Active
Photo: Jourdan Sayers, Design Trust Equitable Public Space Fellow

Many New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments are set back from the sidewalks and surrounded by fenced grassy areas – the ubiquitous 'tower in the park' model. These green spaces are inaccessible to both residents and the surrounding community. A prototype for a lively, usable, active public space on such grassy area at the Lillian Wald Houses in the Lower East Side will offer an engaging place for residents and strengthen connections with the broader community.

The Design Trust for Public Space, in partnership with NYCHA have been working with residents to reimagine the green space at Wald Houses. We focus on connectivity between the development and streetscape to encourage social interaction and promote public health. The Design Trust plans to construct a prototype of the design, coordinating with NYCHA, in a second phase of work.

background

In 2014, we conducted an open Request for Proposals called The Energetic City: Connectivity in the Public Realm to give life to the city by connecting people through innovative design informed by the needs and aspirations of community users. An independent jury selected a proposal by public artist Jane Greengold to partner with the Design Trust in creating a public space prototype in an underutilized grassy area of a NYCHA development. Since then, Design Trust and Jane Greengold have defined the scope of the project. We conducted a site selection process and engaged with residents of Wald Houses, community organizations, and NYCHA staff.

process

In September 2016, we announced a team of Fellows with expertise in community organizing, landscape architecture, active design, lighting, and art, led by Jane Greengold. Together we assessed public needs and desires of the Wald Houses residents and the local community through workshops and meetings, and identified a green space on Wald’s grounds for the prototype. Working with residents, the local community, and NYCHA, the team will develop a design for the selected site that meets the stakeholders’ shared goals.

The Design Trust Fellows have engaged with residents and neighborhood stakeholders to design a space unique to the specific conditions of Wald Houses, but with the potential for adaptation at other NYCHA sites. 

In October 2016, a group of Wald Houses residents, organized by the Design Trust Fellows, formed a Community Design Team to brainstorm and develop a design for a lively public space. The Design Trust Fellows facilitated 11 visioning sessions with residents at the Wald Houses through May 2017. During these meetings, the Community Design Team 

  • reviewed the opportunities and challenges on-site, 
  • identified common goals and values, 
  • shared memories of living in the Wald Houses and talked about the neighborhood's history, 
  • explored possible uses and design ideas based on their needs as residents, 
  • developed various design concepts, 
  • decided on a design direction after rounds of visualization and assessment, 
  • gathered feedback from their neighbors, and
  • created a final design.

The Design Trust Fellows and the Community Design Team are now working to increase outreach among the larger Wald Houses community. We're also raising funds to bring the community vision to life!

"It’s essential that this new public space be constructed, to show both our Community Design Team that their significant efforts were not in vain, and NYCHA, that their partnership with the Design Trust led to a valuable design process and a great design."
JANE GREENGOLD, Opening the Edge Participatory Art Fellow

Imagine co-designing a space with a team of residents and input from over 4000 of their neighbors! I can honestly say without their continued involvement, guidance, and acceptance into their community, we would not have arrived at what we have accomplished together.

Emmanuel Oni, Opening the Edge Active Design Fellow

Key Milestones

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Conduct Request for Proposals

July 2014

An independent jury selected a proposal by public artist Jane Greengold to partner with the Design Trust in creating a public space prototype in an underutilized grassy area of a NYCHA development.

Photo: William Michael Fredericks

Finalize scope

June 2016

We conducted a site selection process and engaged with residents of Wald Houses, community organizations, and NYCHA staff.

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

Assemble the Design Trust Fellows team

September 2016

We announced a team of Fellows with expertise in community organizing, landscape architecture, active design, lighting, and art, led by Jane Greengold.

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

Convene a Community Design Team

October 2016

A group of Wald Houses residents formed a Community Design Team to brainstorm and develop a design for a lively public space.

Photos: Destiny Mata, Opening the Edge Community Organizing Fellow

Community Design Team meets regularly

October 2016

The Design Trust Fellows facilitated visioning sessions with residents at the Wald Houses.

Photo: Destiny Mata, Opening the Edge Community Organizing Fellow

Explore the site

November 2016

The Community Design Team reviewed the opportunities and challenges on-site.

Photo: Jane Greengold, Opening the Edge Participatory Art Fellow

Create guiding principles

December 2016

The Community Design Team identified common goals and values.

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

Build on the culture of the place

January 2017

The Community Design Team shared memories of living in the Wald Houses and talked about the neighborhood's history.

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

Form follows function

February 2017

The Community Design Team explored possible uses and design ideas based on their needs as residents. 

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

Develop preliminary designs

March 2017

The Community Design Team developed various design concepts.

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

Refine the design

April 2017

The Community Design Team decided on a design direction after rounds of visualization and assessment.

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

Solicit additional input

May 2017

The Community Design Team gathered feedback from their neighbors. 

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow

The final design is ready!

June 2017

Rendering: Opening the Edge Fellows

Build it!

June 2017

The Design Trust Fellows and the Community Design Team are now working to increase outreach among the larger Wald Houses community. We're also raising funds to bring the community vision to life!

Photo: Jourdan Sayers, 2016-17 Equitable Public Space Fellow
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