Professors Montgomery and Leonard

Author: Diego

Gowanus Reflective Blog Post

The 3 pieces of information I have read are extremely valuable for my teams outline and for source material. The opinion piece by Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal is exactly what I would expect from someone who understands in depth the issues the neighborhood is facing. It’s unfortunate that the opinion piece believes that the canal will never be cleaned up. My team will attempt to address this matter and research ways that the canal has been improved even slightly. An interesting excerpt I found was “One answer is because people will live anywhere, they can in New York because the rent is so high. Another is that we really do need the housing — perhaps so much so that it’s worth putting some 800 people in harm’s way during a major weather event. What is certain is that the developers want it, and now, before any further cleanup issues arise.” I think Alexiou’s point is interesting and it’s a problem that isn’t exclusive to just Gowanus but rather the entire city. The booklet on the other hand, as someone who has a basic understanding of these topics, has given me an even more precise and exact explanation of zoning and rezoning. The Gowanus Planning Study addresses the reality that the neighborhood is being up zoned as we speak. Another excerpt from Alexiou’s opinion piece that is relevant to the study was “Not because the people involved are monsters who don’t like a clean environment, but because they fall prey to the same forces that have always called all the shots in this city: the civic power brokers and real estate developers.” My team coincidently addresses the issue of developers and how they have disproportionate power in the zoning, construction and even who gets affordable housing. Evidently the power is in the hands of the developers and powerful and it has been the case even in the canal’s inception. It was corruptly mishandled by public officials and left for the upcoming generation to handle rather than being accountable for the mismanagement. Even in current times, the canal is woefully disrespected and unfortunately we are prioritizing profit rather than progress.

Reflection #2

Describe the way each film (My Brooklyn, Citizen Jane, Human Scale) and the lecture presentation (Healing Spaces: Marching On! Blackness and the Spatial Politics of Performance) discuss public space and its role in cities. Which notion of public space appeals to you? How to you feel about public space in New York City?

The film My Brooklyn discusses public space by delving into how gentrification fundamentally changed certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn. What stood out to me was that this entire evolution was planned as the ‘Downtown Brooklyn Plan’. Coincidently Mayor Bloomberg at the time approved of this plan and was an advocate in its conception. Michael Blomberg is currently amid a late 2020 presidential campaign push in which he could become the Democratic nominee. It makes me wonder if this will ever come up in the following months, it also makes me question the influence our leaders have in the development of our cities. Citizen Jane and the subject of the film, Jane Jacobs absolutely changed the way I view Robert Moses. I had heard of Robert Moses and his influence on the “development” of NYC because my major often mentions him. I now have a different perspective on Robert Moses and can’t help but feel disappointed that a single person could have such a drastic impact on not only the city but the fabric of other metropolitans such as Chicago and the neighborhoods of lower income. I am pleasantly surprised that Jane Jacobs won the “war” against Moses and is an influential person in the role of city development. Human Scale discusses public space and its role in the cities by making a case for designing cities around people and not cars, buses and the traffic they dictate. This form of planning for vehicles has been prevalent since the 1960’s. The film mentions the specific ways Robert Moses planned for transportation rather than for the planning for the population. Public space in NYC is of importance to me because it is the city in which I live, and comfort is what we all seek in this world whether it be economic, emotional and proper planning can have a bearing on all these factors. We should be planning for the people and if public officials and planners aren’t doing this then they aren’t working to meet the needs of the community. Healing Spaces: Marching On! Blackness and the Spatial Politics of Performance was a lecture presentation that spoke about topics that overlap with public space. Under Jim Crow Laws public space in the 19th and 20th century was inaccessible most of the time for African Americans. They weren’t completely shut out and had moments such as expositions, pageants, parades and protests when public space was claimed. Jane Jacobs and people with her mentality would advocate for the use of public space because public space should primarily revolve around population not circulation. Marching On: The Politics of Performance explores the histories, driving forces, and legacy of marching and organized forms of performance. Dr. Mabel Wilson blends both important topics through her architectural background and as a professor of African American and African Diasporic Studies at Columbia University.

Initial Class Reflection

How would you rate your level of experience doing research in college?

I would rate my level of experience doing research in college a 5-6. I have done research for introductory English courses and electives. I don’t believe I understand the research process well, I have room for improvement.

What is your expectation for this class supporting your classes in your major?

I am expecting to literally understand the city in a more logistic manner. I also expect to become better at researching material specially useful for field of study. I appreciate learning and knowledge but often times the sources are hard to find and filter.