Long-term, community-led pandemic recovery across four boroughs in NYC.


April 2020—December 2022

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, in Spring 2020 the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute tapped into our collective network of architects, designers and engineers. By building interdisciplinary partnerships, Neighborhoods Now has supported local organizations leading their communities’ recovery. Over three years, the initiative evolved from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams have enlivened and programmed public space, provided technical support to small businesses, and strengthened cultural activities.

What began as a responsive six-week sprint developed into a platform for enduring partnerships and collective activism. Scroll down to learn more about each team.

Neighborhoods Now was made possible through a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund.

Who We Worked With

Community Partners

Funding provided by


Neighborhoods Now: 82nd Street Partnership

Creating a roadmap for Jackson Heights’ 82nd Street commercial corridor to rebuild from the pandemic.

Neighborhoods Now: Asian Americans for Equality and Think!Chinatown

Expanding the Chinatown Night Market through a redesign and new community outreach.

Neighborhoods Now: Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

Building on Winter Wonderland, an open-air holiday market supporting local small businesses.

Neighborhoods Now: Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation

Developing new financial and spatial resources to support small businesses in Brooklyn.

Neighborhoods Now: Community League of the Heights

Conducting a needs assessment of businesses to help create a thriving and vibrant commercial corridor.

Neighborhoods Now: FABnyc

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

Neighborhoods Now: Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition

Completing a neighborhood assessment to understand the challenges and opportunities for small businesses.

Neighborhoods Now: Cooper Square Committee

An office retrofit to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for staff and clients.

Neighborhoods Now: University Neighborhood Housing Program

An office update in accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Additional Expertise

Wraparound Experts

2020–21 Report

The results of our work in 2020-21 were 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 supporting additional implementation through 2022. 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.


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


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

Public 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; FABnyc; 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 FABnyc

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

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



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 Strategic Partnerships


This project is made possible with support from