Sam Holleran, Sarah Lidgus, José Serrano-McClain

Photo: William Michael Fredericks, Sam Holleran

20 years, 20 champions. Each instrumental in Design Trust's lasting impact on NYC's public realm. Each another journey. 

Hear each champion's story, one every day here on our blog, culminating with a grand celebration on October 14, at Christie's. While enjoying a festive evening of cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a silent auction of art and design, you'll also meet the 20/20 Public Space Champions in person.

Join us to celebrate our champions, who have tirelessly been working to improve the daily lives of New Yorkers for two decades. Jumpstart the next 20 years of urban innovation by buying a ticket to the gala today.

Sam HolleranSarah Lidgus, and José Serrano-McClain, our Fellows for The World's Park project, are working out what has remained to be a challenge for 50 years. They're connecting communities at one giant melting pot: Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

For the project that started in fall 2014, the Fellows designed and implemented a series of educational workshops and open neighborhood forums, through which community advisors developed new proposals for how the access, connectivity, and circulation of Flushing Meadows Corona Park can better serve the public’s needs. 

The resulting design concepts by community advisors, which were exhibited at the Queens Museum last spring, include informational kiosks and art installations, wayfinding landmarks, and sensory play areas for children with special needs. The Fellows and the community members continue to work together to realize some of these ideas.

Let's start with a fill-in-the-blank question. Public space is vital because…?

Sam Holleran, Participatory Design Fellow: Public space is where our democratic ideals get put to the test. It's where one exits their comfort zone to connect with people living lives wildly different from their own.

Sarah Lidgus, Design Education Fellow: Public space is vital because it makes the diversity of lives—and living—visible.

José Serrano-McClain, Community Organizing Fellow: And it's our best asset in celebrating that diversity as the source of NYC's inherent creativity.

Could you elaborate on these statements? What inspires your dedication to improve the daily lives of city dwellers?

Sam: I believe that participation is a limited resource and it's my mission is to promote collaborative experiences that make sense for community members as well as practitioners. In NYC, where public space is threatened by hyper gentrification and where new green spaces can become catalysts for luxury tourism and displacement, the need to create and maintain equitable green spaces is particularly acute.

Sarah: It’s really the company of the cohort that makes it incredible: I have so much respect for the work of Design Trust that it’s a real privilege to be considered a part of it. The Design Trust has been a catalyst and a convener for so many inspiring civic projects over the years, and to be a part of that community and that conversation has pushed my thinking and my practice in ways I couldn't imagine. 

Becoming a fellow gave me direct access to all of that accumulated knowledge and experience, and it has been invaluable to me. Becoming a fellow also let me collaborate with people, disciplines and perspectives I wouldn’t normally have access to, which was—or I should say is—awesome.

Being invited into a community that considers the true 'civic-ness' of the city has really encouraged me to push my own practice. And it came at a time when it needed some pushing, some shaking up. After bring a part of The World's Park project with the Design Trust, the fact that I want my work to be anchored in public space for the rest of my life is undeniable. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

José: I'm grateful to the Design Trust for supporting and celebrating people that are devoted to protecting and enriching our public spaces. Like many of the other honorees, I understand that this honor doesn't really belong to us. It’s never that simple. This honor belongs to so many more people who have been part of the overlapping set of projects that we’ve had the privilege of being part of.

And it’s not even as simple as people involved in public space projects, because our public space work often responds to a broader set of inequities related to health, safety, education, environment, transportation, policing, justice, etc.

So I want to dedicate this honor to everyone working to make this city a place where we all thrive.

What's ahead for The World's Park project?

Sam: We're currently working on a guide that other groups can use to jumpstart a community design school.

Sarah: It involves both codifying the curriculum and thinking about where we might apply it next.

José: I'm continuing to work with community advisors on a series of public events that bring to life some of the creative ideas that were incubated during The World’s Park community design school earlier this past spring.

For example, over the course of Summer 2015, we worked with a local art collective to host screenprinting workshops that engage park-users in thinking about park signage. We also hosted a series of events to demonstrate programming opportunities that could improve the way children with disabilities experience the park.

In pursuing these 'research actions', the focus is not just on advocating for greater investment in this 897-acre public space that is vital to so many immigrant communities in Queens, but to build the capacity of these communities to consistently articulate, re-articulate, and prototype powerful visions for its future.

And ultimately, to demonstrate a community engagement model that might be carried on by the newly-forming Flushing Meadow Corona Park Alliance.

What other projects are you working on?

Sarah: I'm finishing up a fellowship with the Laundromat Project on a community-led project called Bronx Brilliance: Art, Activism and Action, that brings together the creativity of the South Bronx for the South Bronx. 

I’m also working with AIGA/NY on curating Making the City, an exhibition about the different ways designers are impacting the social, civic and public spaces within NYC.

José: For Spring/Summer 2016 at the Queens Museum, I'm programming a summer of street closures and block parties near Corona Plaza, and perhaps in other places throughout Queens. 

I'm also actively involved in the 111th Street Community Corridor campaign, a coalition that includes Make the Road NY and Transportation Alternatives, to identify 111th Street in Queens (a major boundary to Flushing Meadows Corona Park) as a Vision Zero priority corridor. The community plan, which has sparked a parallel campaign to introduce a new community garden on 111th Street, has gained support from Council Member Julissa Ferreras as well as NYC Department of Transportation planners, and will be voted on by the local community board in Fall 2015.

After being a part of 'The World's Park' project with the Design Trust, the fact that I want my work to be anchored in public space for the rest of my life is undeniable.

Sarah Lidgus, Design Education Fellow