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 Chinatown Night Market through a redesign and new community outreach.

    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.

    Led by Think!Chinatown with Asian Americans for Equality, the Chinatown team is expanding the Chinatown Night Market — launched at Forsyth Plaza in 2021 with support of Neighborhoods Now. Taking place monthly from June to October 2022, the Chinatown Night Market has physically expanded, now spanning Forsyth Plaza and the sidewalk below. With a new layout and design by di Domenico + Partners, lighting support from Buro Happold, an eye-catching lantern installation by Leroy Street Studio, legal and logistics support from Fried Frank, and evaluation support from Gehl, the market now accommodates a wider array of local food and arts vendors.

    Graphic design studio The Working Assembly has also joined the Chinatown team this year, and is collaborating with Think!Chinatown on a new graphic identity for the market. The branding incorporates a constellation representing the night sky above Forsyth Plaza, and a gradient reminiscent of the glow of the night market itself. Place-based illustrations reflect specific sites within the Chinatown community, and are customized to highlight the market’s participants. The new branding appears on event signage, vendor banners, promotional materials, and social media graphics, and the team is exploring other merchandising opportunities for the future.

    The Chinatown team is also transforming a vacant storefront at 1 Pike Street into a cultural workshop space for Think!Chinatown’s ongoing public programming, gathering, and organizing work for the Chinatown community.

    Who We’re Working With

    Current Firms

    2020-21 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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