With The Restorative City, the Design Trust for Public Space seeks new ideas to boost health equity

A Call To Action

With The Restorative City, the Design Trust for Public Space seeks new ideas to boost health equity

(Courtesy the Design Trust for Public Space)

Today, the Design Trust for Public Space, a New York City nonprofit design incubator, launched an open request for proposals (RPF) to solicit new ideas and solutions that harness design and the larger built environment to foster community, beautify neighborhoods, and snub out health inequities persistent in communities across the five boroughs. In many areas of New York and beyond, these inequities have been made only starker by the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented global crisis that has disproportionately impacted communities already lacking the resources and health infrastructure needed to both recover and fight back.

Titled The Restorative City: Building Community Wellness through Public Space, this community-driven, public health-advancing initiative marks the latest call—the 11th overall since the nonprofit was founded in 1995—in the Design Trust’s triennial RFP program. Letters of interest for The Restorative City can be submitted through May 24; two to four finalist projects will be selected and announced in August. The winning projects will eventually be implemented across the city over the coming years, helping to render positive health outcomes less elusive for millions of New Yorkers via the transformative power of design and public space.

“There could not be a more urgent time to confront health inequity in New York, a city that has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. The Restorative City considers the potential for public space to increase health equity in meaningful and sustained ways,” said Design Trust executive director Matthew Clarke, in a statement. “Marking our nonprofit’s 11th RFP cycle, we look forward to supporting and assisting with the implementation of project ideas that will improve health outcomes for New Yorkers and effect citywide change.”

Clarke and the Design Trust will lead The Restorative City, which is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, alongside a specially formed advisory committee composed of relevant thought-leaders, professionals working within the urban design sphere, city health officials, and others:

  • Lee Altman (SCAPE)
  • Uché Blackstock (Advancing Health Equity LLC)
  • Nupur Chaudhury (NupurSpectives Consulting)
  • Kelly Cornett (CDC/Healthy Schools Division)
  • Alyia Gaskins (CitiesRX)
  • Tamara Greenfield (NYC Mayor’s Office)
  • Elizabeth Hamby (NYC Department of Health)
  • Hanaa Hamdi (New Jersey Community Capital)
  • Eliza Kinsey (Thomas Jefferson University)
  • Josh Langham (NYC Department of Health)
  • Sloan Leo (FLOX Studio, Design Trust Board Member)
  • Suzanne Nienaber (Center for Active Design)
  • Dominic Ramos Ruiz (International WELL Building Institute, Design Trust Board Member)
  • Barbara Wilks (W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Design Trust Board Member)

As outlined in a press release, the finalist project will be “facilitated by the Design Trust and realized through a network of collaborative support, including fellows appointed by the Design Trust with expertise in relevant areas.” Deliverables will include the generation of new research, community-supported project implementation, and policy development along with two “major public convenings.”

On May 25, a day after the RFP submission period concludes, the Design Trust will launch a monthly virtual talk series further exploring the intersection of public space, urban design, and health equity. Kicking off the series will be a conversation between Sekou Cooke, an architect and educator recently appointed as director of the Master of Urban Design program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Denard Cummings, director of Equitable Health System Integration at the American Medical Association. Future talks will be announced in the coming weeks.

The 11-page RFP can be viewed in full here.