WE ♥ NY: Brewing Up Economic Rebirth Through Community Conversations

WE Love NY: Brewing Up Economic Rebirth Through Community Conversations
In 2023, we spearheaded participation in #NYForward & #DRI projects across nine vibrant villages. From engaging surveys to creative pop-up events, we tailored outreach to diverse groups often left out of the conversation.

In 2023, Highland Planning created and conducted public engagement strategies for NY State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) and NY Forward programs in nine villages across New York State: Cooperstown, Dolgeville, Dunkirk, Hamilton, Homer, Johnson City, Moravia, Phoenix, and Sharon Springs. Our team spearheaded participation in these community-driven revitalization programs in diverse rural small towns and urban neighborhoods.

Tailored Engagement Strategies for Each Community

We developed customized engagement plans aligned to each location’s unique needs and assets. Tactics ranged from surveys and interactive workshops to creative pop-up events at beloved community festivals across all nine villages. Spanish language outreach and special efforts to reach groups like seniors and youth were hallmarks of our equity-focused approach.

Record Resident Turnout and Input

Hundreds of New Yorkers across villages shared their dreams through Highland Planning’s inclusive engagement strategies. In Johnson City, our creative pop-up event engaged over 150 people. However, one standout achievement took place in Homer, where Highland Planning not only collaborated with the village but also spearheaded the creation of their first-ever Fall Fun Festival—an idea that has now blossomed into an annual tradition! Our collaborative efforts, including attractions like a magnetic fishing game, drew over 200 residents to our booth, making the festival a resounding success. The valuable input from these engagements was pivotal in shaping concrete plans, vision statements, and project recommendations in each community.

Bringing New Voices to the Table

We excel at engaging groups often left out of community processes. From temporary farm workers in rural villages like Cooperstown to inner city youth in Dunkirk, we empower silent voices. Our equity lens and expertise in accessing hard-to-reach populations bring crucial on-the-ground intel to decision-makers.

Spotlighting Community Priorities

Our documentation and promotion of local feedback push resident priorities into the spotlight. Across all nine villages, we consistently elevated calls for safer streets, more vibrant local businesses, improved public spaces, diverse housing options, and attractions that bring people downtown. For example, desires for more restaurants, breweries, and shopping emerged in multiple communities, underscoring economic growth as a shared priority. Our summaries of workshops and pop-ups ensured local planning committees considered these common community goals in developing their strategic investment plans.

Investing in NY’s Comeback

We’re honored to support the residents and leaders in renewing infrastructure, housing, businesses, and vitality in New York’s villages and downtowns through the NY State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) and NY Forward programs. By rooting programs in local wisdom, our engagement cultivates locally-owned visions poised to uplift communities for generations.


Author: Megan Morsch, Public Engagement Lead at Highland Planning

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