Working with local environmental nonprofit TreesNY, Greening the Gap studio participants created a green infrastructure waterfront access plan for the Manhattan neighborhood of East Harlem. In this plan, students successfully bridged the gap between providing rigorous technical analysis and actively engaging members of the community.
By utilizing a community-based planning methodology, the students engaged East Harlem residents in re-imagining their waterfront while also promoting a greener neighborhood through improved storm water management. Through their outreach, students were able to incorporate neighborhood issues of open space access, personal safety and lack of neighborhood amenities into the otherwise technical recommendations, while also building off community assets such as vibrant commercial corridors and active gardening community.
Similarly, students sought to increase the capacity of their client TreesNY by building off their history of local environmental stewardship and training. Students were able to place the organization at the head of an advisory committee made up of leaders from the community, city agencies and other environmental organizations active in East Harlem. Students were also able to bolster the amount of neighborhood contacts through community meetings, surveys and other outreach on TreesNY’s behalf.
As final products, students created both technical briefs on a variety of planning related issues facing the neighborhood in addition to an accessible final report. The final report lays out in layman’s terms (with analysis and technical specs outlined in index) a clear path for TreesNY, the advisory committee, and East Harlem residents to achieve increased neighborhood greening through green infrastructure and site specific ideas for an improved water front through increased access and esplanade rehabilitation. The report includes a ‘toolbox’ of relevant guidelines and best practices. The students also provide a feasibility matrix that includes estimated costs, timeframe and governing agencies to allow for phasing of recommendations.