We believe all New York City neighborhoods should have the power and resources to shape their futures. 

The Local Center brings together neighborhood leaders, designers and government agencies to realize local visions for public space.

We equip local leaders with technical assistance, funding, and connections to reclaim public spaces in their communities. 

Local organizations who advocate for their communities day in and day out know best what their neighborhoods need. Designers can support them to bring their ideas to life. Our goal is to create meaningful opportunities for community leaders, designers, and city agencies to design places that center community visions, resulting in more just and joyful public spaces across the city.

Why We Do It

In New York, our public spaces — our streets, sidewalks, and parks —are essential places where we gather, celebrate and connect with our neighbors. When New Yorkers can claim public spaces as their own, we build a flourishing and democratic city together.

However, decades of segregation and disinvestment have left too many New York City neighborhoods without access to quality public space. Local residents are creatively using the spaces that are available. But top-down planning and public engagement practices leave few opportunities for communities to drive their own visions for public space. What more might be possible if communities had the resources to shape their public spaces for the future?

How We Do It

  • We invite local organizations serving low-income communities of color across the five boroughs to share their visions for public space.
  • We build teams of designers, engineers, lawyers and other collaborators to support our partners with community engagement, visioning and activation of public spaces.
  • We offer seed grants and build relationships with government agencies to help partners realize their projects.
  • We convene neighborhood partners and designers from across the city to solve problems together and develop their leadership to lead similar projects in the future. 
  • We share stories from our neighborhood projects to champion deeper and fairer investment in public space across New York City.

Projects

Rooted Cultures

Our partners are reclaiming public spaces to share their neighborhoods’ unique stories and cultures.
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Connected Corridors

Our partners are reimagining public spaces along main streets to drive foot traffic, strengthen small businesses and connect community members.
Learn More

Latest Updates

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Posted — May 6, 2024
Posted — May 3, 2024

Events

05.15.24
Join us for a conversation on reimagining public space for community development with Blondel Pinnock, Pascale Sablan and Elizabeth Hamby. 
02.21.24
Join the Local Center for a conversation and workshop on creative engagement strategies for community-led design of public spaces.

Opportunities

Call for Partners

We do not currently have any open calls for neighborhood partners. See previous calls:

Call for Technical Assistance Teams

We do not currently have any open calls for neighborhood partners. See previous calls:

Who We Are

Urban Design Forum connects and inspires New Yorkers to design, build and care for a better city. We are a member-powered organization of 1,000+ civic leaders committed to a more just future for our city. We believe the built environment—our neighborhoods, buildings, public spaces and infrastructure—shapes our city’s health, culture and economy. We bring together New Yorkers of diverse backgrounds and experiences to learn, debate, and design a vibrant city for all. 

Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD) builds community power to win affordable housing and thriving, equitable neighborhoods for all New Yorkers. As a member organization of 80+ community groups across New York City, we use research, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to build equity and justice in low-income, historically marginalized neighborhoods and city-wide.

Support Our Work

Our Rooted Cultures projects are made possible with lead support from the Mellon Foundation and with additional major support from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the NYC Green Relief & Recovery Fund, and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation.

Connected Corridors projects are made possible with support from National Grid’s Project C, Department of Small Business Services, Charles H. Revson Foundation, Deutsche Bank, and the NYC Green Relief & Recovery Fund, administered by City Parks Foundation.

The Local Center is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Our programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. 

To learn more about supporting the Local Center, please contact Hadley Stack, hadley@urbandesignforum.org and Lauren Nye, lauren.n@anhd.org.

Acknowledgments

The Local Center was inspired by generous conversations and humbling collaborations with Asian Americans for Equality, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Community Design Collaborative, Community League of the Heights, Detroit Collaborative Design Center, Fourth Arts Block, LA-Más, Neighborhood Design Center, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, The Albert and Tina Small Center at Tulane University, Think!Chinatown, Van Alen Institute, 82nd Street Partnership, and many others. 

The Local Center builds on our recent community-led design program Neighborhoods Now, a pandemic-response initiative with Van Alen Institute from 2020 to 2022.

Special thanks to Jing Liu and Barika Williams for their leadership in shaping this initiative. We also thank our advisory committee members: Jeff Hébert, Jing Liu, Yin Kong, Catherine Mbali Green-Johnson, Blaise Backer, Laura Hansen, Ishita Gaur, Allyson Martinez, Kerry McLean, Andy Wiley-Schwartz, Margaret Newman, and James von Klemperer. Additional thanks to previous advisory committee members Fauzia Khanani, Patrice Derrington, and Tanya de Hoog.

Get in Touch 

Sign up for our newsletter for program updates. 

For program inquiries: Martha Snow, martha@urbandesignforum.org

For press inquiries: Hadley Stack, hadley@urbandesignforum.org and Crys Letona, crys.l@anhd.org