New York City at street level
Illustration: Lauren Nassef | Art Direction: Jelena Schulz

New York City was largely planned as an orderly grid. More recently, however, neighborhood design interventions have changed the way locals and tourists interact with the city on its most elementary level: the street. Read on for seven must-see examples of ground-up design innovation.

1. Storefront for Art and Architecture, SoHo

This “experimental forum and exhibition space,” designed by Steven Holl, FAIA, and Vito Acconci, serves as a platform for emerging ideas at the intersection of art and architecture. Movable walls allow for the gallery to be opened to the street.

2. Governors Island

This once-abandoned 172-acre island in New York Harbor now boasts amenities (thanks to West 8) that include a public plaza, 10-acre Hammock Grove, and 5 miles of bike trails. Located just 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and only 400 yards from Brooklyn, it’s accessible by ferry and open to the public during the summer.

3. Liz Christy Community Garden, the Bowery

This community garden at the intersection of Bowery and Houston Street, started by local resident Liz Christy in 1973, was the first of its kind in New York.

4. Putnam Triangle Plaza, Brooklyn

Located in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, this plaza was carved out of the existing street, and now offers seating and space for community events.

5. The High Line, Chelsea

The High Line, perhaps New York’s most famous example of innovative urbanism, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Field Operations, stretches from the Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Manhattan’s West Side Yards.

6. Sugar Hill Development, Harlem

Designed by David Adjaye, Hon. FAIA, this towering affordable-housing complex, which opened in 2014, also features a preschool and the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling. It was a winner of an AIA New York 2016 Merit Award for Architecture.

7. Randall’s Island Connector, the Bronx

This pedestrian and bike route spans the Bronx Kill strait to link the Port Morris neighborhood to the playing fields, nature areas, and bike trails on Randall’s Island, a previously underutilized recreation area.