Open Space Master Plan, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)

Honor Award


New York City, New York, 5 Boroughs
Grain Collective Landscape Architecture & Urban Design PLLC
Client: New Yory City Housing Authority (NYCHA)

The project vision is to revitalize thousands of acres of long fenced-off green space, returning its use to residents and opening a new chapter in public housing where design justice and resident needs are at the center of each proposal. A video was created to communicate the scope and breadth of the project to residents and community stakeholders. The jury praised the NYCHA video as an effective call for neighbors to discuss what they like and don’t like about their homes and what landscape design can do to bridge that gap.

- 2022 Awards Jury

Project Credits

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), Client Partner

Sherpa Construction Consulting, Cost Estimating

Wordshop NYC, Copy Writing

Lisandro Perez-Rey, Videographer

Nancy Owens Studio, Affiliate Consultant to NYCHA

Project Statement

In March of 2020, NYCHA partnered with our landscape architecture and planning firm to undertake the herculean task of creating an open space master plan for 133 developments in the NYCHA portfolio. Deemed an essential service to NYCHA residents, the outreach, assessment, analysis and planning for NYCHA’s Open Space Master Plan was conducted during the earliest phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and in tandem to the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. With opportunities for in-person engagement limited by the pandemic we struggled to communicate the importance of this undertaking to NYCHA residents, community stakeholders and the greater New York City population. We created this video to kick off a digital information campaign that reaches out to individuals, giving them knowledge of project goals, methodology and scope. This video was intended to broadcast the background, concept design principles and next steps of this planning exercise, ultimately inviting residents and community members into the drivers seat as we further define this roadmap and unpave the way towards a greener brighter future in NYC public housing.

Project Narrative

Intended Purpose
The intended purpose of this video is to communicate the scope and breadth of the project to a larger audience of residents and community stakeholders. There is a history of mistrust between NYCHA resident communities and the Housing Authority. With opportunities for in-person engagement, tabling sessions and impromptu conversation limited by the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic we needed a creative way to distill the complex history, methodology and goals of this study into a short and accessible message to the public.

Our audience is broad. First and foremost, we want to reach NYCHA residents, community stakeholders and everyday New Yorkers. We want the community to understand the potential asset the NYCHA landbank holds for a greener urban environment and the role residents, community groups, taxpayers and local community members play in protecting the values of design justice and equity.

The goals of the Open Space Master Plan are sweeping in their scope, but the structures and designs that encapsulate their spirit are straightforward and approachable. Beyond our local community we want to grab the attention of politicians and philanthropists at the city, state, and federal level. Because without funding these visions cannot be realized.

The Message to Residents
Without real funding we did not want to conduct extensive site-specific engagement with residents and community stakeholders to get them excited about what could be. But, we did not want residents to think that we were creating solid, buildable designs outside of the participatory design process. We needed a way to communicate the mission of this project and the understanding that this exercise was intended to get people excited about the possibilities, spread awareness of NYCHA’s land bank and potential as a public asset, and generate interest in funding this great vision.

The Open Space Master Plan (OSM) is not a replacement-in-kind strategy for spaces that currently exist, but a comprehensive reevaluation of what open spaces can look like, and how they can improve the lives of residents in America’s densest city.

The collective vision for each campus is to revitalize thousands of acres of long fenced-off green space, returning its use to residents and opening a new chapter in public housing. One where design justice and resident-needs are at the center of each proposal and space is left for their input and guidance in what features best reflect the unique character of their community.

Impact and Effectiveness
The Open Space Master Plan and Video have been very successful. The framework for community planning and relatable cost estimates have opened partnerships with a variety of state and city agencies and driven home the excitement and understanding around multifaceted joint use spaces. New partnerships with DEP and NYC Sanitation are using scoping exercises from the Open Space Master Plan to charette ideas for amenity spaces that solve green infrastructure issues and modernize waste yards.

NYCHA residents are in the know, well connected to the visions for each campus and are excited about this work. They see change and partnership coming from the authority and a platform for their voices to advocate for the change that will work within their communities.