As the city prepares for one of the biggest political shifts in two decades, thousands of New Yorkers are making their way to SoHo to the “Transition Tent” to give their opinion on issues important to them.
A broad coalition of foundations launched “Talking Transition,” a community engagement initiative that is giving citizens the opportunity to talk about the issues that matter most following the election of the new mayor, Bill de Blasio.
Talking Transition seeks to expand the typical transition process between Election Day and inauguration into a public discussion of policy issues and ideas that affect the everyday lives of New Yorkers. Events are being held at a tent on Canal Street and Sixth Avenue and will reach into neighborhoods in all five boroughs through mobile and digital platforms.
The program is a joint effort by Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Revlon Foundation, New York Women’s Foundation, New York Community Trust, New York Foundation, North Star Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Brooklyn Community Foundation.
“This experiment creates a forum for civic participation in our city’s governance that will elevate the best ideas and highlight the most glaring needs,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “If we are to create a just city infused with equity and inclusion, the voices of the people must continually be heard.”
The tent officially opened on Nov. 9 and will stay open every day through Nov. 23. The tent’s hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Trinity Church generously provided space for the tent.
“This election—and this transition in particular—is a signal moment in New York City’s fortunes. We are taking the opportunity to keep the energy and engagement alive after the voting is done,” said Christopher Stone, president of the Open Society Foundations.
New Yorkers from all racial backgrounds, religions and neighborhoods are coming to the tent. The unique design of the tent, which consists of milk crates in the interior, has a digital room with iPads that gives New Yorkers the chance to take a survey on issues affecting where they live, rating them from better to worse. Questions include police/community relations, education, affordable housing and the environment.
There are also spaces where various discussions are held with panels from top experts and people. Some recent panel discussions have included stop-and-frisk, union issues and public education. On Saturday, New York Urban League President and CEO Arva Rice moderated a discussion on public education and civil rights.
“There are many challenges that women and families face every day. Talking Transition will provide a key opportunity to make visible their specific concerns and needs for the new administration,” said Ana Oliveira, president and CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation.
In the end, Talking Transition will present the new administration’s transition team with a qualitative and quantitative synopsis of the ideas and issues that are most talked about by New Yorkers, as well as a set of concrete ideas for how the new administration can integrate meaningful public engagement as a way to improve city governance.