Hester Street Collaborative

Hester Street Collaborative » design, planning & development

design, planning & development

HSC engages NYC residents in a transparent, participatory process that ensures that the design of neighborhood public spaces reflect local wishes and needs. Our approach gives residents an active role in shaping their built environment and creates a lasting sense of ownership. HSC partners with local community leaders, members and organizations, and works in community coalitions. Our design and planning expertise is instrumental in taking a community vision to a viable reality. Our projects include:

Current PUSH Buffalo Green Development Zone Toolkit + School 77
Current East River Waterfront
2015 Trustville
2014 LES Ready
2013 SMART Mobile Cooking Classroom
2012 People Make Parks

Current Neighborhood Rezonings
Current East Harlem Healthy Neighborhood Initiative
Current Fourth Regional Plan
Current Red Hook Integrated Flood Protection System Feasibility Study
2015 Rockaways Resiliency
2014 Community Engagement for the Queensway Feasibility Study

Current Cypress Hills Child Care Center
Current Institute for Community Living Neighborhood Health Hub
Current Make The Road NY Community Center
Current Third Street Shelter Yard Renovation

PUSH Buffalo Green Development Zone Toolkit + School 77

Ten years ago, PUSH Buffalo, an upstate affordable housing developer and internationally-recognized leader in the field of sustainable community development, established the Green Development Zone (GDZ) – a 25-square block area on Buffalo’s West Side, home to a concentration of affordable housing, workforce training programs, green infrastructure, and community facilities. For the past two years, HSC has been working with PUSH to increase local resident involvement in the ongoing design and development of the GDZ with neighborhood planning support, community mapping, wayfinding, and interactive engagement tools.

HSC and PUSH are also working together with Ujima Theater and the WASH Project to transform School 77 – an abandoned, decommissioned school building – into a home for both low-income seniors and local arts organizations. HSC is developing design workshops, providing research and analysis, developing popular design resources, and integrating School 77 design opportunities into existing local arts programming. With the support of Artplace, we are engaging over 1,000 residents, including School 77 neighbors, new immigrant communities, and local arts and service organizations in order to integrate local residents in the design and long-term care and use of the building.


East River Waterfront

In 2005, the NYC Economic Development Corporation launched a plan to dramatically redevelop the waterfront of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, yet the plan was not viewed as sensitive to the local community’s needs. As a response to this plan, HSC worked with the O.U.R. (Organizing & Uniting Residents) Waterfront Coalition to develop and conduct a visioning process to incorporate community participation and input into the renovation of this important public space. HSC compiled the results of this visioning process in a document called “The People’s Plan for the East River Waterfront.” Released in 2009, the Plan highlights the differences between the community’s vision and the NYC EDC’s plans for the space.

Between 2011-2013, HSC conducted a series of workshops, called the Waterfront on Wheels, that engaged local residents around envisioning the future for public park space specifically on Pier 42 of the East River waterfront. After the release of “The People’s Plan for the East River Waterfront,”  the O.U.R. Waterfront Coalition reformed as the Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance, and funding was secured to kick start the process for converting Pier 42 into public parkland, including a community master planning” process.

Paths to Pier 42

Since the long-term master planning process will take several years, the Paths to Pier 42 partners are using art and design to catalyze and sustain public engagement around the renovation of Pier 42. Summer 2013 marked the start of Paths to Pier 42, a series of temporary programs that give residents access to the Pier, increase foot traffic along corridors between the waterfront and neighborhood, serve as recommendations for the full capital renovation plan, and address the vulnerability of the waterfront due to climate change and storm surges. Click here to read about the future of Pier 42.

Paths to Pier 42 is a project of Good Old Lower East Side, Hester Street Collaborative, Lower East Side Ecology Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, in close partnership with the Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance, NY State Senator Daniel Squadron, and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.

Links and Downloads:

Paths to Pier 42
Follow the Waterfront on Wheels on Tumblr
A People’s Plan for the East River Waterfront

Rendering of Peoples PlanShadeStructure_2014


Working with Picture the Homeless and the New York City Community Land Initiative, HSC designed and developed Trustville, an educational board game about Community Land Trusts (CLTs). Using the game, players explore how extremely low-income and homeless people on different types of assistance may benefit from alternative models of land ownership and affordable housing development such as mutual housing associations and CLTs.


LES Ready: The Lower East Side Long Term Recovery Group

Since 2012, HSC has been working with LES Ready, The Lower East Side Long Term Recovery Group: a coalition of community groups and institutions that will cooperatively coordinate the Lower East Side’s response, resources, preparedness planning and training in response to Hurricane Sandy and in the event of future disasters.

In fall 2014, HSC partnered with the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center (CDP) and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) to develop a report titled Getting LES Ready: Learning from Hurricane Sandy to Create a Community-Based Disaster Plan for the Future. This report was the culmination of over 640 surveys of Lower East Side residents, 30 surveys from local organizations, and 8 focus groups. It focuses on what worked well in the recovery effort following Hurricane Sandy, what could be improved, and documents the resources that CBOs in the Lower East Side had in place during Sandy, as well as their capacity to respond to future disasters.  The report will inform a community-based disaster relief plan being created by LES Ready.

Links and Downloads:

Getting LES Ready: Learning from Hurricane Sandy to Create a Community-Based Disaster Plan for the Future


SMART Mobile Cooking Classroom

In 2013, HSC began working with SMART University, a community-based organization run by and for HIV+ women, to gather community input for the design of a Mobile Cooking Classroom. The Mobile Cooking Classroom is a project that won funding through the Participatory Budgeting process and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office. Through a series of visioning sessions, HSC worked with SMART to gather information from residents of Community District 8 about what kinds of programs and resources they need most, and how to make them widely accessible.

The SMART Mobile Cooking Classroom is a “kitchen-on-wheels” that will address poor access to healthful foods and lack of nutritional information within the communities East Harlem and the South Bronx. The Mobile Cooking Classroom will travel to low-income communities of color to engage with historically underserved populations: youth, seniors, immigrants, the homeless, and people with HIV/AIDS, among others. During the case of an emergency or disaster, the Mobile Cooking Classroom can also serve as an Community Preparedness Response (CPR) vehicle, providing hot meals, information, charging stations and responding to the specific dietary needs of special populations.

See the full report here.


People Make Parks

People Make Parks is a project to help communities participate in the design of their parks. When residents engage with government and weigh in on design, government builds better parks and the public continues to care for places that they have helped to create. Based on this idea, People Make Parks facilitates collaboration in park design between invested communities and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.

HSC, working with Partnerships for Parks, created the People Make Parks Toolkit to inform residents about the process of making physical improvement to parks, help them collect information that is relevant to design, communicate it to park decision-makers in a timely way, and transition into long-term park stewardship. The People Make Parks Toolkit encourages a diversity of participants to lead in the creation of meaningful places. The initiative engages people from a variety of backgrounds, including youth and non-English speakers.

Neighborhood Rezonings

Fifteen NYC neighborhoods have been slated for re-zoning as part of Housing New York, the de Blasio administration’s plan to preserve and develop 200,000 affordable housing units. These re-zonings have the potential to reshape NYC neighborhoods for years to come. HSC is working to ensure that local residents have the tools and resources they need to play a central role in the planning process. Working with community-based coalitions in East New York, East Harlem, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and Staten Island, HSC develops and facilitates public workshops; provides technical planning, design and real estate development research and analysis; and supplies project management support as these communities navigate the complex waters of re-zoning for additional density.

Working alongside four technical assistance partners – Pratt Center for Community Development, Urban Justice Center, Center for Urban Pedagogy, and Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development – and with the support of the Neighborhoods First Funders Collaborative, we are tackling gentrification and displacement; housing affordability; protection of local jobs, small businesses and manufacturing; and planning for key community resources like schools, transportation, health centers, parks and grocery stores. Our goals are two-fold: 1) planning for the equitable growth and development of the selected neighborhoods and 2) transforming the way NYC neighborhood planning is done now and far into the future.

East Harlem Neighborhood Plan

In East Harlem, we’ve been working closely with NYC City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s Office, Community Board 11, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, and Community Voices Heard on a community-based participatory planning process to develop the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan (EHNP). Unique among re-zoning neighborhoods to date, planning in East Harlem started with the East Harlem community. Local residents defined their priorities and engaged City agencies before a re-zoning plan was developed by the City.

Ten months of visioning workshops, focus groups, training, and steering committee meetings focused on 11 neighborhood planning topics – from housing preservation and development to health and seniors. The final community forum hosted by El Museo del Barrio brought together over 400 East Harlem residents to prioritize more than 200 rezoning recommendations, and celebrate months of community-driven planning. These recommendations were turned into a 138-page plan that included the ideas and concerns of thousands of residents on everything from affordable housing, public health, arts and culture, open space, education, land use, transportation, economic development, and safety. HSC co-authored the final EHNP along with our project partners and planning partner, WXY. HSC is hopeful that the East Harlem model will be adopted by other neighborhoods and allow community members to shape the conversation from the very beginning.

  #CASA #PhotoGeekPro #Photography4. July 29_3DSC_0342

East Harlem Healthy Neighborhood Initiative

The East Harlem Healthy Neighborhood Initiative (HNI), a project of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Center for Health Equity, New York Academy of Medicine and the East and Central Harlem District Public Health Office, builds on the momentum created by EHNP and turns recommendations into action. HSC is providing health-focused action planning for the HNI by:

  • Applying a Healthy Neighborhoods filter to the EHNP recommendations to develop a short-list of fundable and priority project types;
  • Creating an evaluation framework, including public health metrics, that will be used by a panel of residents and institutional stakeholders to judge the potential impact, feasibility and need for a particular project;
  • Facilitating pre-proposal trainings to provide Community Based Organizations interested in turning EHNP recommendations into implementable projects with training and tools;
  • Creating a Healthy Neighborhood Scorecard for panel members and the general public to compare and rank project ideas according to potential health impacts, community need, and overall feasibility, among other key evaluation criteria;
  • Planning a neighborhood-wide Health in Action Summit.

HSC is working with project stakeholders to increase the capacity of local CBOs to make catalytic health impacts, while developing resources that make the critical connection between the social determinants of health and neighborhood well-being.


Fourth Regional Plan

HSC has teamed up with the Regional Plan Association (RPA) to ensure meaningful and targeted community engagement in the development of RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan (4RP) – a long-range vision for the tri-state area bolstered by policy, project and investment recommendations. Working with local groups throughout RPA’s target areas, HSC is developing a set of engagement tools that 1) arm community members with information they need to engage key stakeholders in their neighborhoods on the critical land use and planning issues that most impact their lives and 2) effectively gather community input on an array of local issues, from housing to transportation to resiliency, with an emphasis on public health to inform the 4RP. This is the first time RPA has attempted to include community recommendations in their planning process and HSC is working to develop an effective process that will enhance and augment the work of community groups and have long-term effects on the way RPA does regional planning.


Red Hook Integrated Flood Protection System Feasibility Study

Red Hook, Brooklyn was one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Federal, state and local resources are funding a major resilient infrastructure project aiming to reduce coastal flooding risk while bolstering long-term community resiliency.  A unique area of the city that has a rich industrial past, Red Hook is characterized by a vibrant mix of warehouse buildings, small scale residential and retail areas and a large public housing population. HSC is working with Grain Collective as part of an inter-disciplinary consultant team led by Dewberry and comprised of engineers, designers, landscape architects and environmental specialists studying the technical feasibility of a $100 million Integrated Flood Protection System (IFPS). HSC’s role is to ensure Red Hook community members and long-standing neighborhood need are central to the planning and design process.


Rockaways Resiliency

Together with Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC), Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), HSC is taking a participatory approach to resiliency in the Rockaways. We are working with residents to identify community priorities, develop multifunction solutions, and leverage built environment opportunities for long-term community benefit. Area-wide indicators and community feedback shaped our proposal for a much needed grocery store and community center on a  long-vacant, NYCHA-owned lot, designed by Edelman Sultan Know Wood / Architects.

While we wait to hear whether our team will be awarded the site, we are working closely with our Rockaway partners to strengthen community resiliency beyond the supermarket. Arverne and Edgemere, adjacent neighborhoods in Far Rockaway, Queens, were among the communities hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. However, the social, economic, public health and infrastructure challenges residents faced in the wake of Sandy were not created, but only exacerbated by the storm.  Given the rich amount of planning and redevelopment work already underway, our challenge is to pinpoint specific development opportunities and to create a network of innovative, community-driven recommendations and design solutions that leverage those opportunities in order to address persistent neighborhood problems.


Community Engagement for the Queensway Feasibility Study

The QueensWay Feasibility study is a community based planning initiative commissioned by the Trust for Public Land whose mission is to turn a 3.5 mile long stretch of abandoned railroad into a public greenway.

As community engagement consultant on a team led by wxy architecture + urban design and dlandstudio architecture and landscape architecture, HSC’s work included leading a series of visioning workshops in the fall and spring, and developing a mobile outreach tool to gather input from community members unable to attend evening workshops.

The Mobile Outreach Toolkit is a portable community engagement instrument, which contains a series of game-like activities to create a welcoming and enjoyable space for feedback. The activities within the toolkit help to explain the process of the QueensWay feasibility study, answer frequently asked questions, and gather ideas from a diverse range of constituents about what they would like to see in this potential open space. The toolkit is deployed through conversations in schools, at community meetings, and with local nonprofit groups in the neighborhoods around the QueensWay.


Cypress Hills Childcare Center

HSC is working with Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation to develop a new subsidized child care center in Cypress Hills/East New York. The new center will provide high-quality care and early education to some 90 children in the Cypress Hills community. The neighborhood already faces a shortage of high-quality, affordable child care, and the problem stands to intensify as the neighborhood density increases as a result of the recent re-zoning. HSC is overseeing the entire project, including site acquisition, financing, participatory design, and construction. The planning and design process for the project will include active participation by CHCCC staff, families, and other local stakeholders. We are working to close on acquisition in the summer of 2016, with construction to start in 2017.

  Capture 2

Institute for Community Living Neighborhood Health Hub

The Institute for Community Living (ICL) is building a 25,000 square foot comprehensive health care center in Cypress Hills/East New York. ICL is committed to changing the way health care is delivered in low-income communities throughout the city. They recognize that healthy neighborhoods are not just about access to medical services, but also about healthy food, arts and culture and community building. HSC has teamed up with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to support ICL in identifying neighborhood health needs and opportunities, exploring partnership possibilities with local organizations, and engaging local residents in the design and programming of the Health Hub.

  ICL Hub Rendering

Make The Road New York Community Center

HSC is working with Make the Road New York (MRNY) to plan, design and develop a community center in Queens, home to classrooms, workforce training facilities, large meeting rooms, legal counseling offices, and an outdoor performance area. In order to better serve low-income and immigrant residents of New York City, and to ensure that this key community institution is not displaced in rapidly gentrifying Northwest Queens, MRNY has developed a plan to consolidate 1 core and 2 satellite locations into 1 large center. HSC is overseeing the entire project, including site acquisition, financing, participatory design, and construction. The planning and design process for the project includes active participation by MRNY staff, members, elected representatives, neighborhood residents, and other local stakeholders. We are working to close on acquisition in the summer of 2016, with construction to start in 2017.


Third Street Shelter Yard Renovation

We are working with staff and residents of Project Renewal and the Third Street Shelter in the East Village to renovate an adjacent, underused, vacant lot. Project Renewal’s mission is to end the cycle of homelessness by empowering men, women and children to renew their lives with health, homes and jobs. HSC is working with shelter residents, staff, administration, Manhattan Community Board 3 and local residents to design open space that serves resident needs, contributes to urban sustainability, and beautifies the neighborhood. HSC is heading up the resident-led design and community build out of this key open space that is currently underused and a neighborhood blight. The renovated lot will be home to a hydroponic greenhouse and raised bed garden that will serve as both classroom and supplier for PR’s Culinary Arts Training program, benches, game tables, and a community mural. HSC is managing the build-out of the space, which will be completed in 2017.