We want a better Detroit.

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“Being a shrinking city and a quintessential modern site in flux, Detroit is a testing ground for experimentation and rethinking.”

― Luis A. Croquer

On Tuesday June 18, Neighborland co-founder Candy Chang spoke at the first Van Dusen Lecture Series in Detroit. The event,  Joy: in the Midst of Transition, focused on how activities that use joy can be an organizing principle in cities like Detroit. Candy, who studied at the University of Michigan, said the creativity and music she experienced during visits to Detroit  inspired her work 

We’re excited people are already sharing ideas on local issues in Detroit and taking action on Neighborland. From improved public transportation, protected bike lanes on East Jefferson Avenue, and preserving the city’s architectural heritage; the issues that matter most to neighbors in Detroit are surfacing. If you have ideas to make Detroit better, share them here and start gathering support.

Here’s some more information about Neighborland and how it works.

 

 

 

URBAN SPACEship activates a forgotten piece of public space

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Kids from the neighborhood use cardboard & colorful duct tape to build temporary seating

Idea:
Urban collective URBAN SPACEship wants to encourage social interaction in a neighborhood public space in NYC.

Action:
A group of urbanists, bound together only by their love of cities and public space, volunteered their time to plan and execute an intervention to activate a forlorn concrete plaza in front of a neighborhood branch of the Queens Library as part of GOOD’s inaugural Neighborday celebration.

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SPACEshippers brainstorming in early March 2013

URBAN SPACEship’s Story:
In returning to New York after living abroad for several years, Leemor Chandally was looking for ways to connect with other urbanists who were interested in the kinds of hands-on, DIY projects that she was into. To build that network, she created the MeetUp group URBAN SPACEship, which met once a month starting in the summer of 2012 to hear a guest lecture and discuss different ideas for activating urban spaces. After observing this vigorous discussion, Chandally partnered with Neighborland to invite SPACEship’s members to share their ideas for how to encourage social interaction between people in a local public space, with the aim of actually pushing a crowdsourced idea to implementation.

Through a series of gatherings in February and March of 2013, the group discussed the various ideas that had been shared via the Neighborland site. Everything from light installations to storytelling was discussed. The group faced the challenge of organizing a diffuse membership of people who were all juggling busy schedules. Eventually, after working through several different iterations of an early idea to build a dome structure, a core group of dedicated SPACEshippers re-focused the project on its initial goal–to spark interaction between neighbors–and came up with a plan to turn a forgotten scrap of paved-over public space next to a library branch in the Astoria section of Queens into an interactive neighborhood gathering place.

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The space in question is rarely used, and very beige

Working with the library’s blessing (obtained through a member of the group, who manages a compost drop-off program at the branch), the SPACEshippers showed up on April 27th, 2013–the first official Neighborday–armed with dozens of cans of spray chalk, a pallet of discarded & collapsed cardboard boxes, and armfuls of Neighborland stickers. The idea was not just to add amenities to the space and make it more visually appealing, but to involve the locals directly in the space’s transformation. The first order of business, then, was to create and put up a large sign reading “I’m your public space…Create me!”

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“The idea was not just to add amenities to the space and make it more visually appealing, but to involve the locals directly in the space’s transformation.”

The event was an unqualified success. More than a hundred neighbors stopped to help build chairs out of the cardboard, create pieces of a sidewalk mural, contribute ideas for how to make Astoria an even better neighborhood, and just sit and chat with friends new and old. Several musicians even showed up to entertain the crowd, and at one point a five piece band, complete with a harpist, played while neighbors danced. The spray chalk was a huge hit with local kids, many of whom broke into huge smiles upon rounding the corner to find what they knew as a drab corner re-made as a colorful playground.

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Neighbors queued up all afternoon to express their hopes & desires for Astoria

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The space activation included everything from musical performances (back right) to a compost drop-off organized by the library (front right)

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And we hope to bring you more of them, neighbor!

We’re super-impressed with the SPACEshippers’ tenacity and creativity, and we can’t wait to see what they tackle next. You can join their MeetUp group if you’re in the New York area, or check out another initiative that we’re working on with Leemor out in San Francisco.

New Museum promotes idea exchange at IDEAS CITY StreetFest in NYC.

IDEAS CITY - Neighborland

Question:
What would you love to see on the Lower East Side?

Festival-goers of the 2013 IDEAS CITY StreetFest, hosted by the New Museum in Lower Manhattan, were invited to share their ideas on what they’d like to see changed, improved, or otherwise altered in NYC.

IDEAS CITY explores the future of cities around the globe with the belief that arts and culture are essential to the vitality of urban centers, making them better places to live, work, and play.

IDEAS CITY - Neighborland

Neighborland installed an interactive billboard and distributed stickers to get the conversation started on the street. Residents shared a wide-range of info including housing needs, community greening solutions, ideas for public space, and more.

Select ideas have been uploaded on Neighborland – where anyone can discuss their feasibility, share insights, or identify ways to solve issues.

"More public gardens"

“More public gardens”

"Community BBQ tables"

“Community BBQ tables”

"More green areas" & "Green markets"

“More green areas” & “Green markets”

"Later construction start times"

“Later construction start times”

"More places for dogs to go to the bathroom"

“More places for dogs to go to the bathroom”

"These stickers"

“These stickers”

"More interesting things to do"

“More interesting things to do”

"More benches on sidewalks"

“More benches on sidewalks”

"Clean sidewalks" & "Composting"

“Clean sidewalks” & “Composting”

» See popular ideas shared at IDEAS CITY

 

How to set up your Neighborland home page

Neighborland
Your home page provides the latest updates on ideas you support, your friends’ activity, and popular ideas in your city.

1. Sign In to Neighborland

When you sign up, you set your home city. When you first sign in, you’ll see ideas in your city and nearby.

2. Follow people

Follow people to see their latest ideas and contributions. On your computer, you can mouse over a person and click “Follow”. On your mobile device, you can click on a person and then click “Follow”.

3. Add or support an idea

Click the big green “Me Too” button when you see an idea you like! Anytime you add or Me Too an idea, you’ll see when others support it or propose an action such as a fun event, useful news, or a way to solve the problem.

How to propose an action

When you Sign In to Neighborland, every idea page asks: “How can you help?” Directly below, you’ll find an input field for adding a resource, petition, event, or fundraiser.

Here’s how to each action works:

1. Share Resource
Share information and links to projects, places and people that are already working to make an idea happen.

Example – Jake shares a link to the appropriate contact at City Hall:

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2. Share Petition
Share a petition that neighbors can take action on to address this issue. We will display links to Change.org, Causes, and other sites nicely for you.

Example – Emily shares a petition for a city-wide campaign:

3. Create Event
Post details for a new or existing meeting. Include a date, time, location and purpose of the meeting.

Example – Eric sets up a meeting to help improve local bike safety:

4. Share Fundraiser
Share a fundraiser that neighbors can contribute to. We will display links to Kickstarter, Neighbor.ly, Rally, and other sites nicely for you.

Example – Ava shares a fundraiser for project in her neighborhood:

 

SCMS helps reforest the St. Claude corridor in New Orleans.

Live Oaks along St. Claude Avenue

Idea:
NOLA neighbors want big green trees on St. Claude Avenue.

Action:
St. Claude Main Street donates $2500 to the “Reforest St. Claude” project and canvasses the corridor to identifying businesses that may want to buy a tree to go in front of their building.

The Reforest St. Claude Project:
St. Claude Main Street (SCMS) is partnering with Parkway Partners and other neighborhood organizations on the “Reforest St. Claude” project. As part of the Parkway Partner’s ReLeaf program, this tree planting effort along St. Claude Avenue seeks to achieve a goal of two Live Oaks per block from St. Bernard to Poland Avenue — a roughly 2 mile stretch in the Marigny, St. Roch, and Bywater neighborhoods of New Orleans.

This community-based initiative is working to restore the Live Oak canopy that once lined the city corridor. Live Oaks are an iconic part of New Orleans and are well suited for standing up to hurricanes and urban conditions, sometimes living over 300 years. The restoration effort will enhance the quality of life in these neighborhoods – improving air quality, reducing heat, and helping manage stormwater runoff.

Live Oaks along St. Claude Avenue

Live Oaks along St. Claude Avenue in 1953. Source: parkwaypartnersnola.org

Renovations at St. Claude Ave and St. Roch Ave

Renovations at St. Claude Ave and St. Roch Ave.

St. Claude Main Street is identifying businesses that may want to buy a tree to go in front of their building for the first phase of the project which will focus on the space between the street and sidewalks. For the first twenty St. Claude businesses to sign-up, SCMS will split the cost of the tree package, reducing the total cost to $125.

“We’re excited to be working with Parkway Partners and St. Claude businesses to plant live oaks along St. Claude Avenue. Our city is a hot one for a large portion of the year; we hope that by providing more shade on St. Claude Avenue people will choose to spend more of their days walking along the street and supporting the local economy.”Michael Martin, SCMS Manager

Residents can also volunteer to help by adopting a tree to plant and/or maintain.

» View a map of St. Claude tree plantings up for adoption.

 

Mike & Justin host a mapping party to locate DIY street seats in NYC.

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Idea:
16 neighbors want a collaborative mapping party to map street seats in Manhattan.

Action:
After creating StreetSeats.org, Mike Lydon and Justin Brandon used Neighborland to gauge interest in a mapping party, and then planned a group event to map DIY seating in lower Manhattan.

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Mike & Justin’s Story:
Both Mike and Justin had been pondering the idea of a web tool for mapping New York City’s many inventive, creative, and otherwise colorful street seats for several years before they decided to tackle the project together. Both trained as urban planners, they recognized the DIY attitude that New Yorkers take to providing sidewalk seating options for each other as a unique trait that adds a great deal of character to the cityscape. From businesses setting out all manner of benchery to snag tired passersby in front of window displays, to residents building tree stands with flat shelves for sitting and chatting with their neighbors, New York’s street seats are as diverse as they are ubiquitous.

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After launching the site, which allows anyone to snap a pic of a street seat, document its location, and submit it to the site for inclusion on the citywide map, Justin & Mike wanted to host a mapping party to jump-start the documentation process. With more than 6,000 miles of street in New York; that translates to quite a lot of seats! They used Neighborland to test the waters, and after getting a strong initial response from the city’s amateur cartographers, organized an event on Saturday, April 6th.

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About two dozen mappers gathered in Union Square on what happened to be the first true spring Saturday, and after a quick round of instructions from Mike & Justin on how to document street seats (and what constitutes a DIY seat vs. an official, city-sanctioned bench or sidewalk cafe table seating, which don’t count for the project’s purposes) each received a chunk of the city and headed out in small groups for a few hours of fun in the sun.

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In all, the group documented more than a hundred street seats around the city in just one afternoon! Afterward, everyone gathered at The Magician, a bar on the Lower East Side, to drink some beers, chat with some other map geeks, and watch a slideshow of the many photos snapped of street seats around lower Manhattan that afternoon.

Wish you could have made it? After the success of the first event, Justin & Mike are already planning on hosting a second; after all, there’s a lot of city left to map!

» Show your support for mapping parties in Manhattan & receive updates on future events.

 

N-Judah Project collects hundreds of ideas in San Francisco.

NJudah Project

Question:
How can we beautify the N-Judah Turnaround?

Action:
To build strong support for the beautification of a busy street corner, a coalition of community groups and city agencies use Neighborland to build awareness and capture residents’ input.

NJudah Project

The N-Judah Project’s Story:
The corner of La Playa Street and Judah Street is a lively area in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset district where the public transit Muni line meets up with Ocean Beach, known as the N-Judah Turnaround.

NJudah Project

In 2012, a coalition of residents, community groups, and several city agencies formed the N-Judah Turnaround Beautification Project to beautify the immediate area surrounding the N-Judah Turnaround and further establish the neighborhood as a distinct community.

NJudah Project

To bring more voices to the project, input was collected in a variety of ways: on the street, at local meetings, by text messages, and online. And to accommodate this diverse community’s large population of Cantonese speakers, additional Cantonese flyers were distributed.

NJudah Project

Ideas ranged from large to small. Many focused on ways to bring more vibrancy and greening to the intersection with improvements including art murals, outdoor seating, and gardens.

NJudah Project

NJudah Project

The input collected for the N-Judah Project was used by a community-led design workshop. Over 60 neighborhood residents working together in small groups, with the help of volunteer professional architects and designers, developed several design maps for the street corner using Crowdbrite Canvas.

Because of the exceptional outreach program and considerable community involvement, San Francisco’s Supervisor Carmen Chu gave a Recognition of Commendation for Community Service to the N-Judah Project’s members. More importantly, she announced that her office would be allocating $15k towards the N-Judah Project.

NJudah Project

» See popular ideas for the N-Judah Turnaround

 

Neighbor Q&A: Stephen Goldsmith

Interview with Stephen Goldsmith, Director of Center for the Living City

In 2005, The Center for the Living City was founded by a small group of urbanists, in collaboration with Jane Jacobs. The Center builds on the work of Ms. Jacobs, promoting increased civic engagement and understanding of urban life to new generations.

The Center sponsors a program called Jane Jacobs Walk, self-organized walking tours throughout the world. We caught up with Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Center for the Living City, to find out why the walks were started and what happens when people share the experience.

Stephen Goldsmith

Tell us about the Center for the Living City and why it was founded.

We founded the Center with the support and encouragement of Jane Jacobs, prior to her death in 2006, as a way to advance her observations with new generations of engaged citizens. Our founding board members include the journalist and author Roberta Brandes Gratz and this year’s Jane Jacobs Medal winner, Ron Shiffman, as well as many other committed practitioners. We all felt that Jane Jacobs’ legacy of the power of observation, community based and participatory planning, and the importance of self-organization, fit perfectly with what we see is needed to heal and repair the places we, and others, care about.

What brought about the Jane Jacobs Walks?

We decided to join our sister organization in Toronto, The Centre for City Ecology when they began the program. One of their brilliant board members, Margie Zeidler, who is also on our board, was a long-time friend of Jane Jacobs and winner of the Jane Jacobs Prize herself. The opportunity arose to offer ways for people in the US to celebrate the ideas of Jane Jacobs, connect people with their places and each other, and through them, deepen their care and engagement in communities.

This has become an important teaching tool in our Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. Through our passionate and talented students, we’re able to reach out to communities everywhere with the opportunity for them to walk and discover more about their places, and at the same time reach into the minds of our students and cultivate their understanding of how we create, restore and regenerate neighborhoods, streets, sidewalks, trails–any places that people value.

During Jane Jacobs Walks, neighbors from around the country walk together through the neighborhood they share. What happens when people share that experience, and their observations?

Its always fascinating to hear the stories about what happens during and after these walks (and sometime even bike rides). For instance, we recently learned that the non-profit publisher of our book, What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs, met someone during Jane Jacobs Walk last year. They went for coffee after the walk and are actually moving in with each other this April. So that’s a very personal “happening” as a result of a walk. We also have stories about people who didn’t know about Jane Jacobs’ work or about community based planning processes who have decided to go into the field of Urban Ecology, Urban Design and Planning, and still others who have discovered places in their neighborhoods they didn’t know existed before the walks.

We’re now seeing young students–elementary school age students–engaged in walks, and we’ve partnered with the Children and Nature Network to introduce kids to the ideas of Jane Jacobs and connect with one another. We also have a powerful partner in Glenna Lang, a children’s book writer whose book Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a delightful introduction to powers of observation. Observation is really the central them of these walks and the self-organizing events that follow form the possibilities for change in neighborhoods everywhere.

What are the ingredients of a great Jane Jacobs Walk?

The essential ingredients are people who care passionately about their places, who want to share what they see, hear, taste and know, and also love to listen to those who join them on their Jane Jacobs Walks. Importantly, these are just ingredients, not formulas, as every walk is as unique as the people who guide them.

Among urban planners and community advocates, Jane Jacobs is a remarkably influential figure–but why is Jacobs’ legacy relevant to the average person that just wants to make their block a little better?

Jacobs’ illuminated the fact that we’re all planners, stewards of our places. She empowered citizens of every age and background to realize that the top-down planning approaches, that so often undermined the health of our neighborhoods, could be transformed when citizens participate fully in shaping the future of their places. Whether it’s in the realm of preservation, the creation of local businesses, diversity of use, economic strategies that give people ownership of their futures, or just appreciating the ballet of the street, as she wrote about so eloquently, her legacy opens doors to understanding the ways our cities work. By observing cities as organic systems and when we see ourselves as engaged members of our urban ecology, as essential, creative animals shaping our places, we can make our blocks and the people within them healthier, more sustainable and exuberant places.

Jane Jacobs Walk is now using Neighborland to help you organize your own walks:
Start by adding or supporting a Jane Jacobs Walk in your city.

 

Project Homeless Connect asks for new ideas

Project Homeless Connect

On Wednesday, March 20th, Neighborland attended the 48th Project Homeless Connect (PHC) event to begin collecting ideas for helping people experiencing homelessness. The event, held in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium near San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, is part of Project Homeless Connect’s series of local programs to serve the homeless of San Francisco with holistic services. The event offered thousands of clients medical exams, identification cards, information on benefit programs, employment services, food and more.

Project Homeless Connect

Hundreds of volunteers helped Project Homeless Connect provide holistic care to the homeless in SF.

In partnership with PHC and San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation (Sf.Citi), Neighborland will be hosting an open discussion on how to further help those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.

Alex Tourk, Managing Director of Sf.Citi, at the 48th Project Homeless Connect

Alex Tourk, Managing Director of Sf.Citi, at the 48th Project Homeless Connect

Sf.Citi has announced its philanthropic focus this year will be supporting the efforts of Project Homeless Connect. Homelessness has long been a major challenge facing the city. PHC has created a series of programs to help homeless people connect to a wide-range of services. Still, there is room for new ideas on how to address this complex issue.

What can we, as a community, do better to help people experiencing homelessness?

What can we, as a community, do better to help people experiencing homelessness?

Project Homeless Connect is using Neighborland to ask residents for fresh perspectives. Here’s your chance to join the discussion. What new ways can we help people experiencing homelessness in our neighborhoods? Can new technologies play a role in the solution? Please contribute your ideas and share this cause with your friends and neighbors.

What can we, as a community, do better to help people experiencing homelessness?