Archive

  1. Gowanus Houses Community Center

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    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.

    Who We’re Working With

    Andreas Tyre

    President,

    Gowanus Houses Resident Association

    Tracey L. Pinkard

    Vice President,

    Gowanus Houses Resident Association

    Kia Weatherspoon

    Founder, Determined by Design


    Neighborhood Design Fellowship: Gowanus

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

    Contact

    Andrew Brown

    Director of Programs

  2. Neighborhoods Now

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    About

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

    In response, in Spring 2020 the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute tapped into our collective network of architects, designers and engineers. By building interdisciplinary partnerships, Neighborhoods Now has supported local organizations leading their communities’ recovery. Nearly two years later, what began as a responsive six-week sprint developed into a platform for enduring partnerships and collective activism.

    Under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, we’re continuing this work throughout 2022, transitioning from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities.

    Neighborhoods Now: Forward is made possible through a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund. With yearlong funding in place, each team is developing projects to build long-term resiliency in neighborhood economies. To strengthen learnings across communities, teams will also meet up throughout the year to exchange their experiences and build connections.

    Scroll down to learn more about each team and what they’re working on this year.

    Who We’re Working With


    Current Community Partners


    Past Community Partners


    Funding provided by

    Teams

    Additional Expertise

    Current


    Past

    Luisa Borrell

    Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, CUNY

    Dustin Duncan

    Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

    Gina Lovasi

    Drexel University

    Eve Klein

    CUNY Graduate Center

    Javier Otero Peña

    CUNY Graduate Center

    Alison Mears

    Healthy Materials Lab, Parsons School of Design


    2020–21 Report

    The results of our work in 2020-21 were a set of design recommendations and prototypes addressing immediate needs for COVID-19 awareness campaigns, open air dining, and outdoor education and cultural programming. Several prototypes have now been implemented, and Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum are supporting additional implementation through 2022. Neighborhoods’ needs also went beyond design and physical interventions. Working groups organized financial workshops for small businesses, drafted legal templates, and collaborated with senior staff at City agencies to help neighborhoods navigate programs like Open Streets and Open Restaurants.

    Press

    Next City

    A Night Market Has Popped Up in NYC’s Chinatown

    Fast Company

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

    Bedford + Bowery

    The Matchmaking Service That Pairs Visionary Designers With Covid Conundrums

    Curbed

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

    Architect’s Newspaper

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

    Public Programs

    Neighborhoods Now Summer Summit

    July 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

    October 6, 2020

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

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

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

    October 7, 2020

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

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

    Neighborhoods Now Kickoff

    June 26, 2020

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

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

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

    Project Resources

    Nothing yet.

    Contact

    Diana Araujo

    Senior Project Manager, Programs

    Support

    Information about sponsorship opportunities can be found here.

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

    Kate Overbeck

    Director of Development

    Supporters

    This project is made possible with support from


    Lead


    Benefactor


    Advocate


    Patron


    Supporting


  3. Gowanus CSO Installation

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    Gowanus CSO Installation Design Workshop, April 30, 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.

    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.”

    More About CSO

    Nothing so far!

    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.

    Contact

    Andrew Brown

    Director of Programs

    Supporters

  4. Neighborhoods Now: Asian Americans for Equality and Think!Chinatown

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    Launched in Spring 2020, Neighborhoods Now is a collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute to connect NYC neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network. In 2022, under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative is evolving from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities.

    Led by Think!Chinatown with Asian Americans for Equality, the Chinatown team is expanding the Chinatown Night Market — launched at Forsyth Plaza in 2021 with support of Neighborhoods Now. Taking place monthly from June to October 2022, the Chinatown Night Market has physically expanded, now spanning Forsyth Plaza and the sidewalk below. With a new layout and design by di Domenico + Partners, lighting support from Buro Happold, an eye-catching lantern installation by Leroy Street Studio, legal and logistics support from Fried Frank, and evaluation support from Gehl, the market now accommodates a wider array of local food and arts vendors.

    Graphic design studio The Working Assembly has also joined the Chinatown team this year, and is collaborating with Think!Chinatown on a new graphic identity for the market. The branding incorporates a constellation representing the night sky above Forsyth Plaza, and a gradient reminiscent of the glow of the night market itself. Place-based illustrations reflect specific sites within the Chinatown community, and are customized to highlight the market’s participants. The new branding appears on event signage, vendor banners, promotional materials, and social media graphics, and the team is exploring other merchandising opportunities for the future.

    The Chinatown team is also transforming a vacant storefront at 1 Pike Street into a cultural workshop space for Think!Chinatown’s ongoing public programming, gathering, and organizing work for the Chinatown community.

    Who We’re Working With


    Current Firms


    2020-21 Outcomes

    In 2020-21, Leroy Street Studio, di Domenico + Partners, and Buro Happold partnered with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown to develop a proposal to adapt Forsyth Plaza into an open-air market supporting local Chinatown businesses and cultural groups.

    Plan for Night Market
    The team set out to create the infrastructure to support a night market of food vendors along Forsyth Street and cultural programming on the adjacent plaza. To create more opportunities for neighborhood-specific cultural programming and a food market model, the team worked on financial mechanisms, marketing, design and construction of vending carts, and administration of regulations.

    Pilot Event
    A monthly summer series, Chinatown Nights, kicked off on June 18, 2021. It was the pilot installment featuring a Chinatown-focused film program alongside local street vendors. On the cusp of NYC’s reopening, Chinatown Nights became much more than an open-air festival — it held space for the community to reunite and celebrate.

    Neighborhood Beacon
    Glowing and playful, a movable light box hosts projections created by Think!Chinatown. As a signifier of a community event, the light box brings the party wherever it roams.

    Community Engagement
    Think!Chinatown was able to connect a range of key stakeholders, growing the team to include artists, filmmakers and food vendors, while also introducing the team to some key Chinatown movers and shakers, inviting them into our design process. By connecting with these fixtures of the Chinatown cultural and social landscape, Chinatown Nights has been able to design a space where community members and visitors all feel welcome.

    Future Plans
    The team is continuing to collaborate to develop staging techniques for more cultural performances and art vendors; expand the area of programming, activating more space along Forsyth Plaza; create a full night market model including permitting and financial model to host market stalls in addition to food vendors; and ensure the space is held for the Chinatown community by curating cultural programming appropriate for Chinatown aunties, culturally involved APIs, and visitors alike.

    Press

    Next City

    A Night Market Has Popped Up in NYC’s Chinatown

    2021 Presentation

    The use of the information contained in this proposal document, “Neighborhoods Now- Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown,” is at the sole risk of the user, and Van Alen Institute shall not be responsible for, or liable in any way for, the accuracy, completeness or any other matter with respect to the contents herein. The user hereby assumes all risks of the use of the information, and irrevocably and unconditionally waives, releases and discharges Van Alen Institute and its direct and indirect members, directors, officers, employees, agents, affiliates, volunteers and representatives, from any and all liability of any kind or nature whatsoever, in connection with the matters contained herein, and the use of the information contained herein.

  5. Lucid Project: Albany

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    About

    How might a neglected public alley be transformed into a space for rest, play, and collective healing?

    How might a community-led design process create opportunities for a long-term vision?

    Lucid Project: Albany aims to inspire transformational change in Albany’s West Hill neighborhood through the community-led redesign of a public alley. The project brings together West Hill residents, city agencies, and design professionals to co-create design solutions that address immediate local needs while supporting long-term visioning and planning with residents.

    Ultimately, we have three main objectives with our partners:

    • Facilitate West Hill’s access to resources that can transform their built environment and support socioeconomic development
    • Bring community members to work together and with other professionals to co-create design solutions that address their specific needs and aspirations
    • Support capacity-building efforts within the community

    Our Partners


    Our Work

    We began our work in West Hill by listening to community stories and identifying ways to lift up and build upon existing neighborhood initiatives. Though residents face a number of socioeconomic challenges tied to historical and ongoing legacies of systemic racism, West Hill is teeming with ideas and strong community-based initiatives.

    For example, the Eden’s Rose Foundation, a local nonprofit, has acquired more than 20 empty lots covering approximately five acres of land. To date, they have built Albany Victory Gardens (AVG), a large community garden that occupies more than two acres within one block. With a focus on economic and food justice, AVG trains local residents in urban farming skills, and cultivates fresh and healthy produce that can be grown and sold locally.

    Nearby, 518 SNUG (Should Never Use Guns) works to de-escalate violence in the community and mentors at-risk youth through extensive outreach programs. Their outreach workers are on-the-ground day-in, day-out, talking to young people in their community to build relationships and encourage healthy life decisions. They also hold vigils in honor of community members who have lost their lives to gun violence, and own a plot of land at AVG to cultivate crops.

    Currently, we’re focused on transforming a city-owned alley space in the middle of the Albany Victory Gardens. This community-led effort will create a safe space for community members and aims to inspire a larger conversation about self-determination. As part of this process, we’ve been organizing and participating in co-design sessions in Albany with our community partners and design team, listening to local dreams and aspirations for what this space could become.

    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 – May 2022

    Partner Workshops

    We’re holding inspiration workshops with our local partners and starting site prep and fabrication.

    Jun 2022 – Jun 2023

    Site Cleanup and Installation

    We’ll host a volunteer site clean up and install the selected design!

    Supporters

  6. Public Realm R&D

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    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 Public Realm R&D 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.

  7. Van Alen Council Trips

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    Brooklyn, NY

    Private Means to Public Ends | Oct 29–Nov 2, 2019

    Over the past two decades, Brooklyn’s growth has generated immense economic investment and opportunity — contributing to the borough’s dynamism, while also raising the critical question of “who benefits?” that fuels a citywide public debate. The Council directed their attention to Downtown Brooklyn and Sunset Park, two neighborhoods that are hubs of the emerging innovation economy and reflect the complex conditions that underpin Brooklyn’s evolution.

    Van Alen also hosted a special capstone session, bringing the Council together with the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) to grapple with pervasive design challenges in cities across scales. As host of the 2019 MICD Regional Session, Van Alen convened mayors from small cities across the US to educate them about the strategies for fostering inclusive growth in their hometowns. At Brooklyn incubation space A/D/O, the Council helped this groups of civic leaders think creatively about design solutions, drawing on global precedents and best practices.

    Participating Mayors:

    • John D’Amico, Mayor of West Hollywood, California
    • Vince Williams, Mayor of Union City, Georgia
    • The Honorable Christian Price, Mayor of Maricopa
    • Arizona Shawn Maldon, Mayor of Capitol Heights, Maryland

    Itinerary

    Trip Recap

    Van Alen Council: Private Means to Public Ends (Part II)

    Downtown Brooklyn and Sunset Park reflect the complex conditions underpinning Brooklyn’s evolution.

    Attendees

    Daniel Elsea

    Director, Allies and Morrison


    London, UK

    Private Means to Public Ends | May 15–17, 2019

    How do we reconcile the trend towards privatization with the goal of fostering inclusive growth in cities? The Van Alen Council looked to London as a city in which private money has long had a significant role in shaping the city. The Council’s exploration of the private sector role’s in city-making focused on two modern developments: King’s Cross and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Both regeneration projects aimed to spur private investment in underutilized land to create new, economically viable pieces of city that would cater to a diverse urban populace.

    Itinerary


    Media

    Christine Murray, Editor-in-Chief at urban design media platform The Developer, was the resident journalist during the Council’s time in London. This collaboration resulted in an article, “Oxymorons and Idiosyncrasies: London’s Private Public Spaces,” and a short video piece that chronicle the trip’s takeaways.

    Van Alen also collaborated with The Urbanist, Monocle’s podcast that seeks to communicate strategies for city-building to an influential audience of city mayors and urban planners. Monocle followed the Council during their excursion through London and invited select participants to sit down in their studio with host Andrew Tuck, for a conversation about the role of private development in inclusive urban growth. Listen to Part 1 and Part 2.

    Attendees

    Daniel Elsea

    Director, Allies and Morrison


    Seattle, WA

    An Exploration of Climate Change and Fisheries | July 17–19, 2019

    With bustling waterfronts, famous seafood markets, a robust culinary scene, and an estuary rich with marine life, the Puget Sound region seems to be the picture of seafood security. But look closer at the web of people, the sea, and the climate, and the fragility and vulnerability of this system comes to light. In partnership with Professor Edward Allison of the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, Council members visited this region to explore the seafood supply chain from ocean to table and engage in a systems assessment of the seafood supply chain.

    Academic Partners

    • University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
    • Washington Sea Grant

    Itinerary

    Trip Recap

    Van Alen Council: Future of Food Systems

    Exploring Seattle’s seafood supply chain from ocean to table. By Brittany Hoedemaker

    Attendees


    Central Valley, CA (2019)

    Designing the Future of Food | Jan 9–11, 2019

    As climate change compromises food production and access the world over, “breadbaskets” like California are among the most vulnerable regions, primed as case studies to explore innovations and alternative strategies. The Van Alen Council returned to California’s Central Valley for the second installment of a two-part trip, investigating the potential of design to foster a food system capable of carrying us into the future.

    Itinerary


    Trip Recaps

    Van Alen Council: Designing the Future of Food, Part II

    The complex web of relationships that comprise the food system in California’s Central Valley. By Sahoko Yui

    Van Alen Council: Design Challenges of Climate Change

    How climate change is influencing food systems in California’s Central Valley.

    Central Valley, CA (2018)

    The Council gathered in California, the source of most of the nation’s produce production, to learn about the nation’s food system. Their three-day visit to various farms and food production facilities in California revealed the complex interplay of structural, social, and environmental issues in the food chain.

    Academic Partner

    • Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH) at UC Davis

    Itinerary

    Van Alen Council: Designing for the Future of Food, Part I

    The complex interplay of structural, social, and environmental issues in California’s food chain. By Sahoko Yui

    Attendees


  8. Neighborhoods Now: 82nd Street Partnership

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    Launched in Spring 2020, Neighborhoods Now is a collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute to connect NYC neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network. In 2022, under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative is evolving from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities.

    The Jackson Heights team, led by the 82nd Street Partnership, is creating a roadmap for the 82nd Street commercial corridor to rebuild from the pandemic. Jackson Heights’ Dunningham Triangle is at the center of this goal, envisioned as a safer, welcoming space for children and families that encourages foot traffic to nearby small businesses. To address concerns about safety in the neighborhood, the Partnership has begun by organizing family-friendly activities at the triangle, including Zumba classes, salsa lessons, and lunchtime musical performances. With these activities, they have already observed more women, elderly residents, and children coming back to this public space.

    The team is also developing several design solutions to further encourage use of the public realm, including a shade structure conceived by nARCHITECTS in an earlier phase of Neighborhoods Now. N H D M is currently surveying residents about better uses for the neighborhood’s Manuel de Dios Unanue Triangle, and collaborating with beloved bookstore Librería Barco de Papel on ways to extend their programming outdoors. SO-IL is developing a set of modular furniture that can be reconfigured for diverse community activities in public spaces, and graphic design studio MA’AM is creating a new brand identity for the 82nd St Partnership and its flagship event, the Viva La Comida festival.

    Who We’re Working With


    Current Firms


    Past Firms


    In-kind donations were provided by


    2020-21 Outcomes

    In 2020-21, ARO, Design Advocates, LTL, MOS, nARCHITECTS, SO-IL, and VHB collaborated with Jackson Heights’ 82nd Street Partnership. Together, they helped over 20 restaurants participate in the city’s Open Restaurants program and supported the neighborhood through exploration of new public plaza designs and usage of the Street Seats program. They also looked toward the future with a pandemic-era reinvention of the beloved annual Viva La Comida festival.

    Open Restaurants
    The team aimed to address the immediate needs of the neighborhood’s restaurants with proposals for responsive set-ups and shading along the street, ultimately helping over 20 businesses participate in the city’s Open Restaurants program.

    Community Building
    The team opened a field office to create an on-the-ground presence and pilot a model for temporary uses of vacant storefront space. The field office served as a hub to distribute information, goods, and services to businesses and individuals during the pandemic.

    Open Space
    The team developed original designs to use parking and sidewalk lanes for public seating for three locations at Barco de Papel, Tulcingo, and Centro Mistico. At Libreria Barco de Papel — which serves not only as a bookstore, but as a community hub for cultural and political activity — the team supported additional strategies to shift programming and browsing to outside.

    Neighborhood Beautification
    The team hosted multiple days dedicated to sprucing up the streetscape through new plants and fresh coats of colorful paint for benches in the area.

    Viva La Comida
    Viva la Comida! is an annual festival highlighting the cultural diversity of Queens, combining food with music, art, dancing, entertainment and more on a street known for its outpouring of vibrancy. Even though the future is uncertain, the team worked to create parking and restaurant seating plans to accommodate the large gathering.

    Collaborator Spotlight

    Nothing so far!

    Press

    Fast Company

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

    Project Resources

    Nothing yet.

  9. Neighborhoods Now: FABnyc

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    Launched in Spring 2020, Neighborhoods Now is a collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute to connect NYC neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network. In 2022, under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative is evolving from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities.

    Having completed FABnyc’s 20/20 Vision Plan through Neighborhoods Now, the Lower East Side team aims to strengthen existing and new sites for cultural activity. This year, they’re building on existing Open Streets programming, expanding the Open Arts Lower East Side event to build sustainability, and creating long-term strategic plans for new sites and platforms.

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

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

    Who We’re Working With


    Current Firms


    2020-21 Goals and Outcomes

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

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

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

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

    Project Resources

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  10. Neighborhoods Now: Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition

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    Launched in Spring 2020, Neighborhoods Now is a collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute to connect NYC neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network. In 2022, under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative is evolving from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities

    The Kingsbridge team, led by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC),  is completing a neighborhood assessment to understand the current challenges and long-term opportunities for small businesses and tenants along Kingsbridge Avenue & Jerome Avenue. As part of the assessment, Dattner Architects and Scalar Architecture recently joined NWBCCC to conduct a community survey, interviewing business owners, homeowners, renters, and youth about how they use the Kingsbridge commercial corridor and how the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory could serve their needs. The assessment will lead into an action plan to support the community and avoid displacement, centering the community at each phase of the process.

    The team is also exploring design interventions for the site of a sinkhole just outside of the Kingsbridge Armory, which is a major safety concern for residents and a magnet for littering. These designs can serve as a hub for updates on the Armory’s redevelopment, sharing stories from residents, and opportunities for the community to participate in the site’s cleanup and decoration.

    Who We’re Working With


    Current Firms


    Past Firms


    In-kind donations were provided by


    2021-21 Goals and Outcomes

    COOKFOX, Design Advocates, MNLA, Perkins & Will, Scalar Architecture, and Studio Libeskind collaborated with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC). Together, they designed a Civic Space Toolkit for community-based organizations to operate outdoors along with several short-term responses to the pandemic.

    Civic Space Toolkit
    This universal system is designed for community-based organizations who want to resume their operations in the outdoor space. The system made of inexpensive and reutilized materials (wood crates, palettes, and strings) provides organizations with a flexible furniture and shading solution that can be used for various programs — from book fairs to movie nights and community events. The team is implementing this toolkit in NWBCCC’s backyard to create an outdoor library and hangout space.

    Small Business Support
    The team organized a seminar for small businesses on how to apply for relief loans, and built out a colorful and eye-catching outdoor dining setup for local restaurant Tropical Rotisserie.

    Community Cleanup
    In October 2020, the team organized Kingsbridge Day!, a day of service to spruce up the streets of Kingsbridge and highlight ongoing sanitation issues exacerbated by municipal funding cuts during the pandemic. Local residents and volunteers from across the city cleaned up litter and the nearby Aqueduct Walk Park, while a tree planting demonstration encouraged residents to imagine a neighborhood with more street trees to help combat heat vulnerability.

    Artist Collaborations
    The team engaged local artists Felix and Dexter Ciprian to help create Tropical Rotisserie’s outdoor dining structure and Bronx-based graffiti artists Tats Cru to create a mural installation celebrating the neighborhood’s identity.

    Project Resources

    Nothing yet.

    2020 Presentation Proposal

    The use of the information contained in this proposal document, “Neighborhoods Now: Kingsbridge,” is at the sole risk of the user, and Van Alen Institute shall not be responsible for, or liable in any way for, the accuracy, completeness or any other matter with respect to the contents herein. The user hereby assumes all risks of the use of the information, and irrevocably and unconditionally waives, releases and discharges Van Alen Institute and its direct and indirect members, directors, officers, employees, agents, affiliates, volunteers and representatives, from any and all liability of any kind or nature whatsoever, in connection with the matters contained herein, and the use of the information contained herein.