Co New York City

Civic Imagination


Civic Imagination: The Urban Commons is an investigation on urban commons run by The New Schools University Transdisciplinary Graduate Lab, which connects students and professors of Design, Management, Architecture, Organizational Change, Urban Planning, and Public Policy. On the occasion of the Verge 2017 conference at Parsons the Lab hosted a panel on ͞The Invisibility of the Commons, gathering people with different areas of expertise and a shared interest in the urban commons. The Lab activity has ranged from documenting current uses and practices in the urban commons located around 14th street in Manhattan to shaping new perspectives and interactions for the future evolution of such commons.


About 2.5 miles long, 14th street spans Manhattan East to West, crossing different neighborhoods; it served as a test-bed for studying and mapping the urban commons. The fieldwork was based on three lenses, according to which the items were recorded and classified:

  • Alternative Economies
  • Inclusive and Dynamic Governance
  • Reclaiming Space.

Dissemination Events

24/02/2017: Verge 2017 conference at Parsons, The Invisibility of the Commons panel


Harlem E-project


Formally entitled, “A Novel Architecture for Secure Energy Efficient Community-Edge-Clouds with Application in Harlem (SEEC Harlem)“, the LabGov Harlem project is focused on improving access to fast, high quality digital resources, notably including broadband internet, to neighborhoods in Harlem where such access is lacking. More precisely, SEEC Harlem seeks to create low cost, secure user devices, which are governed by a shared, centralized IT management team that oversees a high performance edge cloud accessible to everyone in the community and therefore create a community network i.e. a digitally constructed commons resource in which Internet resources are co-governed; the benefits are shared equitably and are transferable; and the community is not only given access to the new resource, but also the opportunity to be trained and educated about how to best utilize the new resource.

Context & Approach

This project takes a holistic approach to address the technical, legal, and social challenges facing underserved urban communities experiencing a growing digital divide. A novel community-owned edge cloud computing architecture is being tested. It disaggregates the edge equipment for lower cost, improved energy efficiency, simplified management and intrinsically stronger security.

The project targets a community within Harlem for initial concept exploration. Indeed, the Harlem community like many diverse urban communities is facing obstacles that extend beyond broadband access and include the entire home, office and IoT/smart city technology eco-system. Beyond the edge cloud, the project will include development of low-cost KVM (Keyboard, Video, and Mouse) systems that will be used by a diverse set of community members to establish proof of concept and performance metrics for the edge cloud, and identify system usability by community especially as it relates to closing the digital divide.

Another key part of the Harlem project will be ensuring that assessments are performed along the way to ensure its operability and functionality. This will be a further way in which the community will be involved in bringing about the project’s success, as community members, as the primary users of the new technology, will report back on their experiences with the new technology.

A combination of private and public actors, as well as community members and scholars, are collaborating together to bring about the project’s goal of ending the digital divide in Harlem. Those involved include Silicon Harlem and researchers from the Universities of Arizona and Virginia, Georgetown, and Fordham. The project is supported in various ways by the City of New York and internet service providers such as Microsoft and Cisco.


Each of the 5 actors from the “quintuple helix” is actively engaged as the project moves through the co-city process. These include public authorities and representatives from the Manhattan Borough President and Mayor’s Office of Technology, community business leaders and small business owners, civic organizations such as church leaders and local nonprofits, university researchers, and the local social innovator Silicon Harlem.


Highlights: Experimentalism as a guiding principle

Prototype hardware and software will be developed to study this architecture in both a lab environment, user trials, and in participatory technology assessments by users in the community. Optimal design rules will be derived based on experimental performance data and incorporating user constraints and use cases within the Harlem community. Community ownership and governance will be investigated as a means to overcome longstanding legal and social challenges. The project will provide a new dimension to and understanding of edge clouds and community network ownership that can be widely applied in smart city environments elsewhere.

All in all, disaggregated devices open up the potential for a new breed of consumer interfaces with dramatically lower cost and energy use – as well as simple software and hardware management and security. By virtualizing these technologies within the edge cloud, potentially transformative benefits can be realized. Such technology would provide a powerful tool in combating growing digital divides.

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Co-NYC Projects

Projects Mapped

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