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Introduction and Team

“What about the next group of kids that grow up? Can they possibly do better than we can? That’s our main goal.” - Aboubakar Cherry

In Re:Play, young residents of three New York City Housing Authority campuses reimagine their public spaces through play, addressing the need for intergenerational space for healing and gathering.

The intersecting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism, and decades of disinvestment have disproportionately affected the health, safety, and social fabric of NYCHA public housing residents. In this project, young residents describe the toll of these impacts and reimagine their community as a restorative space of gathering, joy, and healing.

New York City public housing residents have historically been left out of design decision making. Young people in particular, who represent a significant percentage of NYCHA residents, are too often excluded from these processes. Centering the knowledge and wisdom of young residents, we ask how might public play loosen our socially constructed identities and absorb us in more equitable encounters? What fosters intergenerational public play?

Too often, the response to crime in public spaces, in New York City in general but at NYCHA, in particular, focuses on “hard” security such as floodlights and cameras. In Re:Play young resident designers replace strategies of crimi­nalization with those of care and investment. They reclaim public spaces for the communal joy that is fundamental to well-being, health, and placemaking. Their radical, imaginative acts inspire us to collectively envision the NYCHA public housing that residents desire and deserve.

From June to December 2021, we met weekly with five Young Resident designers, community elders, and other NYCHA residents at three East Harlem NYCHA campuses to engage in workshops, storytelling, listening sessions, and events. Highlights included a “Reclaiming Space” workshop led by designers Onyi Egbochue and Sydney King, the Iyapo Repository's workshop, led by artist/anthropologist and time traveler Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde.

Installation view of a gallery room with white walls lined with text and TVS, blue details, and a free standing structure in the middle.
Photo: Asya Gorovits.

Visual Description

Photograph of a gallery room with white walls covered in small black text, images, and TV screens. In the middle of the room stands a white obelisk shaped structure that holds an iPad and a pari of headphones. To the left of the structure is a blue column.  The back wall of the room has 3 TV screens, each with a pair of headphones beneath it, and color images on the walls. On the right wall, there are paragraphs of small black text, which are too small to read, and blue lettering. 

Project Team

  • David Burney, FAIA, Pratt Institute
  • Caitlin Cahill, Pratt Institute
  • Catherine Chattergoon, NOMA, Pratt Institute
  • Jerrod Delaine, NOMA, Carthage Real Estate Advisors, Pratt Institute
  • Deborah Gans, FAIA, Cans and Company
  • Nancy Owens, ASLA, LEED AP, Nancy Owens Studio
  • Robin Moore, The Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University
  • Jared Rice, NOMAS, Pratt Institute



  • Aboubakar Cherry, Young Resident Designer
  • Karim Couser, Young Resident Designer
  • Bobbye Hall, Young Resident Designer
  • Devvon Howell, Young Resident Designer
  • Brendon Valerio, Young Resident Designer
  • Kate Levy, Documentary Filmmaker
  • Cecilia Sweet-Coll, Animator


Map and 3D Realizations of Resident Young Designers’ Work:

  • Corey Arena, Gans & Company
  • Victoria Jaimie, Gans & Company
  • Fabrizio Ungaro, Gans & Company


Community Partners Neighborhood Safety Initiatives, Center for Court Innovation:

  • Eugene Rodriguez, Program Coordinator, East Harlem Safety Plan
  • Ramon Caba, Deputy Project Director
  • Layman Lee, Project Director
  • Nina Rembert, Manager, Youth Programs

Neighborhood Safety Initiatives is a program of the Center for Court Innovation, which has worked to create a more fair, effective, and humane justice system for over 25 years. The center approaches issues of public safety in New York City by investing in residents, transforming public spaces, and influencing policy. The key pillars that form the foundation for our work are racial equity, shifting power, access to resources, inclusive design, and deep participation.


The Project Team Would Like to Thank:

  • The Taconic Fellowship
  • Pratt Center for Community Development
  • Pratt Institute
  • National Organization of Minority Architects
  • Neighborhood Safety Initiatives, Center for Court Innovation
  • Vaidehi Ajay Mody, Urban Designer, NYCHA
  • Delma Palma, AIA, Deputy Director of Architecture and Urban Planning, NYCHA


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