In 2018, Hester Street began working closely with New York Housing Authority (NYCHA) on the Connected Communities Initiative to develop urban design practices that activate and improve connections within NYCHA campuses and with surrounding neighborhoods. In the early phases of the initiative, HST worked with NYCHA to convene a series of inter-departmental meetings to gather input and ideas on a successful roll-out of the initiative. These meetings identified priorities, needs and key themes from NYCHA staff members that will impact the effectiveness of Connected Communities related to sustainability, community input and internal and external coordination.

NYCHA is piloting the Connected Communities Initiative at Pomonok Houses in Queens where HST developed and implemented a series of community engagement events aimed at increasing residents’ voices and participation in decisions related to the activation and improvement of open spaces. The efforts were community and data-driven, incorporating technical and spatial analysis of urban design and planning opportunities for improving Pomonok Houses. HST collected and analyzed resident-identified needs and opportunities for open space improvements and interventions. Through a participatory prioritization and design process, residents selected and shaped three interventions to be implemented on the campus in 2020: improvements to an existing basketball court, the construction of a new splash pad playground and the conversion of a seating area into a designated BBQ zone with new grills and furniture. HST’s approach leveraged the process to increase civic engagement, foster ownership and improve relationships between residents and NYCHA staff. Read the full report about the community engagement process behind the Connected Communities Initiative here.

View NYCHA’s Connected Communities Guidebook, which was informed in part by HST’s community engagement efforts, by clicking here.