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

The Chinatown team kicks off their Chinatown Nights series. This open-air festival featured programming alongside local street vendors. Photo: Leroy Street Studio
A rendering of the multi-use pavilion on Forsyth Plaza. Image: di Domenico + Partners
Forsyth Plaza in Manhattan's Chinatown. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin
Forsyth Plaza in Manhattan's Chinatown. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin
Forsyth Street near Forsyth Plaza in Manhattan's Chinatown. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin
Forsyth Plaza in Manhattan's Chinatown. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin

In collaboration with the Urban Design Forum, Neighborhoods Now connects neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with leading design firms. In Bed-Stuy, Jackson Heights, Kingsbridge, and Washington Heights, these working groups are collaborating to develop safe and effective reopening strategies.

The outcomes are a set of design recommendations, prototypes, and installations empowering communities to respond to their immediate needs, while contributing to the city-wide strategy on pandemic response. In some neighborhoods, prototypes have already been implemented, and Van Alen and Urban Design Forum are actively fundraising to support additional implementation.

Learn more about Neighborhoods Now.

Working Group

Plan for Night Market
The team set out to create the infrastructure to support a night market
of food vendors along Forsyth Street and cultural programming on the adjacent plaza. To create more opportunities for neighborhood-specific cultural programming and a food market model, the team worked on financial mechanisms, marketing, design and construction of vending carts, and administration of regulations.

Pilot Event
A monthly summer series, Chinatown Nights, kicked off on June 18, 2021. It was the pilot installment featuring a Chinatown-focused film program alongside local street vendors. On the cusp of NYC’s reopening, Chinatown Nights became much more than an open-air festival — it held space for the community to reunite and celebrate.

Neighborhood Beacon
Glowing and playful, a movable light box hosts projections created by Think!Chinatown. As a signifier of a community event, the light box brings the party wherever it roams.

Community Engagement
Think!Chinatown was able to connect a range of key stakeholders, growing the 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.

Future Plans
The team is continuing to collaborate to develop staging techniques for more cultural performances and art vendors; expand the area of programming, activating more space along Forsyth Plaza; create a full night market model including permitting and financial model to host market stalls in addition to food vendors; and ensure the space is held for the Chinatown community by curating cultural programming appropriate for Chinatown aunties, culturally involved APIs, and visitors alike.

The use of the information contained in this proposal document, “Neighborhoods Now- Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown,” is at the sole risk of the user, and Van Alen Institute 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 Van Alen Institute 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.

Members of the Neighborhoods Now Chinatown working group. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin
In Conversation with Yin Kong and Thomas Yu

We sat down with Yin Kong, Director of Think!Chinatown, and Thomas Yu, Co-Executive Director of AAFE. Leading our Neighborhoods Now Chinatown working group, to discuss their proposal for adapting Forsyth Plaza into an open-air market supporting local Chinatown businesses and cultural groups.

Read the Interview