Arts & Democracy cofounded and codirects Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY (NOCD-NY), a citywide alliance of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts that has joined together to revitalize NYC from the neighborhood up. Our strategy is coalescing and advancing Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCDs). NOCDs stimulate a combination of social, civic, and economic benefits within communities and across them. As anchors for neighborhood-based economies, they support community self-determination, equity and local livelihoods. Some also leverage arts and culture within the regional economy.

Our communities and constituencies  – Greenpoint, south Williamsburg, and Fort Greene, Brooklyn; East Village, El Barrio and Chinatown, Manhattan; Corona, Queens; St George, Staten Island and Hunts Point and Westchester Square, Bronx – reflect the diversity of NYC and are often underserved by the conventional arts infrastructure.  Our locally led, cross sector initiatives draw on community cultural assets to connect arts with small business and industry, re-imagine transportation hubs and plazas, and connect neighborhood vibrancy and sustainability.

Members range from a non-profit industrial developer to a cultural district made up of small arts organizations and businesses, from a community human rights institution to an arts museum. They include: Arts & Democracy Project; Bronx Council on the Arts; Fourth Arts Block; Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC), Laundromat Project; El Museo del Barrio; NY Chinatown History Project; The POINT; El Puente; Queens Museum of Art; Staten Island Arts; Urban Bush Women; and at large members Gonzalo Casals, Michael Hickey, and Betsy Imershein.

Our collaborative agenda answers the question: what can we do better together than alone? This includes:

  • Supporting art making and program collaborations that connect our multi-layered and diverse communities.
  • Incubating innovation by providing space to test strategies and exchange exemplary practices.
  • Providing a learning community with capacity building workshops and peer mentorship, ranging from developing underutilized spaces to mural installation/restoration.
  • Generating information and case studies through shared research and planning.
  • Scaling up community initiatives by connecting the dots between neighborhoods and linking our members to work across the country.
  • Amplifying our voices through shared communications, marketing, neighborhood tours, and alliance building.
  • Shaping public policy by advocating for recommendations related to validation, financial support, regulation, and opportunities to be at the table.

NOCD-NY is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York Community Trust.