Open spaces are essential to the economic and social vitality of New York City, providing critical areas for communities to congregate, recreate, and relax in an otherwise dense and bustling urban center. As the largest landlord in the city, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the steward of 2,400 acres of open space, presenting an invaluable opportunity to improve the quality of life for the 1 in 15 New Yorkers living in public housing.  

Facing the challenges of decades-long disinvestment and the COVID-19 pandemic, NYCHA published an Open Space Masterplan (OSM) in 2021 as a continuation of its Connected Communities Guidebook. The OSM applies comprehensive design solutions at 133 developments to activate its open spaces and better integrate NYCHA campuses into the city’s public realm. A previous SIPA Capstone evaluated the health, public safety, and environmental benefits against the costs of implementing this plan. This year’s Capstone project aimed to help NYCHA implement the OSM and close the disconnect in governance between NYCHA- and city-managed spaces.  

Pulling from 20 extensive stakeholder interviews and thorough desk research, the Capstone team identified three thematic challenges: jurisdictional challenges hindering inter-agency collaboration, organizational issues relating to NYCHA’s management structure, and financial challenges. To address these challenges, the team proposed a comprehensive framework of six discrete recommendations to amend internal and external operations and improve open space outcomes. The final report included concrete implementation considerations for a selected pilot site (Morris I and II), with the possibility of broader implementation across additional NYCHA campuses.