You're using an unsupported browser. This site may not look optimal.

Neighborhoods Now:
Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association

Community members in the South Bronx clean up an empty lot on East 163rd Street to reactivate community gardens. Photo: Banana Kelly
The community wall would allow residents and local shops to share events, resources, and news locally. Image: BD Feliz
Community garden in the South Bronx. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin
Community garden in the South Bronx. Photo: Alisha Kim Levin
Meeting with residents at a community garden in the South Bronx. 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

Community Building
The team collaborated with garden leaders and used Neighborhoods Now funding to hire youth organizers to become stewards and leaders in their communities and spur engagement of younger residents.

Community Garden Plans
The team assessed five community gardens on Banana Kelly properties, which each presented unique opportunities and constraints. They created site-specific visions for each garden, plus toolkits that can be deployed across many sites. Visions range from the simple—such as turning readily available buckets into modular rolling garden beds—to complex, such as creating new and ADA-accessible access points that require negotiation with an adjacent property owner, now in progress.

Transformation and Activation
Through an arrangement with New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Banana Kelly plans to acquire a vacant lot on East 163rd Street. Transformation and activation strategies ranged from rearranging garden bed layouts to dynamically fit real-time needs, to building kiosk structures for information sharing and sun protection.

BD Feliz developed a series of vinyl stickers to optimize wayfinding and enhance gardens’ visibility on the street. The markers can be easily installed or removed at a moment’s notice to guide visitors to entrances and contribute to the greater garden identity.

The Sustainability Index Plan (SIP), developed by The Greenest Fern, is a guide to facilitate the long-term planning of community gardens as well as the sustainable reporting and management of these spaces.

The use of the information contained in this proposal document, “Neighborhoods Now- Banana Kelly,” 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.

Meeting with residents at a community garden in the South Bronx. Photo: Ian Gray-Stack
In Conversation with Ian Gray-Stack

We sat down with Ian Gray-Stack, Director of Community Organizing at Banana Kelly. Banana Kelly is leading our South Bronx working group, which aims to reactivate community gardens in Longwood, Hunts Point, Morrisania, and Mott Haven, allowing for safe outdoor activities and services that address neighborhood needs.

Read the Interview