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Design Trust Names 8 Finalists for its 2021 RFP Advancing Health Equity in New York City

Winning Projects to be Selected on September 27

The Design Trust for Public Space today named eight finalists for The Restorative City: Building Community Wellness through Public Space, a major initiative dedicated to connecting health equity with the built environment throughout New York City. As part of the Design Trust's mission to advance collaborative public space initiatives, The Restorative City launched in spring 2021 as an open call for proposals (RFP), with the goal of empowering community action and elevating public health to a central precept of public policy and urban design across NYC's five boroughs.

Of the more than 90 proposals submitted, eight have been selected as finalists. With submissions from individual architects, community groups, and advocacy organizations, the finalist projects address issues ranging from water safety and access, to environmental pollution, to food insecurity. The diversity and creativity of the selected projects reflect the aim of Design Trust to unlock the potential of New York's shared civic spaces and leverage design as a tool to create a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable city. Winning proposals will be selected by a jury of city government officials and industry leaders, and announced at a special ceremony on September 27, 2021. Full details on the finalist projects as well as the jury list follow below.

The Design Trust's open call for projects has been a central part of its mission and program is since the nonprofit launched 25 years ago with the goal of catalyzing change and transforming public space through advocacy, community engagement, and design excellence. Organized around a central theme and held on a triennial basis, each RFP cycle solicits ideas to realize projects that address a key public space concern in New York City. Grounded by extensive community outreach and engagement, selected projects are implemented with the guidance and support of the Design Trust alongside a range of partners, including city agencies, stakeholder groups, and private sector experts. The Design Trust has completed 32 projects across the five boroughs, impacting thousands of New Yorkers.


Finalist Projects and Descriptions   


Healing Hostile Architecture: Design As Care

Lead Partner: Design as Protest

Secondary Partners: TBD

Attempts to regulate "undesirable uses and behaviors" have created hostile architecture, which negatively affects those suffering from housing instability. This 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

Secondary Partners: Woods Bagot, Farzana Gandhi, Columbia University, In[HEIR]tance Project

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

Secondary Partners: TBD

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

Secondary Partners: NYC Parks, Water Safety Coalition

This project looks at access to water, swimming, and public pools as critical infrastructure for society, focusing in particular 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

Secondary Partners: TBD

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

Secondary Partner: NYC Parks

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 and WIP Collaborative

Secondary Partners: Center for Independence of the Disabled-NY, Bronx Independent Living Services, Include NYC, P.S. 42.

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

Secondary Partner: NYC Office of Environmental Remediation, NYC Health

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.


Jury List

Blaise Backer, Deputy Commissioner, NYC Department of Small Business Services

Arturo Garcia Costas, Environmental Program Officer, New York Community Trust

Claudie Mabry, Strategist and Consultant, Independent

Mary Miss, Founder & Artistic Director, City as Living Laboratory

Suzanne Nienaber, Partnerships Director, Center for Active Design

Delma Palma, Deputy Director, New York City Housing Authority

Jose Serrano McClain, Principal, HR&A

Laura Starr, Principal, Landscape Architect

Chat Travieso, Artist and Past Design Trust Fellow


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 designtrust.org.