Today we are a nationally-recognized incubator that transforms and evolves the city's landscape with city agencies and community collaborators. Our work can be seen, felt and experienced throughout all five boroughs–from parks and plazas to streets and public buildings. 

The Design Trust for Public Space received the 2015 Olmsted Medal from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the 2016 Frederic Schwartz Community Development Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York State, and the Corporate & Institutional Achievement Award of the 2017 National Design Awards from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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Why Design Trust? from Design Trust for Public Space on Vimeo.

Our History

  1. Design Trust for Public Space is Established

    April 1995

    Andrea Woodner–a sculptor trained as an architect and a native New Yorker–has a vision for an organization that can transform the life of the city by connecting city agencies with the burgeoning design community. She names it "Design Trust for Public Space" to reflect the mission of bringing design expertise and design thinking to the public realm. 

  2. Design Trust Completes First Project

    July 1996

    The Design Trust's inaugural project – conducted in partnership with the NYC Department of Design & Construction and Brooklyn Public Library – focused on bringing design excellence to each and every branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. 

  3. Design Trust Issues First Request-for-Proposals

    October 1996

    Three projects are selected from our first Request-for-Proposals: Designing for Children, Designing for Security, and the Diego Beekman Houses Design Workshop

  4. Design Trust Sponsors First Photography Project

    January 1997

    Photographer Elizabeth Felicella is awarded a fellowship to document the actual effect of security measures on public spaces throughout New York City in conjunction with the "Designing for Security" project. 

  5. Design Trust Launches Its First Website

    January 1999

    Our first website launches with detailed information about who we are, what we do, and how we work. 

  6. Design Trust Publishes High Performance Building Guidelines

    April 1999

    Eight years before PlaNYC, the Design Trust produces a set of high performance guidelines to make city buildings more energy-efficient and environmentally-responsible. 

  7. First High Performance Building Opens

    December 1999

    The South Jamaica Branch Library was the first building designed and constructed using the Design Trust's High Performance Building Guidelines

    Courtesy Architizer
  8. Design Trust Publishes Pivotal Study to Save the High Line

    February 2002

    The High Line is a derelict piece of urban infrastructure scheduled for demolition. Our feasibility study leads to the City's decision to preserve and transform the elevated railway into public open space.

  9. Design Trust Holds First Art+Design Benefit

    June 2002

    The Design Trust holds its first benefit auction in Chelsea at the contemporary art gallery Cohan & Leslie. 

  10. Design Trust Launches the Photo Urbanism Program

    August 2002

    The winners of the first Photo Urbanism fellowship are the photography team of Cook+Jenshel, who focus on documenting the city's waterfront. 

  11. Community Gardens Preserved in the Bronx

    September 2002

    Due in part to the Design Trust's Housing & Open Space project,75% of the community gardens in Bronx Community Board 3 are preserved by an agreement between Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Bloomberg administration. Read the article. 

  12. Demolition Order on High Line is Rescinded

    December 2002

    Ten months after we released our feasibility study for the High Line, Mayor Bloomberg's administration requests a Certificate of Interim Use to railbank the High Line, effectively rescinding the outstanding demolition order. 

    Photo: Joel Sternfeld 
  13. Diego Beekman Houses Residents Take Ownership

    January 2003

    As a result of our Diego Beekman project, tenants take ownership of 38 buildings in the South Bronx, billed as "the largest tenant takeover of a federal housing project in the country." 

  14. Pedestrian-Mobility Plan Inspires Transformation of Times Square

    June 2004

    Problems & Possibilities outlines practical solutions to the chaotic conditions and traffic congestion plaguing Times Square, spurring a radical transformation of the “Crossroads of the World.”

  15. NYC Passes One of Nation's First Green Building Laws

    October 2005

    Our High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines led to the City of New York establishing its commitment to green building practices by passing one of the country's first green building laws, Local Law 86 (LL86). 

  16. Design Trust Launches Redesigned Website

    June 2006

    The Design Trust works with designers Brown+Ryan to redesign the organization's website based on the new Design Trust logo. 

  17. Empire State Building Shines Yellow for Taxi 07

    April 2007

    In honor the yellow taxi's 100th birthday and our Taxi 07 program, the Empire State Building is lit up in taxi yellow. 

    Photo: Chris Kannen 
  18. PlaNYC is Released on Earth Day

    April 2007

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg releases PlaNYC, New York City's first citywide sustainability plan. 

  19. Design Trust Mounts Large-Scale Exhibit of New Taxi Designs

    April 2007

    Garnering over 100,000 visitors in just 12 days, the Taxi 07 exhibit demonstrates to the world that it’s time to bring design innovation to New York City’s taxi fleet.   

  20. Design Trust Launches Design Trust Council

    May 2007

    With an intimate talk between writers Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnick at the Museum of Modern Art, the Design Trust launches the Design Trust Council, a new leadership circle. 

  21. NYC Launches "Taxi of Tomorrow" Competition

    February 2008

    As a direct result of the Design Trust’s Taxi 07 project, NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission launches the Taxi of Tomorrow program, soliciting responses from automakers around the world to create a new, purpose-built taxi exclusively for New York City.

  22. Reinventing Grand Army Plaza Exhibit Opens

    September 2008

    The opening day celebration for the Reinventing Grand Army Plaza Exhibit draws crowds into the center of the Plaza like never before. 

    Photo: Triborough Photography
  23. Design Trust Holds First Public Space Potluck

    September 2008

    A new program of pop-up dinner parties in public space is born with the first "Public Space Potluck" in the center of Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn. 

  24. Pilot Project Completed in Times Square

    May 2009

    The NYC Department of Transportation completes its pilot project renovating what is termed "the bowtie" to make more space for pedestrians and change the flow of movement through Times Square. 

    Photo: NYC Dept. of Transportation
  25. High Line Park Opens to Public

    June 2009

    The first section of the new High Line Park opens to the public, seven years after we released our feasibility study advocating for its re-use as open space. 

    Courtesy Friends of the High Line 
  26. NYC Delays Rezoning Plan for Garment District

    June 2010

    With our Made in Midtown study, we succeed in shifting the debate about the Garment District, resulting in the City's decision to put their plan to force garment production out of the District on hold.

  27. Design Trust Sponsors Taxi Passenger Survey

    October 2010

    Working with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, the Design Trust launches an interactive survey for the monitor inside all NYC taxis so passengers can vote for the features most important to them for the Taxi of Tomorrow. 

  28. Design Trust Honored by Society of Landscape Architects

    September 2011

    The New York American Society of Landscape Architects honors the Design Trust with the President's Award. 

    Photo: Todd France
  29. Nissan's NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow Unveiled

    April 2012

    On April 6, 2012, the first purpose-built taxi designed and engineered for New York City, Nissan's NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow, is unveiled to the world for the first time. 

  30. Made in Midtown Project Featured in Social Change Book

    May 2012

    Author Andrew Shea spotlights twenty inspiring case studies – including the Design Trust’s Made in Midtown project — to illustrate how graphic designers can use their unique problem-solving skills to ignite social change.

  31. Design Trust Produces Comprehensive Urban Agriculture Study

    July 2012

    Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City establishes the nation's first set of metrics to measure the benefits of urban agriculture and recommends ways to expand urban agriculture in NYC.

  32. Design Trust Named to "Public Interest Design 100" List

    December 2012

  33. Heartwalk Valentine Opens in Times Square

    February 2013

    This year's Valentine competition for Times Square, a collaboration between the Design Trust and Times Square Alliance, is won by Situ Studio for their "Heartwalk" installation made with boardwalk boards salvaged from local beaches post-Hurricane Sandy. 

    Photo: Times Square Alliance
  34. Inaugural NYCxDesign Week in NYC

    March 2013

    The Design Trust serves on the advisory committee for New York City's first-ever "NYC x Design" week, a citywide celebration of all things designed in New York. 

  35. Five Borough Farm Graphics Win National Award

    September 2013

    The American Institute of Graphic Artists selects the Five Borough Farm graphics as one of 14 winners of their Justified Competition, for "demonstrating the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way.

  36. First Taxi of Tomorrow Cabs Hit the Streets of New York

    October 2013

    After two years of design and development, the first Taxi of Tomorrow vehicles hit the streets of NYC on October 31st, delighting passengers and drivers alike. 

    Photo: Vinoodh Chandar
  37. Record Number of Proposals for Connecting New Yorkers

    May 2014

    The Energetic City request for proposals attracts over 90 proposals to give life to the city by connecting people through innovative design informed by the needs and aspirations of community users.

    Design: Deutsch NY 
  38. Jane Jacobs Forum Features Our Boogie Down Booth

    October 2014

    The Boogie Down Booth, our temporary installation below the elevated 2/5 subway tracks in the Bronx, is honored by MAS as one of the three "Projects that Ignite!" at their Jane Jacobs Forum.

    Photo: Rucha Mandlik
  39. Our Photo Urbanism Fellow's Work is Featured in the NY Times

    November 2014

    The Times features fourteen of Photo Urbanism Fellow Krisanne Johnson's photographs of life along the elevated tracks in NYC in their online Lens column and their Sunday Metropolitan print edition. 

  40. Design Trust Founder Honored by Interior Design Magazine

    December 2014

    Andrea Woodner, Founder and Board President of the Design Trust, is inducted into Interior Design's Hall of Fame in honor of her extraordinary contribution to design in NYC. 

    Photo: Keith Claytor
  41. Design Trust Releases "Under the Elevated"

    June 2015

    The Design Trust issues the groundbreaking policy principles and research, Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities, unleashing the tremendous potential of the millions of square feet below elevated transit infrastructure in NYC.

  42. "Taxi of Tomorrow" is official.

    September 2015

    The Taxi of Tomorrow becomes NYC’s yellow cab standard. Read more. 

    Photo: Nissan North America 
  43. 20th Anniversary

    October 2015

    Design Trust celebrates 20 years of innovative work and our 20/20 Public Space Champions, who have been dedicated to improving the daily life of all New Yorkers. Read more.

    Photo: Liz Ligon
  44. Design Trust receives the Olmsted Medal

    November 2015

    We received the Olmsted Medal from the American Society of Landscape Architects.

    Photo: Kathleen Fox
  45. New Alliance for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

    November 2015

    The newly formed Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance, and corresponding Community Advisory Board, includes our Community Advisors from The World’s Park – a Design Trust project to foster planning, design, and stewardship skills for the community to improve and maintain the park.

  46. "Laying the Groundwork" Becomes the Blueprint for New York City

    January 2016

    Design Trust, in partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, issues Laying the Groundwork, the first comprehensive design guidelines for retail and other ground-floor uses in affordable housing developments. 

  47. Times Square Plaza Legislation Passes

    April 2016

    Design Trust played a major role in building support for the Intro. 1109 Pedestrian Plaza Legislation. The new bill gives the NYC Department of Transportation the authority to manage and regulate pedestrian plazas throughout the city, without banning any category of activity.

    Photo: A Better Times Square
  48. Design Trust receives the Frederic Schwartz Award

    October 2016

    We received the Frederic Schwartz Community Development Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York State.

    Image: Courtesy of the AIA New York State
  49. Design Trust introduced the Public for All citywide open call for projects

    April 2017

     On April 26, 2017, we unveiled Public for All: Rethinking Shared Space in NYC, an open call for project ideas to ensure New York City’s public realm remains truly public. For Public for All—the Design Trust’s 10th Request for Proposals in 22 years—we sought innovative ideas for creating more accessible, resourceful public spaces and sustainable models for their operation and maintenance to strengthen the voice of communities and enliven neighborhoods.

  50. Design Trust receives a National Design Award

    May 2017

    We received the Corporate & Institutional Achievement Award of the 2017 National Design Awards from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

    Image: Courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  51. NYCxDesign presents "Discover El-Space" at Sunset Park pilot installation

    May 2018

    On May 17, 18The El-Space Forum brought together experts from across North America to advance the emerging field of planning and designing "el-space", laying the groundwork for the El-Space Toolkit

    Photo: Sam Lahoz
  52. New Legislation Pushes to expand Urban Agriculture in New York City

    August 2018

    Working with Council Member Rafael L. Espinal Jr. and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, the Design Trust for Public Space has contributed to efforts for  new legislations aiming to put New York City at the forefront of the urban agriculture movement in the United States. Read more

    Design Trust for Public Space
  53. Opening the Edge receives $680,000 capital funding

    June 2019

    Speaker Corey Johnson and City Council member Carlina Rivera allocated $680K in the FY20 City Capital Budget for the Opening of the Edge prototype installation at the NYCHA Lillian Wald Houses! Read more

    Ryanna Fossum
  54. Design Trust wins REDC Grant for Equitable Public Space Fellowship

    December 2019

    Design Trust was awarded a two-year grant of $117,500 from Governor Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative through the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in support of our Equitable Public Space Fellowship program.

    From left: Eve Klein, Luisa Santos, and Nyree Ramsey at the El-Space Forum. Photo: Sam Lahoz
  55. Design Trust Launches El-Space Toolkit

    February 2020

    The Design Trust for Public Space and the NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) launched the El-Space Toolkit at the Center for Architecture hosted by AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, attended by practitioners from Boston, Toronto and New York City. Watch the full launch video and download the toolkit here

  56. Call for 2020-2021 Equitable Public Space Fellows

    March 2020

    Learn more about the Fellowship and Application guidelines


Press Highlights

Design Trust and NYC Department of Small Business Services Launch New Initiative to Enhance Right-of-Way Public Spaces and Support Local Economies

November 2020|Neighborhood Commons: Plazas, Sidewalks and Beyond

Neighborhood Commons: Plazas, Sidewalks, and Beyond Explores New Models of Public Space Stewardship and Programming to Support Small Businesses

New York, NY – November 18, 2020 – The Design Trust for Public Space and the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) announce the launch of a new initiative designed to help New York City activate its public spaces in support of long-term resilience and economic recovery. Supported by a $125,000 grant from SBS, Neighborhood Commons: Plazas, Sidewalks, and Beyond aims to generate new strategies for how communities can leverage public space to support local economies, commercial corridors, and small businesses, a goal that has become especially critical as many recover from the impact of COVID-19. Neighborhood Commons builds on the Design Trust’s mission to serve as an advocate and thought-leader for NYC’s public spaces.

The initiative is being jointly led by the Design Trust and SBS in consultation with an Advisory Board of leaders from the public and private sector groups, including the Association for a Better New York, Bronx Night Market, Center for an Urban Future, Merchants of Third Avenue Bay Ridge, NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, Street Vendor Project, and Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation, among others. The project will be developed and implemented by four newly appointed Design Trust fellows, professionals in the fields of urban policy, design, engagement, and communications. Applications are being accepted through early December, and appointments will be announced subsequently.

“We’re launching Neighborhood Commons at a critical time for the city’s economic and social health, examining how public space can help small business to thrive, and can be key civic anchors for their communities,” said Design Trust Executive Director Matthew Clarke. “For over 25 years, the Design Trust has elevated the critical role of public space in the livelihood of our neighborhoods. As the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt by local economies, Neighborhood Commons is a timely initiative that will support NYC’s economic recovery and the businesses that anchor its communities.”

Over the course of the initiative, which is expected to run until 2022, the project team will work with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), the Department of Transportation’s NYC Plaza Program, and neighborhood establishments to improve current models of stewardship of public space, including pedestrian plazas, outdoor dining and sidewalk cafes, streets, and spaces made publicly accessible through citywide programs. The team will produce new research on ways NYC can reshape its approach to the management of public spaces located in the right-of-way, and how different models of local governance can impact outcomes. It will plan and implement a series of programmatic activations in public spaces and develop a toolkit that stewards of public space can use to engage neighborhood businesses in overseeing these shared areas.

“Innovation is key when envisioning how New York City communities manage public spaces for long-term resilience and recovery. The Design Trust for Public Space, a Neighborhood 360 Strategic Impact grantee, leads by example with the launch of the new initiative, Neighborhood Commons,” said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “We are excited for this partnership and look forward to seeing the impact on local communities.”

“During the pandemic, New York City has found creative ways to rethink and reshape how we use public space, allowing us to keep thousands of small businesses afloat and support neighborhoods,” said Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation.Open Streets, Open Restaurants, and Open Storefronts have together shown just how vital public space is to keeping our city thriving. With special thanks to the Design Trust for Public Space, we now look forward to continuing this innovation approach by being part of the Neighborhood Commons initiative with our partners at the Department of Small Business Services.”

Neighborhood Commons builds on research conducted during a workshop on public plaza stewardship hosted in 2018 by the Design Trust in collaboration with the Neighborhood Plaza Program (NPP) at the Horticultural Society of New York and Uptown Grand Central.

About the Design Trust for Public Space

The Design Trust for Public Space is a nationally recognized incubator that catalyzes change and transforms New York City’s shared civic spaces—streets, plazas, parks, public buildings, transportation, and housing developments—to create a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable city. Established in 1995 by Andrea Woodner, the nonprofit brings design expertise and systems thinking to the public realm to make a lasting impact. Founded on the tenet that New York City’s cultural and democratic life depends on viable public space, the Design Trust focuses on social justice and equity, environmental sustainability, design excellence, and public engagement. Its innovative model brings together government agencies, community groups, and private-sector experts, utilizing cross-sector partnerships to deliver creative solutions that shape the city’s landscape.

With projects throughout the five boroughs, including critical foundational work for the conversion of the High Line, founding of the Community Design School in Queens, partnering with the Taxi & Limousine Commission in designing the Taxi of Tomorrow, launching Under the Elevated and El-Space to reclaim and transform aging elevated transportation infrastructure and the spaces associated with it, and creating the Design Manual for 21st Century Parks, Design Trust’s work presents a methodology and replicable models for urban issues around public space that inspire other cities.

For more information about the Design Trust for Public Space, visit

About the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS)

SBS helps unlock economic potential and create economic security for all New Yorkers by connecting New Yorkers to good jobs, creating stronger businesses, and building vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs. For more information on all SBS services, go to, call 311, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For media inquiries and requests, please contact:

Juliet Sorce / Jill Mediatore / Alexander Droesch

Resnicow and Associates / /

212.671.5158 / 212.671.5164 / 212.671.5154

Street Smarter

July 2020|AIA New York

“Public space has never been more important than it is today, but it has never been more threatened,” says Matthew Clarke, director of the New York-based non-profit Design Trust for Public Space, pointing out that new challenges with municipal and state budgets will mean there are significant funding gaps to fill if projects are to move forward.