East Harlem: An Example of Community-led Development Plan

East Harlem: An Example of Community-led Development Plan

east-harlem-neighborhood-planThe problem of neighborhood change, due to movement of people, public policies, investments, and flows of private capital mediated by conceptions of race, class, place and scale is a fundamental factor affecting the development of modern cities. Scholars from University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles, have studied this phenomenon and its consequences, such as gentrification and displacement related to urban renewal, and they have identified some important findings:

  • Neighborhoods change slowly, but over time are becoming more segregated by income, due in part to macro-level increases in income inequality.
  • Neighborhood decline results from the interaction of demographic shifts, public policy, and entrenched segregation, and is shaped by metropolitan context.
  • Gentrification results from both flows of capital and people. The extent to which gentrification is linked to racial transition differs across neighborhood contexts.
  • Cultural strategies can transform places, creating new economic value but at the same time displacing existing meanings.
  • Displacement takes many different forms—direct and indirect, physical or economic, and exclusionary—and may result from either investment or disinvestment.

These results show us how complex the situation is in terms of economic differences, racial transition, cultural displacement and public policies. Moreover, on the subject of affordable housing, an important study is the Report on The Effects of Neighborhood Change on New York City Housing Authority Residents, prepared for NYC Center for Economic Opportunity and published in 2015.

According to the Report, New York City and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have maintained the traditional public housing model of 100 percent low-income developments. Nonetheless, many residents of traditional public housing in New York City may experience mixed-income environments. The most relevant issues are:

  • Two thirds of NYCHA residents live in public housing developments surrounded by census blocks with an average income that is greater than the NYC median.
  • Developments surrounded by persistently low-income neighborhoods have higher violent crime rates and are zoned to attend schools with lower standardized test scores than developments with increasing- and persistently high-income surrounding neighborhoods.
  • A lack of opportunities for young people is a theme. In particular, residents feel that their communities have lost after-school enrichment and skill-building programs for youth, and offer few opportunities for youth employment.

These evidences show the problem with the traditional paradigm in urban planning because, today, this model doesn’t satisfy the real needs of citizens. At this point, new solutions are welcomed because it is clear that urban planning traditional approach is inefficient and doesn’t fix problems. The solution can be seen in a statement written in the Report: “Community-based organizations can play a critical role in improving resident’s lives and building connections to the broader neighborhood”. Hence, a possible solution should concern a new paradigm in urban planning: according to “Linee Guida per la predisposizione di un documento programmatico di indirizzo delle politiche urbanistiche di Battipaglia“, we are talking about collaborative urban planning based on an “institutional mending”, namely an alliance between public, private and plural sector or a polycentric governance of urban, territorial and local commons.

According to this perspective, East Harlem community-led initiative expresses a community-oriented approach in urban planning which is consistent with the aim of promoting a new institutional and economic system based on the model of collaborative urban governance. A similar community-based approach was also implemented in Italy in Bologna in the project called Bolognina. Bolognina’s main purpose is acting as a link between the different planning actors already existing, in order to increase their potential and to offer them new occasions to collaborate. The whole process is supported by Federcasa, which looks at it as a useful experimentation for the innovation of housing policies at a national level.

East Harlem Neighborhood Plan

First of all, it is necessary to remember that, in May 2014, Mayor de Blasio released his plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, creating 80,000 new housing units through the introduction of two new policies: mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) and zoning for quality and affordability (ZQA). This plan and the 2015 proposal were welcomed with wariness and trepidation by many citizens.

Many times before the MIH/ZQA plan passed into law, Community Voices Heard (CVH), an East Harlem-based advocacy group founded by low-income residents, reached out NY’s second-most powerful politician, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to ask around more information about the rezoning city plan. She agreed and in May 2015, she convened with around 400 community members and community-based organizations to kick off a process to create the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, a neighborhood-led vision for the proposed upzoning of East Harlem. So, the final plan was released in February 2016 and includes 232 recommendations covering 12 topics such as NYCHA, housing preservation, affordable housing development, zoning and land use, etc. The plan was a great achievement because there were only nine months to draft the plan to avoid a loss of 282 units of affordable housing and because Mark-Viverito would be leaving office in 2017. According to her, this plan is not going to be a panacea but a try to replace the number of losing affordable housing and to add more benefits into the community.

Formally, in the revision of Universal Land Use Review Process (a seven-month timeline to approve zoning changes in the city), the key moment for the community stands when Department of City Planning certifies a plan, because that’s the moment when the plan is handed to the community board. It’s important because,here, communities can voice their concerns or proposals.

The East Harlem Neighborhood Plan’s project partners sought to create a process that would inform the actual rezoning plan for East Harlem that the city will eventually take through ULURP. So, CVH, Mark-Viverito’s office, the Manhattan borough president and the Manhattan Community Board 11 came together to lead. 21 organizations were invited to serve on a steering committee thanks to their long-term experience in the community.

Organizationally, Hester Street Collaborative, a non-profit specialized in community engagement, had the role of indipendent facilitator. There was also the Neighborhoods First Found, a consortium formed by different foundations with the aim to coordinate resources to support engagement by the communities in terms of both organizing and technical assistance. To help prepare residents for a community visioning workshop on different themes such as affordable housing development, zoning and land use and impact on transit, Center for Urban Pedagogy was invited to conduct different simulations.

Nearly 200 people attended the community workshop. What emerged was some cognitive dissonance, i.e. people say yes to more affordable housing but they say no to more density and a lot of private development was already happening without affordable housing. This led people to be against the mayor’s plan. But, knowing how difficult the conversations would be, the project partners also decided to bring in a second facilitator to facilitate subgroup meetings, steering committee meetings and the actual drafting of the plan. So NYC-based architecture and planning firm WXY won the bid and in June 2015 began to work with the project partners and Hester Street.

According to WXY’s Adam Lubinsky, their aim was: “Set up a process by which the visioning workshop findings would go back to these subgroups that were built around the themes, and they could digest the results, present those results to the steering committee, get feedback from the steering committee and then start to formulate draft recommendations.” Subgroups were responsible for combining input from the community visioning workshops with their own research and discussions to formulate recommendations to present to the steering committee”.

The last problem concerns the implementation of the plan because there was a huge amount of work to translate that plan into actions. Fortunately, some institutions are interested in implementation process: for example, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene plans to award $275,000 in grants to 10 local organizations for projects that are helping to achieve recommendations from the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan.

The plan process officially closed at the end of January with a community forum that involved around 350 participants. Lubinsky stressed that the level of ownership of the subgroup leaders was so disbursed that facilitators had to do anything at the event.

In the future, the community will face some challenges, for example, it is fundamental that the future leaders will hold accountable for the plan and the steering committee will continue to meet in order to coordinate follow up with city agencies, advocate for recommendations and set up an evaluation process for the plan.



Alla luce degli studi effettuati sui fenomeni legati all’affordable housing e al più ampio tema della trasformazione dei quartieri, il piano di sviluppo di East Harlem si rivela un importante caso studio in termini di urbanistica collaborativa, strategia che è parte di una visione più generale basata sulla co-governance del territorio e dei beni comuni urbani, territoriali e locali.



CONGRESS COMMONS: CITIZENS, LAW AND GOVERNMENTS – From the “Government” to the ”Governance”

CONGRESS COMMONS: CITIZENS, LAW AND GOVERNMENTS – From the “Government” to the ”Governance”

IMG_20151207_130834On the 4th of November the think tank Oikos in collaboration with Etopia and GEF (The Green European Foundation), held the event “Congress Commons: citizens, law and governments”.

The conference took place at the Royal Library in Brussels. It was the closing seminar of the “Reclaim the Commons” project event series, which is organised with the goal to examine the transformative power of the Commons.

The conference was attended by experts on the topic of Commons such as Tine De Moor (Professor at University of Utrecht), with her speech “Setting the stage: challenges and prospects”, and Christian Iaione (Professor of Public Law, Director of the LabGov, Laboratory for the Governance of the Commons, LUISS Roma; member of the International Association for the Study of the Commons), amongst others.

During the second part of the conference Christian Iaione’s speech (Professor of Public Law, LUISS, Rome) focused on the topic of “governance”: a new “tool” to manage territories and communities. Professor Iaione, LabGov’s coordinator, consider the “collaborative governance” as a paradigm for overcoming the traditional dichotomy between public and private. The Collaborative Governance is a partnership of five actors: social innovators, public authorities, businesses, civil society organizations and knowledge institutions.

The Collaborative Governance could be described as having three main characteristics:

– interactive;

– experimental;

– adaptive.

It is interactive because is the result of the collaboration and interaction of the above – mentioned actors. It is experimental since there is not a standard model but, as demonstrated at the LabGov’s Labs (Governance Labs), it is a constant work in progress. Furthermore the collaborative governance is adaptive in the sense that it is not possible to propose the same “format” in every community: it is fundamental to take into account the peculiarity of each community or territory. As the Italian examples of co – Bologna, co – Mantova, co – Battipaglia, co – Palermo, co – Roma, every city needs to find its dimension on its own: a setup which works in a city does not necessarily work in others. The “Regolamento sulla collaborazione per la cura e rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani” of the Comune di Bologna ( here is the English version), for instance, is not automatically applicable in other cities.

The process of “Collaborative Governance” is divided in five steps: first and foremost mapping where and how the collaborative governance will impact; after this it is important to co – design a project of governance with all the stakeholders/actors (public, private, social, knowledge, commons). With these elements at hand it is then crucial to prototype solutions: testing and adapting the design principles to the challenges and characteristic of each city. The next step consists in amplifying the experimentation in different areas of the governance and to spread the positive results of each local experience. Finally it is fundamental to evaluate the results of the experimentation.

We can also consider collaborative governance as a tool to fight corruption and organised crime, safeguard the territory and promote legal economic growth and social progress. It is also an instrument to promote the concept of sustainability in local development, in particular thanks to the more active and participative role of citizens, who are much more involved through this process. The use of collaboration and governance to best manage cities and local economies was recently recognised at European level on the Committee of Regions (CoR) opinion on Sharing Economy “The local and regional dimension of the collaborative economy”, by member Benedetta Brighenti (IT/PES), approved with a large majority on the 4th of December 2015 at the CoR’s Plenary Session.


Il 04 dicembre 2015 si é tenuta a Bruxelles, presso la Biblioteca Reale, la conferenza “Congress Commons: Citizens, Law and Governments”, organizzata dalla think tank Oikos, in collaborazione con Etopia e GEF (The Green European Foundation).

L’ evento é stato proposto in chiusura del ciclo di seminari “Reclaim the Commons”, organizzati in diverse città europee, per approfondire il potenziale e l’impatto dei Beni Comuni e della maggior partecipazione attiva dei cittadini, nell’amministrare i territori.

Durante la seconda parte della conferenza é intervenuto il Professor Christian Iaione (Professore di Diritto Pubblico, LUISS Roma) parlando di “Collaborative Governance”: nuovo strumento per la gestione dei territori, dei Beni Comuni, delle comunità, che permette di andare oltre la dicotomia pubblico – privato e porta piuttosto alla collaborazione tra più attori che partecipano attivamente alla governance della città.

Labgov presents #OrtoLUISS  at #EXPO!

Labgov presents #OrtoLUISS at #EXPO!


The main event of this year in Italy is the #Expo.  Expo Milano 2015 is the Universal Exhibition that Milan, Italy, is hosting from May 1 to October 31, 2015. Over this six-month period, Milan becomes a global showcase where more than 140 participating countries show the best of their technology that offers a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium. In addition to the exhibitor nations, the Expo also involves international organizations, and expects to welcome over 20 million visitors to its 1.1 million square meters of exhibition area[1]. On the 16th of September, LabGov was  invited to the Cluster BIO – Piazzetta Mediterranea, during the Settimana della Dieta mediterranea / UNESCO in EXPO.IMG_0903

At this Conference, LabGov presented the importance of #OrtoLUISS in the context of sustainability and collaboration. There, the moderator gave the floor to LUISS General Director Lo Storto, who explained how important the project was to him personally and to the LUISS community as a whole. Claudia Giommarini followed Lo Storto and deepened the aim of the project #OrtoLUISS. She explained that the garden is a place for LUISS students and staff to convene, collaborate, and connect to nature. Then, the moderator introduced Professor Iaione – coordinator of LabGov. He illustrated the importance of public goods managed with the collaborative governance.

The two LabGovers started to describe their experience. Benedetta Borghini explained what LabGov is and how LabGov works, including its aim, organization, elements and projects  CO-Battipaglia, CO-Bologna, CO-Mantova etc. Then, Benedetta Gillio discussed the experience in #OrtoLUISS, which she defined as a “school of civilization“ where she learned a sense of respect, the meaning of the words care and patience, and the importance of collaboration. Both speeches focused on how such experiments in collaborative governance are both significant and functional experiences. Completing the explanations, Benedetta introduced the new LUISS LabGov Educational Lab 2015-16, which will aim to provide an effective governance tool for Rome.

IMG_0876The Journalist and writer Gianluca Nicoletti, who is also the president of the Onlus Insettopia, stressed that #OrtoLUISS has unique implications for children with autism because it can help them connect to the world through ortoterapia. As a first mover, LUISS will be the leader of such initiatives. There was also Peppe Zullo, who is the ambassador of the #OrtoLUISS and who focused on the importance of  the earth and healthy food. Finally Massimo Egidi, the Rector of University, spoke about the varieties of flowers and how much we can learn from them.

Beyond the conference itself, the two LabGovers had the opportunity to explore the greater Expo pavilions, and reported that they felt an overpowering emotion, as though they could  feel the power of human potential when the world is united as one. The main street at the Expo contained a series of awe-inspiring buildings, each representing a country, one next to the other. It was an amazing sensation to see those buildings, symbols of the world’s cooperation.

[1] http://www.expo2015.org/en/learn-more

Has Been this article co-authored by Benedetta Gillio, Benedetta Borghini


LabGov presents #OrtoLUISS to #EXPO!


The most important event of this year is definitely # EXPO2015. On 16 September, LabGov has been invited to BIO Cluster – in Piazzetta Mediterranean , during the week of the Diet Mediterranean / UNESCO in EXPO . At this conference , LabGov has presented the ‘ importance of #OrtoLUISS in a context of sustainability and collaboration .

Article written by many hands from Benedetta Gillio, Benedetta Borghini

LUISS Edu Lab: Let’s Re-start!

LUISS Edu Lab: Let’s Re-start!

The fourth edition of LUISS LabGov Educational Lab (workshops, co-design sessions and fieldwork) will re-start on October 2nd, 2015! The meeting will be held in Viale Romania, 32 – 00198 Rome at 4.00 PM. 

After focusing on Bologna, Mantua and Battipaglia, the new Edu Lab will aIMG_0494ddress Rome, its potentials and weaknesses at a very difficult time for the city, its institutions, and its society. The Laboratory will aim to design a Commons-based collaborative governance tool tailored to the needs and characteristics of the Italian Capital City. As we have done until now, we will apply the CO-Cities approach, based on a strong partnership between institutions, the private sector and the community. The five souls of the collaborative governance (social innovation, public authorities, schools/universities, businesses, organized civil society) will work together to re-design their own city, making it more economically sustainable.

The CO-Cities approach requires opening experimentation grounds. LabGov 2015/2016, together with many partners representing CO-Rome, will open and manage several urban cooperation grounds in different areas of the City: The Lab will focus on Garbatella neighborhood, the Appia Antica Park, a high school in Ostia and the V Municipality (Prenestino-Centocelle).  They represent four different types of urban commons to regenerate and invest in. The Lab will take this long, but very stimulating journey in the City with many allies, partners and friends who will provide insightful advice to prototype a Commons-based collaborative governance for Rome. The Laboratory stays open to contributions, help and advice. Collaboration will run Rome as a Commons, because Commons need appropriate governance tools.


La quarta edizione di LUISS LabGov (workshops, sessioni di co-design e fieldwork) ripartirà il 2 ottobre 2015 alle ore 16.00 in Viale Romania, 32 – Roma!

Dopo i grandi risultati ottenuti a Bologna, mantova e Battipaglia, il nuovo LABoratorio per la GOVernance dei beni comuni riprenderà le sue attività concentrandosi sulla Città Eterna: Roma. Anche in questo caso, le 5 anime della governance collaborativa (social innovation, istituzioni, Università , imprese e società civile) collaboreranno per RIcostruire Roma, rendendola più vivibile e sostenibile.

Vi aspettiamo!

Battipaglia is designing the first collaborative urban strategic plan

Battipaglia is designing the first collaborative urban strategic plan

logo_aggiornatoBefore going to the first civic Collaboration Fest in Bologna, we will travel down south to Campania.

In Battipaglia – a fifty-thousands inhabitants town in the province of Salerno – on the 7th of May at 10.30 a.m. and at 2.30 p.m at the De Amicis school, two co-working sessions on “Regenerate Battipaglia” and “Green Battipaglia” will take place.
The names of the two debates are not fortuitous. On the contrary, they are the two names of two of the four pieces in which CO-Battipaglia is being built (the website is already online).

What is worth to underline is the delicate context in which CO-Battipaglia is coming into being.
Actually, in April 2014, Battipaglia’s city council was dismissed over “mafia infiltratation” allegations. After few weeks, the prefect designated the architect Massimo Alvisi for designing an unprecendented urban strategic plan which, thanks to the participation of LabGov, will be imagined in a collaborative way.

Let’s go back for a moment.
On the 21st of April 2015, the team who is working on CO-Battipaglia, together with the citizens of Battipaglia, imagined the operations to carry on in order to assemble a “Creative Battipaglia” and a “Public Battipaglia”.
During those debates, the participants talked about the way in which the city will build its future, that is on education and knowledge, using the former school De Amicis, the Castelluccio and the Tabacchificio as strategic places for the cognitive development of the city. Through this, Battipaglia will turn into a meeting point for learning, knowledge, culture, and research.
Secondly, since there is a serious lack of public spaces in the whole town, it is necessary to recover and regenerate them wherever they are available, as soon as possible.

Thanks to next week’s debates, it will be possible to propose ideas and projects for regenerate dismissed or abandoned spaces and to convert the whole city into a CO-city. In particular, issues concerning the health of the territory (making the citizens aware of the hydro-geological instability, the contamination of the aquifers and sustainable mobility) will be faced.

All these precious events, organised by Battipaglia Municipality together with LabGov, Alvisi Kirimoto and partners, LUISS and INSITI, will lead to the draft of the strategic guidelines of the new Battipaglia’s urban management plan, that will have the collaboration at his core.

The last event will take place in June, when it will be possible to put into effect what has been talked about from February 2015 on, following the three axis through which CO-Mantova (the prototype of the co-cities) was designed, that is to say living together (collaborative services), growing together (co-ventures) and making together (co-production).

Further information can be retrieved following these links, stay tuned!