Neighborhoods Now: 2022 Highlights
November 2, 2022
This year, our Neighborhoods Now teams are setting the foundation for long-term resiliency across NYC.
Working On:Neighborhoods Now
Launched in May 2020 by the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, Neighborhoods Now has supported local organizations leading their communities’ pandemic recovery. What began as a six-week sprint has developed into a platform for enduring partnerships and collective activism.
This year, our seven interdisciplinary, community-led teams have accomplished a staggering amount. Across New York City, they’re setting the foundation for long-term resiliency by enlivening public space, providing technical support to small businesses, and strengthening cultural activities. For a snapshot of their accomplishments, watch the video below and scroll down to see each team’s key outcomes this year.
82nd Street Partnership
The Jackson Heights team is led by the 82nd Street Partnership, in collaboration with Fried Frank, N H D M, MA’AM, and SO – IL. This year, the team set out to create and implement a roadmap for the 82nd Street commercial corridor to rebuild from the pandemic as a thriving, family-friendly business district. At the center of this goal is fostering a safer space in the Dunningham Triangle by anchoring activities directed at children and families, increase foot traffic and transform the area into a more welcoming place where community is able to support small businesses and safely re-engage with this public space.
This summer, the Partnership hosted 68 events at Dunningham Triangle, and in the process helped the community reclaim their local park, increased small restaurants customer base, and engaged NYC’s agencies to address quality of life issues. Across the neighborhood, new Street Seats were installed to create more welcoming streetscapes. The team is now engaged in ongoing conversations with NYC’s Department of Parks & Recreation about installing Dunningham Triangle’s furniture. In addition, the team began developing plans to transform Manuel de Dios Unanue Triangle into a user-friendly space, and is working with NYC’s only Spanish-language bookstore to use its space more efficiently to increase inventory and visibility.
AAFE and Think!Chinatown
The Chinatown team is led by Think!Chinatown and Asian Americans for Equality, in collaboration with di Domenico + Partners, Leroy Street Studio, Buro Happold, Fried Frank, The Working Assembly, and Gehl. The team aimed to expand the Chinatown Night Market, a summer event series first piloted in 2021. Their major goals were to extend footprint of the market and activate the stretch of Forsyth Street; increase outreach to potential vendors, small businesses and artists, supporting them through all permitting; design booth systems for vendors; and design a multifunctional kitchen studio focused around culinary programming, art, and neighborhood engagement.
In 2022, the Chinatown Night Market grew from 3,000 attendees in July to 8,500 attendees in September, many of whom visited neighboring small businesses while in Chinatown. Those same people also reported to have felt safer at Forsyth Plaza during the Chinatown Night Market compared to days when there isn’t an event. The market has brought attention to the community’s needs and interest to activate and improve Chinatown’s public spaces, and has helped secure state investment towards Forsyth Plaza through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Bed-Stuy Gateway BID
One of our two teams in Bed-Stuy, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID is collaborating with Moody Nolan, Dash Marshall, Gretel, Buro Happold, and Fried Frank. Through Neighborhoods Now, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID team is building on Winter Wonderland, an open-air holiday market which has supported local small businesses and dozens of vendors yearly since its debut in 2020. The team has collaborated to design market stalls and formal branding strategies, provide legal assistance, and produce storytelling videos for marketing. These new additions are growing the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID’s annual event into a premier holiday destination.
The team has successfully utilized the NYC Open Streets Program to extend the market onto Marcy Street and added a trolley service to transport customers throughout the district. The Bed-Stuy Gateway BID will also use these design interventions and marketing strategies for future events to increase partnerships for additional funding and expand the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID’s presence throughout the greater Brooklyn community.
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Our second team in Bed-Stuy is led by Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and the Brooklyn Business Center, in collaboration with James Corner Field Operations, Farzana Gandhi Design Studio, KPF, and Hyperakt. The Brooklyn Business Center (BBC) was seeking ways to
spread the word about its services and strengthen visibility for local shops, restaurants, service providers, cafes, and other establishments. Many of these local businesses have not seen a resurgence of foot traffic as we emerge from the pandemic. The team focused on communications, visual storytelling, and technology tools to encourage neighbors, visitors, and the community at large to support local small businesses.
The team developed the Backyard Tourism initiative, which features self-guided walking tours to connect Bed-Stuy’s residents and visitors to local businesses and sites of cultural or historic significance. This includes a website that directs visitors to self-guided walking tours, a map that showcases points of interest and adjacent businesses as individual collector cards, and concepts for wayfinding signage and placemakers integrated along the tours. Tours are curated by local organizations and community members have shared spots that they recommend for the initiative’s “Bed-Stuy Bests” feature.
Community League of the Heights
The Washington Heights team is led by Community League of the Heights (CLOTH), in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, BJH Advisors, Cause + Matter Design Studio, Fried Frank, and HLW International LLP. The team is creating a vision plan for the neighborhood’s public realm. This plan will include a business database, retail storefront design prototypes, and design concepts for key public spaces. As a foundation for this vision plan, they recently completed a needs assessment of local businesses that includes a business and vacancy inventory, an analysis of community demographics, and a streetscape survey that considers the locations that serve as gateways to the community.
Following the needs assessment, the team is developing a pilot project at a vacant, highly visible, and accessible triangle at the intersection of 163rd Street, Amsterdam Avenue, and St. Nicholas Avenue. This parcel presents an exciting opportunity as a small business focal point to attract local residents, nearby workers, and city-wide visitors. Retail displays, streetscape elements, and plaza furniture are conceived as a “kit of parts” that can be implemented throughout the neighborhood along retail corridors and other smaller plazas. The working tagline for this pilot project is, “Greatness rises in Washington Heights.”
The Lower East Side team is led by FABnyc, in collaboration with DLR Group, Marvel Architects, Ellana, Pentagram, and Smart Design. The team worked to implement elements of FABnyc’s 20/20 Vision Plan by creatively activate public spaces in the Lower East Side. Working in coordination with resident groups, artists, cultural organizations, and creative entrepreneurs, FABnyc is establishing ongoing programming which supports the creative ecology of the Lower East Side, while increasing cultural access and opportunities for low-income and traditionally marginalized communities.
In 2022, FABnyc expanded its programming, offering over 90 free events in public spaces, hired dozens of local artists, launched an outdoor arts market, and laid the foundation for long term and sustainable public programming. With the support of Neighborhoods Now, FABnyc now has working tools and designs which move forward its 20/20 Vision Plan in three key areas: the Avenue B Open Street, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and engagement with local NYCHA developments.
Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition
The Northwest Bronx team is led by Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) in collaboration with Scalar Architecture and Dattner Architecture. The team is completing a neighborhood assessment to understand the current challenges and opportunities for small businesses and tenants in the immediate vicinity of the Kingsbridge Armory as it undergoes a potential redevelopment. NWBCCC will present the assessment to the public, elected officials, and sister organizations, as part of their ongoing advocacy for equitable community and economic development.
As part of their advocacy, the team designed an art installation to draw attention to an unsafe sinkhole in front of the Kingsbridge Armory. On August 25, 2022, NWBCCC hosted a rally in front of the installation calling for transparency, accountability, and co-governance of the Kingsbridge Armory engagement and redevelopment process. The NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) then issued a community engagement RFP to determine vision and values for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory, and NWBCCC has been invited to co-chair the EDC’s community working group with the local City Council representative.