We believe in working with communities to reimagine public spaces, promoting positive activities and increasing safety.
Placemaking focuses on increasing participation in the public square. The philosophy behind placemaking goes back to the 1960s and pioneering writers such as Jane Jacobs who believed the best indicator of the resiliency and safety of a neighborhood is the vitality of its public life.
A good example of our placemaking work is in the efforts in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. Our Brownsville Community Justice Center helped start a community-wide effort to turn a distressed shopping corridor to a thriving civic and commercial district. The Belmont Revitalization Project created an award-winning space for block parties, festivals, and street markets. The pedestrian plaza was chosen to anchor New York City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab. After surveying residents of a local public housing development, the Justice Center also worked with young people to create a youth and community clubhouse on a formerly vacant lot.
Other placemaking work that we have done in Brownsville and in Crown Heights, Brooklyn includes public art installations, neighborhood signage and branding campaigns, and horticulture projects.
Brownsville Community Justice Center
The Brownsville Community Justice Center works to reduce crime and incarceration, and strengthen community trust in justice in central Brooklyn.
Neighbors in Action
Neighbors in Action works to make the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant safer and healthier for all.
Whether it is a warm meal or a pair of shoes, we help people who are housing insecure and living with severe mental health issues address immediate needs and then work towards linking them to longer-term housing, services, and support. With programs like Community First, law enforcement no longer has to be the only response to mental health crises and homelessness.
The effects of the coronavirus are not being experienced equally. Whether it’s infection rates, deaths, or job losses, people of low-income and of color are being hit hardest. In New York City, many of those effects are concentrated in communities where public housing is located. Our Neighborhood Safety Initiatives works with public housing residents. On New Thinking, the program's Alicia Arrington explains the challenge, and the response.
On our New Thinking podcast, Patrick Sharkey, the author of Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence, discusses the wider costs of violence and the threat posed by inequality and disinvestment to the current fragile gains. He points to the signal role of community organizing and community-based nonprofits in combating violence and building safer, more resilient cities.
In an effort to bring the community together, over a dozen mothers, grandmothers, and other family members are creating more green space at their NYCHA development. Thanks to funding from the Mayor’s Action Plan and working along with Neighborhood Safety Initiatives, the “Harlem Garden Ladies” are expanding and adding more green space to the Polo Grounds Towers in Harlem. If you were to ask them, these women say "they are planting seeds and then watching the good in the community grow."
How can designers and advocates reckon with the uneasy history of safety in environmental design? This article explores how our Neighborhood Safety Initiatives, in partnership with the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice are working in public housing communities to build stronger, healthier public spaces.
“Each of these safety interventions was created by residents for residents as innovative solutions to addressing community safety,” says Danielle Brutus of the Center for Court Innovation on The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice virtual summit. Bringing together NYCHA resident leaders, local government officials, and policymakers to discuss how safety interventions can influence policy, 400 registered attendees heard panels and discussions on the legacy of the stop-and-frisk policy and “Physical Space as an Innovative Design and Policy Opportunity.”