5. Provide a pre-approved list of on-call technical assistance providers and equipment and furniture vendors.

WHYDuring the pandemic, professional creative firms and agencies across the City stepped forward to support commercial districts through the design and construction of outdoor dining and vendor or concession structures and furniture, planning Open Streets, and designing street furniture for ad-hoc use on plazas and sidewalks. While most of this help was pro-bono or sponsored by businesses amidst the pandemic, these artists and professional creatives deserve acknowledgement for the support that they have provided and continue to provide in enlivening our public realm.

︎ A User Experience
︎ B Long-Term Coordination
︎ C Inclusive Design
︎ D Collaboration and Communication
︎ E Support commerce and entrepreneurship

︎ Process / Regulatory Framework
︎ Funding
︎ Technical Assistance

    THE STORY A + A + A, a local design studio, and Think! Chinatown, an intergenerational nonprofit based in Manhattan’s Chinatown, collaborated to help restaurants design and build their outdoor dining structures. Think! Chinatown fundraised through their robust community following, while A + A + A offered their design services low-bono. A + A + A contacted a woman-owned contractor, who offered to charge 50% of her normal rate. The lumber came from Chinatown Building Supply. Each build required the efforts of a variety of folks. It would be difficult to replicate this phenomenon on a large-scale, but it can be pieced together on the local scale and resources can be publicized to help local coalitions fill in gaps. 

    “If you have all the right partners in place, it’s a doable thing: a group with deep roots, a studio with skills, volunteers. There’s a certain amount of magic that needs to happen, with the trust of the community, to go from there.”
    A + A + A studio, Chinatown

    HOW TO IMPLEMENT To make these professional services more accessible to community groups and individuals without existing working relationships with creative firms and agencies with expertise in designing and fabricating unique public realm furniture and amenities, plus experience navigating City permit processes, the City should create a publicly available resource list of “Public Realm Design” technical providers. To do so, the City should follow these steps:

    1. Release a request for qualifications for on-call technical experts in tactical place-making, urban design, architecture (hospitality), landscaping, lighting, traffic engineering, etc.

    2. Evaluate proposals submitted through RFQ and determine a shortlist of City-approved technical experts for public space design and activation, giving priority to local vendors based in NYC DOT’s Streets Plans’ geographic “areas of need.”

    3. Release approved vendor list, including direct vendor contact information and sample work—resources should be updated in one to three year intervals and hosted on City websites related to public realm activation (e.g. the DOT Plaza program website, SAPO events permit website, Retail Experiential Markets website [see other recommendation in this brief])

    4. At the end of the RFQ contract, the City should evaluate all leads and awards generated through the publication of approved vendor lists.

    5. Conduct periodic review of vendor list and update accordingly (for example, every three to five years, consistent with on-call vendors contracted with other City agencies),

    Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  

    Public Space Activations Catalog

    City of New York, NY

    NYC DOT's Public Space Activations Catalog will include a list of nonprofit organizations available to provide activations in NYC DOT managed public spaces. All activations on the list will be free of charge and suitable for New Yorkers of all ages and abilities. These nonprofit organizations will offer activations across the following categories: Arts and Culture, Active and Healthy Living, Learning and Educational Activities, Crafts and Design.

    Each fall, NYC DOT releases a request for proposals for organizations that wish to be included on the Public Space Activations List. Acceptance to the list does not guarantee selection nor funding. In addition to NYC DOT-funded opportunities, Public Space Activations Partners may self-fund, or work with our community partners to bring their activations to Open Streets, Plazas and other NYC DOT managed public spaces.

    To build on to the Public Space Activations Catalog, DOT should consider an addendum that includes the “Public Realm Design” technical provider resource list. The list should not only serve as a resource to CBOs seeking support and partnership, but should also be used by City agencies to ensure quality of public space activation and programming.

    Communities with limited resources to hire or limited access to local creative and design service professionals.

    ︎ George Zheng