On Saturday September 16th, WE ACT hosted a charrette in the Manhattanville Houses to invite input from residents on the preliminary design for +SPACE/EPIC (Emergency Preparedness Information Kiosk). The residents reflected on what they consider EMERGENCIES, the site for the kiosk as well as possible programming ideas. Over 40 residents were in attendance!
The afternoon began with an introduction to WE ACT and how community organizing can be a powerful tool to advocate for beneficial change. Residents and organizers discussed what environmental disasters pose the biggest risk, how those disasters might be mitigated, and how they could help make their community more resilient. The Manhattanville Houses have a high percentage of senior citizens, and residents expressed serious concern about ensuring their neighbors were safe and cared for in a crisis. WE ACT organizer and life-long West Harlem resident, Louis Bailey, brought the discussion around to CALL’s proposal.
After an introduction to the work of CALL by Executive Director Olivia Georgia, designer Elliott Matlby and WE ACT Emergency Preparedness Working Group Member, Anthony Carrion, presented the +SPACE/EPIK proposal, and led a brief discussion on how the design for the kiosk would address significant community concerns through sharing information about emergency preparedness and providing space for programs and community building. After the presentation, the members broke into groups to brainstorm ideas for what the kiosk could be and the kinds of programming that would be beneficial to the community.
This conversation gave community members the opportunity to reflect on the proposal and suggest what would make the space work best for local residents. A huge range of suggestions were made, from arts workshops to musical performances to the kinds of useful information the kiosk could share, as well as ways the kiosk might help connect residents who were busy and didn’t spend much time at home. All these suggestions made an obvious point: there is a real need for a site where people could connect and share, across generations and interests.
The Manhattanville residents came up with an exciting array of programming priorities and concepts. They wanted to see programs that:
- Offer job training, and create job opportunities
- Created a place where residents can get to know each other through activities like pot-luck dinners or communal meals, community gardens and composing workshops, crafts like quilting or using recycled materials
- Intergenerational programs that bring older and younger residents together
- Encourage participation in sports and other physical activities
- Creative science, story-telling, or other arts activities
- Fun events like movie night, concerts, dances
- A hub from which to explore the neighborhood or to gather for trips around the city or beyond
- Up to date Emergency Preparedness information such as the location of cooling centers or shelters
- Everyday information such as bus and subway advisories and elevator service
The feedback coming out of the charrette will enhance Elliott Maltby and her team’s design for +SPACE/EPIK so that it is more reflective of the community and responsive to their particular needs and interests. This charrette and continued conversations with the Manhattanville residents is the ground from which CALL can begin planning and testing program ideas for creative engagement, sustainability, and resilience.
CALL and WE ACT are working with Council Member Mark Levine to explore the possibility of including the +SPACE/EPIK in this year’s Participatory Budgeting process.