NYCHA Connected Communities Initiative: Strategic Plan and Evaluation Framework
New York City Housing Authority; Connected Communities Initiative
New York City, NY
Over 90% of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments are 30 years or older, and most were built within the modernist logic of the ‘tower in the park’, aimed at housing large populations in high rise buildings surrounded by wide, open spaces. In practice, these campuses and their residents have become physically and socially isolated from the rest of the city’s urban fabric, with NYCHA’s open space cut off from residents by fences. NYCHA seeks to enhance community connectivity and improve residents’ social, physical, and economic well-being between the 325-plus public housing developments across New York City and their adjacent neighborhoods. To achieve this goal, NYCHA is implementing the Connected Communities Initiative (CCI) to update its urban design guidelines and in doing so, improve residents’ holistic health and mitigate the effects of historic isolation and racial segregation. CCI has engaged Karp Strategies to develop a Strategic Plan and an Evaluation Framework to (a) take the initiative from ad hoc tests to formal, inter-agency strategy housed at NYCHA, (b) identify strategies and actions that ensure CCI’s sustainability in the long term, (c) evaluate CCI’s first tactical pilot project and engagement process to date at the Pomonok Houses, and (d) develop an evaluation framework for the overall initiative that reflects the goals and actions of its strategic plan. Karp Strategies utilized a “data, people, place” approach to triangulate data with on-the-ground realities and input from NYCHA leaders, CCI’s other partners and consultants, and community residents at the Pomonok Houses pilot project, all of whom were leveraged as experts in the field. In the spirit of authentic capacity-building, Karp Strategies used participatory action research methods to surface CCI’s guiding principles, identify how to scale and replicate CCI’s ongoing processes, and surface new strategies and opportunities to elevate the Initiative’s success. In September 2020, Connected Communities won the Wellbeing Cities Award by the New Cities Foundation for its innovative approach to supporting cohesive communities. The award-winning holistic urban design and community engagement principles are outlined in the Connected Communities Guidebook.