Announcing the winners of The Restorative City! Keep on reading to learn more about their project proposals and the rest of our finalists. Watch the 2023 Restorative City Convening, a one-day convening bringing together urban planners, city officials, neighborhood advocates, and public health experts to center health equity in the design and planning of New York City.

Message from the Design Trust for Public Space on June 1, 2023: 

As of April 2023, Design Trust for Public Space will no longer be partnering with the Design as Protest Collective (DAP) on the Healing Hostile Architecture project. Both Design Trust and DAP recognize the urgency of this work, which has only become more critical since the proposal, “Healing Hostile Architecture,” was submitted in the spring of 2021 to our Restorative City Request for Proposals aimed at building community wellness through public space. The Neurodiverse City project, also chosen as a winner of the RFP, will continue on. We support DAP in their ongoing work engaging communities directly to co-design safe and non-policing environments. The Design Trust for Public Space stays committed to transforming the public realm into a welcoming and inclusive space for all.

In New York City, an individual living in the South Bronx has a life expectancy of 69.5 years; a resident of the Upper East Side has a life expectancy of 89.5 years, 20 years longer. Where we live matters, and where we live is too often governed by exclusion, racism, and discrimination. 

Public health officials and medical professionals have known that a person's zip code is a better predictor of one's health rather than genetics or lifestyle choices. Only 20% of health outcomes depend on access to and quality of medical care. 80% of health outcomes depend on our physical environment - the world and people around us shape our wellbeing. While access to hospitals is important, communities with access to parks, transportation, well-resourced schools, adequate housing are more likely to be healthy.

This is a call to action for urban planning, design, and public policy professionals and all those involved in shaping the physical environments in which we live, work and play. This cycle, the Design Trust is looking for projects that shape New York shared spaces and environment in ways that can make us healthier.  

The Restorative City Winners

  • The Neurodiverse City, a collaboration between Verona Carpenter Architects and WIP Collaborative with the support of Center for Independence of the Disabled-NY, Bronx Independent Living Services, INCLUDEnyc, and P.S. 42. The initiative advocates for public spaces in our city that offer inclusive zones where all of us, including those with “invisible disabilities” and snsory sensitives, can come together and find common ground. 
  • Healing Hostile Architecture: Design as Care, led by Design as Protest, a collective of BIPOC designers and advocates. The initiative supports the development of community-driven design policies and new regenerative, design models to replace hostile environments and provide care for unhoused populations.* 

Honorable mention was given to Forest Avenue COMEUnity Fridge Fellowship Program, which creates opportunities for local youth to support a mutual aid network targeting food insecurity through the transformation of an underutilized space in Staten Island. 

The Restorative City Finalists

Healing Hostile Architecture: Design As Care

Lead Partner: Design as Protest

Attempts to regulate "undesirable uses and behaviors" have created hostile architecture, which negatively affects those suffering from housing instability. The project proposes to develop alternative policies to hostile architecture through the creation of new design models that are restorative and regenerative.

Cleanwalks NYC

Lead Partner: ERA-co

Garbage bags lined on public sidewalks reduce the amount of available space for public use and create conditions that negatively impact community health. This project seeks to reclaim NYC's public spaces for the people rather than for trash by measuring the unequal distribution of trash and imagining new ways to remove it from our city.

Forest Avenue ComeUnity Fridge Fellowship Program

Lead Partner: Forest Avenue ComeUnity Fridge

During the pandemic, a young black woman started a mutual aid network on Staten Island in response to the ongoing pandemic to address food insecurity. This project seeks to create opportunities for local youth to support the mutual aid network, transform an underutilized public space in the Mariners Harbor neighborhood, and look at how these networks can be strengthened citywide.

Addressing Water Safety and Public Pool Access in Rockaway, Queens

Lead Partner: Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy

This project looks at access to water, swimming, and public pools as critical infrastructure for society. This project focuses on affordable access to water and water safety education in the Jamaica Bay area. Drawing on the rapid expansion of pools in New York City nearly a century ago, this project will imagine a new generational approach towards access to water. 

Restorative Centers: Launching a Community/Coworking Center for Young People + Nonprofits 

Lead Partner: Lineage Project 

Racialized health and economic impacts disproportionately affect communities of color, and the social systems that exist to serve youth from these communities and their families are often disconnected and siloed. This project will model an entirely new form of public space: a center that supports young people's holistic well-being and health and contains diverse Community-Based Organizations. This project draws on research that shows the importance of well-functioning civic spaces and the benefits they confer.

Activating a Citywide Trail Network to Increase Equitable Public Health 

Lead Partner: Natural Areas Conservancy 

New York City’s natural areas, and its trails, in particular, are contiguous with the city’s historically marginalized communities. However, these trails have been under-resourced and have remained physically or perceptually disconnected from these neighborhoods. This project will advance a strategic trails master plan by conducting new research about the value of natural areas on public health in critical areas of need.

The Neurodiverse City 

Lead Partners: Verona Carpenter Architects and WIP Collaborative

Though we live in a neurodiverse city, the design of the public realm does not support the entire population and their range of physical, neurological, and emotional needs. In the wake of the isolation and trauma of the pandemic, it is urgent that our city spaces offer inclusive zones where all of us, including those with “invisible disabilities” and sensory sensitivities, can come together and find restorative common ground. Through a research and co-creation process with local communities, this project will examine existing public spaces - such as playgrounds, streetscapes, and pocket parks - and propose new design guidelines to support the greatest range of physical and neurological differences.

The Soundview Economic Hub

Lead Partner: Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice

Environmental pollution has impacted communities of color for decades; as these neighborhoods seek to overcome these impacts, they are also putting forward ideas of community empowerment. This project aims to use a part of the Bruckner expressway to address food insecurity and economic development in the Soundview neighborhood, creating an important new model as the country looks at the impact of highways in communities of color and significant new investments in infrastructure.

The Restorative City asks: 

  • How can public spaces support healthy lives?

  • How can our streets and sidewalks be reimagined to help our communities thrive?

  • How can neighborhood design improve mental health? 

  • How can we reduce the environmental injustices affecting marginalized communities?

  • How can we frame climate resiliency as an urgent health crisis in our neighborhoods?

  • How do we reckon with systemic racism present in urban planning and policy in order to build more just communities?

  • How can we use art, culture, and heritage to lift up all definitions of wellbeing?

About the Restorative City

The Design Trust for Public Space unlocks the potential of New York City’s shared, civic spaces through the advancement of new research and collaborative projects. Every three years, the Design Trust launches a request for proposal (RFP), which solicits ideas to realize projects that address a key public space concern in New York City. Organized around a central theme, each RFP cycle is grounded by extensive community outreach and engagement, ensuring an alignment with community needs and interests. Over the course of its 25-year history, the Design Trust has completed 32 projects across the five boroughs, impacting thousands of New Yorkers.

This cycle, the Design Trust RFP—The Restorative City—is dedicated to exploring how public space and the built environment can be used as a tool to advance health equity, a concept which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Using our unique problem-seeking, and power-sharing model of project delivery, The Restorative City will support projects that seek to influence public policy, design practice, or development decisions and bring about powerful, city-wide changes and address the following key goals:. 

  • Demonstrate the impact of the built environment and design on public health

  • Elevate health equity as a priority for public policy and design

  • Empower communities, especially those that have been historically disenfranchised by public policy, to become active participants in this process

We invite New York City community groups, non-profits, design firms, advocates, activists, public agencies, and individuals across the five boroughs to submit proposals for research, design, and planning projects to unlock the potential of NYC’s shared spaces in ways that can improve health outcomes for everyone, but especially for communities who have been historically marginalized or under-resourced.

Key Dates

April 21st


May 3, May 7, May 14

Restorative City Information Workshops

Updated - May 28

Statement of interest due

May 25th

The Restorative City: In Conversation 


Workshops and office hours to develop full proposals for selected applicants

July 2021

Full proposals due

August 2021

8 finalists announced

September 2021

Jury selection process and announcement of 2 - 3 selected projects