Archive

  1. Points of Promise: Artist Open Call

    Comments Off on Points of Promise: Artist Open Call

    Artist Open Call

    Launched by Van Alen Institute in 2023, Points of Promise is a multiyear initiative to create public art and design tools that support civic engagement and foster connection among Gowanus residents in the midst of significant neighborhood redevelopment.

    For the next Points of Promise installation in Fall 2024, Van Alen is currently seeking artists and designers to help increase public awareness of the evolving risk and impact of flooding in Gowanus. The project seeks fresh ideas for community engagement in order to provide Gowanus residents with new, enriching ways to stay informed about issues shaping the neighborhood. To apply, complete the 2024 Open Call form by Friday, April 26, 2024.

    Applying artists should have:

    • At least two years of professional experience as an artist
    • Completed at least two public-facing and/or community-engaged projects
    • A practice based in the New York City metropolitan area; Gowanus-based artists and those impacted by local flooding are especially encouraged to apply

    Please note the Open Call is not a request for proposals (RFP). In early May, a shortlist of applicants will receive the RFP and a winning proposal will be chosen by committee in June. Shortlisted artists will receive $2,000 upon submission of their design proposals. The winning artist will be awarded $50,000 to complete the project, with low bono engineering review services provided by Silman.

    Artists invited to submit a proposal will be asked to consider the following:

    • How do residents currently deal with living in the flood zone? What are their stories? Is it possible to make their experiences, along with the physical impacts of flooding, more visible?
    • Looking ahead, how might the threat of flooding evolve over time in Gowanus? How might the neighborhood’s communities be impacted in the future? How might your piece inform the public of efforts led by community groups and/or city leaders to help Gowanus manage water and bounce back from flooding?
    • There’s a lot of new construction in Gowanus’ flood zone – how might you reach potential future residents about flooding in Gowanus, in addition to long-time residents?

    Proposed projects can range in the nature of their form — from a poster campaign to a physical installation serving as an info hub to a performance-based piece, and everything in between. Points of Promise is open to the full range of possibilities, but proposals must make current and incoming residents conscious of the shifting impact of flooding in Gowanus.

    Info Sessions

    Zoom Info Session and Q&A

    Tuesday, April 9, 5 pm on Zoom
    Recording will be posted here following the meeting.

    Drop-in Hours

    Wednesday, April 10, 5–6:30 pm
    Thursday, April 25, 5–6:30 pm
    Van Alen Institute
    303 Bond Street, Brooklyn

    Contact

    Shiloah Coley

    Programs Associate

    About Points of Promise

    In 2021, the New York City Council approved the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, transforming (or “rezoning”) former manufacturing sites into residential and mixed-use properties, including an estimated 8,200 new apartments. Residents and community organizers have been working to ensure current Gowanus residents benefit from the rezoning. Their advocacy resulted in the 56 Points of Agreement (POAs) — commitments made by New York City to support housing, infrastructure, public space, community amenities, and business programs. In total, NYC will invest $450 million for these improvements in Gowanus. Approximately $200 million of that total will address high priority needs in Gowanus’ NYCHA developments.

    Points of Promise calls on artists and designers to create local temporary art installations or public space activations that help inform Gowanus residents about these immense changes. Each year, artists are invited to respond to an RFP (request for proposals) that addresses a topic present in the 56 Points of Agreement (POAs). To create these public art and design tools in truly community-led and responsive ways, Van Alen seeks artists and designers with demonstrated experience facilitating community-engaged social practice work that centers the lived experiences and needs of the respective communities they collaborate with.

    This initiative was developed with the support of a selection committee of Gowanus residents and local stakeholders from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Gowanus Houses Tenants Association, the Gowanus Oversight Task Force, and Gowanus Mutual Aid.

    Points of Promise

    Public art and design tools to support civic engagement in Gowanus amidst the neighborhood’s redevelopment.

    With Your Voice

    Coming soon! Created by Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas, With Your Voice will envision the major changes coming to Gowanus, Brooklyn.

    Supporters


  2. Ugly Beauties

    Comments Off on Ugly Beauties

    About Ugly Beauties

    March 8–May 2, 2024

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland, Brooklyn

    Curry J. Hackett’s Ugly Beauties champions Black resilience, celebrating the belonging of both Black people and spontaneous plant growth in urban environments. Made of construction netting and steel scaffolding, Ugly Beauties features images of Black people juxtaposed with native and invasive plant species — so-called “weeds” — that flourish in New York City, prompting viewers to consider society’s perception of beauty and belonging. Dandelion, yarrow, burdock, and other wild plants all bear ecological and cultural value, yet are commonly dismissed as weeds. In Ugly Beauties, however, their beauty is championed in a lush collage of imaginary weedy worlds, celebrated in parades, dinner parties, costume designs, and churches.

    Ugly Beauties borrows its name from Thelonious Monk’s haunting ballad: a subtle invitation for views to explore the harmonies between the “uglies” and beauties in their streets and backyards. The tapestry is one of visual jazz — a rich composite made with artificial intelligence using Midjourney’s text-to-image generator.

    Ugly Beauties is part of Van Alen Institute’s Common Build program, intended to surface the work of emerging designers and test new strategies to bring people together in public space. The installation is co-produced by Van Alen Institute and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Presented with support from Two Trees Management Co.

    Lighting design by Jelisa Blumberg. Lighting by Jamaul Douglas, scaffolding by Steel Construction LLC, and mesh by Britten Inc.

    About Curry J. Hackett

    Curry J. Hackett is a transdisciplinary designer, public artist, and educator. His practice, Wayside, looks to undertold histories to inspire meaningful art and critical research. Recently, Curry has been experimenting with artificial intelligence tools, with which he braids Black aesthetics, kinships with nature, and pop culture to imagine surreal scenes of Black joy. This work has been featured widely, most notably in Bloomberg and Architect Magazine. His ongoing research project, titled Drylongso, explores relationships between Blackness, geography, and land. This project has received funding the Graham Foundation, Journal of Architectural Education, and Washington Project for the Arts. Curry earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Howard University, and is currently completing his Master of Architecture in Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

    Curry J. Hackett

    Designer, Artist, and Educator

    Visitor Info

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland is conveniently situated in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, at the intersection of Lafayette Ave and Flatbush Ave. The plaza is easily accessible – located only a short walk from the B, Q, 2/3 and 4/5 subway lines at Atlantic Barclays, the G train at Fulton St, and the C train at Lafayette Ave, as well as a number of bus stops. There is also paid parking along the surrounding streets.

    Tag us in your photos! @curryhackett | @van_alen | @downtownbrooklyn

    Press

    Time Out New York

    ‘Ugly Beauties’ by Curry J. Hackett

    Time Out New York

    The best outdoor art in NYC this spring

    Brooklyn Magazine

    23 THINGS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

    Brooklyn Eagle

    AI-Generated ‘Ugly Beauties’ on Display in D’town Brooklyn

    Supporter


  3. Points of Promise

    Comments Off on Points of Promise

    About

    Van Alen is now seeking artists in the 2024 Open Call — click here to learn more.

    Launched by Van Alen Institute in 2023, Points of Promise is a multiyear initiative to create public art and design tools that support civic engagement and foster connection among Gowanus residents in the midst of significant neighborhood redevelopment.

    In 2021, the New York City Council approved the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, transforming (or “rezoning”) former manufacturing sites into residential and mixed-use properties, including an estimated 8,200 new apartments. Residents and community organizers have been working to ensure current Gowanus residents benefit from the rezoning. Their advocacy resulted in the 56 Points of Agreement (POAs) — commitments made by New York City to support housing, infrastructure, public space, community amenities, and business programs. In total, NYC will invest $450 million for these improvements in Gowanus. Approximately $200 million of that total will address high priority needs in Gowanus’ NYCHA developments.

    Points of Promise calls on artists and designers to create local temporary art installations or public space activations that help inform Gowanus residents about these immense changes. Each year, artists are invited to respond to an RFP (request for proposals) that addresses a topic present in the 56 Points of Agreement (POAs). To create these public art and design tools in truly community-led and responsive ways, Van Alen seeks artists and designers with demonstrated experience facilitating community-engaged social practice work that centers the lived experiences and needs of the respective communities they collaborate with.

    This initiative was developed with the support of a selection committee of Gowanus residents and local stakeholders from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Gowanus Houses Tenants Association, the Gowanus Oversight Task Force, and Gowanus Mutual Aid.

    Projects

    Points of Promise: Artist Open Call

    Now seeking artists to bring fresh ideas for community engagement around issues shaping Gowanus. Applications due April 26, 2024.

    With Your Voice

    Coming soon! Created by Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas, With Your Voice will envision the major changes coming to Gowanus, Brooklyn.

    56 Points of Agreement

    Scroll down to read a condensed version of the 56 Points of Agreement, or click the button below below to read the document in its entirety.

    A: Accountability, Implementation, and Community Participation

    The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan is built on many years of constructive, thoughtful, and multifaceted community engagement over nearly a decade between City Council, Community Board 6, community organizations, residents, and a large City agency team. The Administration agrees that ongoing coordination and accountability is a keystone of a successful plan, especially one that will be implemented and measured in decades. In addition to the Administration’s current requirement of annual updates on the “NYC Rezoning Commitments Tracker” pursuant to Local Law 175 of 2016, the Administration seeks to ensure a continued dialogue where updates are predictable, consistent, and timely. The longer time horizon for such a plan means a commitment to coordination and accountability must be flexible given the dynamic nature of neighborhoods, community organizations, and Community Boards. Therefore, the Administration commits to a framework for quarterly updates with the community while also developing a longer-term coordination and accountability approach.

    1. Support the Council, Community Board 6, and other stakeholders to form a Community Oversight Task Force

    2. Work to create a Construction Committee.

    B: Public Housing

    A central goal of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan is expanding access to amenities and opportunities for current residents while allowing more New Yorkers to be part of the neighborhood through the preservation and creation of affordable housing. Over 4,000 residents live adjacent to the rezoning area in NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) housing, and it’s imperative that they also benefit from the investments and improvements that the Plan will bring. To that end, in parallel with direct investments in infrastructure in the specific rezoning area, the City will work with NYCHA to complete strategic capital improvements to address the highest-priority needs identified by NYCHA residents and the NYCHA Capital Planning Division.

    3. Fund comprehensive in-unit renovations at all apartments at Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens.

    4. Ensure tenant engagement and oversight of NYCHA investments.

    5. Accelerate implementation of Free/Low-Cost Broadband in Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens.

    6. Fulfill commitment to renovate and reopen the Gowanus Community Center and Wyckoff Community Center.

    7. Provide MAP services at Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens.

    C: Affordable Housing Tenant Support

    The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan is a critical step towards a more diverse, integrated, and equitable Gowanus. The rezoning is expected to lead to approximately 8,500 new homes. This includes approximately 3,000 new affordable homes that will be created through the implementation of MIH in the area and the development of affordable housing on publicly-owned sites. At the center of the plan is Gowanus Green, a sustainable development which will bring approximately 950 new affordable homes for a variety of incomes and populations, along with a new public park, public school, and neighborhood amenities. In the future, the City of New York will continue to explore opportunities for the creation of additional affordable housing on public sites and on privately owned land through the use of its various subsidy programs.

    8. Deliver approximately 950 units of affordable housing at Gowanus Green, with at least 50% of units at 50 AMI or below.

    9. Advance full remediation at Gowanus Green.

    10. Develop affordable housing at Mercy Home (487 4th Avenue).

    11. Assist local residents, including NYCHA residents, in preparing for and applying for new affordable housing.

    12. Host “know your rights” trainings, for Gowanus area tenants, including NYCHA residents.

    13. Inform property owners in the rezoning area of affordable housing preservation opportunities.

    D. Small Business Support Workforce Development

    Located a short distance from Downtown Brooklyn, between the thriving residential neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, and to the north of the industrial areas of Sunset Park and Red Hook, Gowanus is well-situated as both a local and regional hub of employment. Anchored by the Gowanus Canal, which historically served as a center for industry and commerce, the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan seeks to reinforce the mixed-use character of the community, supporting the growth of a wide range of non-residential uses, including office and retail-based uses, alongside local artists, makers, and small-scale industrial businesses that build upon the neighborhood’s current business environment. Through the commitments outlined below, the City will ensure that support is in place to allow existing and new businesses to thrive and local residents to gain access to quality jobs.

    14. Create a “Gowanus Program Manager” position, which will oversee all business and workforce strategies related to the Gowanus rezoning.

    15. Create a Gowanus Business Grant Program.

    16. Support M/WBE businesses through city programming.

    17. Work with Gowanus businesses to connect them to capital access services.

    18. Deploy the SBS Mobile Unit to the Gowanus neighborhood monthly.

    19. Design and Deliver Workforce Training for Local Residents.

    20. Connect Gowanus residents to construction and green manufacturing training programs.

    21. Conduct Workforce Outreach and Virtual / In – Person Recruitment Events.

    E. Industrial Business Zone

    The Gowanus portion of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) continues to serve as an active, transit-accessible employment hub for industrial and commercial businesses, including artists, manufacturers, and various office- and retail-based uses. While the IBZ portion of Gowanus is not subject to land use actions as part of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, the City recognizes the crucial need to reinforce the Gowanus IBZ as a 21st century job hub and proposes to advance key infrastructure and workforce development priorities, which were shaped by the Gowanus IBZ Vision Plan and its public engagement process.

    22. Support the expansion of broadband internet access in the Gowanus IBZ.

    23. Continue to provide updates on sewer and draining infrastructure work.

    24. Help IBZ businesses and property owners meet resiliency and sustainability goals.

    25. Conduct a study of traffic circulation in IBZ/3rd Avenue and additional improvements.

    26. Support access to industrial sector jobs for Community Board 6 residents.

    27. Continue engagement with local stakeholders on the Gowanus IBZ Vision Plan’s framework and workforce and infrastructure recommendations.

    F. Open Space Waterfront Access Plan

    As part of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, Parks and the DCP have worked with local stakeholders to better understand Gowanus’ open space priorities to develop an array of capital projects to enhance existing parks and recreational facilities. The City also recognizes that there have been many years of planning and community advocacy for waterfront open space in Gowanus. At the Plan’s core is the transformation of the Gowanus Canal to a unique waterfront asset – new public open spaces on both sides of the canal, including the new park at Gowanus Green, the first new park within Community District 6 under the Parks Department’s jurisdiction in more than 25 years, will provide much-needed new welcoming and accessible recreation space for all users, Gowanus residents, workers, and visitors alike.

    28. Support the community’s effort to create a Gowanus Waterfront Business Improvement District.

    29. Advance planning to remediate and renovate Thomas Greene Playground while maintaining public access to comparable facilities.

    30. Create a new city-owned waterfront park adjacent to Gowanus Green.

    31. Construct open space at the future Head-End CSO site.

    32. Provide open space and ecosystem restoration at the Salt Lot site following community engagement.

    33. Create a promenade connecting the Gowanus Esplanade to 9th Street.

    34. Renovate Boerum Park.

    35. Study potential pedestrian bridges at key crossing points.

    36. Open School Yards to Playground in the neighborhood.

    37. Create new open space at the Bond Street street end.

    38. Work to identify suitable and feasible locations for in-water recreational access and share design concepts with Gowanus Community prior to Waterfront Certification.

    G. Sustainability Resiliency

    As Hurricane Ida vividly illustrated, climate change is a public health, environmental justice, and racial justice issue that must be taken seriously across our City. Mayor de Blasio’s report “The New Normal: Combatting Storm-Related Extreme Weather in New York City,” provides a new blueprint to prepare for and respond to extreme weather. The announcement included significant funding to support the report’s recommendations with $2.1 billion in new funding for DEP, with $238 million in accelerated funding for crucial DEP projects. The Gowanus community has endured decades of chronic street flooding and historic contamination in the Gowanus Canal. Major capital work in Gowanus will help reduce chronic street flooding locally with major upgrades planned to sewers and pump station. This work compliments existing investments in the neighborhood including high-level storm sewers, green infrastructure and upgrades to the Gowanus pumping station. Working with a variety of stakeholders, DEP continues advancing construction on two new sewage retention tanks that reduce combined sewer overflows into the canal. Coupled with the city’s Unified Stormwater Rule, which creates stricter requirements for stormwater management on new development sites, the reduction in flow entering combined sewers will be sufficient to protect the effectiveness of the permanent CSO control measures. The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan compliments and supplements the in-Canal cleanup with requirements for remediation of upland brownfields. In addition, with the new forthcoming stormwater rule, the recently passed legislation requiring solar or green roofs for many new developments, and a number of other tools and policies, the Gowanus Plan will support the overall cleanup and remediation of the neighborhood.

    39. Apply the new Unified Stormwater Rule to all new development that discharges to sewers in the rezoning area.

    40. Monitor changes in sanitary and storm water loading within the Gowanus Sewershed.

    41. Report on compliance with the Unified Stormwater Rule.

    42. Include Gowanus, Red Hook, and Gowanus IBZ in upcoming Cloudburst studies.

    43. Upgrade sewer infrastructure to alleviate flooding conditions.

    44. Comply with EPA’s timeline for constructing CSO retention tanks as mandated in Gowanus Superfund ROD.

    45. Assist in continued provision of composting and temporary relocation of nursery site during Salt Lot CSO construction.

    46. Target outreach around green building infrastructure through NYC Accelerator.

    H. Transportation Streets

    Ensuring safe streets and advancing pedestrian access is a key part of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan. Through the below commitment, DOT will provide pedestrian and streetscape improvements at key locations throughout the rezoning area.

    47. Provide pedestrian and streetscape improvements at priority locations.

    48. Explore pedestrian improvements at Nevins Street.

    49. Increase pedestrian access and safety at 3rd Street and Carroll Street bridges.

    50. Improve design, permitting and construction coordination at street ends.

    I. Community Facilities

    The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan will advance educational facilities in the rezoning area, advancing planning for a school at Gowanus Green and providing innovative tools to encourage the inclusion of public schools as part of mixed-use residential buildings if seats are needed. It will also honor the cultural and historical heritage of the neighborhood, preserving key historic buildings, increasing opportunities for public art and historic interpretation, and investing in local institutions.

    51. Enhance the Old Stone House by upgrading facilities and improving accessibility.

    52. Renovate the Pacific Street Library.

    53. Construct a school at Gowanus Green.

    54. Require notification of development in school siting opportunities.

    55. Increase opportunities for public art and historic interpretation.

    56. Target EDC Industrial Developer Loan Fund to facilitate potential Gowanus Mix spaces.

    Resources

    Supporters


  4. Design Sprints

    Comments Off on Design Sprints

    About

    Design Sprints launch event, 2024. Photo: Samuel Lahoz

    Design Sprints is Van Alen Institute’s newest community-led design program. Over eight weeks, a five-team cohort comprising community leaders and design professionals collaborate on short-term solutions and tools to meet immediate neighborhood needs. We’re delighted to welcome back several partners from our Neighborhoods Now initiative and introduce new collaborators to this model of community-led design.

    Design Sprints follows the lead of people already working towards equity and justice in their neighborhoods. Community partners have identified an immediate, pressing challenge facing their area, and Van Alen has shaped multidisciplinary design teams uniquely suited to those challenges. We’re facilitating these collaborations through end-to-end project management and providing each team with $5000 in seed funding to implement their plans.

    Why a sprint? Time-bound projects — with an attainable “definition of done” and rapid learning — help build trust between people who are often siloed from each other. Each challenge also feeds into neighborhood-scale efforts led by our community partners, and work completed through Design Sprints supports their long-term goals.

    To follow along, subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Instagram for updates from the teams.

    82nd Street Partnership + Librería Barco de Papel

    For Neighborhoods Now, the 82nd Street Partnership, Librería Barco de Papel, and N H D M created a comprehensive proposal for the renovation of Librería Barco de Papel — NYC’s only remaining Spanish-language bookstore and a critical meeting space for Jackson Heights’ immigrant community. Now together with Pentagram, they will create a cohesive and culturally appropriate brand identity to help raise funds for the renovation.

    People

    Nahyun Hwang

    Principal, N H D M

    Jean Im

    Architect, N H D M

    David Eugin Moon

    Principal, NHDM

    Camila Pérez

    Project Manager, Pentagram

    Leslie Ramos

    Executive Director, 82nd Street Partnership

    Andrea Trabucco-Campos

    Partner, Pentagram


    Equality for Flatbush

    Equality for Flatbush, BD Feliz, and the Youth Design Center will create visually cohesive promotional materials for their Black Rapid Responders initiative, which trains Black residents to respond to community crises as an alternative to police intervention.

    People

    Brittany Bellinger

    Program Director, Youth Design Center

    BD Feliz

    BD FELIZ, Principal

    Imani Keith Henry

    Executive Director, Equality for Flatbush

    Ivi Lewis

    Success Manager, Youth Design Center

    Khaliyq Taylor

    Graphic Designer, Youth Design Center


    FABnyc

    Building on their Neighborhoods Now partnership, FABnyc and Marvel will create an interactive map and digital tool that demystify New York City’s capital construction process for Sara D. Roosevelt Park and illuminate effective methods to exert the community’s influence within the capital process.

    People

    Ishita Gaur

    Associate, Marvel

    Ryan Gilliam

    Executive Director, FABnyc

    Juan Guzman Palacios

    Associate, Marvel

    Guido Hartray, AIA

    Founding Partner,

    Marvel

    Eduardo M. Llinas Messeguer

    Architectural Designer, Marvel

    Ari-Duong Nguyen

    Programs Assistant, FABnyc

    Jaime Palacios

    Junior Landscape Architectural Designer,

    Marvel


    Loisaida Center

    The Loisaida Center and Pentagram will create a communications strategy for the Loisaida Center’s Ecolibrium project — which analyzes hyperlocal environmental conditions in lower Manhattan — to inform community members about efforts to improve public health and invite them to take action.

     

    People

    Sewon Bae

    Project Manager, Pentagram

    Raul Barreneche

    Senior Brand Strategist, Pentagram

    Patrick Crowley

    Art Director, Pentagram

    Alejandro Epifanio

    Executive Director, Loisaida Center

    Paul Garrin

    Program Director, ECOLIBRIUM

    Luke Hayman

    Partner, Pentagram

    Gracia Lee

    Designer, Pentagram

    Promise Gladys Jimenez

    Administrative Assistant, Loisaida Center

    Antonio Nogueira

    Senior Designer, Pentagram


    Think!Chinatown

    Think!Chinatown, Farzana Gandhi Design Studio, fwd | A+U, and Pentagram will create an interactive exhibition design for Think!Chinatown’s upcoming urban planning exhibition on Paifang (archways), their relationship to power and perception in Chinatowns, and placemaking/keeping strategies that truly represent Chinese-American experiences.

    People

    Sewon Bae

    Project Manager, Pentagram

    Meg Chew

    Programs Coordinator, Think!Chinatown

    Kerri Culhane

    Board Member, Think!Chinatown

    Kate Dunham

    Urban Design Consultant,

    Fu Wilmers Design | Architecture + Urbanism

    Jonie Fu

    Partner,

    Fu Wilmers Design | Architecture + Urbanism

    Farzana Gandhi

    Founder,

    Farzana Gandhi Design Studio

    Luke Hayman

    Partner, Pentagram

    Jenny Hung

    Associate Partner, Pentagram

    Yin Kong

    Director/Co-Founder,

    Think!Chinatown

    Ben Law

    Graphic Designer, Pentagram

    Chad McCabe

    Art Director

    Patty McKee

    Landscape Architect + Project Manager

    Fu Wilmers Design | Architecture + Urbanism


    Institutional Partners

    Collaborators providing support across multiple team projects in 2024:


    Timeline

    Jan – Feb 2024

    Discovery

    Teams define their projects and metrics for success.

    Feb – Mar 2024

    Design

    Teams engage in a collaborative co-design process.

    Mar 2024

    Production

    Teams fabricate their designs and create a final suite of products for community partners’ use.

    Supporter

    The New York State Council on the Arts is dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New…


  5. Urban Room

    Comments Off on Urban Room

    About

    Photo: Cameron Blaylock

    Urban Room at Van Alen Institute
    303 Bond Street, Brooklyn
    Drop-in hours: Tuesdays–Thursdays, 10 am–6 pm

    The Urban Room at Van Alen Institute is a flexible, accessible, street-level space located at 303 Bond Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn. It’s a place for civic-minded organizations to meet and diverse groups to come together in dialogue, and serves as an information hub for the Gowanus community. For values-aligned nonprofits and community groups, Van Alen offers this space and meeting tech at no cost, while private and corporate space rentals support our mission to create more equitable cities through inclusive design.

    To inquire about using our space, fill out this form.

    Why an Urban Room?

    When Van Alen moved to Gowanus in early 2020, we joined many community-based organizations already working to create a stronger, more connected neighborhood amid a major rezoning. So we opened our doors to our neighbors and listened. We learned that some lacked dignified, functional, inexpensive gathering space, and we made our flexible office and tech available at no cost. Today, we regularly host meetings of Brooklyn Community Board 6, the Gowanus Oversight Task Force, and Gowanus Mutual Aid, as well as a community fridge operated by One Love Community Fridge.

    We’ve found inspiration in the UK-based Urban Room movement, which aims to create a network of spaces where people come together to help create a future for their local area. Although Urban Rooms may differ, they share these principles: a focus on the shared built environment; an open door, especially for those traditionally underrepresented in decision making; exploration to prompt curiosity through creative activities; and location in the neighborhood under discussion. With these principles in mind and by being present in our own community, we’re learning how to best support community partners, ensuring their visions and self-identified needs are at the core of our work.

    Ongoing Activities

    Brooklyn Community Board 6
    Full Board Meeting
    Second Wednesdays of the month, 6:30 pm
    Click here for current calendar

    One Love Community Fridge
    Open 24/7 outside 303 Bond Street
    Restocked and maintained by One Love Community Fridge

    South Brooklyn Mutual Aid Donation Site
    Tuesdays–Thurdays, 10 am–5 pm
    Click here for current donation requests

    Upcoming Events

    Residents of Gowanus Houses gather on a monthly basis to discuss programming for the newly reopened Gowanus Houses Community Center.


    Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 holds their monthly Full Board meeting at Van Alen Institute. Open to the public.


    Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 holds their monthly Full Board meeting at Van Alen Institute. Open to the public.


    Residents of Gowanus Houses gather on a monthly basis to discuss programming for the newly reopened Gowanus Houses Community Center.


    Supporter


  6. GLOwanus

    Comments Off on GLOwanus
    GLOwanus light installation, 2023. Photo: Cameron Blaylock

    About

    GLOwanus is a public art project designed to inform Gowanus residents about water quality in the Gowanus Canal. When GLOwanus flashes, it’s signaling that untreated wastewater is polluting or has recently polluted the Canal. 

    The recent rezoning of Gowanus will bring approximately 20,000 new residents to the neighborhood, yet the local water management system is already past its capacity. The Gowanus Canal is a site for Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) which requires new sewage containment plants to be built around the canal. But in the years before these are completed, a shift needs to occur in public education, awareness, and participation around water quality issues.

    Designed by Brooklyn-based artists Manav Singla and Ridima Jain, GLOwanus is a small lantern that cycles through different colors when the Gowanus Canal is under a City-issued waterbody advisory — meaning there’s a good chance CSO has recently spilled or may soon spill into the Canal. Placed in homes and businesses near the Canal, GLOwanus alerts people to this serious environmental issue. Using less water in your home or business, especially immediately before and during rainstorms, is one way to help reduce the level of CSO.

    The GLOwanus team is led by Gowanus residents Francesca Bastianini and Steven Koller, two fellows from Van Alen Institute’s Neighborhood Design Fellowship program with continued support from Van Alen. They’ve built on their experience in the fellowship to develop the GLOwanus light installation, paired with an information campaign with tips on how to help prevent CSO and hold authorities accountable for the Canal’s cleanup.

    Currently, our storefront windows are displaying information about CSO with illustrations by Martha Hall— stop by to learn more about this issue.

    To request a GLOwanus light installation for your home or business, fill out this form.

    Contact

    For questions about GLOwanus, contact:

    Andrew Brown

    Director of Programs

    What is CSO?

    CSO, or Combined Sewer Overflow, occurs when New York City’s water management system is overwhelmed by rainwater. To learn more about CSO and how this project hopes to raise awareness within the Gowanus community, we spoke with Steven Koller, a Neighborhood Design Fellow and an Environmental Science and Policy PhD student at The University of Miami. He explained:

    “New York City has a combined water management system, partially due to the fact that it’s quite an old system. 60% of the city’s water management is combined, meaning that when you flush the toilet, take a shower, or wash your dishes, all of that water gets combined into the same pipe as the water that’s flowing off the street via grates. Most of the time, that’s not an issue. But when you have a rain event — and it doesn’t need to be a big one — the system gets overloaded.

    “And this water is normally tied to a wastewater treatment plant, of which there are quite a few around the city. But during these rain events, the system can’t pump it all to the wastewater treatment plant. And so it’s released to roughly 700 outfall points around the city in all five boroughs, including at the head of the Gowanus Canal at Butler Street. On average, the canal receives roughly 270 million gallons of CSO annually.”

    Timeline

    Apr – May 2022

    Community Workshops

    Residents and students from Gowanus will learn about how water works through natural systems and city infrastructure to impact our daily lives, and how they might impact our lives in the future. Participants learn how to advocate for change through a better understanding of the problem, knowledge of where they can have an individual impact and where they have an impact at the community level.

    Oct – Dec 2022

    Installation Prototype

    Van Alen Institute will exhibit a prototype of the light installation in our storefront windows at 303 Bond Street.

    Jan – Dec 2023

    Community-Wide Installation

    The light installations will be distributed to residents and businesses in the Gowanus community, raising awareness of water quality throughout the neighborhood.

    Who We’re Working With


    Resources

    Open Sewer Atlas: Independently-run map that uses data from New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) to show where and how much CSO occurs at various outfalls around the city

    Combined Sewer Overflows: NYC DEP’s primer on CSOs, including individual actions that can be taken to reduce CSO

    Waterbody Advisories: NYC DEP’s real-time, site-specific info about water quality, largely driven by CSO events

    Gowanus Rezoning Environment Impact Statement, Water and Sewer chapter: Detailed information on how the rezoning and Superfund cleanup actions will impact future CSO

    Neighborhood Design Fellowship: Gowanus

    Gowanus residents work toward the future they imagine for their community.

    Supporters

  7. Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Design Installation

    Comments Off on Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Design Installation

    About the Competiton

    Our parks, plazas and streets provide essential infrastructure that connects communities, supports public health, and affirms our democratic values and ideals. Going forward we must continue to develop public spaces that meet our current challenges and inspire hope for the future. Each year, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute collaborate annually with architects, designers, and artists to bring bold and iconic urban installations to The Plaza at 300 Ashland.

    Projects

    Past Winners

    Collaborators


  8. With Your Voice

    Comments Off on With Your Voice

    With Your Voice

    Launching soon — stay tuned for updates!

    In 2021, the New York City Council approved the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, transforming (or “rezoning”) former manufacturing sites into residential and mixed-use properties, including an estimated 8,200 new apartments.

    Residents and community organizers have been working to ensure current Gowanus residents benefit from the rezoning. Their advocacy resulted in the 56 Points of Agreement (POAs) — commitments made by New York City to support housing, infrastructure, public space, community amenities, and business programs. In total, NYC will invest $450 million for these improvements in Gowanus. Approximately $200 million of that total will address high priority needs in Gowanus’ NYCHA developments.

    Created by Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas, With Your Voice envisions change resulting from the 56 Points of Agreement. 11 megaphoned-shaped sculptures called “Voicers” are located across Gowanus, each showing images of that how that location will be impacted by the POAs. Whether you’re a Gowanus resident, worker, or visitor, these changes will affect your life. You’re invited to look through the Voicers, flip through images, and see what change could look like. How will these changes affect you? We want to hear from you! Scan the QR code next to each Voicer to fill out a survey or leave a voice message.

    Responses will be shared with the Gowanus Oversight Task Force, a diverse and representative group of community volunteers that advance the POAs by meeting every three months with city agencies. Your voice will help them illustrate and humanize the POAs to make sure the city stays on track and keeps its promises.

    This project would not have been possible without the generosity of Bednark Studio Inc., Silman, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the collaboration of Brooklyn Public Library, New York City Housing Authority, NYC Department of Environment Protection, NYC Department of City Planning, NYC Parks, Domain Companies, PMG, SCAPE, and Avery Hall.

    More information and Voicer locations coming soon!

    About the Artists

    Juanli Carrión’s work has unfolded over the past decade in the research, development, and education of community-engaged design and artistic practices addressing social and environmental justice. He is the co-founder of OSS Project Inc. and his work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, BRIC, ARTIUM, MUSAC, CentroCentro, MAC Lima, India’s National Gallery of Modern Art, and Serbia’s MOCA. Carrión is an Assistant Professor of Creative Community Development at Parsons, and his research has been presented at Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, AIA New York, National Academy of Sciences, and Getty Institute, among others.

    Rodolfo Kusulas is a transdisciplinary creator with a deep passion for social innovation and sustainability who uses his work as a tool to help communities thrive. With experience working internationally, he has a background in industrial design, extensive experience in branding, product and retail. After winning a global competition for the 140th anniversary of Heineken, Kusulas joined VBAT as a creative in the Latin American office. Since 2018, he’s developed programmatic design and creative community development work with KOUS studio, which he co-founded in 2016, and in collaboration with artists and nonprofit organizations.

    As a duo, Carrion and Kusulas share interest in transdisciplinary research about how art and design can be used to visualize the layers of identity that compose communities. They transform stories, data, materials, actions or information into art and design strategies that serve as tools for sustainable community development. This manifests in community lead initiatives including public art that becomes urban agriculture, product design and art pieces that become small businesses as supplemental source of revenue, interactive murals and workshops that become tools for education on water pollution and jewelry that becomes therapeutic tools to confront environmental devastation.

    Who We’re Working With


    Supporters


    Selection Committee

    Andreas Tyre

    President,

    Gowanus Houses Resident Association

    Bahij Chancey

    Planner, WXY Studio;

    Gowanus Oversight Task Force member;

    former Van Alen Fellow

    Candelaria Mas Pohmajevic

    Associate Director at Resilient Cities Catalyst;

    Gowanus Oversight Task Force member

    Diana Gruberg

    Landscape Director, Gowanus Canal Conservancy

    Elisa Smilovitz

    Gowanus Mutual Aid;

    former Van Alen Fellow

    Frank Dubinsky

    Chief Operating Officer, Monadnock Development

    Nilda Lino

    Game Changer Membership Consultant, Assure for Life;

    Gowanus Oversight Task Force member

    Tony Ruiz

    Communications Committee Co-Chair, Gowanus Oversight Task Force;

    MSW ’24, NYU


    56 Points of Agreement

    Scroll down to read a condensed version of the 56 Points of Agreement, or click the button below below to read the document in its entirety.

    A: Accountability, Implementation, and Community Participation

    The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan is built on many years of constructive, thoughtful, and multifaceted community engagement over nearly a decade between City Council, Community Board 6, community organizations, residents, and a large City agency team. The Administration agrees that ongoing coordination and accountability is a keystone of a successful plan, especially one that will be implemented and measured in decades. In addition to the Administration’s current requirement of annual updates on the “NYC Rezoning Commitments Tracker” pursuant to Local Law 175 of 2016, the Administration seeks to ensure a continued dialogue where updates are predictable, consistent, and timely. The longer time horizon for such a plan means a commitment to coordination and accountability must be flexible given the dynamic nature of neighborhoods, community organizations, and Community Boards. Therefore, the Administration commits to a framework for quarterly updates with the community while also developing a longer-term coordination and accountability approach.

    1. Support the Council, Community Board 6, and other stakeholders to form a Community Oversight Task Force

    2. Work to create a Construction Committee.

    B: Public Housing

    A central goal of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan is expanding access to amenities and opportunities for current residents while allowing more New Yorkers to be part of the neighborhood through the preservation and creation of affordable housing. Over 4,000 residents live adjacent to the rezoning area in NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) housing, and it’s imperative that they also benefit from the investments and improvements that the Plan will bring. To that end, in parallel with direct investments in infrastructure in the specific rezoning area, the City will work with NYCHA to complete strategic capital improvements to address the highest-priority needs identified by NYCHA residents and the NYCHA Capital Planning Division.

    3. Fund comprehensive in-unit renovations at all apartments at Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens.

    4. Ensure tenant engagement and oversight of NYCHA investments.

    5. Accelerate implementation of Free/Low-Cost Broadband in Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens.

    6. Fulfill commitment to renovate and reopen the Gowanus Community Center and Wyckoff Community Center.

    7. Provide MAP services at Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens.

    C: Affordable Housing & Tenant Support

    The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan is a critical step towards a more diverse, integrated, and equitable Gowanus. The rezoning is expected to lead to approximately 8,500 new homes. This includes approximately 3,000 new affordable homes that will be created through the implementation of MIH in the area and the development of affordable housing on publicly-owned sites. At the center of the plan is Gowanus Green, a sustainable development which will bring approximately 950 new affordable homes for a variety of incomes and populations, along with a new public park, public school, and neighborhood amenities. In the future, the City of New York will continue to explore opportunities for the creation of additional affordable housing on public sites and on privately owned land through the use of its various subsidy programs.

    8. Deliver approximately 950 units of affordable housing at Gowanus Green, with at least 50% of units at 50 AMI or below.

    9. Advance full remediation at Gowanus Green.

    10. Develop affordable housing at Mercy Home (487 4th Avenue).

    11. Assist local residents, including NYCHA residents, in preparing for and applying for new affordable housing.

    12. Host “know your rights” trainings, for Gowanus area tenants, including NYCHA residents.

    13. Inform property owners in the rezoning area of affordable housing preservation opportunities.

    D. Small Business Support & Workforce Development

    Located a short distance from Downtown Brooklyn, between the thriving residential neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, and to the north of the industrial areas of Sunset Park and Red Hook, Gowanus is well-situated as both a local and regional hub of employment. Anchored by the Gowanus Canal, which historically served as a center for industry and commerce, the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan seeks to reinforce the mixed-use character of the community, supporting the growth of a wide range of non-residential uses, including office and retail-based uses, alongside local artists, makers, and small-scale industrial businesses that build upon the neighborhood’s current business environment. Through the commitments outlined below, the City will ensure that support is in place to allow existing and new businesses to thrive and local residents to gain access to quality jobs.

    14. Create a “Gowanus Program Manager” position, which will oversee all business and workforce strategies related to the Gowanus rezoning.

    15. Create a Gowanus Business Grant Program.

    16. Support M/WBE businesses through city programming.

    17. Work with Gowanus businesses to connect them to capital access services.

    18. Deploy the SBS Mobile Unit to the Gowanus neighborhood monthly.

    19. Design and Deliver Workforce Training for Local Residents.

    20. Connect Gowanus residents to construction and green manufacturing training programs.

    21. Conduct Workforce Outreach and Virtual / In – Person Recruitment Events.

    E. Industrial Business Zone

    The Gowanus portion of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) continues to serve as an active, transit-accessible employment hub for industrial and commercial businesses, including artists, manufacturers, and various office- and retail-based uses. While the IBZ portion of Gowanus is not subject to land use actions as part of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, the City recognizes the crucial need to reinforce the Gowanus IBZ as a 21st century job hub and proposes to advance key infrastructure and workforce development priorities, which were shaped by the Gowanus IBZ Vision Plan and its public engagement process.

    22. Support the expansion of broadband internet access in the Gowanus IBZ.

    23. Continue to provide updates on sewer and draining infrastructure work.

    24. Help IBZ businesses and property owners meet resiliency and sustainability goals.

    25. Conduct a study of traffic circulation in IBZ/3rd Avenue and additional improvements.

    26. Support access to industrial sector jobs for Community Board 6 residents.

    27. Continue engagement with local stakeholders on the Gowanus IBZ Vision Plan’s framework and workforce and infrastructure recommendations.

    F. Open Space & Waterfront Access Plan

    As part of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, Parks and the DCP have worked with local stakeholders to better understand Gowanus’ open space priorities to develop an array of capital projects to enhance existing parks and recreational facilities. The City also recognizes that there have been many years of planning and community advocacy for waterfront open space in Gowanus. At the Plan’s core is the transformation of the Gowanus Canal to a unique waterfront asset – new public open spaces on both sides of the canal, including the new park at Gowanus Green, the first new park within Community District 6 under the Parks Department’s jurisdiction in more than 25 years, will provide much-needed new welcoming and accessible recreation space for all users, Gowanus residents, workers, and visitors alike.

    28. Support the community’s effort to create a Gowanus Waterfront Business Improvement District.

    29. Advance planning to remediate and renovate Thomas Greene Playground while maintaining public access to comparable facilities.

    30. Create a new city-owned waterfront park adjacent to Gowanus Green.

    31. Construct open space at the future Head-End CSO site.

    32. Provide open space and ecosystem restoration at the Salt Lot site following community engagement.

    33. Create a promenade connecting the Gowanus Esplanade to 9th Street.

    34. Renovate Boerum Park.

    35. Study potential pedestrian bridges at key crossing points.

    36. Open School Yards to Playground in the neighborhood.

    37. Create new open space at the Bond Street street end.

    38. Work to identify suitable and feasible locations for in-water recreational access and share design concepts with Gowanus Community prior to Waterfront Certification.

    G. Sustainability & Resiliency

    As Hurricane Ida vividly illustrated, climate change is a public health, environmental justice, and racial justice issue that must be taken seriously across our City. Mayor de Blasio’s report “The New Normal: Combatting Storm-Related Extreme Weather in New York City,” provides a new blueprint to prepare for and respond to extreme weather. The announcement included significant funding to support the report’s recommendations with $2.1 billion in new funding for DEP, with $238 million in accelerated funding for crucial DEP projects. The Gowanus community has endured decades of chronic street flooding and historic contamination in the Gowanus Canal. Major capital work in Gowanus will help reduce chronic street flooding locally with major upgrades planned to sewers and pump station. This work compliments existing investments in the neighborhood including high-level storm sewers, green infrastructure and upgrades to the Gowanus pumping station. Working with a variety of stakeholders, DEP continues advancing construction on two new sewage retention tanks that reduce combined sewer overflows into the canal. Coupled with the city’s Unified Stormwater Rule, which creates stricter requirements for stormwater management on new development sites, the reduction in flow entering combined sewers will be sufficient to protect the effectiveness of the permanent CSO control measures. The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan compliments and supplements the in-Canal cleanup with requirements for remediation of upland brownfields. In addition, with the new forthcoming stormwater rule, the recently passed legislation requiring solar or green roofs for many new developments, and a number of other tools and policies, the Gowanus Plan will support the overall cleanup and remediation of the neighborhood.

    39. Apply the new Unified Stormwater Rule to all new development that discharges to sewers in the rezoning area.

    40. Monitor changes in sanitary and storm water loading within the Gowanus Sewershed.

    41. Report on compliance with the Unified Stormwater Rule.

    42. Include Gowanus, Red Hook, and Gowanus IBZ in upcoming Cloudburst studies.

    43. Upgrade sewer infrastructure to alleviate flooding conditions.

    44. Comply with EPA’s timeline for constructing CSO retention tanks as mandated in Gowanus Superfund ROD.

    45. Assist in continued provision of composting and temporary relocation of nursery site during Salt Lot CSO construction.

    46. Target outreach around green building infrastructure through NYC Accelerator.

    H. Transportation & Streets

    Ensuring safe streets and advancing pedestrian access is a key part of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan. Through the below commitment, DOT will provide pedestrian and streetscape improvements at key locations throughout the rezoning area.

    47. Provide pedestrian and streetscape improvements at priority locations.

    48. Explore pedestrian improvements at Nevins Street.

    49. Increase pedestrian access and safety at 3rd Street and Carroll Street bridges.

    50. Improve design, permitting and construction coordination at street ends.

    I. Community Facilities

    The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan will advance educational facilities in the rezoning area, advancing planning for a school at Gowanus Green and providing innovative tools to encourage the inclusion of public schools as part of mixed-use residential buildings if seats are needed. It will also honor the cultural and historical heritage of the neighborhood, preserving key historic buildings, increasing opportunities for public art and historic interpretation, and investing in local institutions.

    51. Enhance the Old Stone House by upgrading facilities and improving accessibility.

    52. Renovate the Pacific Street Library.

    53. Construct a school at Gowanus Green.

    54. Require notification of development in school siting opportunities.

    55. Increase opportunities for public art and historic interpretation.

    56. Target EDC Industrial Developer Loan Fund to facilitate potential Gowanus Mix spaces.

    Resources

    Supporter


  9. Gowanus Action

    Comments Off on Gowanus Action

    About

    To do community-centered work, we need to be an active member of our own community. 

    Since moving to Gowanus in 2020, we’ve collaborated closely with our neighbors to support local, resident-led design projects. In order to understand how we could best support our new neighbors, we launched the Neighborhood Design Fellowship, a paid design-training program where residents learn about design justice and work together on Gowanus-based projects that promote equity, inclusivity, and community-driven change. The Fellows identified the Points of Agreements — a comprehensive though non-binding rezoning plan between the city, developers, and the Gowanus community — as the focus of their ongoing work. With our support, they’ve launched two projects that address the Points of Agreement, including the historic and continued Gowanus Canal pollution and the Gowanus Houses Community Center renovation and reopening.

    We also host the monthly Community Board 6 meetings, throw an annual block party celebrating the creativity and culture of Gowanus, and partner with neighboring organizations to address issues identified by the community.

    Projects

    In the News

    City Limits

    As Gowanus Rezoning Moves Ahead, Are the Sewers Ready?

    Architect Magazine

    Building Relationships to Design Spatial Justice

    Hear from Locals

    Gowanus Houses Community Photo Album

    Help us create a Community Photo Album that celebrates the Gowanus Houses community!

    “This community was always a family”: Voices from NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses

    In Summer 2022, past and present residents of NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses gathered for the annual Old Timers Day. As part of an ongoing storytelling project, we spoke to event attendees about memories from the Houses and what community means to them.

    Q&A with Steven Koller, Neighborhood Design Fellow

    One of our Gowanus fellows tells us about a new project to increase water quality awareness in the neighborhood.

    Annual Block Party

    Photos + Video: Van Alen Block Party 2023

    The Block Party was all about our community of Gowanus — a community deeply and actively committed to ensuring that the needs of every single resident are met. Gowanus is experiencing huge changes right now, so it’s more important than ever to connect with neighbors and get to know the folks who make up this neighborhood right here, right now.

    Van Alen Block Party 2022

    Thank you to everyone who came out for our second annual Van Alen Block Party on October 22, 2022! This spectacular day was made possible by the help of our Gowanus Fellows, along with our generous supporters and the countless performers, vendors, and volunteers who transformed a Brooklyn block into an epic celebration of community and public space.

    Van Alen Block Party 2021

    Thank you to everyone who came out and made Van Alen Institute’s inaugural Block Party in Gowanus an incredible success.

    Supporters


  10. Common Build

    Comments Off on Common Build

    About

    Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm. Photo: Cameron Blaylock for DBP

    Who we are as a society is defined by how we interact in our public spaces. We must reinvigorate our public spaces in ways that bring people together and strengthen the bonds and networks that help our communities heal and thrive.

    61% of Americans — approximately 200 million people — report that they are lonely. Social disconnection and isolation are linked to a host of health ailments, ranging from high blood pressure and heart disease to increased anxiety and depression. As isolation grows, social cohesion declines, causing levels of trust to fall and public life to erode. Americans who are more trusting and civically-engaged are more likely to help improve their neighborhood and offer assistance to neighbors in need. Restoring social cohesion is essential to unite, mobilize and rebuild communities in times of crisis.

    Van Alen Institute’s Common Build initiatives transform public spaces into social infrastructure. From community parks to public plazas, social infrastructure refers to the places and spaces that foster trust and social cohesion in communities. Working with the communities we serve, and some of the most innovative practitioners in design, we create spaces that unite neighborhoods by bringing joy to those who live and work there, and give people hope for the future. These spaces may provide new places to play, give support to local businesses, encourage the use of sustainable transportation, provide space for meaningful public discourse, or inspire a shared sense of civic purpose. While the possibilities are vast for each place we work, the desired outcome is the same.