Living in Brooklyn: Annual Conference Recap

BWRC hosted its ninth annual conference, Living in Brooklyn: Housing along the Brooklyn Waterfront on April 12, 2019, at City Tech’s new academic complex. The conference this year focused on two of the greatest challenges facing housing along the waterfront: gentrification and climate change. Over 200 community members, activists, students, scholars, and agency officials registered for the event.

The morning began with an introduction of the history of Brooklyn’s waterfront, featuring Dr. Kurt Schlichting of Fairfield State University. Dr. Schlichting, a BWRC Research Fellow, contributed original research and a white paper, “Housing along the Brooklyn Waterfront: A Story of Shipping, Industry and Immigrants.” The paper, which is also included in our conference program, covers the dramatic changes the waterfront has undergone since the eighteenth century. Once among the largest and busiest ports in the world, Brooklyn’s waterfront was also home to a series of immigrant enclaves over the years, with communities hailing from Germany, Ireland, Norway, Italy, and Eastern Europe dotting the neighborhoods behind the ports. Deindustrialization, suburbanization, and redlining practices radically transformed the waterfront in the postwar era, and the housing stock and working waterfront fell into decline. Over the last thirty years, however, the Brooklyn waterfront has experienced a resurgence in population and an economic transformation. Rather than innovations in manufacturing and shipping, the greatest challenges for residents in these neighborhoods are gentrification and displacement.

Following the historical overview, Jessica Yager, Vice President of Policy & Planning at WIN (Women In Need) provided the audience with the framework and context of housing affordability along the Brooklyn waterfront. Yager introduced each neighborhood, from Williamsburg to Coney Island, DUMBO to East New York, noting their similarities (housing has gotten less affordable in every neighborhood along the waterfront) and their differences (Coney Island has over 40,000 housing units in the 100-year flood plain, compared to 48 in East New York).

The first panel, moderated by Dr. Nicholas Bloom of the New York Institute of Technology, featured speakers from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) and the Department of City Planning (DCP). John Mangin, Senior Counsel at DCP, gave a brief history of subsidized and affordable housing policies in New York, noting the role that zoning designations can play in activating land for residential development. Fabiana Meacham, Chief of Staff at HPD, introduced the Mayor’s affordable housing plan, which aims to build and preserve 300,000 affordable homes by 2026. Brendan McBride (Associate Commissioner for New Construction) and Rona Reodica (Assistant Commissioner for Building & Land Development Services), both from HPD, detailed the various financing instruments available for New York to build affordable housing and the design guidelines that shape new construction. Dr. Alex Schwartz, Professor of Urban Policy at the New School, wrapped up the panel by pointing out the tremendous budget gap facing public and subsidized housing and the limitations this poses for policymakers.

City Tech professor of architecture, Jason Montgomery, led the second panel, “Affordable Housing against the Odds: Innovative Developments along the Brooklyn Waterfront.” Private and non-profit housing developers engaged in a lively conversation about their respective efforts to provide quality affordable housing for a range of residents. Martin Dunn, President of Dunn Development, Frank Lang, Director of Housing at St. Nicks Alliance, Brenda Rosen, CEO of Breaking Ground, and Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of Fifth Avenue Committee, introduced their respective development portfolios along the Brooklyn Waterfront. Among the greatest challenges facing affordable development, the panelists agreed, are the costs of land and construction. “Affordable housing isn’t affordable to develop,” noted de la Uz.

During lunch, Professor Emeritus Tom Angotti of CUNY delivered a rejoinder to the morning’s panels, “The Future of the Brooklyn Waterfront: Affordability and Resilience Are Not Enough.” Dr. Angotti emphasized that community and social resilience, cultivated through social justice activism, are fundamental steps toward climate resilience and housing affordability. Without robust community organizing and activism, neighborhood planning cannot preserve affordability and equity.

The lunch address was a great segue into the third panel, “Preserving and Expanding Housing Affordability through Organizing.” Oksana Mironova of the Community Service Society of New York moderated this panel, which featured organizers and planners from the Brooklyn Waterfront. Michael Higgins, Jr., lead organizer for Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) discussed the challenges of balancing the various needs of the Gowanus community during the rezoning, including NYCHA repairs, industrial preservation, affordable housing development, and EPA remediation. Tevina Willis of the Red Hook Initiative discussed her efforts to bring policy attention and government investment to the Red Hook houses, noting that “when you speak of affordable housing, public housing is always the last last note on the last page. My work is to get public housing on the first page of these reports.” Renae Widdison, Director of Land Use and Planning for Council District 38 in Brooklyn, outlined her office’s approach to new economic development initiatives: “How will this benefit the people in this community?” The upcoming vote on New York’s rent laws are a huge issue in the affordable housing world this year, and Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance, offered critical insights about the role of real estate interests in housing access, the cycles of investment and gentrification that transform communities, and how critical organizing is to preserving and promoting equity across the city.

The final panel, “Housing Resilience: Strategies for Climate Readiness,” was moderated by City Tech professor of architecture Illya Azaroff. What are the primary challenges for the future of housing along the Brooklyn Waterfront? Professor Azaroff pointed out that sea level rise could reach 108 inches over the next 80 years, flooding most of the low-lying areas of New York City and displacing 400,000 people. Architects and planners have already started thinking about these challenges, including Deborah Gans, Founder and Principal of GANS Studio. Gans described how she and her colleagues design for resiliency, whether through elevated home or native grass landscaping. Michele Moore, Director of Recovery and Resilience at NYCHA, outlined the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in NYCHA buildings across the five boroughs and explained how new funding would upgrade and protect the homes of over 600,000 low-income residents. Homeowners in the flood areas face a completely different set of obstacles and challenges as sea levels continue to rise. Rachel Stein, Deputy Director of Sustainability and Resiliency at the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYC) covered the various programs and strategies she and her colleagues pursue to assist homeowners, including flood insurance information, resiliency audits, backwater valve installations, and energy efficiency training. Dan Wiley wrapped up the presentations on this panel, discussing the roles federal funding and resources can play in designing resilient communities for the future.

The last panel introduced an important, albeit difficult, question: Should there be housing along the Brooklyn Waterfront, or is it time to move residents and resources inland? Michael Marrella, Director of Waterfront and Open Space Planning at DCP joined the panelists to broach this question and explore the many challenges and opportunities facing waterfront planning in the coming decades. The fundamental issue, noted Marrella, is that unequal wealth and resources across different neighborhoods will ultimately determine the impact of climate change on these neighborhoods.

BWRC Director Richard Hanley closed the conference with a few words, thanking participants and staff for their contributions. Many thanks also go out to Robin Michals and Jeremy Renner for generously photographing the conference.

Lastly, stay tuned for more information about our next Breakfast Talk, which will feature speakers discussing the Solar One project in Sunset Park.

Brooklyn Waters: Annual Conference Recap

        BWRC hosted Brooklyn Waters, its seventh conference at Borough Hall on April 20th, 2018. Titled Brooklyn Waters, the conference focused on the complex, interconnected issues of sea level rise, sustainability, and resilience along Brooklyn’s waterfront. BWRC was thrilled to host a sold-out event, with over 185 urban planners, government leaders, community advocates, and scholars registered.

        The gathering kicked off with featured speakers who spoke about the Brooklyn waterfront’s history, climate science, and current urban planning initiatives. Julia Golia, Director of Public History at the Brooklyn Historical Society, outlined the history of Brooklyn’s working waterfront, providing much needed context on the development and transformation happening along the shoreline in Kings County. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, provided pertinent information on the current climate science behind sea level rise affecting New York. Closing out the morning’s framing conversation was Michael Marrella, Director of Waterfront and Open Space Planning at the NYC Department of City Planning.

         The first full panel, moderated by City Tech professor Benjamin Shepard, explored civic, government, and design response to sea-level rise and storm surge. The first panel featured advocacy leaders, Caroline Nagy from the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and Kate Boicourt from the Waterfront Alliance. Tevina Willis, Local Leaders Facilitator with the Red Hook Initiative, walked the audience through grassroots resiliency efforts in Red Hook. Similarly, architect Eran Chen explained that his firm (ODA New York) prioritizes resiliency design efforts in more large-scale projects along the Brooklyn waterfront. Another waterfront powerhouse, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, joined the conversation; Executive Vice President Clare Newman explained that the Navy Yard’s resiliency plan promises continued sustainable growth alongside steady job creation.

         After lunch, conference participants got a closer look at Brooklyn’s ‘soft edges,’ with an emphasis on Brooklyn Bridge Park and Jamaica Bay. Moderated by City Tech professor Reginald Blake moderated the panel that offered critical perspectives on both natural and built ‘soft edges.’ Executive Vice President of Brooklyn Bridge Park, David Lowin, explored the ways that a recreational edge environment prepares its infrastructure for rising tides and storm surge. Next, leaders from advocacy, research, and government organizations shared critical views on the role that Jamaica Bay plays in maintaining Brooklyn’s resilient edges. Adam Parris, Executive Director of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, was joined by John McLaughlin, from NYC DEP’s Office of Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure, and Research. To close out the session, Lauren Cosgrove of National Parks Conservation Association discussed the vitality and critical ecological role played by Gateway National Recreation Area.

        In the final session of the conference, Roland Lewis, President of the Waterfront Alliance, moderated a round table discussion on the future of resilience efforts in New York and beyond. Council Member Carlos Menchaca joined the panel, imploring the audience to integrate political activism into all resiliency efforts. Alongside Menchaca were panelists Sam Hersh, of Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency and City Tech professors, Reginald Blake and Illya Azaroff.

         The day’s discussion and debate closed with a few words from BWRC Director, Richard Hanley, who gave a sneak peak of the 2019 conference topic: the contested issue of housing along Brooklyn’s waterfront. BWRC is thankful to all the panelists and moderators who joined us for an action-oriented day. Finally, many thanks to Robin Michals for so generously photographing the conference.

 

 

Spaces and Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference a Success!

Thanks to all who came to the Spaces & Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference. The Keynote Speaker Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl began the conference by discussing his New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Initiatives on diversity in the arts and housing for artists. A panel of artists followed, explaining the role of the waterfront in creating their art. They also recounted their experiences finding affordable rents in DUMBO in the 1980s and mentioned current projects such as building a temporary floating bridge to Governors Island and bioswales for the Brooklyn waterfront.

After a networking break, two final panels mixed artists, gallery owners, and developers to discuss how art will continue being made along the waterfront.

Photos below are by Andie Lessa, City Tech Faculty Commons Design Team and the BWRC’s Jeremiah Cox:

20 by Jeremiah Cox 19 by Jeremiah Cox 18 by Andie Lessa 17 by Andie Lessa 16 by Andie Lessa 15 by Andie Lessa 14 by Andie Lessa 13 by Jeremiah Cox 12 by Jeremiah Cox 11 by Andie Lessa 10 by Jeremiah Cox 8 by Andie Lessa 9 by Andie Lessa 7 by Jeremiah Cox 6 by Andie Lessa 5 by Jeremiah Cox 4 by Andie Lessa 3 by Andie Lessa 2 by Jeremiah Cox 1_by_andie_lessa

Speakers Announced for “Spaces & Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront” Conference

The BWRC is proud to announce the confirmed speakers for the Spaces & Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference Friday, March 27 at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

Eventbrite - Spaces & Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference

Welcomes:

Keynote Address: Commissioner, Thomas Finkelpearl, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

Panel One: Artists

Panel Two: Places for Making, Displaying, and Selling Art I

Panel Three: Places for Making, Displaying, and Selling Art II

Eventbrite - Spaces & Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference

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Registration for Spaces and Places: Art on the Brooklyn Waterfront is now Open!

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Registration for the BWRC’s 2015 Conference on Spaces and Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront on March 27, 2015 from 8:30am to 12:30pm at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall is now open. The conference will tell an interesting and important story about how and where art is made, displayed and sold along the Brooklyn Waterfront. Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs will be the Keynote Speaker.
Eventbrite - Spaces & Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference

2015 Conference: Spaces and Places Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront

Spaces and Places: Art along the Brooklyn Waterfront

A Conference to Be Offered March 27, 2015 at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall
by BWRC and the Brooklyn Historical Society

Artists and their work have played and continue to play a pivotal role in the resurgence of the Brooklyn waterfront. James Rodgers of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition wrote in the book that accompanied the coalition’s first “Open Doors” event in 1996 that, “Proximity to the mega art market systems of Manhattan and the generally more generous building sizes along…the waterfront go a long way in explaining why artists decided to settle here.” While that may have been true almost thirty years ago, the scene has shifted into a higher gear. In fact, this past spring, Martha Schwendener wrote in The New York Times that upon entering Brooklyn, “you’ve entered the belly of contemporary art. It’s our 19th-century Paris or 18th-century Rome, with one of the largest concentrations of artists in the world. Here, you’ll find both commercial galleries and nonprofit and artist-run spaces — and thousands upon thousands of places you can visit during open-studio weekends scattered throughout the year.” Brooklyn no longer looks over its shoulder to any place, especially across the East River. But there is more to this transformation.

The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center, in partnership with the Brooklyn Historical Society, will present a conference that will explore the evolution of the way art has been made, shown, and sold along the Brooklyn waterfront. The conference will first offer an historical overview of art in the borough over the centuries, taking us to the recent past. It will then use panels to open a discussion among artists, gallery owners, art distributors, and those who, in one way or another, make spaces available for the “process of art.”

The focus of the conference’s three panels will be on the places where the process of art occurs—the making, showing, and distributing of art. The first panel will examine and discuss this central question: Where can artists practice their art? This question will lead the panel to explore the historical evolution of art spaces and what the future might hold. The second panel will look at the places—both public and private—where art can be shown. The third panel will examine the places art is distributed, through sales and other means.

While this conference cannot answer all questions, we hope to provide an atmosphere where questions about what Brooklyn waterfront art will look like, where this art will happen, and how can art, artists and art spaces survive – will be central to the day’s conversations. Not only the speakers, but all of us have a stake in the answers to these questions.

Printable Version of the Conference Description

Eventbrite - Spaces & Places: Art Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference

Speakers and Panelists for BWRC’s Has the Brooklyn Waterfront Gone Global—Again?

The speakers and panelists from the 2014 Conference: Has the Brooklyn Waterfront Gone Global–Again?

Presenters:

Panelists: Is the Brooklyn Waterfront Once Again Global? If so, How and Why? 

Looking forward to seeing everyone on March 21st at Brooklyn Borough Hall!
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Save the Date: BWRC’s Has the Brooklyn Waterfront Gone Global—Again? Conference is March 21

BWRC save the date 2014

The BWRC and UTRC are pleased to announce the date and topic of our Spring Conference:

Has the Brooklyn Waterfront Gone Global – Again?

Friday, March 21, 2014
8:30am to 12:30pm
Brooklyn Borough Hall’s Old Court Room
209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn

The Brooklyn waterfront has played an important role on the global stage. In the early 19th century it was a processing destination with complicity in the global slave trade for raw commodities such as sugar, coffee, and tobacco. In the early 20th century it became an industrial center for manufacturing, warehousing and export distribution. Then, in the 1960s it suffered a huge decline in jobs, economic vitality and global reach. Today there has been rejuvenation but the commerce that has returned to the Waterfront is different yet again.
·Are these new jobs once again placing Brooklyn on the global stage? How?
·In what ways is the Brooklyn waterfront having a global reach?
·How is that global reach similar and different from what it once was?

Eventbrite - Has the Brooklyn Waterfront Gone Global - Again?
Come to the conference to find out!

Photos and Video from the Bike Conference

Thanks to everyone who came and made our Bikes on the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference a success!

Please check out the photos by CityTech Student Alina Melnikova. Here are some previews:

Our co-host UTRC has posted video of the full conference: Part 1|Part 2