by Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA
Dear members and friends,
As we enter our third month of COVID-19-imposed quarantine and social distancing, I wanted to reach out personally to update you on our activities. I also wanted to say how encouraging it has been to be in touch with so many of you. Through the various initiatives that have emerged and persisted during this crisis, AIA New York has proven once again to be strong, supportive, and creative. As so many of you are trying to figure out how to manage your own businesses and support your families, and some of you deal with tragic loss, many of you are also finding time to offer guidance to one another, which is core to the values of our AIA New York and Center for Architecture community.
As most of you are aware, the Center for Architecture closed on March 14 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will remain closed through the end of May, pending guidance from New York State. Once we reopen, we expect to place limits on event sizes, in compliance with evolving social distancing and other mitigation strategies. While the Center for Architecture is closed and no longer abuzz with activity, our staff and architect volunteers, however, remain hard at work to support our members and our mission.
AIANY has been busy developing a series of business continuity programs to help architects navigate COVID-specific relief, HR and project management, and virtual workforce issues. Future programs in the series include a webinar focusing on PPP Loan Forgiveness and another on unexplored business development and communications opportunities. We have also created firm size-based cohort networking groups for small and mid-sized firms, so members can provide each other with support during these tough times. For our younger members, those often most at risk of facing unemployment, we are focusing on providing skillset building courses and have re-launched our popular ARE prep workshops. In case you missed any of our COVID-19 programming, past sessions are posted on our COVID-19 Resources page, which also includes everything from local, state, and federal updates; to advice for firm owners and HR managers; tips on how architects are helping; and even links to mental health support.
We are proud of our volunteer-led initiatives, which continue to thrive under COVID-19. In response to the pandemic, AIA New York and AIA New York State have formed a COVID-19 Unified Task Force to work in partnership with fellow professional organizations, stakeholders, and city agencies in an effort to create guidance and understand the complexities surrounding a post-COVID-19 city and state. The group initially rallied around immediate needs such as producing PPE and advising on temporary health facilities, but will pivot to looking at long-term civic and design issues related to COVID-19 and lessons learned.
Our program committees continue to hold their regularly scheduled meetings, providing a space for networking and professional development for architects. Our committees are also busy developing programs of interest to their peers, including an upcoming program on the small and tiny house movement on May 5. Meetings times for all 26 committees are listed on our events calendar; we encourage you to join! Additional continuing education programming from our vendors is also available through our calendar.
Another way we support our members is by advocating for issues that impact architects at the local, state, and federal level. Recently, AIANY has been actively fighting for architectural work to continue at the city level, following the announcement of a citywide public works work stoppage. In early April, the Chapter and a coalition of engineering, contractor, and labor organizations jointly sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio urging him to restart design work for public projects. AIANY has also been advocating for commercial rent forgiveness, and has been coordinating with AIA National in support for federal assistance for state and local governments.
While AIANY has been focusing its efforts on supporting our member network, the Center for Architecture has been working on developing initiatives for the general public. Our K-12 Education department continues to post new and fun family-friendly architecture design activities as part of our Architecture at Home remote learning initiative, launched in partnership with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). These materials have also been disseminated to our school partners, with virtual workshops for DYCD after-school providers to help them use these materials with their students. Our sold out Digital Design: Rooftop Dwelling virtual after-school program is underway, meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays through May 14. We are also working on converting our Student Day classroom workshops to a virtual platform, with plans to make these available next month.
All of this activity, directed at members and the general public alike, comes at a financially challenging time for our two organizations. With a significant shortfall expected, we have formed a joint Finance Task Force to help us make difficult decisions. In the face of the crisis, AIANY and the Center for Architecture have cut 40% of our monthly operating budget, including by making staff-wide salary reductions. While we are still awaiting allocation of our approved PPP loan, we are actively pursuing private and public grants, as well as further lending. However, our fundraising has been dramatically jeopardized, as many of our events, including Guess-A-Sketch and the Honors and Awards Luncheon, have been postponed. If you are able to, please consider making a personal donation so we can continue to work to bring awareness of the importance of architecture and design. We thank you in advance for your generous contributions.
We look forward to continuing to support this vibrant community, and thank you for being a part of it.
Stay safe and healthy.
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA
AIANY | Center for Architecture