Archive

  1. Points of Promise: Fall 2024

    Comments Off on Points of Promise: Fall 2024

    About

    Gowanus Canal. Photo: Cameron Blaylock

    Coming in Fall 2024!

    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.

    The next Points of Promise installation, on view in Fall 2024, will 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.

    An artist open call held in Spring 2024 received more than 100 responses, and approximately half of the applicants had close ties to Gowanus or personal experience of flooding in New York City. Three artists were invited to submit a proposal, and the winning proposal will be announced in Fall 2024. The winning artist will be awarded $50,000 to complete the project, with low bono engineering review services provided by Silman.

    Finalists were 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?

    Finalist Proposals

    Futures Without Flooding

    Created by artist Ali Rufrano-Ruffner, Futures Without Flooding proposes a series of vibrant mural panels that vividly depict stories of flooding — and futures without flooding — in Gowanus. During community activations and pop-up events, youth participants contribute their own ideas and visions to interactive mural panels. The project’s journey is compiled into a coloring book that prompts young people to continue envisioning their own futures for Gowanus.

    Resilient You!

    Created by Tiffany Baker, Resilient You! proposes an outdoor installation of vivid, colorful portraits of Gowanus residents impacted by flooding, paired with a multi-site series of murals that feature local responses to the prompt: “How has living in a flood zone affected your resilience?” QR codes next to the murals lead viewers to an audio exhibition of residents’ personal stories of resilience, and public events invite the project’s subjects to share their stories in person.

    Tidal Shift

    Created by Leah Harper, Tidal Shift proposes a collection of public art interventions to raises awareness of flooding in Gowanus. At the canal’s edge, colorful, phosphorescent asphalt murals — painted with local residents — draw attention to flooding threats. In the water, sails installed on flotation devices rise and fall with the tides, bringing the sea level to eye level. Additionally, Van Alen Institute’s storefront windows serve as an information hub about the future of flooding in Gowanus and solutions for mitigating floodwaters.

    Selection Committee

    Andrea Parker

    Executive Director, Gowanus Canal Conservancy

    Andreas Tyre

    Community Activist

    Elisa Smilovitz

    Gowanus Mutual Aid

    Karen Blondel

    Executive Director, Public Housing Civic Association

    Sebastian Mendez

    Co-Founder, Tankhouse

    Steven Koller

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

    Tony Ruiz

    Communications Committee Co-Chair, Gowanus Oversight Task Force

    Tracey L. Pinkard

    Community Liaison

    Former Vice President, Gowanus Houses Resident Association


    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

    Now on view! Created by Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas, With Your Voice envisions major changes coming to Gowanus, Brooklyn.

    Supporters


  2. With Your Voice

    Comments Off on With Your Voice

    About

    Now on view through August 9!

    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. Megaphoned-shaped sculptures called “Voicers” are installed 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.

    A VR headset at Van Alen Institute hosts an expansive library of additional resources, including 3D models, illustrations, interviews, and videos. The VR headset is available to the public Tuesdays–Thursdays, 10:30 am–6:30 pm, July 16–August 9.

    We want to hear from you: Scan the QR code next to each Voicer to leave a voice message about what you’ve learned. 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. When you submit your voice note, you’ll receive a digital gem token — a “Gowamerald.” Collect all 10 Gowameralds to win gift certificates from local businesses!

    This is Van Alen’s 15th installation in its ongoing Common Build initiative, which surfaces the work of emerging artists and tests new strategies to bring people together in public space. With Your Voice is supported by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the Council’s Brooklyn Boroughwide Needs Initiative, and with in-kind fabrication from Bednark Studio and engineering review services from Silman. The project is made possible through 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.

    Learn more on the artists’ website at withyourvoice.org.

    Locations

    With Your Voice map. Image: Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas

    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. Over the past decade, Carrión has followed the Gowanus Canal’s changes and challenges up close. As Assistant Professor of Creative Community Development at Parsons School of Design, he has used the Canal as a case study for his Sustainable Systems Practices course, in which students map the pollution of waterways using pH reactive natural dyes. 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. 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, Carrión 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.

    Finalists

    Podwalk

    “Designed for a variety of levels of engagement, this podwalk combines mini-podcast episodes with a walking tour bringing people to eight locations in Gowanus, beginning at the 9th Street bridge and ending at Thomas Greene Playground, to highlight both community benefits garnered through the Points of Agreement and reveal the stories behind them told by community members who were instrumental in advocating for and negotiating the agreements, and/or who are or will be influenced by their implementation.”

    End the Loop

    “This proposal seeks to keep residents and business owners “in the loop” by converting existing vehicles presently providing services to the community and pilot them as a medium to disseminate information, broadcast resident’s voices, and support the thriving culture and diverse community present in Gowanus. Adapting local vans, such as the Memory Center mobile bus, the proposal indents to preserve and cultivate the Gowanus community identity in the midst of rapid neighborhood development due to zoning changes, before it all becomes a memory.”

    Who We’re Working With


    Supporters


    Selection Committee

    Andreas Tyre

    Community Activist

    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

    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


    Resources

  3. Albany Hive

    Comments Off on Albany Hive

    About

    Albany Hive is transforming a disinvested public alley into a space designed with and for Albany’s West Hill neighborhood. Since 2021, we’ve built a coalition of community organizations, designers, city leaders, and residents to form a collective vision for the alley. To date, we’ve had 200+ conversations with residents and project partners, created a design and construction drawings, and completed initial cleanup and site prep work.

    In 2024, we’ll install a public sculpture and pedestrian pathway that creates an uplifting communal space where residents can gather, relax, and play. Co-designed by West Hill residents, The Urban Conga, Stantec, and Rensselaer School of Architecture, the Hive reflects the alley’s function as a community hub, buzzing with locally-led activities. Six beehive-inspired sculptures in vibrant blue and yellow will include built-in seating elements and polycarbonate panels to host community-made artwork. They’ll be paired with new planters and swales to help absorb rainwater and a newly-built pedestrian path with improved lighting, access, and drainage. Our community partners and Rensselaer School of Architecture are also creating a long-term stewardship and maintenance plan, outlining the city and community’s continued collaboration in service of the alley.

    Albany Hive (formerly Lucid Project: Albany) is a collaboration between 518 SNUG, Albany & Troy Lions Club, Albany Victory Gardens, Bridge Tha Gap, the City of Albany, Grateful Villages, Rensselaer School of Architecture, Stantec, The Urban Conga, and Van Alen Institute.

    Why are we doing this work?

    This city-owned alley sits within a residential block in West Hill, adjacent to Albany Victory Gardens — a community garden created by the local nonprofit Eden’s Rose Foundation — and a weekend farmers market operated by Grateful Villages. Despite the success of these nearby community-led programs, the alley itself has been left in poor condition, with inadequate drainage, an overgrown tree canopy that blocks light, and trash and debris.

    The City of Albany owns several similar alleys, but these publicly-owned spaces are often left to residents to maintain. While wealthier neighborhoods have the time and money to manage them, lower-income neighborhoods like West Hill don’t have access to the same resources. The condition of these alleys is a direct reflection of inequity in the public realm.

    Communities have the right to shape the places where they live, and we hope this project becomes a new model for how shared spaces are designed.

    Our Partners


    Updates

    Spectrum News

    Organizers plant seeds of renewal in Albany alleyway

    Timeline

    Sep 2021

    Kickoff

    On September 24-25, we held a community engagement session and co-design workshop with design team The Urban Conga and our local partners.

    Oct 2021

    Community Engagement

    We set up a table at the West Hill Farmers Market on October 17 and 24 to put forward some initial concepts and gather more ideas from the West Hill community. On October 27, we joined SNUG’s Kids Halloween Party at the Arbor Hill Community Center to share some design inspiration and gather more feedback.

    Dec 2021

    Design Review

    We hosted a design review and selection with our community partners.

    Jan 2022 – May 2023

    Partner Workshops

    We held inspiration workshops with our local partners and started site prep and fabrication.

    Jun 2023 – Jun 2024

    Site Cleanup and Installation

    We’ll complete the site’s construction work and install our public art project!

    Supporters

  4. Design Sprints

    Comments Off on Design Sprints

    About

    “Design is powerful. Let’s use it for good. Let’s use it to be inclusive. Let’s use it to empower communities to make decisions about our own built environment.”
    — Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown and Design Sprints partner

    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. In our first cohort in Winter/Spring 2024, we were delighted to welcome back several partners from our Neighborhoods Now initiative and welcome two 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 identify an immediate, pressing challenge facing their area, and Van Alen shapes multidisciplinary design teams uniquely suited to those challenges. We facilitate these collaborations through end-to-end project management and provide 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.

    Partner Open Call

    Are you part of a community organization interested in participating in Design Sprints? (Or do you know one?) We’re now seeking new partners for our Fall 2024 sprint. To express your interest, fill out this form. Deadline is June 3.

    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 Spanish-language bookstore and a critical meeting space for Jackson Heights’ immigrant community. To help raise funds for the renovation and make the space more visible among its community, they collaborated with Pentagram created a cohesive and culturally appropriate brand identity.

    Taking inspiration from the bookstore’s name — Barco de Papel (Paper Boat), after a work by Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén — the Pentagram team considered the tilt of a boat’s mast and how that echoed the slant of books on a shelf. They developed a flexible new logo system that captures the activity and liveliness of the bookstore and its neighborhood, and created several applications for social media campaigns, print brochures, postcards, and more. With limited resources of the bookstore in mind, the logo is black so it can be easily printed on colorful paper for different uses.

    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

    Founded in 2013, Equality for Flatbush (E4F) is a Black Lives Matter organization working against police violence, gentrification, and displacement in Brooklyn. Their Black Rapid Responders initiative trains Black residents to respond to community crises as an alternative to police intervention. With a trauma-informed approach, they support survivors of elder abuse and domestic violence and neighbors with immediate housing needs. Their trained responders are often women, building on their community and cultural clout to deescalate crisis situations.

    Together with designer and activist BD Feliz and young designer Khaliyq Taylor they created visually cohesive promotional materials for the Black Rapid Responders initiative. Emphasizing the core principle of showing up with love, a colorful poster campaign features E4F’s network of women rapid responders and rhyming taglines that directly address specific issues faced by community members. They also created a black-and-white version that can be printed on standard 8.5×11″ paper, a social media campaign including a video for Instagram and TikTok, and a suite of templates so E4F can easily adapt the campaign for future uses.

    People

    Imani Keith Henry

    Executive Director, Equality for Flatbush


    FABnyc

    FABnyc is a team of artists and organizers working to grow and preserve the cultural vibrancy of the Lower East Side. Building on their Neighborhoods Now partnership, FABnyc and Marvel created a bespoke map that demystifies New York City’s capital construction process for Sara D. Roosevelt Park and helps advocate for the community’s influence within the capital process.

    Extending across 7.8 acres between Houston and Canal Streets, Sara D. Roosevelt Park is often perceived and used in a fragmented way. The team created a 24×72” map that emphasizes the park as a unified space, with individual overlays that show current uses by residents and local organizations, the land’s history, current and upcoming capital projects, and cultural activities. FABnyc is now using the map as an engagement tool at community board meetings, in discussions with elected officials about capital planning, and other forms of community advocacy. Made of durable, water resistant plastic canvas that quickly rolls up, they can easily transport the map to meetings and outdoor activities.

    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 is the home of Loisaida, Inc., a Puerto Rican multidisciplinary arts and culture community development organization founded in 1978. The Loisaida Center provides space, mentorship, resources, and opportunities to emerging community leaders, artists, and creators working in diverse disciplines. With Pentagram, they created a suite of communications tools for their Ecolibrium project — which analyzes hyperlocal environmental conditions in lower Manhattan to improve public health.

    The team carefully considered how to balance Ecolibrium’s advanced scientific work of with its grassroots identity, landing on a bright color palette and unified icon styles for the project’s various activities. They applied this identity to an upcoming website redesign, social media campaign, poster templates, and concepts for merchandise. To better inform neighbors and peers about Ecolibrium’s efforts and invite them to take action, the team also created a slide deck that communicates the project’s breadth in a concise presentation.

    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 is an intergenerational nonprofit in Manhattan’s Chinatown that works at the intersection of neighborhood engagement, storytelling, and the arts. With Farzana Gandhi Design Studio and fwd | A+U, Think!Chinatown created an exhibition concept and community engagement activities to explore placemaking/placekeeping strategies, authentic vs. staged cultural production, and the history of Paifang (ornamental gateways) in Chinatowns across the United States. The exhibition responds to the upcoming city-led redevelopment of Chinatown’s Kimlau Square, which proposes a new Paifang as a gateway to the neighborhood.

    To build residents’ capacity to engage with city officials regarding Kimlau Square’s redevelopment, the exhibition and accompanying activities will prompt visitors to consider the uniqueness of Manhattan’s Chinatown, the myriad ways it might be represented, and alternate forms of gateways. Pentagram is continuing to collaborate with Think!Chinatown to create the exhibition’s design and graphic identity.

    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. 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 + FAQ

    Drop-in Hours

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

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I apply?
    Fill out the open call application, linked here.

    Can a team, duo, or studio apply?
    Yes! Only one person from the group needs to apply to the open call, but your responses should reflect the availability, opinion, and work of the group. Please note, if your team is selected to submit a proposal, you will split the $2,000 payment for the proposal among your team members.

    What’s the most important part of the application?
    Van Alen is especially interested in seeing previous public art and community engagement projects you’ve worked on.

    Who’s responsible for the community engagement component of the project?
    Artists and designers invited to submit a proposal in the next round will be asked to create a community engagement plan. Invited artists and designers are encouraged to reach out to local community organizations and residents as they work on their proposals. Van Alen will support efforts to connect with local residents, advocates, and stakeholders as needed.

    For those invited to submit a proposal, does Van Alen help with site identification and the permitting process?
    It is the responsibility of the selected artists and designers to take the lead on identifying specific sites and their respective permitting processes. Van Alen will support their efforts as needed and share existing neighborhood and city agency contacts.

    Contact

    Shiloah Coley

    Project Manager,

    Programs

    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

    Now on view! Created by Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas, With Your Voice envisions major changes coming to Gowanus, Brooklyn.

    Supporters


  6. Points of Promise

    Comments Off on Points of Promise

    About

    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: Fall 2024

    Coming in Fall 2024, a public art project to increase public awareness of flooding in Gowanus.

    With Your Voice

    Now on view! Created by Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas, With Your Voice envisions 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

    2024 Selection Committee

    Steven Koller

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

    Tony Ruiz

    Communications Committee Co-Chair, Gowanus Oversight Task Force

    Andreas Tyre

    Community Activist

    Elisa Smilovitz

    Gowanus Mutual Aid

    Tracey L. Pinkard

    Community Liaison

    Former Vice President, Gowanus Houses Resident Association

    Andrea Parker

    Executive Director, Gowanus Canal Conservancy

    Sebastian Mendez

    Co-Founder, Tankhouse

    Karen Blondel

    Executive Director, Public Housing Civic Association


    Supporters


  7. Common Build

    Comments Off on Common Build

    About

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

    Since 2014, Van Alen Institute has connected longstanding local organizations with emerging and BIPOC artists to create community-led public art and design installations. Through these space activations, Common Build amplifies the advocacy work of Van Alen’s community partners, brings together local residents to connect and celebrate, and supports emerging artists and designers as they execute meaningful public realm projects.

    Common Build also explores the value of public art and design as a tool for local information sharing, community organizing, issue advocacy, and social justice.

  8. 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 on a sliding scale, 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

    Upcoming Events

    September 11, 2024

    CB6 Full Board Meeting

    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 Landmarks & Land Use Committee meeting at Van Alen Institute. Open to the public.


    Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 holds their monthly Landmarks & Land Use Committee meeting at Van Alen Institute. Open to the public.


    Supporters


  9. 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


  10. Gowanus Houses Community Center

    Comments Off on Gowanus Houses Community Center
    Gowanus Houses community center site visit, April 22, 2022. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin

    About

    The ongoing disinvestment of the Gowanus Houses Community Center is a matter of life and death. Because the center has been closed for nearly 20 years, multiple generations of residents have been deprived of an essential community resource. Countless hours of community-building, resident-led activities have been forced to find alternative space, or have been foregone altogether—a mammoth loss to the Gowanus Houses community. Disinvestment in the center is not an isolated case; it is systemic across New York City. Other NYCHA community centers around the city are in similar states of underuse. Action and funds are urgently needed now and in a sustained fashion over the coming years to ensure members of NYCHA communities have safe, clean, activated spaces in which residents of all ages and stripes can thrive and enjoy themselves.

    Ahead of DDC’s Fall 2022 – Fall 2023 renovation, the Gowanus Houses Resident Association (GHRA) wants to spread word of the Gowanus Community Center’s reopening, and build excitement about how the renovated Center could best serve the community.  The project’s longterm goals are trifold: make the center more welcoming, celebrate its history, and transform the space into an informational hub for the community.

    Hear from the Residents

    “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.

    Who We’re Working With

    Andreas Tyre

    Community Activist

    Tracey L. Pinkard

    Community Liaison

    Former Vice President, Gowanus Houses Resident Association

    Kia Weatherspoon

    Founder, Determined by Design

    BD Feliz

    BD FELIZ, Principal


    Community Photo Album

    Gowanus Houses Community Photo Album

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

    Our Space Gowanus

    In 2021 Neighborhood Design Fellowship: Gowanus a paid, six-month program for up to 12 Gowanus residents focused on an action campaign to bring attention to the Gowanus Houses Community Center. With Dark Matter University, the fellows drafted and assembled this pamphlet outlining the history of disinvestment that has plagued the community center and their visions for the future of the space. In October 2021, the pamphlet was distributed at our inaugural Van Alen Block Party and displayed in large format on the street-facing windows of our office in Gowanus.

    Bond Street Bash, May 12, 2022. Photo: Cameron Blaylock

    Gowanus Action

    Resident-led design projects in our home of Gowanus, Brooklyn.

    Neighborhood Design Fellowship: Gowanus

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

    GLOwanus

    A light installation to inform Gowanus residents about water quality of the Gowanus canal.

    Contact

    Andrew Brown

    Director of Programs