Two NYC Communities to Get Public Space Revamp

Here are the winning projects from the Design Trust for Public Space's latest contest.

The 125th Street Plaza in Harlem (Credit: Horticultural Society of New York and Uptown Grand Central)

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The Mott Haven-Port Morris community in the Bronx is bracing for an influx of market-rate housing and new hotel developments. But 38 percent of its residents live in poverty, with an average median income of less than $20,000 a year.

To capture some of that redevelopment value for the area’s current residents, a group of organizations including South Bronx Unite, the New York City Community Land Initiative and the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards want to create a community land trust, and their idea was one of two recently chosen for the Design Trust for Public Space’s 2017 Call for Projects.

“A community land trust would allow neighborhood residents to own and manage real estate for the perpetual public benefit,” according to a release from the Design Trust. South Bronx Unite hopes to build a mapping project that “geographically identifies potential physical assets, social and cultural capital, as well as impediments,” for the creation of affordable public space.

The Design Trust’s other winning project takes aim at a pedestrian plaza at 125th Street in East Harlem, creating a solution for keeping up 14 other plazas in low-income areas across New York City in the process.

From the release:

Close to half of NYC’s 70 pedestrian plazas are in under-served communities. New Yorkers love these plazas, so even struggling organizations are willing to invest the time, money and sweat equity to privately manage them. This project will explore innovative strategies for addressing the challenge of operating and programming public space in neighborhoods where resources are scarce, organizational capacity is low, and quality of life infractions are frequent.

The Design Trust is behind some of New York’s most ambitious (and, at times, controversial) projects. The nonprofit was responsible for a 2002 study that helped kick off the city’s High Line restoration. In 2015, another project looked at revitalizing spaces below elevated transportation structures. In 2016, the Design Trust partnered with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development to release design guidelines for the (often-neglected) ground floor in mixed-use development.

Its 2017 “Public for All” call for ideas resulted in 105 responses. The organization invited 30 proposers to submit full citywide research, design and planning proposals, and a jury chose two winners from five finalists. The list of finalists is available here.

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: new york citypublic space

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