Neighborhoods Now- Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown

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Neighborhoods Now

Dear friend,

for small businesses on how to apply for relief loans. They drafted legal templates for short-term leases to occupy vacant storefronts. They collaborated with senior staff at City agencies to help neighborhoods access programs like Open Streets and Open Restaurants.

As the pandemic took root in our city in March, its uneven impact on the lives of New Yorkers quickly became painfully clear. While our city’s well-resourced communities and businesses benefit from the ability to purchase expertise, the The work is far from over. Many of these firms are committed neighborhoods where many of our essential workers live do to continuing these partnerships in service of long-term not have the same access and resources. efforts to address systemic inequities and greater community In response, the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute ambitions. The need for this work is profound, and we hope this effort inspires the design community to come together in tapped into our collective network of architects, designers, continued service of New York’s neighborhoods. Ultimately, and engineers. In a matter of weeks, more than 65 firms the long term value of this approach will be the alliances mobilized to support the recovery of four neighborhoods forged across demographic and professional boundaries. hit particularly hard by the pandemic: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; Kingsbridge, Bronx; and We are humbled by this outstanding display of teamwork, Washington Heights, Manhattan. To date, these firms — including architects, planners, engineers, graphic designers, creative problem solving, and immense generosity. We thank the 200+ community experts and practitioners who and attorneys — have contributed thousands of hours of pro have given their time and passion, and we look forward to bono expertise to support fellow New Yorkers. continuing the work. In partnership with community leaders, they piloted open-air With gratitude, extensions for restaurants, created neighborhood signage with COVID-19 health protocols, and developed proposals Deborah Marton for relocating community events and educational programs Executive Director, Van Alen Institute into open space. Our partner neighborhoods’ needs also went far deeper than design, so our working groups expanded their support beyond physical interventions. They organized a seminar

Daniel McPhee Executive Director, Urban Design Forum

Neighborhoods Now

The use of the information contained in this document is at the sole risk of the user, and the Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum shall not be responsible for, or liable in any way for, the accuracy, completeness or any other matter with respect to the contents herein. The user hereby assumes all risks of the use of the information, and irrevocably and unconditionally waives, releases and discharges the Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum and its direct and indirect members, directors, officers, employees, agents, affiliates, volunteers and representatives, from any and all liability of any kind or nature whatsoever, in connection with the matters contained herein, and the use of the information contained herein.



JUly 06, 2021


Neighborhood Partners: Supporting Organizations: Coordinating Firm: Supporting Firms:

Think! Chinatown, Asian Americans for Equality Urban Design Forum, Van Alen Institute Leroy Street Studio di Domenico + Partners Buro Happold Fried Frank


CHINATOWN NIGHTS Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION · Project & Goals · About the Neighborhood · Team · Goals


P R O C E S S · Meeting · Engagement · Site Visits


OUTCOMES · Implementation and Installations · Event Photos · Plans and Design for Future Implementation

NEXT STEPS · Short, Medium, and Long Term Goals

9 13 3

CHINATOWN NIGHTS Introduction Project and Goals PROJECT To provide infrastructure - financial mechanisms, marketing, design & construction of vending carts, administration of regulations - that will support a night market of food vendors along Forsyth and cultural programming on the plaza. WHY Foot traffic in Manhattan’s Chinatown declines sharply at 7:30pm after most shops close for the day. A night market can bring culturally relevant attraction to an underutilized space in the neighborhood. Night markets featuring 小吃 small eats or 夜宵 night snacks are celebrated in Asian cultures. It is an attraction that will both bring the foodies of NYC to the neighborhood and also serve the neighborhood community with affordable food. PUBLIC SPACE With the recent completion of the Forsyth Plaza (at the head of the Manhattan Bridge), there is a new public space for New Yorkers to enliven. The Plaza is a place for cultural performances and community gatherings

LIGHTBOX By creating an iconic shape to host projections created by T!C and other local cultural producers, when deployed the lightbox acts as a signifier of the presence of a community event. PROGRAMMING Assuring the space is held for the Chinatown community, T!C will be careful to curate cultural programming appropriate for Chinatown aunties, culturally involved APIs, and visitors alike. GOAL To create more opportunities for the community to get together for neighborhood specific cultural programming. To empower neighborhood partners, T!C & AAFE to continue holding space for cultural events. We hope to be able to go beyond food trucks to a fuller food market model.


CHINATOWN NIGHTS Introduction Neighborhood Context





CHINATOWN NIGHTS Introduction Neighborhood Partners ABOUT THINK!CHINATOWN Think!Chinatown is an intergenerational nonprofit supporting what we love about Manhattan’s Chinatown. Through the arts, storytelling, and neighborhood engagement, we are here to listen, to respond, and to build Chinatown’s capacities as a strong & vibrant immigrant neighborhood of NYC. Learn more at: ABOUT ASIAN AMERICANS FOR EQUALITY Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) is a non-profit organization based in New York City that has become one of the city’s leading housing, social service and community development organizations. AAFE strives for a more equitable city through research, advocacy and grassroots community organizing.

Working Group Think!Chinatown and AAFE have teamed up with Leroy Street Studio (architecture and design), di Domenico + Partners (architecture, urban design and landscape architecture) and Buro Happold (engineering)




Meeting weekly over Zoom, the Chinatown Nights team was able to think collectively and design collaboratively. Because of the remote setup, smaller groups could break off for design workshops, program planning and task management. We were also able to meet regularly with representatives from DOT to help navigate the constantly evolving COVID restrictions and temporary permitting opportunities.

Fried Frank assisted with the permitting process and navigating COVID-19 related restrictions. Lessons learned in the permitting process include: · Obtaining a “civic event” permit rather than a plaza event permit. Civic events are available to nonprofit organizations that do not have a fundraising component. See RNYC, Title 50 §1-08. · Civic events only cost a $25 processing fee, rather than fees that could run into the thousands of dollars for regular plaza events. · Amplified sound permits are required to be obtained from NYPD whenever amplified sound will be played at an event. Amplified sound cannot be played past 10pm. · To avoid obtaining food-related permits, we reserved space on the sidewalk for food trucks to pull up prior to the start of the event. · To avoid obtaining permits from DOB for construction, all structures (tents, canopies, platforms, screens) must be less than 10 feet tall.

Engagement Think!Chinatown was able to connect a range of key stakeholders, growing our team to include artists, filmmakers and food vendors, while also introducing the team to some key Chinatown movers and shakers, inviting them into our design process. By connecting with these fixtures of the Chinatown cultural and social landscape, Chinatown Nights has been able to design a space where community members and visitors all feel welcome.

Site Visits Regular site visits were a key tool for better understanding existing patterns of use and movement through the plaza. They were also fantastic opportunities for us to meet with some of the plaza regulars, and ensure our interventions were an enhancement to current uses rather than a hinderance.




CHINATOWN NIGHTS The opening kick-off of this monthly summer series launched on June 18, 2021. It was the pilot installment featuring Chinatown-focused programming alongside local street vendors. On the cusp of NYC reopening, Chinatown Nights became much more than an open-air festival, it held space for the community to reunite and celebrate.

installation viewing area

h syt


k-in wal rance ent and e b t s wri ntranc e




wristband waiting area

food and craft vendors


online reservations

line up on ramp if you didn’t make a reservation online

if you made a reservation online, check-in at table to pick up your wristband



t e e r t nal s 8

CHINATOWN NIGHTS Outcomes Implementation and Installation SITE PLAN Compliance with COVID-19 restrictions required us to lay out the event with a “controlled” area in order to manage the amount of people coming in and out of the installation viewing area on the plaza. Additionally. seats, tables and spots on the waiting line were socially distanced 6’ apart.


CHINATOWN NIGHTS Outcomes Implementation and Installation LIGHTBOX / REAR ART PROJECTOR The lightbox was designed as a self-contained rear projection system to avoid the additional permitting that a standard front projection would require. While its electrical conduit and spandex materials are mundane and its nuts and bolt connections are simple, its sassy posture punches out of its class as it comes alive with the creative output projected onto its surface. Iconic, glowing and playful, the lightbox becomes Chinatown Nights’ deployable signifier, bringing the party wherever it roams. LIGHTING + ELECTRICAL · Speakers / audio requirements - allow (4) 100W · Lighting loads: Portable lighting / flood lights – allow (10) 250W for LED floods · Projector loads: allow 800W · Any other art pieces that require power – allow 250W The calculations were based on some preliminary lighting layouts and projector selections. Now, we are not using as many lights and the projector is drawing less power than estimated. Two generators, each providing 2000W, supplied enough power for the first event. · Generator 1 – Projector and Audio · Projector: 655 W · Audio – allow (4) 100 W · Art Installation - allow 250 W · Generator 2 – Lights · Clamp lights – allow (5) 250 W · Any other lights that require power - allow 250W


CHINATOWN NIGHTS Outcomes Event Photos


CHINATOWN NIGHTS Outcomes Event Photos


CHINATOWN NIGHTS Next Steps Goals SHORT TERM GOALS · Adjust lighting & lightbox design after feedback from first event · Tweak layout and day-of logistics to comply with changes to COVID-19 restrictions MEDIUM TERM GOALS · Develop staging techniques for all types of cultural performances. · Expand area of programming (activating more space along Forsyth Plaza) · More art vendors LONG TERM GOALS · Create a full nighmarket model, figure out permitting and financial model to host market stalls and not just food truck vendors. · Explore opportunities of bringing the lightbox to other neighborhoods for collaborations with other organizations.


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