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In collaboration with the Urban Design Forum, Neighborhoods Now connects five neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with leading design firms.
In Bed-Stuy, Jackson Heights, Kingsbridge, the Lower East Side, and Washington Heights, these working groups will collaborate through August 2020 to develop safe and effective reopening strategies.

In New York City and across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color. This crisis threatens to shutter small businesses and expand the racial wealth gap in neighborhoods that already lack access to resources and capital as a result of long-term structural inequity and racism. In response, the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute have launched Neighborhoods Now to channel pro-bono resources from New York-based design firms into community-driven recovery strategies.

In May, the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute offered to advise members of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a coalition of community groups across New York City, on their reopening strategies this summer. As the city reopens on a broader scale, this initiative aims to support hard-hit and under-resourced neighborhoods by devising reopening strategies that serve their specific needs. 

Through August, in partnership with a local organization in each neighborhood, working groups will engage closely with local stakeholders and draw upon public health best practices to develop tailored solutions for shared gathering spaces, including restaurants, storefronts, civic and cultural organizations, parks, and streets.

The outcome will be a set of design recommendations, prototypes, and installations empowering communities to respond to their immediate needs, while contributing to the city-wide strategy on pandemic response. Recommendations may address:

  • How to reconfigure businesses to protect workers and customers
  • How to outfit community parks and plazas for social distancing
  • How to navigate permitting for sidewalk or parking lane temporary uses
  • How to repurpose vacant spaces as places for convening, culture, and healing
Working Groups

Abruzzo Bodziak Architects; AE Superlab; Architensions; Barker Associates Architecture Office; Bednark Studio Inc.; Brandt : Haferd; Bureau V; Büro Koray Duman; Curtis + Ginsberg Architects; Dattner Architects; DLR Group; Farzana Gandhi Design Studio; FCA; Frederick Tang Architecture; Fried Frank; Future Expansion Architects; Gensler; Grimshaw; Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects; James Corner Field Operations; Kalos Eidos; Kramer Levin; Lea Architecture; Michael K. Chen Architecture; MNLA; NDC; New Affiliates; Office of Architecture; Office of Tangible Space; Only If Architecture; Overlay Office; PARC Office; Partner & Partners; Pentagram; Perkins and Will; Sam Schwartz; Scalar Architecture PC; Silman; Smith & Sauer; Some People Studio; Space 4 Architecture; Stantec; Studio Cadena; Studio Fōr; Studio Libeskind; Thackway McCord; Thornton Tomasetti; Two Twelve; VHB; W Architecture; WIP Studio; Woods Bagot; Worrell/Yeung

Public Programs

Neighborhoods Now  Kickoff

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 BID
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

Neighborhoods Now Share-Out

In this concluding summit, each working group will share back their outcomes with other neighborhood organizations, city leaders, and the public. Details to come.

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
koverbeck@vanalen.org
212 924 7000 x 19

Want to share your skills, expertise, or ideas? Fill out this form.

For more information on Neighborhoods Now, contact:

Stacey Anderson
Associate Director, Business Development and Special Initiatives
sanderson@vanalen.org
212 924 7000 x 18

Press Coverage

Urban Design Forum mobilizes civic leaders to confront the defining issues facing New York City’s built environment. We are an independent membership organization that empowers professionals of diverse backgrounds, industries and perspectives to shape a better future for all New Yorkers. We investigate complex challenges in the built environment, study alternative approaches from cities around the world, and advance progressive strategies to build a more dynamic and democratic city.

See all work at urbandesignforum.org.