In collaboration with the Urban Design Forum, Neighborhoods Now connects neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with leading design firms.

About

Neighborhoods Now emerged from a spirit of support for our neighbors in a difficult time and the understanding that equity is rooted in our physical environment.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took root, its uneven impact on the lives of New Yorkers became painfully clear. While our city’s well-resourced communities quickly purchased expertise necessary to navigate a changed world, neighborhoods where many of our essential workers live did not have the same access and resources.

In response, the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute tapped into our collective network of architects, designers and engineers. By building interdisciplinary partnerships, Neighborhoods Now supports local organizations leading their communities’ recovery. To date, we mobilized more than 85 firms to support recovery efforts in New York City’s hard-hit neighborhoods.

What began as a responsive six-week sprint developed into a year-long neighborhood recovery initiative. Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute partnered with local organizations to direct resources and technical assistance to small businesses and cultural organizations. Our community partners are at the heart of this work. We are honored to support their heroic efforts to implement on-the-ground solutions to urgent pandemic-related challenges in the context of the existing deep inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Our initial teams convened in summer 2020, and nearly all continue to collaborate beyond their initial scope. Physical interventions like outdoor seating for restaurants and safety barriers for small businesses were just some outcomes. Over the past year, working groups have also organized financial workshops for small businesses, drafted legal templates, and collaborated with senior staff at City agencies to help neighborhoods navigate municipal programs like Open Streets and Open Restaurants. Teams are now embedded in neighborhoods and advancing plans for recovery on a wider community scale.

Ultimately, equity is rooted in our physical environment. Without equitable access to resources needed to care for spaces that support the civic and economic well-being of communities — and to adapt them in times of crisis — long-term structural inequities will endure.

Every New Yorker should have equitable access to design resources that support community needs. To advance toward this goal, the Neighborhoods Now team listened humbly to our community partners, and worked to deepen partnerships between the design community and community development organizations. We’re committed to continuing this work beyond the pandemic, and hope you’ll join us.

Who We’re Working With


Community Partners


2020–21 Update Report

The results of our work in 2020-21 are a set of design recommendations and prototypes addressing immediate needs for COVID-19 awareness campaigns, open air dining, and outdoor education and cultural programming. Several prototypes have now been implemented, and Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum are actively fundraising to support additional implementation — with $195,000 regranted to community partners to date.

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.

Working Groups

Neighborhoods Now: Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, The Greenest Fern, and BD Feliz joined Banana Kelly to reactivate community gardens in Longwood, Hunts Point, Morrisania, and…

Neighborhoods Now: Asian Americans for Equality and Think!Chinatown

Leroy Street Studio, di Domenico + Partners, and Buro Happold have partnered with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown to develop a…

Neighborhoods Now: Fourth Arts Block

DLR Group, Buro Happold, Francis Cauffman Architects, Henning Larsen, Marvel, and SHoP worked with 13 of FABnyc’s member organizations to develop reopening strategies…

Neighborhoods Now: 82nd Street Partnership

ARO, Design Advocates, LTL, MOS, nARCHITECTS, SO-IL, and VHB collaborated with Jackson Heights’ 82nd Street Partnership. Together, they helped over 20 restaurants participate…

Neighborhoods Now: Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

This working group helped launch the BID’s first-ever Winter Wonderland, activating Marcy Plaza as a small business marketplace.

Neighborhoods Now: Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation

This team worked on interior reconfigurations for Restoration and are exploring ways to aid broader neighborhood recovery efforts.

Neighborhoods Now: Community League of the Heights

Arup, Design Advocates, Gensler, Stantec, and Woods Bagot collaborated with CLOTH. Together, they proposed all-weather outdoor dining design, flexible outdoor retail displays, and…

Neighborhoods Now: Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition

COOKFOX, Design Advocates, MNLA, Perkins & Will, Scalar Architecture, and Studio Libeskind collaborated with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC). Together,…

Neighborhoods Now: University Neighborhood Housing Program

Dattner Architects and MBB collaborated with University Neighborhood Housing Program to create plans to update and reopen their main office in accordance with…

Neighborhoods Now: Cooper Square Committee

CSC worked with Curtis + Ginsberg Architects (C+GA) to carry out several retrofits to their office on East 4th Street in order to…

Additional Expertise

Public Health

Luisa Borrell

Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, CUNY

Dustin Duncan

Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

Gina Lovasi

Drexel University


Law


Engineering


Streetscape and Curbside Management


Environmental Graphics


Heat and Resiliency


Environmental Psychology

Eve Klein

CUNY Graduate Center

Javier Otero Peña

CUNY Graduate Center


Material Science

Alison Mears

Healthy Materials Lab, Parsons School of Design


Small Business Lending


Project Resources

19 resource(s) for this project.

Programs

Neighborhoods Now Summer Summit

July 22, 2021

In our 2021 update, presenters from the Chinatown, South Bronx, and Lower East Side working groups shared their achievements, reflections on interdisciplinary practice, and plans to carry their work forward.

Sreoshy Banerjea (EDC NYC), Fauzia Khanani (Studio Fōr), Yin Kong (Think!Chinatown), Carlos Naudon (Ponce Bank), and Carol Rosenthal (Fried Frank) then joined to discuss how community organizations, city agencies, funders, and design professionals can best collaborate to help communities recover from the pandemic and thrive going forward.

Presenting Working Groups:
Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association; Fourth Arts Block; and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown

Neighborhoods Now Summit: Strategies for Reopening and Recovery, Day 1

October 6, 2020

In this two-part public forum, our participating designers and our community partners reflected on how collaborative design can inform neighborhood recovery strategies.

Presenting Working Groups:
82nd Street Partnership, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), and Fourth Arts Block

Neighborhoods Now Summit: Strategies for Reopening and Recovery, Day 2

October 7, 2020

In this two-part public forum, our participating designers and our community partners reflected on how collaborative design can inform neighborhood recovery strategies.

Presenting Working Groups:
Bed-Stuy Restoration, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, Community League of the Heights (CLOTH), University Neighborhood Housing Program, and Cooper Square Committee

Neighborhoods Now Kickoff

June 26, 2020

This roundtable session brought together the Neighborhoods Now community partners with diverse panelists to build a foundational knowledge for the working groups’ process and to help inform the public about the issues at hand.

Community Partners:
Leslie Ramos, 82nd Street Partnership; Rachel Joseph, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation; Medina Sadiq, J.D., Bed-Stuy Gateway BID; Leah James, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition; Jackie Tesman, Community League of the Heights; Yvonne Stennett, Community League of the Heights

Panelists:
Luisa Borrell, CUNY; Melissa Fleischut, New York State Restaurant Association; Alison Mears, Parsons Healthy Materials Lab; Andrea Batista Schlesinger, HR&A Advisors; Barika Williams, Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development

Press

Next City

A Night Market Has Popped Up in NYC’s Chinatown

Fast Company

COVID-19 decimated NYC businesses. This free program is helping them recover

Bedford + Bowery

The Matchmaking Service That Pairs Visionary Designers With Covid Conundrums

Curbed

The Secret to Year-Round Streeteries? What Greenhouses Can Teach Us

Architect’s Newspaper

Van Alen Institute and Urban Design Forum launch online design toolkit for COVID-19 recovery efforts

Contact

Andrew Brown

Director of Programs

Support

Information about sponsorship opportunities can be found here.

To learn more about how to support Neighborhoods Now, including helping our community partners realize their recovery strategies, please contact:

Kate Overbeck

Director of Development

Sponsors

This project is made possible with support from


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