Design for Arrival

Our second Forefront Fellowship explores how urban design can strengthen historic and emerging immigrant communities.


New York City is a city of immigrants: one out of three residents are foreign-born.

The two concepts that dominate the discussion about cities and immigrants are Legacy Cities or Sanctuary Cities. Legacy Cities were once symbols of the middle- class American Dream. Now blighted and barren, these towns champion immigrants and refugees as economic saviors. Sanctuary Cities offer legal services to immigrants
and refuse to abet ICE on grounds of public safety, policing efficiency and morality, commonly driven by the image of tearing families apart.

Yet, if we continue to analyze the significance of immigrants solely within these two frameworks, then we risk limiting their agency and foreclosing opportunities to be more than an “immigrant.”

Furthermore, New York City is neither a Legacy City nor a Sanctuary City. Our city is not suffering from a demographic exodus, a deteriorating economy, or a derelict environment. Immigrants still risk deportation for jumping a subway turnstile, and city government boasts a growing list of crimes that trigger removal.

Ultimately, we must go beyond these concepts to empower immigrant communities.

Our 2017 Forefront Fellowship, Design for Arrival, explores how urban design can empower historic and emerging immigrant communities in New York City.

How can we design public spaces that lend to greater sensibilities of agency? What are sites of social infrastructure that can be activated as sites of communal cohesion? How do we empower immigrant small businesses without spurring their displacement?


On April 18, MOIA Acting Commissioner Bitta Mostofi delivered a keynote address about the City’s work to support immigrant neighborhoods, and Forefront Fellows presented their original policy proposals and design interventions to empower New York City’s immigrant communities.
On February 26, Forefront Fellows Anktia Chachra, Nse Esema, Jonathan Goldman and Matt McMahon invited civic and community leaders for an evening program exploring immigrant issues and perspectives in the New York Metro region.
On January 16, Forefront Fellows Sreoshy Banerjea, Yuan Lai and Alison Von Glinow proposed a co-living housing model to support new immigrant arrivals in New York City.
On November 28, our Economic Development team organized an evening program exploring the value small businesses to new arrival immigrants, what the current developments in Sunset Park mean for its long-standing immigrants and how co-ops can be a tool for greater agency, ownership and stability.
On October 17, our Parks & Public Space team organized an evening program exploring how public spaces can be designed and planned for immigrant communities across the city.
On September 19, our Social Infrastructure team organized an evening program exploring how social infrastructure can empower the immigrant communities in Jamaica, Queens at the Queens Central Library.
On August 18, our Forefront Fellows went on a retreat to Newburgh meet with local community leaders and city officials, and discuss challenges facing the city’s immigrant communities.
On July 18, our Forefront Fellows met for the second event of the Fellowship to explore design projects that aim to foster agency and the integration of migrant communities in urban spaces.
On June 20, for the first Forefront roundtable of the year, we were joined by Doug Saunders, author of Arrival City, which inspired the German Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and this year’s Forefront program theme, and Max Hadler, Senior Health Advocacy Manager for the New York Immigration Coalition.
On May 23 the Forum welcomed our newest class of Forefront Fellows at the Museum of Chinese in America for orientation as they begin exploring how urban design can empower immigrant communities.

About Forefront

Forefront is an annual professional fellowship dedicated to cultivating emerging leaders in urban design, development, policy, and advocacy. Each year, an interdisciplinary cohort of 25 Forefront Fellows investigates how design can address a social or political challenge facing New York City. Forefront is grounded in an equity-based approach to urban design, which shapes the composition of each cohort, the selection of program theme, and the ethos of the program.