Neighborhoods Now: FABnyc

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


    Strengthening sites for cultural activity and planning new sites and platforms.

    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.

    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. This year, they’re building on existing Open Streets programming, expanding the Open Arts Lower East Side event to build sustainability, and creating long-term strategic plans for new sites and platforms.

    To these ends, the team is supporting FABnyc’s outdoor arts programming. DLR Group is developing the “Casita,” a multi-purpose kiosk that will store event supplies, serve as a community information hub, and expand with the use of canopies to host programs. Smart Design is creating the “FABmobile,” a functional art project designed with FABnyc’s pop-up activations at the neighborhood’s NYCHA developments in mind. With electric cargo capabilities, this mobile kiosk will transport supplies to host events around the Lower East Side. Graphic design firm Pentagram is also developing a visual identity for FABnyc’s public space programs.

    The team’s work is rounded out by Marvel’s community engagement campaigns to raise awareness about FABnyc’s resources, such as a call for artists for an NEA-funded installation to tell Black histories in the Lower East Side. They also recently collaborated with M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden on a Juneteenth event which gathered community feedback about memorializing the park’s namesake, a nearby African burial ground.

    2022 Summary

    Who We’re Working With

    Current Firms

    Past Firms

    2020-21 Goals and Outcomes

    DLR Group, Buro Happold, Francis Cauffman Architects, Henning Larsen, Marvel, and SHoP worked with 13 of FABnyc’s member organizations to develop reopening strategies tailored to needs of smaller performing arts and culture organizations, including ways to participate in New York City’s Open Culture program.

    Safety Protocols
    In 2020, the FABnyc team worked with several theaters and cultural spaces to create safety protocols, entry and exit flows, and seating charts that allow for socially distanced events. DLR Group worked with La MaMa, Frigid New York, IATI Theater and Teatro Circulo to create outdoor waiting area plans that could extend the lobby and allow for multiple safe entrances. FCA worked with The Clemente to plan for signage installation that would aid in wayfinding and making sure social distancing protocol is followed. They also helped with planning seat arrangements for outdoor festivals. Henning Larsen worked with First Street Garden, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Swiss Institute, and Wild Project to plan for outdoor theaters, creating cost-effective mural walls and seating arrangements for indoor events.

    Reopening Plans
    In 2021, with reopening on the immediate horizon, four more FABnyc members joined the effort with a range of needs. Marvel worked with the Gene Frankel Theater for their official reopening in April 2021, providing a socially-distant seating chart and plans to guide them going forward. They also collaborated with the Loisaida, Inc. to activate their underutilized outdoor spaces by designing areas for active and passive recreation, and enlivening them through murals.

    Vision Plan
    The FABnyc Vision Plan team, consisting of SHoP Architects, DLR Group, Marvel, and Buro Happold, worked closely with Ryan Gilliam, FABnyc Executive Director, to develop a vision plan launched at the organization’s anniversary event in September 2021. The Vision Plan integrates a range of content, including a series of organizational goals, documentation of the broad range of efforts underway by FABnyc, and prospective activation strategies for a set of priority open spaces throughout the Lower East Side. The team conducted a series of visioning sessions, site visits throughout the neighborhood, and charrette sessions to establish existing conditions and design goals.

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