Opening the Edge
– 2014–Ongoing –
A project of the Design Trust for Public Space (“DTPS”), in partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”), proposed by Jane Greengold.
I was inspired to propose this project when I noticed all the green spaces around NYCHA developments that were fenced off, keeping out residents and neighbors alike, and when I saw people bringing their own chairs, to sit on the sidewalks outside the fences.
My initial goal in proposing the project to the Design Trust was to create a lively public space in one typical fenced-off, unused grass space at the edge of a New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) development – to enable residents to use the space; to remove physical and psychological barriers separating residents from the wider community; and to create new connections among residents and between residents and non-resident neighbors. Quickly, I saw it should be a community engagement project, enabling residents and neighbors themselves to decide how the space should be used.
My initial criteria for site selection were that the NYCHA development be set back from the sidewalk by a series of fenced grass spaces, unusable by anyone; have an active Resident Association or other community group; and that the grass spaces be on a street with active pedestrian traffic in a developing neighborhood.
I worked with the Design Trust to consider potential sites and ultimately chose Lillian Wald Houses on the Lower East Side. DTPS engaged a team of Fellows, in landscape architecture, active design, lighting design, and community engagement, to work with me to further develop the project. Over the next several months, we engaged in intensive outreach and assembled a core group of dedicated residents and neighbors with whom we met 11 times over 8 months to develop a preliminary design.
We are now engaged with NYCHA in reaching formal agreements necessary to make construction possible, and in fund raising for construction. We expect to meet with the Community Design Team again soon, to maintain contact and seek further input.
We have the basic design of the space and are seeking an artist to join the team, to help incorporate art into the design. We are reconvening the Community Design Team to finalize the design, and to plan programming and stewardship.