This long-term project focuses on Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. This immigrant neighborhood has become the next frontier of development with the revitalization of its industrial waterfront. Public and private investment along the waterfront has skyrocketed the neighborhoods’ housing prices in recent years. This and the fact that public funds have not been distributed to other parts of the neighborhood to benefit the existing communities have turned Sunset Park in a space of resistance. Sunset Park’s numerous grassroots groups and militant community organizations are fighting against the ongoing gentrification and displacement. They are making clear their neighborhood is not for sale.
The first iteration of this project, Housing, and School Overcrowding in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park: Building Local Knowledge and Envisioning New Community Learning Spaces, aimed to develop a thorough understanding of the housing and school overcrowding crisis in Sunset Park. Students from the Design and Urban Ecologies Studio 1 conducted this project in the fall of 2016. Once involved in research students discovered that school overcrowding was the result of the affordable housing crisis in the district. Families had been pushed to share their one family apartments with other families to afford the cost of housing producing as an unintended outcome the overpopulation of students in local public schools. When talking to community members the team discovered the school issue was really pressing and decided to focus on the lack of space for the construction of public schools to add over 3,500 new student seats to cover the needs of the district’s young population. As part of the research, potential sites for the development of new public schools were identified through a participatory mapping organized in collaboration with our community partners; Voces Ciudadanas and the local campaign Make Space for Quality Schools in Sunset Park (MSQSSP). As part of this project, students interacted with families and community experts in meaningful ways to learn about the issues at hand using participatory methodologies. For instance, social practice artist Jeanne van Heeswijk was invited to give a workshop to the students and teach them how to design and conduct her worldwide recognized Public Faculty to unearth local narratives. Lastly, considering the needs, visions, and priorities of the local community, students designed actionable strategies to alleviate public school overcrowding using the properties identified in the participatory mapping. The impact of the campaign, which was supported by the project’s research team, changed the dire conditions of public schools at the end of the fall. Public officials announced the construction of five new public schools in Sunset Park. The research findings and design proposals of this project were published in The Sunset Park Gazette Vol 2: Overcoming School Overcrowding (see publications).
The second iteration, The Housing Issue in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park: Preserving Housing Cooperatives to Fight Gentrification, began in Fall 2017 also as part of the Design and Urban Ecologies Studio 1. Students continued the work developed during the previous Fall, although the focus was mostly on housing. Students delved into the decline of affordable housing opportunities and the spread of gentrification in the area, as well as into ways to preserve the existing low-income housing opportunities, particularly housing cooperatives. In order to understand the challenges and risks these cooperatives face, students investigated other aspects of the district, including demographic changes, local plans and development trends. Sunset Park has a unique history of housing cooperativism. Currently, this neighborhood holds two different types of housing cooperatives; low-income housing cooperatives created by Finish community members at the beginning of the 20th century (which were the first housing coops in the US), and Housing Development Fund Corporations (HDFC) run by shareholders and sponsored by the city. Both were created as low-income housing coops but some of them have turned into market-rate coops in recent years. Thus, through fieldwork, quantitative, qualitative and participatory research students explored who lives in these cooperatives, how are they collectively run, why they are vital to this working-class community and how they could be preserved and even expanded. This time the studio collaborated with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a partner from previous projects, and a number of local and city organizations were also involved, including the Cooperative Economic Alliance of New York City, Beyond Care Worker Cooperative, and Center for Family Life. At the end of the project, the research findings and design proposals were published in The Sunset Park Gazette Vol 2: The Housing Issue (see publications).
The third iteration, Women, Care, and Housing: Envisioning New Housing Cooperative Models for Sunset Park’s Immigrant Communities, took place in Fall 2018 as part of Design and Urban Ecologies Studio 1. Students built on the work and relationships developed the previous semester. They worked closely with Beyond Care, a worker cooperative led by immigrant women providing childcare services in Brooklyn. This cooperative became a partner the previous semester. This time a number of workshops, working sessions, and discussions around housing cooperatives and Community Land Trusts were organized in collaboration with Beyond Care members to work toward the design of a new model of housing cooperative for their families. The New Economy Project, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, Riseboro Community Partnership, were part of those conversations. The Center for Family Life, a long-time partner of Beyond Care, was also a key collaborator as well as Milano’s Community Development Finance Lab led by Kevin McQueen. A group of students from this lab worked on the financial models of the housing proposals and joined the DUE students in community meetings and other activities in Sunset Park. Besides housing, this project also focused on the role of women in urban practices and transforming communities. Students considered the leadership role of Beyond Care members in the community and worked closely with them developing four design strategies leading to the creation of cooperative housing. The research and housing proposals were disseminated in two reports: The Sunset Park Research Report and The Sunset Park Design Proposals Report (see publications).
The fourth iteration of this project, United for Housing, is an ongoing project.
Gabriela Rendón, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Community Development
Fall 2019: Emily Bowe, Jason Brown, Daniella Castillo, Daniel Chu, Rachel Crist, Amron Lee, and Ashley Lehrer, and Ana Milena Prada Uribe
Fall 2018: Ana Correa Do Lago, Mariana Kiwi Barros, Alfonso Supetran, Obianozo Chukwuma, Calla Hajosy, Aditi Nadir, Sana Akram, Akiera Charles, Maanasa Sivashankar, Jacqueline Castañeda Nuñez, Ameera Issa, Steven Davis, Courtney Sprigg, and Regis Kijnekamp
Fall 2017: Issac Diebboll, Manon Vergerio, Kevin Rogan, Maha Al Khater, Daniel Bieckmann, Kevin Capuno, Gilliam Chisholm, Julianna Galvao, Alie Kilts, Sarah Kontos, Khadija Munir, Grace Paik, Claudia Rot, Abby Schwarz, Rosella Soravia and Gemma Duffee
Fall 2016: Maha Aslam, Jason Azar, Angelica Jackson, Lyric Kelkar, Zara Farooq, Donyao Li, Caroline Macfarlane, Eduarda Aun, Andrew Strong, Selamawit Yemeru, Emily Sloss, Sarath Ramanan, and Burak Sancakdar