range of key stakeholders, growing the team to include artists, filmmakers and food vendors, while also introducing the team to some key Chinatown movers and shakers, inviting them into our design process. By connecting with these fixtures of the Chinatown cultural and social landscape, Chinatown Nights has been able to design a space where community members and visitors all feel welcome.

    Future Plans
    The team is continuing to collaborate to develop staging techniques for more cultural performances and art vendors; expand the area of programming, activating more space along Forsyth Plaza; create a full night market model including permitting and financial model to host market stalls in addition to food vendors; and ensure the space is held for the Chinatown community by curating cultural programming appropriate for Chinatown aunties, culturally involved APIs, and visitors alike.


    Next City

    A Night Market Has Popped Up in NYC’s Chinatown

    2021 Presentation

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