Urbanism of Inclusion, Sunset Park

Page 1


Urbanism of Inclusion, Sunset Park Submitted to the Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning, Faculty of Engineering, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning September 2012 Authors Jana Grammens Amber Kevelaerts Maarten Wauters

MaUSP Student, thesis MaUSP Student, thesis MaUSP Student, thesis

Supervisor Bruno de Meulder

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven (Belgium)

Co-supervisors Maarten Van Acker

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven (Belgium

Readers Bruno De Meulder Els Vervloesem Kees Doevendans Miodrag Mitrasinovic

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven (Belgium) Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven (Belgium) Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Eindhoven (Netherlands) Parsons The New School for Design, New York (United States of America)

Copyright Š 2012 by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. All rights reserved. All text, images, graphics and other materials in this publication are subject to the copyright and other intellectual property rights of the authors, supervisor and co-supervisors, unless otherwise credited. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or modified in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the supervisor. Permissions should be addressed to Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Engineering - Kasteelpark Arenberg 1, B3001 Heverlee (Belgium). Telephone +32 16 32 13 50 and Fax +32 16 32 19 82. A written permission is also required to use methods, products, schematics and programs described in this work for industrial or commercial use, and for submitting this publication in scientific contests. All images are made by the authors unless mentioned otherwise.


The Atlantis program, of which this book results, has

assistant Jessika. We greatly appreciate their continuous

been an enriching experience. The program allowed

support and care during the time we spent in New York.

us to take part in an exchange with Parsons the New School of design to New York. This thesis work has been

Furthermore, we would like to thank all the students

a great and stimulating journey and is the final work of a

that we worked together during the development of this

two-year study.

work. Students of the New School, Civic City program, the Atlantis program participants and our colleagues in

This booklet could, however, not have been realized

Leuven whom all have given us great experiences that

without the support, critical feedback and encourage-

have enriched our work.

ment of many people. First and foremost, we express our sincerest gratitude to our supervisor, professor Bruno

We would like to thank Maura for her advice and taking

de Meulder, for his inspiration and guidance. We wish

care of many administrative burdens and thus making

to thank professor de Meulder for all his insights and

our studies and exchange that much easier.

continuous support during our process of this research and the entire Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning.

Finally, we are thankful to our family, friends and loved-ones, who have supported us throughout our

Subsequently, we would like to offer our gratitude to


our American co-supervisors professor Miguel RoblesDuran, Maarten Van Acker, Quilian Riano and Angel Luis

Team Urbanism of Inclusion

Lara, who guided our New York studio and research.

Amber, Jana, Maarten

We also wish to thank Miodrach Mitrasinovic and his



Growing in Urban Landscapes Urban Agriculture as an Alternative

Introduction Problem statement Methodology Sunset Park

Analysis Social needs Sunset Park multi-etnic neighborhood Demographics Health statistics Education

Public infrastructure 2

Public space Sewage system

Stakeholders New York city

Community board 7 Civil Society

Civil society as an alternative

An alternative solution Working with La Union

General concept Combined strategies

Towards an inclusive fabric The global food system The disconnection of food and the city The global food system creating disparities Local alternatives Local alternatives and urban agriculture The benefits of urban agriculture Manifestations of Urban Agriculture Urban agriculture in New York Urban agriculture in Sunset Park Potential spaces for urban agriculture Alternative food supply for Sunset Park Total potential of Urban agriculture in Sunset Park Urban agriculture creating spaces of opportunity Bush Terminal rooftop farms A new public space From brownfield to green infrastructure Urban agriculture, an alternative production


Towards a learning community

Dynamics of New Social Economies Historical Industrial Landscapes

Education, inclusion and urbanism

Education in NYC


Environmental justice

Educational barriers and opportunities in

Environmental Justice & Sunset Park

Sunset Park

Garbage wars Environmental justice in an

Educational barriers

Educational opportunities

Educational alternatives

age of garbage

Where to go with all this waste?

Learning from other cases

New Economical Impuls from waste burden to waste opportunity

Borough equity

Design proposal Dynamics of New Social Economies Local assets Brownfield Opportunities Brownfield strategies Site Proposal Stakeholders ‘TASTE-THE-WASTE’ program Creating synergies Conclusion

Life long learning

Community schools

Netwerk schools

COL- the city of learning

Case studies

Design strategies

Programmatic strategies

Spatial strategies

Educational platforms

Sunset Park Promise neighborhood

Stakeholders Design proposal

Sunset Park highschool

PS 971

Sunset Waterfront school





Problem statement

Urbanism has a potential to change the structure of the city. As designers we need to be conscious of the disparities that exist in society and aim for an urbanism that changes the urban fabric to serve the ever changing needs of communities. Inclusive urbanism is seen as a practice of urban design that addresses the contemporary urban





conditions equitably; and, from the territorial and socioecological issues related to the effects of globalization --dualization, gentrification, mobility and migrations, territorial fragmentation, and uneven development-- and

Problem statement

the recognition that these issues most deeply affect the urban poor and the traditionally marginalized social groups. (Parsons the New School, 2012)

In the western world the welfare system provides services that aim at negating disparities. Increasing privatization and processes of exclusion leave some areas of the city neglected and underfunded. In these cases there is a need to look for alternative ways to produce structures that serve the needs of people and counter the inequality that is present in the city.

The study area of Sunset Park is a multiethnic, multiracial neighborhood, which is marked by an increasing


population, largely due to immigration. This reflects in a low-income community with high dropout rates and health disparities. (Hum, 2010) The neighborhood is stagnant in development, in contrast to the population growth, a significant number of properties are vacant or underused. The investment in the residential part of the neighborhood and waterfront is currently limited due to the global economical situation. There is a willingness of the city government to develop the sunset park waterfront as has happened in other areas of the city. With the disappearance of manufacturing industries and the reduction of water based transport the Brooklyn waterfront lost part of its activities. In some areas of 6

Brooklyn the waterfront has already been transformed in residential areas with effects of displacement and gentrification.

The aim of the research and design is to use the current needs and visions in New York city and the neighborhood of Sunset Park furthering towards a more inclusive urban fabric. Education, Urban food production and Waste recycling are themes for which the city of New York is currently in need of alternatives and manifest themselves within the urban fabric of Sunset Park. Is there a future development in Sunset Park, which embraces bottom up needs and processes, that reflects the need for a more inclusive city? Location of case study (Based on Bing Maps, 2012)


The research for this thesis has been part of several different projects. The large overarching theme of urbanisms of inclusion is a collaborative research project between a network of European universities and universities in the United States. In the frame of the joint research an exchange program has been set up for thesis students that are encouraged to explore the theme urbanisms of inclusion. As part of this exchange the initial research and the case study have been first explored within the Urban Ecology studio in the school of design strategies of The New School in New York City.

The Urban Ecology studio was a research project with a 8


small design component, which was partaken by a broad range of design students. The design teams were multidisciplinary and had students from a diverse background.

Driving group with La Union, participatory research (Authors, 2012)

The aim of the studio was to explore broad research

different social research tools were used in parallel to

themes. The overall goal of the studio was to understand,

more classic mapping techniques.

negate and speculate on complex urban conditions. The specific neighborhood of Sunset Park was selected, for

The studio and exchange to Parsons have created an

this allowed a focusing on the intricacies of low income

understanding of the case study of Sunset Park. This

neighborhoods and its delicate urban ecosystem.

has created a basis in relations and knowledge about Sunset Park, which is used in this thesis to develop

Another particular element of this studio was the

further specific research topics and design. The thesis

emphasis on social-praxis, a social research perspective

is a combined research in which each of the participants

that focuses on social movements and communities are

has explored personal subjects to develop the theme

already producing knowledge, methodologies, and even

of Urbanisms of Inclusion. These subjects overlap and

epistemic positions that are useful for social sciences

touch upon different themes and most parts of the works

and the design disciplines. The research process was

are constructed in close collaboration. The goal of the

supported by a socioligist Angel Luis Lara and formed a

research has been to create a work where the different

collaboration with neighborhood organization La Union.

parts are complementary and reflect on the future of

Interviews, socio geographic mapping and a number of

Sunset Park and the city.

Guided tour through Sunset Park with La Union (Authors, 2012)


Sunset Park is a vibrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Sunset Park has been greatly transformed over the last decades by a new wave of immigration. The new immigration reflects in a part of the population that has limited access to services such as healthcare, education,‌ The residents of Sunset Park are largely Hispanic and Chinese in origin. A lack representation and poverty have resulted in a level of self-organization through community-based organizations. The residential neighborhood of Sunset Park lies next to an industrial waterfront. The waterfront had historically been the economical driver of Sunset park, providing jobs and a livelihoods. The industrial waterfront is now typified by 10

Sunset Park, a neighborhood of diversity

large underused spaces and buildings, which are vacant. With the current economical crisis the area has few perspectives for development, thus alternatives developments have a potential in Sunset Park. The rich case of Sunset Park reflects global issues and questions about the future of the city. However the specific research topics embedded within the thesis are derived from actively participating within the community and discovering the issues that are of concern to the community.

Map Sunset Park (Authors,2012)




Social needs


Sunset Park multi-etnic neighborhood

For years Sunset Park was the first destination for waves of immigrants all over the world. A sequence of Irish, Norwegian, Finn and Italian immigrants had settled here and left there stamps on the neighborhood. After the neighborhood decline in the 60’- 70’s a huge population of Puorto Ricans found there new home in Sunset Park followed by other hispanic communities such as Mexican and Dominican populations. More recently a huge chinese wave of immigrants has been settling in the 14

east part of Sunset park as well. At this moment a clear division between these Hispanic and Chinese population is extremely visible in the urban tissue of Sunset Park. The consequences and needs that the neighborhood today experiences, due to its immigration history and status on the one hand, and the evolution of the neighborhood on the other hand is not to be underestimated.

The population in Sunset park tremendously.

is still growing

As Sunset Park is a low-income and

more and more dense neighborhood it has to deal with a lot of struggles and social needs which manifestate on different levels, such as economy, education, health, housing and so on. Mixed identities in Sunset Park (Authors, 2012)


Chinese New Year on 8th Avenue, Sunset Park (Authors, 2012)

Demographics New York City


Foreign born




1 214,4 km²


8. 349. 788

Median household income Citizenship


x5 x 3,2 x 1,16

50.825 51,4% Others





Latino Demographics. (Center for the Study of Brooklyn, 2012)

Community district 7 - Sunset Park





x 25

251 km²

x 17

2. 551. 964


10,1 km²

x 1,02


152. 277




55,2 %






Black Latino

Asian Black



Top 5 languages spoken at home Formosan/Taiwanese 2,2%

Others 1,3%

White 24,1%


Asian 27,8% Black 3,6%


Russian 1,4%

Chinese 5,6%



English 29,5%

Sunset Park always have been a multi etnic immigrant neigborhood. Currently a large hispanic population as well as an increasing chinese population are the dominating races. Although these two groups inhabit the same neigbourhood, they are strongly divided in to the urban tissue.


The hispanic population lives on the west side of Sunset Park, mostly between 4th and 6th avenue. 5th avenue is the major commercial street of this group. The chinese population, on the other hand settled on the east side between 7th and 9th avenue with 8 avenue as their main commercial street.

Hispanic side

Chinese side

Demographics. (Center for the Study of Brooklyn, 2012)

Hispanic & chinese population: authors, 2012

57,2% of Renters in Sunset park pays more then 30% on rent.


Owning 28%

Renting 72%

34,2% or renters in Sunset park pays more then 50% on rent. Only 3,1% of public and subsidized units available in Sunset park.


Residential units between 3th and 8th avenue from 30th until 60th street.

Housing. (Center for the Study of Brooklyn, 2012)

Residential street, (Authors, 2012)

Brownstone housing in Sunset Park(Authors,2012)

Health statistics

Health and well being is a profound issue in Sunset Park. A lack of health insurance and a polluting environment and condition of poverty are leading to poor health of the Sunset Park residents. Obesity, diabetes, asthma and heath failure are statistically higher in Sunset Park as compared to Brooklyn and New York.


Global fast food

Local vegetables

Pesticide spraying

Hospital: toxic waste

Global fast food

Local vegetables

Health statusfigures. (based on: NYC Health, 2006)

Pesticide spraying

Hospital: toxic waste

Industrial brownfields

solid waste

Illegal landfill *Combined sewage overflow

Gas turbine



Diagram health status. (NYC Health, 2006)


The initial study around education already revealed a


web of different issues inhabitants of Sunset Park have to deal with.

Education is an important aspect in the individuals, community, city and state level to achieve economical success, success in the labour market and success in life in general. For the majority of people your education level will determine your income level, your place in the class

specified only on the formal system of public and private schools but that education concerns the community as a whole. As such different layer of formal as wel informal, additional education can be explored in the educative landscape of Sunset Park.

system, your health and your future.


Furhtermore, it became clear that education can not be

lack in OUTDOOR space





How can we provide appropriat educational support on each level?

How can solving small physical problems be a catalist for problems in bigger scales?

adult education



HIGH DROPOUTS yearly state exams

unsupporting environment



culture (identity)


cutting funds on special education

lack in INDOOR space





How can trust be strengthened in organizations through education?

What is our task in this part?



ContactI Jeremy Laufer

2 3



www.nyc.gov/html/acs/ /headstart.shtml

















Granja los colibries community garden La Union 219 34th St, NY Brooklyn 11232 (between 4th and 5th ave


Contact: Jess Nizar jnizar@la-union.org (347)-460-1393


8 19


Bay ridge childcare cent 322 44th Street Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 768-5030


Sunset park children’s s 4616 4th Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-439-3323







Community Board 7 4201 4th Avenue Brooklyn , NY 11232 (718) 854-0003 communityboard7@yahoo.com


Martin Luther playground 2 Avenue, between 55 St. and 56 St Brooklyn, NY 11220

Head Starts: adult and continuing education 4222 4th avenue Brooklyn, NY11232


Lutheran medical health center 5800 3rd Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 745-1092

St. Andrews community 4917 4th Ave Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 492-9678



Sunset park Branch libr 5108 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 567-2806




7 9

Center for family life 345 43rd Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718) 788-3500


Community garden 64th street between 3th and 4th avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220


contact: John Kixmiller www.greenthumbnyc.org













www.nyc.gov/html/acs/html/child_care /headstart.shtml



Center for family life 5505 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220, United States (718) 492-3585

ContactI Jeremy Laufer



Lutheran Medical 4520 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 439-5841


Addtional education


Center for family life 345 43rd Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718) 788-3500




Head Starts: adult and c education 4222 4th avenue Brooklyn, NY11232


Lutheran Medical 4520 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 439-5841


Bay ridge childcare center 322 44th Street Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 768-5030


Sunset park children’s school 4616 4th Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-439-3323









Our lady of perpetual help 526 59th Street Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-492-9200


Turning point 5220 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 360-8100 www.tpdomi.org

Metropolitan learning institute 550 59th Street Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-492-2120 www.gettraining.org



Rainbow playground 6 Ave. Bet. 55 St. And 56 St. Brooklyn, NY 11220 www.nycgovparks.org/parks





St. Andrews community daycare 4917 4th Ave Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 492-9678


Formal education


9 1

Happy dragon of New York 5805th 7th ave Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-439-8816



10 3


4 11


Head start center 4419, 7th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 222-6323


www.nyc.gov/html/acs/html/child_care /headstart.shtml

Turning point 5220 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 360-8100


Sunset park recreation center 7th Avenue at 43rd Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718) 965-6533

Sunset park Branch library 5108 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 567-2806

contact: Lynn McEvoy www.nycgovparks.org



Sunset Park High Scho 153 35th Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718) 840-1900

I Corinne Vira 25 Principal Assistent principal I Vic



PS 24 427 38 Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718)-832-9366

Principal I Christina Fu 6 7 Formal education


Sunset Park High School 153 35th Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718) 840-1900

3 7


PS 24 427 38 Street Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718)-832-9366

PS 310 6214 4th avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 765-4630

Principal I Christina Fuentes

Principal I Yuqing Hong

IS 136 Charles O Dewey school 4004 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718)-965-3333


PS 1 The Bergen elementary School 309 47 Street Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-567-7661




Additional education

Additional education

Sunset park border

Road network Sunset park border

Road network

St. Agatha school 736 48th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-435-3137

PS 94 The henry Longfellowv 5010 6th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11220 (718) 435-6034

Principal I Muhammad Abdul Basir

Principal I Janette Caban

PS 503 The school of discovery 330 59 Street Brooklyn NY 11220 (718) 439-5962


Our Lady of Perpetual help 5902 6th avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 439-8067

PS 506 The school of journalism and technology 330 59 Street Brooklyn NY 11220 (718)-492-0087 Principal I Lisa Sarnicola

Principal I Jennifer Eus


Al Madrasa al islamay 5224 3rd Ave Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 567-3334

Principal I Muhammad 10

Principal I Bernadette Fitzgerald

Formal education Formal education

PS 169 Sunset Park 4305 7 Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718)-853-3224

PS 1 The Bergen eleme 309 47 Street Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-567-7661

Principal I Alice Rios

Principal I Jennifer Eusanio

Al Madrasa al islamay 5224 3rd Ave Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718) 567-3334


Principal I Josephine Santiago

Principal I Eric Sacler


IS 136 Charles O Dewey 4004 4th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11232 (718)-965-3333 Principal I Eric Sacler

Principal I Ruth Stanislaus

Principal I Corinne Viral Assistent principal I Victoria Antonini


PS 971 6214 4th avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220 (718)-765-2200


PS 503 The school of di 330 59 Street Brooklyn NY 11220 (718) 439-5962 Principal I Bernadette

Principal I Patricia Winters

PS 506 The school of jo 330 59 Street Brooklyn NY 11220 (718)-492-0087

Principal I Lisa Sarnico


Public infrastructure

OPEN SPACE Sunset park: 1/4 of an acre/person New york standard: 2.5 acres/Person American standards: 6-10 acres/Person

27 Greenwood cemetery (466.2 acres)

Heffernan square 0.03 acre

Nicholas Brizzi playgr. 0.54 acre Sunset Park 25.4 acre Rappaport Playgr. 1.15 acre

IS 220 playground 0.82 acre

PS 105 playground 0.56 acre PS1 playground 1.55 acre

Playground Three-Forty 1.25 a. Bush Terminal Park 17.3 acre PS506 Playgr. 1.1 acre Martin Luther playgr. 0.91 acre John Allen Payne Park 1.51 acre

64th str comm. garden

Hamilton export Brooklyn

Informal glass collection

Public Space

spaces which due to regulations where not built up. They predominantly exist of non-permeable surface and are often determined with restrictions, such as age categories, and time bounded due to school properties,

Since the starter of the industrial era Sunset park neigh-

but they serve as a welcome place and tend to be

borhood started to grow exponentially. As the neighbor-


hood began to overcrowd Sunset Park was the only open space left untouched to counter the densely urbanizing

Greenwood Cemetary

area. Now after many years it is still marked as the only

The cemetery that serves a large part of Manhattan and

green open space you can go for recreation, indoors as

Brooklyn, functions as both an oasis and a boundary for

well as outdoors. Still in terms of population density it is

the inhabitants of Sunset Park Neighborhood. Due to the

the only place mentionable in size.

former rail yard it is topographical disconnected from the neighborhood.


Other clearly smaller recreational spaces are charac-

For the illegal neighborhood dwellers the cemetary

terized by their presence near a school, or as leftover

contains an emotional disconnect since undocumented

Sunset Park with view over Manhattan (Authors, 2012)

people cannot be buried here.

Community gardens

Public Space versus open space

As a reaction against the lack of space and opportunities

Apart from the limited amount of public space, there is

in Sunset park two neighborhood groups started their

a scarce amount of unutilized space or ‘under-utilized’

own community gardens. One of them is owned by the

space that can be defined in different categories; vacant

community group that worked together with the Parsons

lots, parking space and dumping spaces. Also within

students during the course of the first phase of the

building blocks there are often spaces that are because

project. La Ganjita, the garden of La Union and the 64th

of the ownership just used as parking space.

Street Community Garden appropriated a vacant lot for community purposes. The gardens function as meeting


spaces but also for growing vegetables, for individual or

In sharp contrast with the spaces in Sunset Park neigh-

educational use.

borhood there is a large amount of open space which is defined by former industries. In the waterfront area large acres of concrete space, predominantly city owned are left abandoned after their indutrial purposes.

Brownfield at the water front (Authors, 2012)




Sewage system

New York City has a combined sewer system, a mixture of stormwater and waste water is processed and expelled at a waste water treatment plant. A combined sewer system collects both wastewater from demestic, commercial and industrial sources with runoff water from streets and buildings. The collected wastewater is then treated before it is released to streams, rivers or lakes. Problems arise when the system is overloaded after a

OPEN SPACE Sunset park: 1/4 of an acre/person New york standard: 2.5 acres/Person American standards: 6-10 acres/Person

big storm. 32

Owls head water treatment plant

Estimanted annual average sewage overflow through each outfall 2.0 billion gallons 1.0 billion gallons 100 million Each year in New York, billions of gallons of sewage and runoff overflow through 490 points, or “outfalls�, into the harbor and rivers when it rains heavily, because sewage treatment plants cannot hold the capacity. Map: Combined sewage outfalls and waste water treatment plants (Duhigg, 2009)

Waste water treatment plant

Problems arise w hen the system is overloaded after a big storm.

On a dry day: Wastew ater and street runoff collected in

After a big storm: Runoff from streets causes collector

the sew er is blocked by a partial dam in the collection pipe

to overfill. When untreated w astew ater rises above the dam

and flow s by gravity to the treatment plant.

Heffernan square 0.03 acre in collector pipe, it is discharged into the river.

Greenwood cemetery (466.2 acres)

Nicholas Brizzi playgr. 0.54 acre Sunset Park 25.4 acre Rappaport Playgr. 1.15 acre

IS 220 playground 0.82 acre

PS 105 playground 0.56 acre PS1 playground 1.55 acre

Playground Three-Forty 1.25 a. Bush Terminal Park 17.3 acre PS506 Playgr. 1.1 acre Martin Luther playgr. 0.91 acre John Allen Payne Park 1.51 acre

Source: New YorkWastewater Department ofand Environmental Protection On a dry day: street runoff collected in the

After a big storm: Runoff from streets causes collector to overfill. When untreated wastewater rises above the dam in collector pipe, it is discharged into the river.

64th str comm. garden

sewer is blocked by a partial dam in the collection pipe and flows by gravity to the treatment plant.

Rainwater drainage schemes (Duhigg, 2009)

33 Hamilton export Brooklyn

Informal glass collection


SIMS recycle Brooklyn

S. Carolina

CSO discharge Waste collecting

Sunset Park + surrouding

New York City

Firstly it is interesting to understand the past planning processes of top down policies, which have led to the current neighborhood structure. These policies addressed benefits for the greater New York, neglecting its neighborhood residents. Leading towards a distressed landscape with stigmatizing uses such as garbage transfer stations, sewage treatment plants, bus depots and fossil fuel power plants.



The waterfront development plans are currently still pursuing the trend neglecting the neighborhoods needs

In our research we investigated on the role of a divers

with project proposals such as Sunset Energy Fleet’s

amount of stakeholders, which are defined by different

proposal for a power plant at 22nd Street, instead of

power structures. Our aim is to equally give voice to each

the implementation of a public high school, which has

stakeholder individually and re-imagine which are the

currently been removed from the city’s budget.

collective needs. The city’s current interest in post-industrial waterfront neighborhoods has lead to gentrification in neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Park Slope. By reaffirming the position of industrial waterfront for Sunset Park this has been the only counter lever to the displacement trends.

Community board 7

and determine the community’s response to citywide issues or make choices on local issues.

To understand the power of the Community Board better Brooklyn’s Community Board 7 represents the neighbor-

we conducted an interview with CB7s District Manager

hoods of Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, East Windsor

Jeremy Laufer. He is currently involved in designing a new

Terrace, South Park Slope, and Greenwood Heights.

idea for the waterfront together with a local community

New York has 59 Community Boards citywide of which

group UPROSE. And has a lot of useful information for

18 in Brooklyn.

the further evolvement of our project.

Community Board 7 is a local level of City government

“Sunset Park for a long time didn’t have any elected

comprised of 50 volunteer Board Members who are

officials, together with the fact that it is a immigrant neigh-

appointed to two-year terms by the Borough President

borhood and has a low percentage of voters, resulted in

and the local City Council members. The Community

an industrial area where negative impact facilities were

Boards allow communities to have a say in local decisions

placed.” (Laufer, 2012)

They often function as a mediator between the needs of neighborhood residents and the plans of New York City for the development of the Neighborhood. But stressed that they have little to no power to change policies, they only function as advisors.

This mediating function does not always seem the best position in regards of the trust of viable neighborhood members because of their close relation to the government, and the distrust of the residents in top down policies. Jeremy Laufer (Authors, 2012)


Civil Society


An important aspect in a neighborhood as Sunset Park

BROOKLYN FOOD COALITION is a grassroots organi-

is the network of organizations that form the civil society.

zation dedicated to the vision of a just and sustainable

They form the key element between the voice of the

food system in Brooklyn. The organization is involved in

citizens and the power of the decisions makers. In the

neighborhoods in three areas: Community organizing,

US this kind of community- organizations is very present

education and public awareness, research and advocacy.

and there existence is often crucial to become change

The coalition organizes food workshops for urban

towards a more socially equal environment.

farmers, as well as being involved in national lobbying for more just food systems. The diverse actions of the


In Sunset park a strong connection between the historical

organization aim at building an inclusive, multi-racial,

needs and problems of the neighborhood, the settlement

multi-cultural alliance of residents and community-based

of new groups of immigrants and the emergence of

groups from all parts of Brooklyn, reflecting the borough’s

different community – based organizations is visible.

rich diversity.

civil society as mediator to address needs and poential for development



CENTER FOR FAMILY LIFE is the organization that

UPROSE is the oldest community group in Sunset Park

has probably the strongest connection with different

and was founded as a reaction against the environmental

programmes in collaboration with public schools withing

deteriorating and health concerns after years of polluting

Sunset park. These programes include after-school

industrial economy at the Sunset Park waterfront. Uprose

or art projects. Besides this the organization also has

organizes several programs to address issues concerning

educational programmes that concern youth and adult

the waterfront development, land use, brownfields, trans-


portation, air quality, open space, alternative energy, and environmental health. Presently they received an EPA

SUNSET PARK ALLIANCE provides education and

(Environmental Protection Agency) grant to make a BOA

services for disconnected youth to return to the classroom

(Brownfield Opportunity Area) study at the waterfront.

TURNING POINT mainly addresses the needs of adolescent boys, particularly those at risk for drug or gang related activities, expanded their services to include crisis intervention, tutoring, after school and summer programs.

Generally almost all organizations offer in a way a kind of education. A lot have educational programs that are specified on certain topics.






empower low and middle income residents in Brooklyn

PORATION is an organization that provides programs

to secure quality housing and build financial assets.

and advocacy to help business in Sunset Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

SUNSET PARK REDEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE acts as a developer but is a non-profit organization that is concerned with restoring apartment buildings and keeping rents affordable. For the moment they continue a redevelopment and acquisition mission for vacant 38

buildings throughout Brooklyn. They manage buildings, provide technical assistance and organize tenants associations.

5th AVENUE COMMITTEE Through the development of affordable housing and property management, 5th avenue committee tries to improve the living environment for inhabitants in different neighborhoods in Brooklyn.




Sunset Park is a neighborhood that is characterized by

stakeholder in providing health services in Sunset Park.

its history of migration. The vast Latin American and

They played an important role in the revitalization of

Chinese population whom are now settled in Sunset Park

the neighborhood and today you can find the Lutheran

are mostly first-generation immigrants and a major part

hospital and more Lutheran family health centers spread

of them are undocumented/illegal.

over the area of Sunset Park. ATLAS is a recently established organization and calls itself a cooperative empowerment center for immigrant youth. They offer workshops, advocacy and consultations around the rights and laws of immigrants.

LA UNION is the community organization that we have worked with during our fieldwork in Sunset Park, their main aim is to support immigrant families with the issues around their legal status. One of the programs they support is the DREAM ACT, who tries to strive for the rights of undocumented immigrants to go to college or university.





1978 1979





HISPANIC COMMUNITY Chinese Staff and Workers Association CHINESE COMMUNITY Center for Family Life

Lutheran Health Center SUNSET PARK

Sunset Park Redevelop Committee

SouthWest Brooklyn Development Coorporation 5th Avenue Committee



Children of the City SOUTH - WEST BROOKLYN Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

Turning Point



Economic decline


the neighborhood and

the industrial watefront together with

an ethnic

reversal through the arrival of a low low income hispanic community made condistions in Sunset park detoriate.


The start of revitalization through the upswing of community-based organizations that organized

strongly under the lead of Lutheran Family health centers and Uprose. A second major ethnic chinese community integrating in Sunset Park.

(sources for stakeholder analysis based on: Winnick, 1990; Brooklyn Community Board 7, 2007)



1995 1996



Sunset Park Business Improvement District

2005 2006


Adelante Alliance


La Union

Brooklyn Chinese American Association

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Just Food

Sunset Park Alliance



Brooklyn Food Coalition


Sunset park still knows as tremendiously growth with a new chinese population coming up. A trend

that made new organizations arise to fight for there rights and to nourish the awareness of the inhabitants.


migration youth


health food

labor environment

During the 60’s and 70’s Sunset park knew a period of strong decline caused by several circumstances. On the one hand, whole New York was suffering from economical trends and the upswing of cheap labor which made economies detoriate. On the other hand, more specific for Sunset Park were the closure of the American Machine and Foundry building and deactivation of the Brooklyn Army Terminal. In this period not only the economy of Sunset Park was in change but the neighborhood also knew a remarkable cultural reversal. The current mostly norwegian population began to leave Sunset Park to go to better abodes in the suburbs. The dwellings of these departed were replaced through a 42

Civil society as an alternative

mainly Puorto rican - population. A lower income- group that through deficiency in skills and language was not able to improve the situation. Besides this, the construction of the Gowanus expressway along third avenue -that cuts the neighborhood in two- was no good for the neighborhood as well. It discouraged investments in Sunset Park and a lot of people and business were displaced to go to more flourishing areas.

An important factor in the revitalization of the area are due to the efforts of the inhabitants and the commitment of them into community - based, non- profit organizations. Here the Lutheran Medical Health Center was a pioneer



to start the revitalization of the Sunset Park neighbor-

pated in the demand for public resources.

hood. The proposal for a major meatpackings distribu-

However, despite all the efforts, Sunset Park remains

tion plant in Sunset Park at the same location where

a relatively poor neighborhood that scores lower than

Lutheran medical health center was considering to build

averages in Brooklyn and where the industrial waterfront

a new hospital was the turning point for the community.

is still not used by its full potential.

In 1969 this resulted in a huge protest which lead to the

ethnicity of the neigborhood is changing again. A large

development of the first community organizations in the

chinese population is settling around eight avenue. This

neighborhood wich was called the Sunset Park rede-

huge population growth, mainly between 1990 and 2000

velopment committee and who became the principal

made problems in a more and more dense Sunset Park

instrument for urban renewal in the neighborhood. The

even increase. Even today the population of Sunset park

organization covered connections to a main part of the

is increasing tremendously. A trend that made new orga-

neighborhoods churches, local business, ethnic orga-

nizations arise to fight for there rights and to nourish the

nizations,... The role of Lutheran medical health center

awareness of the inhabitants.

Evenmore, the

in the further revitalization of Sunset Park is not to be


undervalued. They became much more then providing

It is obvious that trough looking to the

history of

health care in the area and the construction of a hospital.

these organizations a clear connection between the

They were the leading organization that was concerned

development of them and issues and problems in the

abouth the disadvanteged members of its community

neighborhood in certain periods can be made. The

and the wider interest in the neighbourhood, its potentials

presence of these community-based organizations is of

and possibilities. They were resoluted to bringe all

crucial importance for Sunset Park and its development

state, federal or city funds that were possible to there

towards a more inclusive neighbourhood. They form the


Uprose, an independent ethnic organiza-

indespinsable links between the voice of the people and

tion, was as well one of the main pioneers that started a

the decision makers. However they will not be able to

couple of years earlier to defense the hispanic population

solve everything, as history has shown, it is possible to

in Sunset Park. The community partly succeeded. In the

bring Sunset Park on the larger political agenda on the

political system Sunset Park became an indipendent

one hand, and to unite the power and the voice of the

entity within Brooklyn that was eligable for and partici-

people. Make them aware and to raise there voice.

Working with La Union



Self analysis of La Union.

LA UNION is the community organization that we have

analyzing the investigated neighborhood.

worked with during the course of our fieldwork in Sunset

The main aim of La Union is to support immigrant families

Park. They were the main source of knowledge, which

with the struggles of retrieving legal status, and the

we received of the neighborhood. The cooperation gave

concerns due to the lack of legal recognition. One of the

insights to pressing community needs and created a

programs they support is the DREAM ACT, who tries to

deeper knowledge of the urban environment.

strive for the rights of undocumented immigrants to go to

Several studies have been conducted together with the

college or university.

community group, for example a sociogram that La Union Strong relation Good relation Normal relation Weak relation

made tried to identify their function within the neighborhood (illustrated bellow) this gave new insights of how the neighborhood is perceived for the inhabitants. The same

Conflict relation People Civiel society Power

exercise is made by the Parsons and Atlantis students (right image), in order to learn about the differences of 46 Police dep.


Fire dep.

City Governm.

New School


Sara Gonzales

Dep. Education

Com. Board 7


Just Food



Barrio de Promesas

Tourning Point

Center for Family Life

Adezante Alliance

P.R. Commun.


Fellow Tenants

Sociogram of La Union.


Documented Immigr.

Jewish Commu.

Church St.Jacobs

School PS24/36

Dept. Immigr.


Mexican business owners

Undocumented Immigr.


Fire dep.


Luth. Hospital


Money Transfer



Beyond Care Coop.

Neigbors Help. Neigb.


Si Se Puede Cooperat.

Mano a Mano

The 5th Av. Commitee

Occupy Sunset Park

Chin.Workers association

Street Vendors



Felix Ortiz

Chinese Com.

Neighb. Of La Granja


Adult Students

Dominic. Com.


Department of Transportation

Chase Headquarters

Brooklyn Botanic Garden


47 Hamilton Waste Transfer Station

UPROSE Margarito Gas turbine


Jessika Granja Los Colibries

72nd Police Precinct Neighbors Helping Neighbors Piek Power Plant barges 1970

Sunset Park Rec Center

Brooklyn navy yard building 2 Bright farms Sunset park CSA

Jeremy Laufer

SIMS Recycling plant

Community Board 7 Center for Family Life Jon Kitzmiller

Lutheran Health Center P.S. 503/506: P.S. 503/506: Sanitation department waste collection/garage

Dan Barbara Jon Kitzmiller

Piek Power Plant barges 1970

La Union

Sociogram of community organizations. Owls Heads wastewater treatment plant

64th street garden Serena

Angel and his son


City-owned land Privatly-owned lots Federally-owned land

New York City and Sunset Park Waterfront development

Sunset Park is a small part of Brooklyn. This chapter of

facilities enhance the importance of Sunset Park to the

the analysis aims to frame Sunset Park in relation to rest

rest of the city.

of the city. Currently the city of New York has defined redevelopment goals of the waterfront. A number of plans have been created for Sunset Park by different 49

organisation in the city of New York. These plans reflec the importance of Sunset Park and its waterfront to the rest of New York city. The Sunset Park waterfront is now of interest as part of the larger waterfront redevelopment that is taking place in the city. The current proposed plans are aimed specificly on the industrial area and provide little relation and interest in the residential part of the neighborhood. A very significant portion of the waterfront is NYC government owned land. Due to the fact the that it is an immigrant neighborhood, a lack of official representation and available land at the waterfront, a significant amount of city infrastructure is located in sunset park. The power, waste and detention

14 South forms a vision of governmental view of Sunset Parks future (Department of City Planning, 2011)

Community Board 7 Plan 50

with greenway developed by UPROSE

Waterfront development plan. (Brooklyn Community Board 7, 2007)

The current NYC Development Plan has reaffirmed the

the communities of sunset park.

Sunset park waterfront as an industrial area. Part of the plan has been the addition of waterfront access by the

Other utopical views on the development of the waterfront

creation of the bush terminal park. In addition a greenway

only take sea rize levels into account and neglect the

(cyclingpath) provides an extra link in the citywide

specificity of the neighborhood as a working neighbor-

cyclingnetwork. An attemp was made to create links


between the waterfront and the residential part of the neighborhood. The definition of these corridors is lacking

The current development of sunset park seems to

and no initiative is taken to provide a clear relation to the

enhace the seperation between industrial and residential

opportunities that are created in the industrial area and

parts of the neighborhood. Rather then aim at a better life quality for the people in the neighborhood aims at a rapid redevelopment of the waterfront. The waterfront has the interest of the city and investors, which is lacking in the rest of the neighborhood,

The current neighborhood

plan can be seen as furthering or aiming towards gentrification. A proposal for development from the waterfront can be reversed. Having a development of the residual spaces in the city fabric to meet the needs of residents and create a more symbiotic development.

Rising Currents. (Bunge, 2012)



General concept

Combined strategies These same streets become capturing elements for water runoff to reduce combined sewage overflows and by this restoring the polluted waterways. In general we can state that in Sunset Park there is a need for a deeper more inclusive city. Therefore we propose to

Global processes and concerns are reflected back on the

new forms of production into the city, where neglected

level of the local community to tackle the disconnection

citizens can become actors within the public realm. The

from the public sphere.


The formerly thriving waterfront, which functioned as the center of public activity, has been completely disconnected from the neighborhood through the deterioration of the economic impulses. The new proposed strategies will enhance the connection between the neglected waterfront and the neighborhood. This can give an answer to the rapidly growing residential population and increasing multicultural society and their needs for jobs and dynamic public spaces for encounters and learning opportunities.

The oversized street pattern of the Sunset Park neighborhood is used as carrier of the public realm. Strategically selected streets are downgraded and remodeled as avenues for stronger public experiences and safer and greener connections towards the waterfront and within the neighborhood.





educational platforms educational platforms

clean energy production

clean energy production

composting now



industrial food production

urban agriculture




learning community2040 2040

learning community

oil production

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at io ns



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the legacy of post-industrial landscapes PRODUCTIVE POST-INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPES from global to local landscapes from global trash to local trash from global problems to local opportunities stimulating local economies from global to local economies Dynamics of a post industrial landscape Growing in Urban Landscapes Urban Agriculture as an Alternative


Towards an inclusive fabric

Growing in Urban Landscapes

Urban agriculture in essence is the production of food in an urban context. In the field urban agriculture is becoming integrated with a large number of different issues and is fuelled by alternative needs of the urban dweller. The goal of the research is to explore urban agriculture as a practice that can foster a more inclusive urban fabric. The first step is to understand the context in which urban agriculture is becoming an ever growing phenomenon. The second part of the research focuses on the practices, benefits and relationship that urban agriculture can create in the city. The research is based on the experiences in New York. In a final part the potential of urban agriculture as an alternative generator of the urban fabric is explored in the neighbourhood of Sunset Park. How can urban agriculture become a practice that is embedded in a neighborhood?



The global food system

The disconnection of food and the city

were free to occupy different activities. Civic administrator was one of the occupations and historical evidence shows that these officials were completely devoted to the organization of the surrounding agriculture lands. Experts

Food is embedded in our everyday routines. As living

even argue that it was the task of organizing agriculture

creatures we need nourishment on a stable basis to

that led to the invention of writing by Sumerians. (Steel,

sustain ourselves and to remain healthy. For most people

2008, p13)

it is relatively easy to get three square meals a day without having to concern about the growing and processing of

One of the key elements to agriculture has been land and

food. Todays’ urban dweller is only a small end part of

the question of ownership historically has shaped the

a large production gain that feeds our cities. In many

production of food. Carolyn Steel in Hugry City quotes

ways most people are only involved in a small part of

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “The first man who, having

the food chain, namely the consumption of food. Food is

enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself saying:

historically strongly linked to the urbanized society. The

‘This is mine’, and found people simple enough to believe

majority of the world now lives in urban or semi-urban

him, was the real founder of society.”.

conditions and is no longer producing its own food. The

Originally people lived of what the land provided and

urbanized population has changed how the food that

only a small fraction of land was owned by individuals.

people needed is produced. A smaller number of people

This graduately changed as land was turned in to agri-

produce food for an expanding world population. A

culture land the vast forests of Europe disappeared. With

globalised food system now supplies cities with an ever

growing populations in medieval Europe and land as a

greater diversity of food.

crucial element of power, a debate emerged in England.

The forming of cities and civilization has been histori-

John Locke and Sir Thomas Filmer represent the two

cally strongly related to the production of food. A surplus

sides of the argument. Filmer argued for the divine right

in the production of food was what first resulted in the

of Kings to own the land, as God gave the earth to Adam,

possibility for mankind to pursue different activities and

the first monarch of men, all succeeding monarchy had a

cities to form. Uruk, a Sumerian city in Mesopotamia, is

divine right to the earth. Locke reputed this argument and

a great example of one of the earliest cities where people

in his work following the rejection of Filmer’s divine right


arguments formulates thoughts about the ownership of

Midwest of America. The building of a rail line across the

land. Locke concludes that an individual can lay claim to

mountain range in 1850 finally opened up the Midwest

land through the investment of labour. It follows that if a

to the world. The stable production of food on a large

farmer tills the land he owns the land. Locke makes one

scale and the ability to transport it, led to the liberation of

note here, that this is only true if every man only takes

cities from agricultural hinterlands. The size of a city was

what he needs. The changing of land into agriculture was

no longer limited by the food production surrounding it.

the first major shift in the way mankind provided their

(Steel, 2008, p26-27)

food and the land was used. (Steel, 2008, p26-27) Grain prices plummeting lead to a depression in Europe


The theories formulated by Locke in the late 17th century

and the surplus in feed allowed for the first time the

were applied in the colonization of America. Settlers

mass production of meat in America. The food system

considered the new world endless, the liberal ideals of

globalized for a first time, massive quantities of food

Locke were applied and even included in the Decla-

where transported from America to Europe. The scale

ration of Independence through Thomas Jefferson.

of production shifted towards mass production both in

Locke’s theories were based on productive agriculture

Europe and America. The mass production of food led

and thus excluded the hunter-gatherer culture of Native

to an important shift in thinking about food and the city.

Americans. The development of agriculture in America

No longer was the question the possibility of feeding

and the industrial revolution led to the first disconnect of

the growing industrial cities, but the cost to do so. The

city and agriculture. The innovation of new farming tech-

question of price has resulted in innovation such as fertil-

niques and transportation by rail created a new freedom

izer and pesticides, which have led to great increases in

for cities. The American Midwest had been turned from

productivity. Technical innovation in farming tools and

prairie into agriculture land, a vast potential in grain

battery farming are also responsible for great increases in

production existed here, this land was however stil cut

productivity, yet one can ask questions about the ethical

off by the Appalachian mountains. In 1825 this new grain

and environmental consequences of these farming tech-

basket was connected to New York by the Erie Canal.

niques. (Steel, 2008, 31-35)

This made New York boom and showed the potential of a stronger connection between the east coast and the

The historical evolution of food and urbanization in Europe

and North America has undergone a crucial shift. From urban centers that were very connected to the production of food, an evolution took place to a global industrial agricultural complex that is disconnected from the city. The struggle to feed the urban centers has distanced the food production from the urban core. The industrial revolution has given us a highly efficient agriculture system and replaced agriculture in the city by industry. The last change in the food system has been a corporate takeover. The food system is now controlled by a handful of corporations that have taken monopolies on certain parts of the food chain and influence the practices and choices in the whole system. The often long supply chains that are controlled by corporate businesses, allow for disparities to exist and the negative side effects to be hidden.


The global food system creating disparities

The development of urban agriculture is embedded in the disparities that are created by a global, industrial and corporate controlled agriculture system. Urban agriculture can be viewed as a practice that reflects the injustice created by the global food system.

Distancing as a strategy

The distance between growing and consumption in a long linear production process is named as one of the 66

main reasons that allow for the unethical practices to be so present in the production of food. In many cases unhealthy practices are used to maximize production quantity and reduce costs. Large-scale production has fostered the use of chemicals in agriculture. The use of certain chemicals has been linked to increased risk of diseases such as Parkinson. The over-use of fertilizers pollutes water supplies and destroys ecosystems worldwide. One of the more famous examples concerning the effects of the global companies on the way food is produced, is the factory style production of chicken by Tyson. Tyson Foods supplies most of the chicken consumed in the USA. Tyson started as a middleman buying from local farmers and selling Mexican farm worker in lettuce field, California (C. O’Rear, 1972)

chickens. The relatively small company expanded and

many of these come from Mexico or other countries in

industrialised its activities. This resulted in chickens

South America. The wages they are paid, are sometimes

being raised in windowless spaces barely able to move

so little that they are unable to provide in their own live-

and continuously fed antibiotics. To maximize their profit,

lihood. More then 90% of the workers have no health

Tyson also capitalizes on its market monopoly through

insurance, although they are often performing hazardous

subcontracting to farmers, which are paid the minimum

labour. The situation goes as far as farm workers being

and have to comply with strict standards. The products

unable to afford to feed their families. The reason for this

Tyson Foods delivers are ready cut or processed meat

is that the farm workers are paid extremely low wages

products; one finds these in the large supermarkets and

and that the work is temporary; many workers only

fast food restaurants. Tyson supplies familiar household

find work for half the year. It is a paradox that the farm

brands such as McDonalds, Wal-Mart and many other

workers, who pick the food that we eat, are themselves

large food retailers. (Gottlieb and Joshi. 2010,p35-38)

unable to afford a nutritious diet. (Gottlieb and Joshi. 2010,p 13-17) (Gottlieb and Joshi.

Slavery in the field

2010,p 13-17)

The animal abuses are relatively well known and have been exposed by the media many times. However the

Globalised food politics

disparities that are created for farm workers are often

The corporate businesses that control the food system

forgotten. The farmers are being forced into contracts,

have been able to influence the policies related to food

which allow them barely to make a living. Farmers that

for a long time. As a way of economic development,

refuse to cooperate face difficulties in a food system

the United States of America have always had aggres-

controlled by large corporations. Everywhere, but espe-

sive policies supporting the export of their agricultural

cially in the USA, the agriculture system is based on

products. Companies active in national food production

the labour of cheap farm workers. Migrant workers are

have grown into large corporate businesses that dominate

exploited to the point of slavery. Seasonal farm workers

the global food market. In Food Justice, Gottlieb and

have become faceless, nameless units of production. In

Joshi point at two major factors that created the global

the USA there are over three million people employed in

flows of food and corporate control: these are the Green

agriculture. About one third of the farm workers are illegal,

Revolution and the rapid increase of export from the USA


and Europe to developing countries. The Green Revolution has influenced the nature of food production in the developing world, exporting modern techniques and the products involved such as pesticides and hybrid seeds. The American policies have made that agriculture in the whole world has industrialized, often with the excuse of raising productivity. (Gottlieb and Joshi. 2010,p 105-107)

Food and energy

In essence, food is stored energy to be consumed by people to fill their basic need for nutrition. The long supply chain and globalised food system have added another important ingredient to agriculture. The food 68

system is highly reliant on oil, to such a degree that we are investing enormous amounts of energy into the production of food. In the USA between 14-19 per cent of energy-use is consumed for food production. The use of energy has to do with both the scale of agricultural businesses as well as the distance between production and consumption. The raising of crops creates the first consumption of energy. Farmers use a range of machines to raise the productiveness of their fields. Furthermore, the size of agricultural operations require larger and more energy consuming techniques. In addition to considering the energy used by the food system, is the ability of crops to produce energy. The global need for oil puts pressure on the agriculture system; vast pieces of land are now Irrigation Fields (R. Kendrick, 2003)

changing from food production to crops for the generation of bio fuel. Crops such as sugar cane and corn are now, instead of feeding livestock for people, turned into bio fuel on extreme scales. The land allocated to corn production in the USA is constantly growing and fertile land is used for the growing of energy instead of food. (Dougherty, 2007), (Steel, 2008, p48), (Viljoen, 2005, p25), (NYC council, 2009, p6)

Access to food

As varied as the accessible food is in general in the city, this is sometimes not the case in the poorer areas of the city. Food deserts are areas of the city where there is no access to nutritious food. As supermarkets are corporate businesses that are profit driven, they often decide to quit the stores that are not generating large profits in poor areas. In addition to having a lack of supermarkets, food deserts are often characterized by having a large number of fast food restaurants. (Alkon and Agyeman, 2011, p 89)

Fastfood restaurant in Sunset Park (Authors, 2012)



Local alternative food systems

Local alternatives and urban agriculture

Alternatives to the global food system are a response to the globalisation and to the disconnect that has been created between the production of crops and the consumers of food. Mares and Pena write, “ We live in a time of neoliberal globalization and mass displacement of rural place based people who have been shoved away into what was been aptly described as a ‘Planet of Slums’ (Davis 2006). This is a world that invokes the ‘end of the local and place-based (Appadurai, 1996)” (Alkon and Agyeman, 2011, p 201)


The disparities created by the globalisation and a global food system are finding local reactions that foster a local and more sustainable city. Urban agriculture is such an alternative and is founded in local action and a collection of actions that attempt

US World War II era poster promoting Victory Gardens (Morley, 1945)

to form an alternative to the global food system that

to the community that it is embedded in it. Urban agri-

creates local disparities. The notion of urban agriculture

culture must be seen as an addition to the existing food

is rooted in environmental and social justice principles.

system that is an answer to the specific needs of the city.

One will find that there are as many motivations for prac-

Historically there have been examples of alternative ways

ticing urban agriculture as there are people engaged

of providing food in cities on a very large scale. In the

with it. The main difference between urban agriculture

USA, to counter food disparity during periods of distress,

and rural agriculture is the connection to a market of

government initiatives promoted urban food production.

consumers that is found around it and to create a benefit

The most successful examples are perhaps the Victory

Gardens during World War II: twenty million gardens

of agriculture that also foster a more inclusive society. In

produced 40 per cent of vegetables consumed during

Spain, in the village of Marinaleda, an extreme alternative

the war. During these periods, the government educated

is created to the global food system. The economics of

and assisted people in the production of food. The

the village are based on an agriculture cooperation that

Victory Gardens were key in stabilizing the national food

grows agriculture produce and a second cooperation

requirements, but apart from their food production, they

that processes the crops. These organizations are part

provided returns beyond the production of food. The US

of the municipality. The profits are used amongst them

government found that there were social and psycholog-

to create a supportive system in the village. The land

ical benefits for people involved in the gardens. (Nordahl,

that is now owned by the municipal co-ops, was previ-

2009, p17-18)

ously owned by the local Duke and attained only after a long legal struggle with the national government. The

Even today one can find examples of alternative forms


local workers and villagers are now the owners of the

land around their village. The profits are used to provide

is sourced from a number of upstate farms in Schoharie

social services and affordable housing for the village.

County, to neighbourhood organizations in the Bronx and

The process of budgeting in the community happens

Harlem. The Corbin Hill Farm Share started as a project,

in open council meetings, in which every member of

which wished to revive a farm and sell the products

the community has a direct vote. Houses in Marialeda

directly in New York City. The initial demand of produce

cost far less then the average houses in Spain. New

far exceeded the production capacity of the starting farm

residents are however required to work for a long period

and so a sourcing from nearby family-owned farms was

at the construction of the town’s houses. To deter people

used to meet the demand. The company’s activity has

from taking advantage of this alternative system, there is no ownership of housing. It were the exploited agriculture workers of the village that formed the basis for this alternative model of a community. Although this example is extreme and rather difficult to replicate in a more urbanized context, it illustrates how agriculture


organized around a community can be the basis for a more inclusive city. (Terzake, 2012), (Gottlieb and Alkon, 2010, p18)

In a more urban setting like New York, examples of local initiatives can be found as well. The Corbin Hill Road Farm project is one such attempt of creating food justice by creating an alternative to the global supply chain of

Principles of Corbin Hill Farm (The Greenhorns, 2011)

food. The Corbin Hill Road Farm is a farm share initiative

to be seen as much broader then producing and selling

which aims at linking local New York farms to neighbour-

food; it has the aim of bringing food security and aims

hoods in the city that have a lack of access to healthy

at increasing the health of the target communities they


work with. In effect, the company brings together three

The initiative is set up as a for profit organization, produce

stakeholders of the food business and creates a unique

Farm workers in Marinaleda (Laura Leon, 2012)

relationship, from which benefits all parties involved. The

of food production by a small number of companies

first group is the neighbourhood partners that are used

is the case.

as distribution points, produce provided is cheaper and

tion of chickens in the USA, while Monsanto has an

of a wider variety then available in the community. This

enormous hold on the growth of crops by the distribution

has both economic and health benefits for the neigh-

of patented seeds. Corbin Hill creates an alternative to

bourhoods involved. The second group are the farmers.

corporate controlled agriculture and provides benefits for

Through the system of farm share, they get financial

all partners involved. Reducing the gap between produc-

stability and an economic future. Their incomes are

tion and consumption could be a solution to the creating

no longer depended on price fluctuations in the global

of new relations between urban and rural. (Gottlieb and

market and as a consequence the farmers can plan a

Joshi, 2010, p35) ,(Alkon and Agyeman, 2011, p315),

stable development of their business. The last group is

(NYC council, 2009, p2)

Tyson effectively controls the produc-

the investors, who were able to invest in social entrepre-


neurial enterprises, contributing to their communities,

Urban agriculture itself is more focused on the actual

while still getting a return on their investment. (Cohen, N.,

production of food in the city. Urban agriculture can

& Derryck, D., 2011)

become a driver of sustainable development for the ever-

The Corbin Hill Farm Share project is an example of the

growing urbanized territories. In the global south, food

social nature that food can play in urban neighbour-

security becomes an important issue when considering

hoods. Healthy food is key to a healthy lifestyle, although

urban agriculture. Urban food security can be seen as

an image exists of abundance in large cities, often good

the requirement and right to have access to sufficient and

food is expensive and rather difficult to obtain. Another

nutritious food to sustain a healthy life. In some contexts

element that Corbin Hill addresses is the disappearance

the issue is not so much about providing the quantity of

of small family owned farms. Smaller farms are gradually

food, but securing the accessibility of food. Urban agri-

disappearing and getting replaced by larger corporate

culture is often a way for people to become more self-

controlled farms. The distance of farms to city cores also

sufficient and gain a level of food security.

grows as urbanization spreads. In New York State the population has been steadily growing while the number

Urban agriculture is a practice that can be temporary but

of farmers has been reducing. An ever-greater control

permanent urban agriculture in Africa provides sustain-

ability and resilience against disaster. In most cases the

The benefits of urban agriculture.

reason for Urban Agriculture is not a temporary reason, but rather based on more permanent motivations.

In her research on urban agriculture in the Townships of Cape Town, Shirley Dunn summarizes the motivations for

As varied as the reasons for urban agriculture there is a

urban agriculture as:

great range of possible benefits that Urban Agriculture

• Occupation – keeping busy during the day

can bring to the city. These benefits manifest themselves

• Love of farming and family culture of farming

in different ways as every project is unique.

• Exercise and health • Interacting with others and sharing problems

Social benefits

• Improving the community

The social benefits of urban agriculture are best perceived

(Dunn, 2008, p3)

in the poorer neighbourhoods of the city. In these parts of a city one can often find groups striving for social justice that turn to agriculture as a tool for negating disparities. Community development can be seen as one of the important benefits in people’s quality of life. Often it provides a space for productive relaxation and interaction that would other wise be inaccessible. Often urban agriculture is a reaction to neglected pieces of land, the transformation of this land into a positive asset for the community fosters a feeling of achievement and positivism in a community.

Strange as it may sound, community gardens can even play a role in crime rates. In neighbourhoods with high crime rates community gardens have been created to


provide an alternative to drug use and criminality. Often

of communities and organisations whose leaders have

young people end up on the streets, because of a lack of

felt marginalized by white-dominated organisations and

occupation and no family structure.

communities” (Alkon and Agyeman, 2011, p159) The food justice movement and urban agriculture projects

Urban food production can play a major role in reducing

which often carry the same ideology; are in some cases

discrimination. Although urban agriculture is often seen

conscious attempts to reduce racial discrimination.

as a middleclass activity; there are many great examples

(Viljoen, 2005, p57)

of urban agriculture being used to empower people and


counteracting discrimination. Gender, race and class

Economical benefits

discrimination is present in cities all over the world.

One of the things that can be seen as a clear advantage

Food production can be a way to express an identity;

of urban agriculture is that it focuses itself on the local

this could be through the growing of culturally significant

needs. It allows goods that might otherwise be poorly

crops. In an interview with an Mexican immigrant in New

accessible to people to become accessible.

York, Margarito stated “I really like this garden, we grow

element of this is food security, for some people nutritious

food here, it reminds me of Mexico where my grandpar-

might be unaffordable and urban agriculture provides a

ents used to have such a garden when I was young.” In

solution to obtaining a sufficient amount of food. A large

the garden in Sunset Park, a part Mexican, part Chinese

part of the economical benefit lies in the reduction of

neighbourhood in New York he had found something

costs of society that is creating by other benefits of urban

of his own country and a space where he could be


A large

free in spite of being an illegal resident. (Interview with Margarito, 12-04-2012)

The focus of urban agriculture is also to stimulate the local economy. Urban farms provide jobs and skill training to

“Often led by people of colour, food justice organisations

local residents. In many cases the urban agriculture is

see dismantling racism as part of food security. By taking

linked to alternative forms of distribution, which often

an explicitly racial approach, the food justice moves

include systems where the cost is relative to income.

away from the colour-blind perspective … The food

In this urban agriculture provides a system that creates

justice approach aligns itself directly with the interest

viable local businesses and provides more socially just

systems. As highlighted in the case study of the Corbin

One of the Township farmers interviewed by Dunn

Hill farm earlier there is a level of social inclusion involved

describes the health benefits as such

linked to the economical benefits of urban agriculture.

“If I’m at home and I’m not feeling well, I decide to come

In her research on the social benefits of urban agricul-

to the garden. That’s where I get the exercise, then I can

ture Dunn finds that it is fascinating that all of the people

feel right. Ever since I started a garden, I don’t have a

she interviewed give away produce to people in their

problem with my life. I even encourage my community,

community on a regular basis. The products often are

saying that if they feel they are not well, they should

given to neighbours or family, but also to those who have

come to the garden. That’s where they will get well.”

the greatest need for them such as elderly and needy

(Dunn, 2008, p6),(Viljoen, 2005, p59-61)

children. (Dunn, 2008, p3),(Viljoen, 2005, p57-59)

Health benefits

Environmental benefits

Spaces of urban food production are often valuable green

One of the benefits of urban agriculture is that it returns

spaces. These green spaces can be ecologically valuable

knowledge about food to the city. In many cases the

step stones for urban fauna and flora. Green space in the

growing of food educates people about the seasonality

city is often linked to dealing with issues of permeable

and the origin of products. Knowledge about the variety

surfaces for dealing with water issues.

and production process can foster a healthier and more nutritious diet.

Another environmental aspect of urban food production is the ability to deal with waste in a different way. Often

Urban agriculture is an outdoor activity that requires

urban agriculture projects include the local collecting and

physical labour, which can be perceived as good for the

composting of organic materials. The local production

health. On the other hand there are also mental health

of food reduces the need for transport of goods, thus

benefits that come from actively participating in outdoor

reducing the need for energy involved in providing the

activities. In the hearth of Detroit city there is even a

food. In addition the need for packaging is reduced as

farming project that is linked to a recovery centre for

well. An increased environmental awareness is also one

homeless and alcoholics; here an urban farm is used as

of the benefits promoted by the growing of one’s own

a rehabilitation tool.

food. (Webb, 1998)



Manifestations of Urban Agriculture


Urban agriculture in New York (Urban Design Lab, 2011)

Urban agriculture in New York

production. The right crops and techniques could produce a significant amount of food and provide economically viable options.


The potential of urban food production is questionable,

New York has a range of existing productive spaces that

it will never be possible for cities to be self sufficient in

provide good examples of the benefits and potential of

their food production. Urban centers will always depend

productive urban spaces. In the city there are over a

on rural areas that produce food.

A city as densely

thousand community gardens and around 30 farming

populated as New York is therefore an interesting case to

projects that all produce food. The quantity that is

highlight what the potentials of food production in cities

produced by these spaces is very hard to determine,

could be. A recent study by the design lab of Columbia

there contribution to the city nonetheless hard to deny. A

University identified nearly 5000 acres of vacant land that

number of cases have been chosen because they illus-

has potential for farming. In New York urban agriculture

trate the links and benefits possible.

is a hot topic and as in many American cities there is a renewed interest in food production. The study states: “Urban agriculture is undergoing a renaissance due to a confluence of factors. Most importantly, it lies at the nexus of a variety of issues which are seen as critical to the ongoing sustainability and livability of our urban environments: public health, healthy food access, green space, air and water quality, economic development, and community engagement.� (Urban Designlab,2011)

The spaces identified for urban agriculture range from vacant land, both publicly and privately owned, to rooftops, which have the potential of supporting food


(Peters et al., 2008. ) (New York City Department of City Planning. 2012) (Census Bureau Current Estimates Program. 2010)

Brooklyn Grange Commercial Rooftop Farm Brooklyn Grange is named as one the largest rooftop farms in the world, 40,000 square feet of soil based urban agriculture. The farm is located in Queens on top of an office building, formerly an industrial building. Brooklyn Grange leases the rooftop for a period of ten years, the enterprise had their first growing season in 2010.

Analysis The project has a range of environmental benefits in addition to the greening of the city. The project creates a year round vegetation with winter planting and in the rest 82

of the year a diversity of plants is allowed to flourish. An interesting component of the garden is a side project of bee keeping. An active raising and promoting of bees is crucial for the pollination of plants in the city. One of the clear benefits of a rooftop farm is the retention of rain water, a part solution to the problems of the outdated sewer system in New York. Brooklyn Grange has managed to cover its operating costs in their first year of business. One of the reasons for its success could be the diversity of its activities and the direct supplying of consumers. The farm supplies a range of high-end produce directly to restaurants and has a CSA distribution to the surrounding neighborhood. The cooperation with restaurants extends into the Brooklyn Grange (Authors, 2012)

garden being rented as an event space. Another part of

could potentially support the weight of a farm. The most

the success can be found in the internship program, 10

crucial element with a rooftop farm on a commercial

students work on the farm during the summer and learn

building is the connection to the surrounding neighbor-

urban farming skills.

hood. It seems that like any urban agriculture there is a

Although providing the farm with extra help when labour

need to involve the city in the farm. Spatially and archi-

is needed most, the educating of young students is a

tecturally rooftop farms are interesting as they could

crucial contribution of the farm to the city. The knowledge

enhance the performance of a building and turn an

of urban agriculture is very limited in a city as New York

otherwise often ignored space into an asset.

and spreading of knowhow can be seen as an important task. In addition the farm gives children from local schools tours, aimed at teaching kids how food grows.

Conclusion Rooftop Farms have a great potential, old industrial


buildings have a large footprint and structures, which

Aerial view farm (Bing maps, 2012)

Red Hook Community Farm and Added Value (farm as community organization) Added Value describes itself as a non-profit organization promoting the sustainable development of Red Hook by nurturing a new generation of young leaders. A socially oriented farming project is used to empower the local youth of Red Hook. The project began in 2000 as a reaction against the lack of educational opportunities for youth in Red Hook.

Analysis Red Hook is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is slightly cut off from the metro system. This has resulted in an 84

area, which besides a lot of empty spaces, also has a large number of green and public spaces. The farm however provides an alternative space that is safe for the youth of the neighborhood. The farm provides a crucial access to healthy food in the neighborhood. In the time the ten years they have been operating the farm has produced food, which has been sold, donated and consumed locally. Even more powerful then the revenue that is generated, is the link that the Red Hook Community farm forms between farmers and local businesses and people. Through several projects such as a farmers market, a CSA and restaurant partnerships the farm has brought both health and economic prosperity to the Red Hook neighborhood. Red Hook Community Farm (Authors, 2012)

The farm is an educational space as much as a productive space. Workshops are organized for more then a thousand students annually and continuous educational programs are provided for elementary school children. In addition to the educational values that are bestowed, the farm works with a large number of volunteers. These volunteers donate their time to the farm, but also partici-

Aerial view farm (Bing maps, 2012)

pate in neighborhood improvement. Conclusion The Red Hook Community Farm illustrates the empowerment and neighborhood development potential a productive space can have. By getting children involved in farming they are able to learn about health and food justice. The knowledge that is gained, gives the opportunity to people to be active in their neighborhood.

Youth Farming (Added Value, 2012)


Urban Meadow (community garden linked to CSA) Urban meadow is community garden located in Red Hook on the corner of one of the blocks near the harbor waterfront.

Analysis Urban Meadow provides a unique space in the neighborhood. A large part of the space is a grass field, only a small portion of the garden is productive space, hence the name of the community garden. The garden functions as a CSA distribution point, this provides members and participants with an additional 86

amount of produce on top of those that are produced in the garden. This gives the residents access to cheaper produce. The environmental and economical benefits are that Urban Meadows provides to the neighborhood are limited, the greater its power as a social space. Parks in the neighborhood surrounding the community garden are all hard surfaces. The garden is the only semi-public space with a permeable surface. In weekends the garden is a pole of activity with people gardening, having barbecues and kids playing. The garden is also the location of the neighborhood festival, the Red Hook Jazz Festival. A free festival that has been organized for the past five years and features upcoming Jazz musicians in Urban Meadow (authors, 2012)

a two day festival.

Conclusion The space that a community garden provides is neither public, nor private. Urban Meadow shows that these spaces often have the potential of hosting activities far more divers then those related to urban agriculture. Productive spaces are potential alternatives to parks and streets, spaces where activities that are not allowed in the official public realm can take place and are thus an important infrastructure for a community.

87 Musician at Red Hook Festival (Brian Harkin, 2012)

Aerial view graden (Bing maps, 2012)

Roberta’s garden (urban garden/farm with restaurant) Roberta’s is a popular restaurant in Bushwick. A few years ago, the owner decided to start growing vegetables on containers and is planters in the back of the restaurant. Roberta’s is an interesting case as it can be seen as an effect or instigator of the change that is happening in Bushwick on the edge of Williamsburg. The neighborhood has been slowly changing from industrial warehouses to lofts and now is a mix of industry and young hipsters. (Brooklyn, New York)

Analysis 88

The environmental component of this small space is rather limited. Economically having a garden linked to a restaurant makes sense, some products are very expensive or hard to source. The growing of specific products makes economically sense. Furthermore, working with unique products gives a restaurant an edge on the competition. The way productive space could be viable in areas where food is readily accessible, is by promoting the uniqueness of the product and marketing this to a public which is prepared trying alternatives. One of the interesting things about Roberta’s is that it hosts a radio studio. The heritage network is a internet radio that is themed around food, in this way knowledge Roberta’s farm (www.robertasgrows.com, 2012)

Aerial view farm (Bing maps, 2012)

Roberta’s farm (www.robertasgrows.com, 2012)

and information surrounding food and agriculture is spread in New York city. An intern program in the garden similar to that of Brooklyn Grange both provides free labour as well as spreading knowledge.

Conclusion Chefs are always looking for fresh and unique products. In cities most restaurants rely on suppliers. The hands on approach of Roberta’s, supplementing the normal acquisition of food, is interesting and provides benefits given the visitors of the restaurant. When considering urban agriculture it is important to find an embedded need in the functions a space is linked to. In this way even small residual spaces can become an asset in a network of urban food production. Restaurant party at farm (www.robertasgrows.com, 2012)


Georgia’s Place (Seed to Feed Rooftop Farm)

limited. The greening of the roof can be seen as the main

Georgia’s Place is permanent supportive housing for

as New York every piece of green space can be seen as

formerly homeless, mentally ill adults. A farm is located


environmental contribution of the farm. In a city as dense

on top of the complex located in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. A rooftop farm is linked

The Farm has a benefit for the supportive housing as a

here to the supportive housing.

space that is used for activities with residents. In addition to the benefit that the farm gives to Georgia’s Place, the



housing complex also provides a space for a local CSA.

The environmental benefits of the space can be seen as

The Crown Heights farm share uses Georgia’s place as a

Aerial view graden (Bing maps, 2012)

housing and the surrounding city. The produce produced in the rooftop farm is used to create healthy meals for the Resident gardening (David Watts, 2010)


distribution point for the vegetables that are delivered by Sang Lee Farms.

Conclusion Georgia’s place illustrates the benefits that agriculture

The rooftop farm is used to teach the residents of

can have to health. In addition it is an example of a space

Georgia’s place the art of food cultivation - from seed to

that is linked to a private institution. Gardens are often

harvest. The rooftop farm is a link between the supportive

based on volunteer work by the community, but private organizations such as healthcare facilities could benefit greatly from having a productive space.

Georgia’s place (seedstofeedrooftopfarm.tumblr.com, 2012)



Urban agriculture in Sunset Park

As in the rest New York urban agriculture is found in a number of different spaces. There are two community gardens in Sunset Park and one urban rooftop farm. The two community gardens have been around for a while and are thriving public spaces.

The Navy Yard rooftop farm has only been active since the end of spring in 2012. The farm is having its first growing season and based on the limited information available appears to be prospering. The capital for the construction of the greenroof was attained by a green infrastructure subsidy provided by the city of New York. The space is leased for a 10 year period and provides an extra income for the owner of the building.

The amount of urban agriculture projects is limited, working with the urban gardens in sunset park one can clearly see the enthusiasm and drive that the members bring to gardens and the neighborhood.

Navy Yard Farm (Brooklyn Grange, 2012)



La Granja Los Colibries (garden linked to a community organization) Started in 2010 La Granja Los Colibries is a small community garden in Sunset Park Brooklyn. The space was started by the youth group of La Union, a neighborhood organization dealing with Social Justice. La Union members wished to have a space where they could Aerial view graden (Bing maps, 2012)

educate and be educated about food justice and the effects in their neighborhood, while making a physical



Although community gardens are often rather exclusive, most gardens are gated for security reasons. A


community garden is an interactive space where both

Since the plot of the garden was previously a vacant lot

active members and occasional visitors come together.

used by drug dealers and gangs, the transformation of

Food being intertwined in our daily life a community

the garden into a community garden is significant. The

garden is an interesting space for organization that

effect of the garden spreads beyond the plot itself, a

operate in a neighborhood.

transformation of the backyards surrounding the plot has taken place. The community garden provides healthy organically grown vegetables and eggs to the members, these produce would otherwise not be affordable. Neighborhood organizations bring together people with similar necessities or visions, in the case of La Union it unites Mexicans around issues of social justice and immigration. The community garden provides a space where the organization reaches out to the entire neighborhood.



64th street community garden The 64th street community garden was created in 1999 and has since been a flourishing space. It is located on a plot of land owned by the Transportation department along the Gowanus Expressway. The garden is located in Sunset Park, an immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The garden is a sizeable plot between the

Aerial view graden (Bing maps, 2012)

remainder of a block and the expressway, a leftover

A number of beds in the garden are reserved for school


children, kids spend time in the garden with the after-


school program of local school PS602/604. In half an street community

hour sessions students come to the garden guided by a

garden can be described as the transformation of a

John who works for the Center for Family Life and get an

polluted space into a productive garden. The plot was

experience of learning about plants and the growing of

used as a dump for car wrecks and a range of garbage.

food. In addition to the afterschool program the beacon

The garden now has a variety of vegetables grown in

program funds local youth to work in the garden and

garden beds. Apart from this the garden has a variety of

learn about issues of food justice and food growing.

trees, bushes and flowers, which contribute to the biodi-

The garden members are mostly locals living in close

versity of the city. This is particularly important if one

proximity, through the working with children a great

considers the limited green and public spaces and the

diversity of children from the wider neighborhood are

pollution in Sunset Park.

involved in the garden space. A safe place where activi-

The environmental benefit of 64


ties are provided can be seen as crucial in Sunset Park, The garden works on a non-for-profit basis, the garden

the neighborhood has greatly suffered of gang violence

doesn’t provide any economic benefit, except for the

and has high drop-out rates in schools.

vegetables that the members are able to grow. Some funding has been acquired by the garden, but most expenses are covered by garden members.


Conclusion A community garden linked to extra curricular activities with local schoolchildren creates a volunteer based space, which greatly contributes the surrounding city. The combination of an afterschool program and a community garden makes for a space that is very much embedded in the neighborhood and contributes mostly in social factors.


Potential spaces for urban agriculture in Sunset Park


Alternative food supply for sunset park

shorter. In the current food system only nineteen cents from every dollar spent go to the farmer. Urban agriculture reduces the cost of transportation, packaging and the overhead costs. As a result farmers receive 35.5 cents


The different case studies illustrate the great diversity in

for every dollar spent on food. Additionally urban farming

spaces of urban agriculture. There are two main types of

using local labour and distributing produce locally would

urban agriculture: the first is urban farms and the second

allow for 82.5 cents of every dollar spent to stay in the

are community gardens. Urban agriculture is a viable

community. The most benefits are realized when urban

economic activity because it manages to reduce some

farming and gardening are integrated. In this case we

of the costs embedded in the corporate food system. By

have to ask where we can position urban farming and

producing food locally the supply chain gets significantly

community gardens.




Pa cka Tra gin nsp g ort atio En n erg y Ad Prof ver its De tisin pre ci g



Farm value

atio n Re n t (n t R Bu ep et) sin e ai Othss Ta rs er c xes ost s

current food system

1 $ spent going to the community

urban farming feeding community


Farm value 35,5¢

Value local labour 38¢ & 9¢

value staying in community 82,5



The food dollar (image based on US departmentof agriculture , 2012)


Rooftop farms total surface: 201.430 sq m Yield per sqm: 5.38 lb

Yield Rooftop farms harvest: 1.084.087 Lb revenue: 1.415.748 $

Potential Rooftop (authors, 2012)

tion Inte Re n r R est (n t sin epa et) e i Othss Ta rs er c xes ost s

Feeding people fresh vegetables for 7016 people

Livelihood for people 33 jobs on farm for local residents 8 jobs in local businesses


Pa cka Tra gin nsp g ort atio En n erg y Ad Prof ver its t De isin pre cia g



Farm value


current food system

1 $ spent going to the community


537.984 $


Value local labour 38¢

value staying in community 82,5


& 9¢


Value outsourced labour 127.417 $

Re pa ver irs tisi ng En erg y

Farm value

Lab our

Value labour local workers


urban farming feeding community

502.590 $

cka Tra ging nsp or Pro t Far f m v its alu e

Farm value

the potential of rooftop farms (image based on US departmentof agriculture , 2012)



Vacant land holds a great potential for urban food production. As earlier illustrated the vacant land in New York is significant. The study for the Centre for Research in Brooklyn has revealed spread out vacant plots in the fabric of Sunset Park. Many of these plots are barren and provide little to the surrounding residents or businesses.

Vacant plot (authors, 2012)

A significant number of this land is found within residential blocks and holds the potential to be community gardens. Communal green spaces could be created within the building blocks to produce fresh vegetables and fruit for the residents around the plot.


Vacant plot (authors, 2012)

Vacant plot used as carparking (authors, 2012)


The brownfield sites form the biggest potential land for urban agriculture in Sunset Park. Although the waterfront was once a thriving industrial area it has been in decline for some years now. The industrial land still holds a significant value for economic activities, but urban agriculture could be integrated in the redevelopment of these

Brownfield site 50th street (authors, 2012)

sites. The new industries that are being located in Sunset Park might not require the extensive infrastructure and immense plots that are now found at the waterfront. On the edges of the industry sites residual spaces can be found. These have a green character yet are inaccessible


and serve no purpose. Some parts of the waterfront are vulnerable to flooding, in these areas urban farming could provide an alternative use of the land. Axis site (authors, 2012)

Bush Terminal (authors, 2012)


The street infrastructure in Sunset Park, as in many parts of New York, is organised in a very strong grid. The avenues have the commercial functions and provide the connections within the city. The streets are residential

street profile with extended front gardens

and only allow unidirectional traffic. One could argue that the street infrastructure is oversized as New york has a very extensive public transport network. All the streets have double lanes even though they are unidirectional and parking space is provided at both sides of the street. The sections illustrate the potential of reducing the car oriented street sections. By reducing the amount of

green buffer on street edge


lanes and parking, green and pedestrian spaces could enrich the urban fabric. The avenues in Sunset Park each provide a different potential.

street with wide pedestrian zone

street with wide pedestrian zone

1st Av

2nd Av

3rd AV


4th Av

6th Av

7th Av

8th Av

First Avenue (authors, 2012)

Second Avenue (authors, 2012)


Third Avenue (authors, 2012)

Fourth Avenue (authors, 2012)

The bus on Fifth Avenue (authors, 2012)

Seventh Avenue (authors, 2012)

Total potential of Urban agriculture in Sunset Park

research available suggests that community gardens can yield about 1.2 pounds per square feet (12.9 pounds per square meter). In practice, urban farms such as Brooklyn Grange aim for a yield of 0.5 pounds per square feet (5.4 pounds per square meter).


To consider the total potential of urban agriculture,

The average person in the United States consumes about

one should consider that the potential for urban food

154.5 pounds of fresh vegetables and 103.3 pound of

production lies mostly in the growing of vegetables. This

fresh fruit per year. Considering that some fruit and vege-

is reflected in the current practices of urban farming and

tables are more efficiently grown in warmer regions or are

gardening, where most productive spaces focus on the

less suited to be produced in the city, the need for fresh

production of vegetables. In some cases one can find

fruit and vegetables of one person is about 258 pounds

some poultry, in urban settings although this can provide

per year.

some noise and sent hindrance. In many cases the choice

If the rooftops, vacant plots, street infrastructure and

for growing vegetables also comes from lack of fresh

brownfields were to be turned into productive land, urban

and qualitative produce available at reasonable prices.

agriculture could produce a yield in Sunset park that

There is fairly little information available on the amount

provides fresh fruit and vegetables for 12,900 persons.

of produce urban gardening can provide. The limited

fresh vegetables 154.5 lb




fresh vegetables and fruit

328,5 lb processed produce

fresh vegetables and fruit (excluding patatoes and citrus)

257,8 lb fresh fruit 103,3 lb

PRODUCE per CAPITA source: Center for Family Life, “Brooklyn Neighborhood Reports 2012: Community District 7”

Rooftops to farms total surface: 201.430 sq m Yield per sq m: 5.4 lb 100% of rooftops = 1.084.087 lb Vacant land to community gardens total surface: 14.404 sq m Yield per sq m: 12.9 lb

100% of vacant land = 185.811 lb 5% of brownfields= 252.375 lb 10 % of streets = 1.805.669 lb

Brown fields to urban farm total surface: 937.859 sq m Yield per sq m: 5.4 lb

Total potential yield: 3.327.944 lb Fresh produce for

SUNSET PARK yield Street to community gardens total surface: 1.399.744 sq m Yield per sq m: 12.9 lb

113 source: Center for Family Life, “Brooklyn Neighborhood Reports 2012: Community District 7”


Urban agriculture creating inclusive spaces

goal will be reflected in every ptoductive space. Urban agriculture is a practice that seems to be able to embed itself in the residue or underused spaces and as each The design focusses itself on the itegration of agricul-

benefit has a different character so will the levels of

ture in four types of spaces. The four spaces have been

contribution to each goal. Green infrastructure develop-

derived from the analysis of potential land: vacant plots,

ment for the runoff of water will be more present when

brownfields, rooftops and street infrastructure. The trans-

considering the rooftop farms. While community gardens

formation of these spaces into productive units has the

created on vacant lots will manifest themselfs more as

aim of creating an environment with more opportunities

community spaces and giving access to healthy food.

for the local redidents of Sunset Park. The development of the different productive spaces aim s at the four major contributions described below. To a certain degree each







Bush Terminal rooftop farms

residents in Sunset Park. In addition to the transformation of rooftops, the urban farms could provide an alternative for the underutilised space surrounding the industrial warehouses. The trans-

The Bush terminal buildings hold a true potential for

formation of the spaces around the warehouse creates a

urban rooftop farming. The buildings are large industrial

connection between the neighborhood and the rooftop

warehouses with big roof surfaces and strong solid struc-

farms, integrating food production in the urban fabric of

tures. As is shown by other examples of rooftop farming,

Sunset Park. The rooftop farms are valuable educational

there are government incentives to create rooftop

spaces that allow the youth of Sunset Park to experience

farms to reduce rainwater run off. The rooftop farms

the growing of produce.

add economic value to the buildings at the waterfront, while potentially creating jobs for low skilled immigrant




A new public space

Urban agriculture is a practice that can create spaces for human interaction. In Sunset Park the street infrastructure reduction combined with the vacant lots can be fostered by the implementation of urban agriculture. Urban agriculture can stimulate a first transformation, which eventually could lead to the integration of rainwater runoff and a stronger pedestrian network. Urban gardening can be a kick-start activity that eventually draws people into street instead of cars. One of the biggest continuing spaces transformed in the proposal is 3rd avenue, which could be transformed into a connector between the waterfront and the residential part of Sunset Park. Additionally, a network of softer spaces in between the residential fabric could provide interaction space for the growing population of Sunset Park, who often have very limited outdoor and living space.





From brownfield to green infrastructure

TThe waterfront site integrates urban agriculture in a

water retention

system of rainwater runoff canals and a dyke to prevent the site from flooding. The site acts as the distribution for the axis car rental company. The site is a huge asphalt plane with a vast number of cars stored on the premises. A new recycling plant is being installed on the edge of the site and a railway line is being reinstated as a connection for both axis and the recycling plant to the city.

urban agriculture

The site is located in the lowest part of the Sunset Park waterfront and is most vulnerable to flooding. Urban


agriculture is integrated in the site as part of the water management. Farming could take place on the edges of the drainage canals and retention lakes, as well as the dykes. Also, it could provide in the maintenance of the new water infrastructure in return for being able to grow crops on the edges of it.

Axis site and dyke




Urban agriculture an alternative production

using food production together with bicycle networks, changing public space and addressing water problematics urban agriculture addresses the needs of people and provides an alternative solution for the production of Urban food production is an emerging practice, which

a more resilient and inclusive city.

is aimed at countering the inequalities in the modern city. The global food system creates local disparities and urban food production offers possible solutions. There are environmental, economical and social benefits to be gained from productive spaces in the city. A diverse range of productive spaces could benefit the city in a variety of ways. Urban agriculture provides the possibility to generate a positive change in areas neglected by traditional development. There is a potential of a more rich urban fabric, if we can integrate urban food production into spaces and relate it to other urban problematics. The proposal has explored the possibilities of residual urban spaces, such as large rooftops, brownfield sites, vacant plots and oversized street infrastructure, as spaces were urban agriculture can be embedded. Urban agriculture is a practice that is able to take left over spaces and turns them into valuable community spaces.

By occupying the residual and abandoned spaces urban agriculture has the potential of producing more then vegetables, it starts structuring the city fabric. Urban agriculture can transform individual spaces, however by



the legacy of post-industrial landscapes PRODUCTIVE POST-INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPES from global to local landscapes from global trash to local trash from global problems to local opportunities stimulating local economies from global to local economies Dynamics of a post industrial landscape WASTE(d)LAND Dynamics of New Social Economies



Historical Industrial Landscapes Introduction

The waterfront in 1989 a thriving waterfront (Winnick 1990)


During the booming economy of the mid-90s, increasing

the lack of other jobs within the area, has brought the

rental costs pushed garment factories more to the city

borough to get into deeper decline and impoverishment

edges and out of the Midtown garment district and (the

(Winnick 1990 p.77-82). Nowadays the neighborhood is

once comparably cheaper) Manhattan Chinatown. As

still an attractive living place for current waves of legal

a consequent, these factories began to get settled in

and illegal immigrants to the city.

Sunset Park where first and foremost the price of land


was cheaper and secondly they could have direct access

Decades ago, industrial growth brought reputation of

to the water for shipment of their goods and cargos and

economic development for the neighborhood, but along

finally the majority of the employees of the factories

with industrial development came a huge environmental

were residing in Sunset Park (Winnick 1990 p.77-82).

crisis for the entire New York city the environmental

At its peak, 300 garment factories provided occupation

impacts were evidently more severe for the inhabitants

for the local immigrant population. The area around

of the industrial harbor area (Sze, 2007). Nowadays,

the waterfront was known for its employees within the

industrial legacies have left their marks on the surrounding

industrial area (Brooklyn Community Board 7, 2007).

environment with increased levels of contaminants in

Due to the backdrop of the garment industry and the

the air, soil, sediments and aquatic systems causing

high costs to maintain manufacturing industries there has

environmental degradation and health problems.

been a decline in job opportunities, resulting in scarcity of jobs and making employees vulnerable and dependent

Recognizing these environmental burdens necessitate

to their current employers.

looking for more transformative projects and at the same time community based solutions to reflect local

Although this backdrop of the industries, during the

inhabitants’ demands. Moreover the industrial waterfront

Great Depression and after the Second World War, and

is reconfirmed as industrial zone by the city of New York

(Department of City Planning, 2011) on the other hand, since its decline it is still struggling and searching for new economical impulses. Considering economic decline, high dependency of the poor class neighborhood workers to job-opportunities, lack of good living quality of the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the waterfront and its potentials, emerges a need to rethink/ reconsider the future of the waterfront. Now the current trend is to bring new clean industries within the area with the eye on smaller offices (Department of City Planning, 2011), which will have the tendency to attract a new wave of urbanites from Manhattan, with a new potential residential shift, which could potentially start displacing the current inhabitants of Sunset Park and result in gentrification. The waterfont has had a major importance in the past because of its strategic location. Therefore huge infrastructures were implemented in the vicinity of the waterfront (see map 1). Furthermore the map 1 is describing the current importance of Sunset Park in the bigger New York City region and its railway connection which is now left neglected. An industry in ruin (Winnick, 1990)


to albany

to albany

to providence


Port Newark


Elizabeth - Port Authority Marine Terminal

Jersey - Port Authority Marine Terminal

Red Hook Container Terminal

to allentown, pa and points west

Sunset Park New York Container Terminal

to trenton and points south

each ton of freight carried by rail produces at least 80% less carbon dioxide than if moved by road, and a small train replaces roughly 30 truck trips. (Map based on: Department of City Planning, 2011)

Significant Maritime and Industrial Areas Industrial Business Zone s Marine Container Terminal s Major roadbased transport network NYC rail proposal on existing rail NYC Freight rail proposal 0



Environmental justice

“Environmental justice continues to be an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution.� (Skelton et al. 2006)


Environmental Justice movement has been taken into

environmentally disadvantaged.

account as the start point of the thesis. This movement

The aforementioned issues and the potentials of

that has been active for several decades tries to coop

the waterfront site, together with the recognized

with emergent disasters of environment related issues

environmental racism in the neighborhood of the case

to the public. This is a movement that due to the status

study are the main reasons of the necessity to study the

of environmental degradation in Sunset Park has been

industrial waterfront of Sunset Park. Therefore the first

embedded in the people’s perspective on the city

research questions arise as “why poor neighborhoods

planning since UPROSE (a local environmental justice

are burdened with environmental problems?” and “how

movement) in 1964 started to strive for the rights of the

can we address these problems?”

inhabitants of the neighborhood.


The movement has passed several milestones and step

Policy makers across the United States have not slipped

stones to get to the situation of the present day. In the

the environmental concerns into cold shoes. New goals

following page there is a preview timeline of political, social

of sustainable development have been set; in New York

and economic processes along the movement course.

itself studies have been launched on how to address

Noteworthy to see how some people were deprived from

future climate change and environmental issues due to

having a clean and safe environment, which was mostly

global warming. For example the New York Vision 2020

the case for people of color and the poor. It has been

plan looks at incentives to clean up polluted waterways,

proven by several studies in the 1980s and early 1990s

cleaning up brownfields and creating waterfront parks

and by environmental justice activists that neighborhoods

(Department of City Planning, 2011). Some of these

who have less political and economic benefits have

studies have a positive contribution to environmental

been targeted to host landfills, waste transfer stations,

progress but most of them fall short including social

power plants, waste water facilities, truck depots and

equity and environmental justice (Agyeman et al. 2003).

so on. These studies fueled the idea of environmental

The new plan has minimal requirements to address

racism and its credibility. Julie Sze (2007), writer of the

the shortage of public access to the waterfront and its

book “Noxious New York” has been a tremendous help

amenities and lacks to guarantee that environmental and

to understand the importance of community groups that

public health issues will be addressed. (Angotti 2011)

strive for the rights of neighborhoods who have been

Milestones of the Environmental Justice Movement

1991 - The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit meets in Washington, D.C., and creates the Principles of Environmental Justice.

Early 1960s - Farm workers organized by Cesar Chavez fight for workplace rights, including protection from toxic pesticides in California farm fields.

1991 - Creation of the U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Equity

1962 - Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring details the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment.

1992 - Environmental justice delegation takes part in U.N. Environmental Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

1964 - Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The law’s “Title VI” -- prohibiting use of federal funds to discriminate based on race, color and national origin -- will become an important tool in environmental justice litigation.

1992 - President-elect Bill Clinton appoints environmental justice leaders Benjamin Chavis and Robert Bullard to his transition team.

1966 - United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE) is founded in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, as an environmental justice and social justice community based organization.

1992 - Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Sen. Al Gore (D-TN) introduce the Environmental Justice Act of 1992 in Congress. The legislation fails to make it through the legislative process.

1970 - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established to enforce laws that protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.

1992 - The National Law Journal publishes “Unequal Environmental Protection”; study shows that communities of color receive less vigorous enforcement of environmental laws.

1971 - President’s Council on Environmental Quality acknowledges that racial discrimination negatively affects the quality of the environment for the urban poor.

1992 - The EPA releases Environmental Equity: Reducing the Risk for All Communities, one of the first far-reaching government reports on environmental justice.

1979 - EPA sued the City of New York for violations of the Clean Water Act when it allowed millions of gallons of raw sewage to flow into the Hudson River. As a result of the Clean Water Act and the Ocean Dumping Act, fourteen water pollution control plants were built to treat the city’s sewage.

1993 - West Harlem Environmental Action settles a lawsuit against the City of New York for $1.1 million and receives a promise of engineering changes to decrease air pollution impacts of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant on the adjacent West Harlem community.

1983 - Congress’s General Accounting Office finds that three-fourths of the hazardous waste disposal sites in eight southeastern states are in poor and African-American communities. 1984 - California Waste Management Board report advises governments and companies looking to site hazardous waste facilities to target small, low-income and rural communities with a high percentage of people who are old or have little education. (Los Angeles Times breaks the story to the public in 1988.) 1990 - Robert Bullard’s book, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, underscores importance of race as a factor in siting unwanted toxics-producing facilities. 1990 - Several environmental justice leaders co-sign a widely publicized letter to the “Big 10” environmental groups accusing them of racial bias in policy development and hiring.

(Sources used: Skelton et al. 2006, Sze 2007, uprose.org, 2012)

1993 - The documentary Toxic Racism is broadcast on television. 1994 - President Bill Clinton signs Executive Order 12898 directing federal agencies to identify and address disproportionately high adverse health and environmental effects of their policies or programs on low-income people and people of color. 2001 - U.N. Commission on Human Rights lists living free of pollution as a basic human right. 2001 – The Fresh Kills landfill site located in New York City was closed due to local pressure supported by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2005 - At the request of Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA), the General Accounting Office releases a report finding that the EPA generally devoted little attention to environmental justice issues while drafting three significant clean air rules on gasoline, diesel and ozone between fiscal years 2000 and 2004.



Environmental Justice & Sunset Park

“The market should be treated as a social institution, not as an objective entity; valuebased political processes define goals, not global markets; economic activity is not an end in itself— it is valued only insofar as it contributes to the politically adopted goals of society� (Levett 1997).

Powerplant. (Van Mierlo, 2011)



The link between economic decline and environmental

treatment plants, solid waste transfer stations and power

and air pollution, causing health and social stigmas has

plants were systematically dumped into low-income

been recognized by environmental justice activists within

immigrant neighborhoods, contributing to the health

Sunset Park and boroughs with similar problems. As the

risks in the neighborhoods (MAP 2).

risks of air and soil pollution became transparent within

According to a publication made in an Associates Report

the communities, residents started to mobilize a force

for the California Waste Management Board (GIRDNER

against the existing stigmas. Especially when asthma and

2002) the prefect siting of waste disposal facilities were

cancer rates were recognized to be higher in boroughs

in low-income rural areas where population consisted

with higher air and environment pollution.

of elderly people and people with high school or less education and with less than 25.000 inhabitants. Poor

The asthma concerns became an extra pressure on the

planning decisions contributed to the environmental

scar that Sunset Park already had since Robert Moses

racism that has been thriving through New York City, with

decided to build the Gowanus Expressway right through

Sunset Park as the vivid image of these trends, focusing

the community district destroying all the houses and

on people with low political voice.

businesses at 3rd avenue (Sze, 2007). Along with the expressway and as a result of privatization of solid waste

The first incentive for organizing around environmental

management and energy deregulation New York’s poor

justice in Sunset Park came from the Latin American

communities became a focal point for everything that

community, which was settled the closest to the

did not fit into Manhattan’s NIMBY policies. Sewage

waterfront. The community group UPROSE, founded in

1964 started campaigns against the unjust solid waste

change and mobilize environmental, political and social

and energy policies. It was in fact not the facilities

resources. The Community Board 197A committee was

themselves that were the problem, but the higher asthma

a key institutional player in developing the Sunset Park

rates than other neighborhoods, especially childhood

Waterfront Development Principles. (Laufer, 2012) To

asthma and other health effects were the key concerns,

better understand the New York City policies towards

which triggered the need for organizing. (SZE J., 2007)

environmental racism, a spatial map of polluting facilities

Children of color in low-income neighborhoods were the

is made, such as waste transfer station, marine transfer

ones who tended to have increased asthma rates around

station, waste water treatment plants and power plants.

1998 (Centers for Disease Control 2000).

The location of the facilities had been chosen in relation to the poor income neighborhoods. (Map 1)

Nowadays UPROSE is working together with Community


Board 71 on a plan to meet the communities needs. As a

industrialization with the excuse of waterfront as the only

team they are trying to negotiate redevelopment, urban

sufficient space available for the mentioned facilities (Sze,

1 As we talked to Community board (CB) 7 it became clear that they were trying to identify community needs, which could become part of the City’s budget process. The CBs are working with government agencies to improve the local delivery of services. Community Boards In New York City only have an advisory role (this was stressed clearly by Jeremy Laufer of CB7) in dealing with land use and zoning matters. (Laufer, 2012)







2007). But the actual reason these neighborhoods were targeted to accommodate the facilities was due to their low resistance as an outcome of lack of political support. In the Sunset Park neighborhood very few (the ones who had legal status) had the right to vote. (Laufer, 2012)


Distribution of Low-Income Population by Census Tract in 2000 0% - 24% 24.1% - 42% 42.1% - 61% 61.1% - 100% Note: Low-income population is defined as the percentage of individuals that reported an income below 200% of the poverty level in each census tract.


Map 2: Polluting facilities related to poor income neighborhoods

Power Plants Peak Power Plants Waste Water Treatment Plants Marine Transfer Station Waste Transfer Stations Truck Gathering Points Recycling centra

(Map based on: habitatmap.org 2012; NYC Department of Sanitation, 2012; Sze, 2007)


Big and small-scale polluting manufacturing and industrial businesses. Very clearly illustrated is the Robert Moses expressway that spatially disconnects the neighborhood from the waterfront.


Air Pollutant Facilities

Toxic Release Facilities 1

Former Brooklyn Army Terminal Power Plant brownfields

Industrial / manufacturing buildings Marine Transfer Station Waste Transfer Station

Map 3: Polluting facilities in relation to neighborhood (Map based on: habitatmap.org, 2012)

Waste Water Treatment Plant Peak Power Plant

Combined Sewer Overflow outfall


Gowanus power plant: Natural Gas/Kerosine/No.2 Fuel Oil 559 MWatt on 4 barges property of US Power Generating Company LLC Opened in 1971 16 Units dual-fueled natural gas and No. 2 oil 16 Units No.2 oil Peaking plant


Areal image of powerplant (Google earth, 2012)

Narrows power plant: Natural Gas/Kerosine/No.2 Fuel Oil 276 MWatt property of US Power Generating Company LLC opened in 1972 16 Units Peaking Plant


Areal image of powerplant (Google earth, 2012)


New York Power Authority power plant: Natural Gas 79 Mwatt 2 power turbines property of New York Power Authority Opened in 2001 Peaking plant

By energy deregulation a free market has been set up to provide choice for the consumers and to generate lower energy prices. Because of this deregulation less control was taken by NYC government to prevent the siting of polluting facilities (SZE, 2007). In Sunset Park three power plants are located which all are peak plants; means that they only function for a few hours a day. Together they provide approximately 900 MW of electricity per day, 7% of the City’s peak demand. (NYPA, 2003) The New York City government owns only one of the power plants and the other two are private energy providers. To compare the electricity demands of the Sunset Park residents the US Census Bureau data (2010) has made an estimation


for the average usage. This data is only rough estimations since USPowerGen does not publish real data. An estimation would be that, for a conservative average energy use per household, a minimum average load of approximately 50 MW is used by residents in Sunset Park for domestic use. According to UNYISOs estimates, residential electricity use makes up approximately 40% of total use of power in Sunset Park and the commercial and industrial use the other 60%. Sunset Park is likely to consume on average of over 125 MW per day, this could be expected to be more in the summer on peak demand days. (Astoria Generating Company, 2008)

Areal image of powerplant (Google earth, 2012)

The water treatment plant has been operating since 1952. During the entire treatment course, wastewater undergoes five major processes: preliminary treatment, primary treatment, secondary treatment, disinfection

Owl’s Head Wastewater Treatment Plant: treats 120 million gallons of wastewater per day serves 758,007 inhabitants

and finally, sludge treatment. Primary and secondary treatments remove about 85% to 95% of pollutants from the wastewater before the treated wastewater is disinfected and discharged into local waterways (NYCDEP, 2012). Sludge, the byproduct of the treatment process, is digested for stabilization and is then dewatered for easier handling. Afterwards the resulting material send to landfills as a daily cover against waste related diseases and coverage of the dumped wastes to prevent odor and fire.

Owls head waste water treatment plant and its water shed

Above: waste water shed (habitatmap.org, 2012) Right: Areal image of Owls Head (Google earth, 2012)



Garbage wars

Environmental justice in an age of garbage

Peggy Lee, Youth Justice Coordinator, UPROSE, and inhabitant of Sunset Park: “the little things really matter, a lot of people don’t know where their trash goes, ‘it goes somewhere’ but somewhere isn’t a place, it actually goes to a landfill and it takes up space where it affects neighboring communities in their quality of life.” (UPROSE.org, 2012)

Before we can enter to understand the pressing concerns around garbage handling in New York City at the current state today, a brief history should explain the current trends of waste disposal (see next page).

Politics of Garbage 1885 - Building of the first permanent garbage incinerator in the United States on Governors Island 1849 to 1918 - Barren Island in Jamaica Bay was New York City’s primary waste processing site. 1894 - Mayor Thomas Gilroy set up a committee to make recommendations on the latest and most scientific principles of waste management. The committee’s final recommendations called for an end to ocean dumping of garbage and expressed a preference for reduction over incineration.

well as the changing negative perceptions of smoke, incinerators in the United States plummeted from a high of 300 to a low of 67. Also the EPA, promoted solid waste incineration as a means of energy self-sufficiency in the context of the oil crisis. 1980s - emerging of environmental justice campaigns 1986 - Rhode Island enacts the nation’s first statewide mandatory recycling law. 1986 - Fresh Kills, in Staten Island, New York, becomes the largest landfill in the world.

1905 - New York City begins using a garbage incinerator to generate electricity to light the Williamsburg Bridge.

1987 - The Mobro, a Long Island garbage barge, is turned away by six states and three countries. The garbage (mostly paper) is finally incinerated in Brooklyn and the ash buried in a landfill near Islip.

1909 - 102 of 180 incinerators built since 1885 are abandoned or dismantled. Many had been inadequately built or run. Also, America’s abundant land and widely spaced population made dumping garbage cheaper and more practical.

1988 - The EPA estimates that more than 14,000 landfills have closed since 1978, more than 70% of those operating at that time. The landfills were full, unsafe, or the owners declined to adhere to new standards.

1918 – Garbage dumping in oceans starts again 1920s - During this decade, “reclaiming” or filling in wetlands near cities with garbage, ash, and dirt, becomes a popular disposal method. 1932 - The development of compactor garbage trucks increases vehicle capacity. 1934 - New Jersey successfully sued New York for its garbage dumping in the ocean 1938 - Under the tenure of Sanitation Commissioner William Carey from 1938 to 1940, landfills became the most favored method of disposal. 1947 - Robert Moses opens Fresh Kills pledging that it would be only for three years. After the building of incinerators it would close. This was the start of landfill garbage handling in New York. 1948 - The board of estimate approved an ambitious $44 million construction program for five new incinerators, and to upgrade existing disposal facilities 1958 - the city assumed operations of all private dumps as part of a larger restructuring of solid waste management in response to complaints of extortion by private carters from businesses and buildings throughout the city 1979 - due to expensive labor and fuel, and abundant land for landfills, as

1989 - EPA issues “An Agenda for Action,” calling for an integrated solid waste management approach to solving solid waste problems, with waste prevention and recycling as its first two priorities. 1990s - the city’s commercial waste is monopolized by mob cartels, leading to sky-high garbage collection prices 1996 - Mayor Giuliani enacted a law creating the Trade Waste Commission, in order to bring the power over the commercial waste down to big powerful trash corporations (WMI and BFI). These corporations continued charging predatory prices. 1997 - WMI, BFI and USA had build up sufficient regional transfer stations in order to shut Fresh Kills down 2001 - The Business Integrity Commission agency was founded as the Organized Crime Control Commission; they should define crime activities and give recommendations to aid law enforcement. 2001 - Closing of Fresh Kills landfill; this was made possible by garbage national’s taking over the waste disposal and finished the tradition of handling waste internally. Instead garbage should be brought by trucks to waste transfer stations and later be trucked to outerstate landfills. 2006 - the council approved a Solid Waste Management Plan that redirects the city’s waste to local transfer stations, while relying on railcars or barges to transport it to landfills outside the city.

(Sources: Life after Fresh Kills 2001; Sze 2007; The Rotten Truth 1998; Girdner et Al. 2002; Rogers 2008)



As we can see New York City has a long history and

at their facilities. For Sunset Park the waste is collected

struggle with its waste disposal, ranged from incinerating

by the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and

garbage to dumping it into landfills, disposal within

brought to IESI NY Corporate, after garbage processing

the city, and now, as a ‘solution’, the waste is shipped

the residues are brought by trucks to the marine transfer

out at marine transfer stations, to be shipped to outer

station that ships the garbage out to Pennsylvania, New

state landfills by barge. As illustrated in map 1 the

Jersey and other interstate landfills. As a consequent of

truck transfer stations and marine transfer stations are

this procedure, every year over 250.000 trips are made

located in several neighborhoods with a low-income

by hauling trucks with polluting diesel engines through

population, the neighborhoods existing in manufacturing

the streets of New York City. Another 250.000 trips are

zones along the waterfronts. In map 3 an attempt was

made to transfer garbage to outer state (NYC EJA 2010).

made to illustrate the relation between the locations of

Waste in New York City is separated into five different

the transfer stations, the truck hauling routes and the


Sunset Park Neighborhood. The black dots are the waste

commercial waste, pedestrian litter, and construction

transfer stations, which collect the garbage and sort it

waste (see NYC waste stream). The DSNY collects

EXISTING WASTE CYCLE New York City waste stream Residential & Institutional (12,000 tpd)

Commercial (13,000 tpd)




New Jersey (1,500 tpd)

DSNY (12,000 tpd)

Private Carters (38,000 tpd)


Pennsylvania (9,000 tpd)

Transfer stations (50,000 tpd)

Other Interstate Landfills (35,500 tpd)

= $ 300 million/year

Construction & Demolition (25,000 tpd)

(Diagram based on: NYC Department of Sanitation, 2012)

9.900 tons of waste per day of putrescible trash-food scraps, dirty paper, and recyclable containers- from the commercial sector

Commercial food waste generators Restaurants Supermarkets, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores Food Wholesales Public Schools

Now these pay money to dodgy companies to collect the waste,

Map 4: Garbage distribution and waste sheds


Waste Transfer Station IESI NY Corp gathers the garbage of community districts 7 and 10, brought by DSNY

CD 7 CD 10 Waste shed for transfer stations Sunset Park Waste shed for marine transfer station Major waste transport routes Marine transfer station Waste transfer stations Truck gathering points

(Map based on: habitatmap.org, 2012; NYC Department of Sanitation, 2012)

Recycling Facilities

residential waste as well as pedestrian litter. Pedestrian

Not only the pricing of waste disposal is a concern for

litter is first pilled on the corners of the streets in Sunset

businesses, also on the larger scale, for New York City,

Park by the Business Improvement District (BID) and

disposal prices can be quite a burden. Since the closure

later picked up by DSNY.

of the Fresh Kills landfill, the prices jumped from $40 to $105 per ton of refuse for the DSNY. These expenses


Another story is the commercial and construction waste,

include fees charged by outer state dumps and the

which is collected by private charters. Businesses have

long haul trips by diesel engine trucks. Since the main

to hire a private charter themselves to get rid of their

waste disposal method became disposal in outer state

refuse. As we can see from the timeline they have not

landfills, annual exportation of New York City’s waste to

been uncontested in the past decades and businesses

other communities has an average cost of $300 million

are left with a legacy of fluctuating garbage disposal

(Life after Fresh Kills 2001). Other costs that are directly

prices. (Rogers 2008) Nowadays the Business Integrity

related but not included in annual calculations are those

Commission keeps the approximately 1.500 private

of environmental restoration after the whole process of

charters in line, the BICs mandate is to abolish organized

waste disposal.

crime and corruption by the industries it regulates. The private charters are now strictly prohibited to charge

All in all, it can be concluded by questioning “if all these

more than the maximum rates given by the BIC which

costs of exporting the waste and environmental recovery

is per 100 pounds ($10.42) or per cubic yard ($15.89) of

are just postponing a pressing problem of handling waste

loose refuse (NYC BIC, 2012), it is up to the business to

on site. Does exporting waste not give the illusion that

decide if it prefers to pay per pound or per cubic yard. In

when something is thrown away, you don’t have to face it

this way private charters are not in favor of hauling food

anymore? And if we do not think about the consequences

waste because of its lack of profitability, since food waste

of waste disposal, how can we give incentives to create

is much heavier than normal waste (VAN OOYEN 2004).

less waste?

The expenses to hire a private charter can be a heavy weight on small businesses shoulders, which sometimes

To start answering these questions, a dissection is made

end up in illegal dumping.

from New York City’s waste composition. The next page is giving a scheme of what New York City’s curbside

Regional Organic Waste Regional organic waste

Designated for recycling 36,83%

Organics 33,77%

Other 29,4% 157

Paper and cardboard 15,04%

Current recycled materials:

Glass containers 2,4% Metal 4,07%

NYC Recycled materials %

Plastic botttles and jugs 1,48%

Other non-ferrous

Beverage cartons 0,4%


Other plastics 13,44%

beverage cartons

Other materials 15,13%


Construction & demolishing Debris 6,29%


Textiles and carpets 7,01%

Clear glass

Electronics (e-waste) 0,7%

Green glass

Household hazardous waste 0,27% Food scraps 21,42% Yard trimmings 5,15% Compostable, nonrecyclable paper 7,2%


Brown glass

Potential recyclable materials

(Diagrams based on: NYC Department of Sanitation, 2012, The City of New York, 2012)

Mixed broken glass Non-designated materials

waste is containing and what the opportunities are.

stations, by trucks. Causing not only a local environmental

According to New York waste management policies, it

distress but also environmental degradation at outer

is only require to recycle a limited amount of waste and

state landfills. Diverting this waste from landfills could

33% of organic materials, which can be easily recycled,

financially benefit the city saving $24 million, distress

Regional Commercial Waste are not recovered. After paper (which is recovered) and

landfills and reduce truck traffic in communities that are

yard waste (not recovered) food waste causes the largest

already overburdened with waste facilities. New York’s

waste stream in the United States, which 97 % of it ends

new incentive is transferring their waste by barge, but is

up in landfills or gets processed by incinerators (AHMED

this enough to tackle all the waste concerns?

et al. 2011). If we assume (as before calculated), the

putrescible waste tpd is daily being easily calculate that 4.000 tons9.889 of waste daily amount of residential waste is 12.000 tons, we can

transferred from waste transfer and marine transfer


non-putrescible waste Regionalcommercial Commercial Waste Regional 27.695 tpdWaste

putrescible waste 9.889 tpd non-putrescible waste 27.695 tpd




19% = 1878,91 tpd





Staten Island


A similar calculation can be made out of the content of commercial waste, which mainly exists of putrescible and nonputrescible waste. Non-putrescible does not contain organic matter that has a tendency to decompose as for putrescible waste does contain organic matter and for that can be seen as organic recyclable waste. Diverting this waste from landfills can reduce another $59 million from the cities tax money (AHMED Manhattan 42% et al. 2011). Brooklyn

(Diagram based on: Ahmed et al. 2011)

19% = 1878,91 tpd





Staten Island


Garbage mountain in east 16th street Manhattan. (authors 2012)



What to do with all this waste? Learning from other cases

Solid waste reduction is one of the major concerns of the

Leuven in Belgium, which is the context of the author of

environmental justice movement. It can help to address

this part of the thesis. The process of disposal of organic

the ecological footprint of New York City and the goal of

waste in Leuven starts with separating the organic waste

reducing waste generation. But this has to be carefully

and afterwards composting it. In the other two case

planned and environmental and economical benefits

studies the organic waste is disposed by anaerobic

should be shared equally over the five boroughs. In other

digestion and afterwards via waste-to-energy plants,

words the waste disposal should be done according to

biogas is extracted from the waste. The case study

community outreach and public participation in land use

in Oakland has a particular interest because of its co-

decisions (Agyeman et al. 2003).

digestion with sludge extracted from treating wastewater.

So what to do and where to go with all this waste?

The third case only uses only organic waste as feedstock

To answer such questions, it is interesting to look at how

for extracting biogas.

organic waste is handled in other counties. Therefore three case studies are considered to illustrate how different municipalities try to tackle with their waste mountains. The first case study is taken in the city of


Case Study 1: Ecowerf in Leuven

The compost installation at EcoWerf was created in 1996, and is operated by 10 people. It has an annual production of 47.000 tons of compost per year, which generates around 68.000 euro in sales. The compost production process contains three steps: the pre-process sorting of waste, the fermentation process, and the post-process completion. During the fermentation process, which takes around 5 weeks, the waste is stored in the compost hall at 55°C. This temperature gives it the ideal circumstances for air supply and draining the humidity. A special machine continually mixes through the materials during the


fermentation process and the used air is cleaned with biological scent filters. After the first five weeks, the newly produced compost is transported to the post-processing hall where it is filtered. The finer the material the better the quality product. In post production, the compost remains for another five weeks, for another fermentation process. After this process, the compost is sold for garden surface Municipalities Served: East Brabant


Feedstock: Municipal Organic waste Capacity: 47.000 ton per year

The total process from municipal organic waste to fertilizer takes 10 weeks and from every ton of waste Areal image. (Google Earth 2012)

coming in EcoWerf can make 300kg of compost. The byproduct of EcoWerf product has a good quality and even has obtained a quality label due to its efforts on quality in both the product and the production process. They continually strive to improve results on smell nuisance, working along with people in the neighborhood, who report about a possible smell. The biological air filtering embraces all of the space where the organic waste and the compost are processed. Other efforts to reduce the smell are special entrance ports for the waste transportation, and the organic waste is kept inside during the whole fermentation process. This has resulted in a strong diminution of air nuisance during the


last years. The EcoWerf has a wide range of programs stimulating education about composting and is working together

Soil proccessing, composting hall and end product. (www.ecowerf.be, 2012)

with schools to start up composting programs. Children can get guided tours as well at the site to learn about

To conclude we can say that it is very interesting to see

the process used in EcoWerf. At the site itself other

that recycling organic waste can create a byproduct,

recyclables are processed and adjacent there is a

which can turn waste in an economical value.

container park to bring recyclables that do not fit in

(source used for case study; www.ecowerf.be, 2012)

normal recycle bags. The facility has a size of 108 by 56 meters and a height of 11 meters.

Case Study 2: Oakland East Bay Municipal Utility Wastewater Treatment Plant

Oakland East Bay Municipal Utility Wastewater Treatment Plant (EBMUD) EBMUD is basically a wastewater treatment facility in Oakland, CA. that processes food waste together with the bio-solids from the wastewater treatment. After some additional grinding to form slurry, it is added to the anaerobic sludge digesters. The process of co-digestion of the organic waste and the motioned bio-solids is performed in reactors. The digesters reduce the volume of food scraps by 90% in two weeks of digesting so only 10 percent has to be sent to the landfills. Since the food waste and sluge are


co-digestered, the leftovers cannot be considered as clean organic compost. Therefore it is taken to landfills to control waste source diseases, fire and odor (Arsova 2010). In 2008, the facility processed 90 metric tons/day of food waste five days a week, i.e. about 22,000 tons/yr (Neves et al. 2007). In order to generate electricity, the extracted gas is pumped to a power station on site with Municipalities Served: San Francisco & Oakland

three combustion engines that each produces 2.2 Mega

Feedstock: Commercial collected food scraps

Watts of electricity. Roughly calculated it would provide

Capacity: 40 tpd

enough power for 1.400 homes per day.

Digesters used: 6 Areal image. (Google Earth 2012)

The intension of the facility is to upgrade the power being produced with a new turbine which will produce 4MW of electricity and will almost double the amount of electricity being produced enabling to send extra energy into the power grid (Arsova 2010).

Digester. (Kerr, 2010)


Process of food waste in anaerobic digesters. (Kerr, 2010)

Case Study 3: Ecopark 2 - Montcada i Reixac

The Ecopark 2 - Montcada i Reixac is located in the Industrial zone of the town of Can Salvatella Andis, 9.5 miles away from the center of the city of Barcelona. This mechanical and biological treatment plant started operating in 2003 and has both, anaerobic digestion and aerobic composting facilities. Total installed capacity on the plant is 240.000 t/year of organic waste, which half of this amount is the capacity in the anaerobic digestion reactors. The treatment begins with mechanical pretreatment to recover of the recyclables (glass, paper, packaging, etc) and source separated organics (SSO) followed by anaerobic digestion and aerobic composting. Refused


material from pretreatment lines is pressed, packed and sent for disposal on a controlled sanitary landfill. Three anaerobic digesters are installed on the site, each with capacity of 4500 m3. The anaerobic digestion reactor is operated on mesophilic temperature of 35.C and retention time of 25 days. The input material is a mixture of the digested material from the reactor (25%), fresh organic material (50-60 %) and water. Municipalities Served: Montcada i Reixac Feedstock: Commercial collected food scraps Capacity: 240.000 t/year

The produced biogas is collected from the anaerobic digestion reactors There are four generators, each with capacity of 1 MW, for utilization of the biogas and Areal image. (Google Earth 2012)

production of electricity and steam. The steam is used for heating of the anaerobic digestion reactors and the electricity is used on the site (59%) and the rest (41%) is sold to the grid. In total 20.2 GWh of electricity was produced in 2008. The digested sludge coming out of the digesters undergoes a dehydration process. The resultant solid material is mixed in 3:1 ration with green waste and then treated for 2 weeks in composting tunnels.



ct or le ga 5


po w er

sc ol

ag ne st er

m 4












humidity, air and temperature and monitored for 3 weeks.







In this treatment the material is kept under controlled


er at io


Aerobic composting

ra to r

Digester and gas collector. (www.amb.cat, 2012)

After this period it is disinfected on temperature of 65ยบC

compost produced is distributed for free and no profits1


s el al

co m




pr od

nn tu


in st po 9


co m




One of the interesting aspects of this plant is that the final





an tr em


the maturing period the material is refined.



and kept for maturation additional 4 weeks. At the end of



4 5 6




are received out of it. (Sources used for casestudy: Arsova L., 2010; www.amb.cat, 2012)

Waste digestion and composting process (www.amb.cat, 2012)


New Economical Impuls

from waste burden to waste opportunity

Recycling collection point in Sunset Park. (authors 2012)

The City of New York 2012: “In the longer term, the best hope for increased organic waste recycling in NYC lies in the ongoing development of mixed waste (or MSW) composting and anaerobic digestion.�


Food comprises a large part of NYC’s waste stream. By

as the wastewater treatment plant in Sunset Park, where

sending it to the landfill it contributes to NYC’s disposal

the co-digestion of sludge and organic waste can provide

costs and greenhouse gas emissions, while if it gets

more power. (Edelmann et al. 2000)

composted, organic waste becomes a useful product that adds nutrients and improves the quality of soil.

Anaerobic digestion of organic waste gives three end

(grownyc.org, 2012)

products, including clean power, heat and a marketable product. Because of the need for renewable resources


But the complexities should not be underestimated.

to replace fossil fuels and due to climate change, the

As Bélanger (2007) describes, “The complexity of

first two by products are of major importance for the

recycling and remediation is magnified at the urban

neighborhood, which is saturated with three polluting

scale, especially when it involves an ecology of multiple

power plants. The proposed alternative of digestion of

industries and multiple waste streams.“ Multilateral

food waste and sludge generates hydrogen, which is

strategies, such as waste diversion, separation, recycling,

considered as a sustainable energy source with minimal,

composting and remanufacturing, are proving effective

or zero use of hydrocarbons and high-energy yield (2.75

as durable alternatives to conventional systems of waste

times more than fossil fuel), which makes it a promising

management that previously relied on consolidated

alternative to fossil fuels. In addition, hydrogen can be

forms of disposal.(Bélanger 2007)

directly used to produce electricity. “If we stop wasting food, the CO2 impact would be the

Reflecting this back to the case studies we can learn that

equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road. This will

waste can be an economical asset in local development,

prevent emission of 15 million tonnes of CO2.” (WRAP,

contributing to work opportunities (Agyeman et al. 2003).


Synergies can be created between existing facilities such

Borough equity

In order to create a new form of solid waste management without





it is important to answer to one of the most stressing factors that environmental justice groups bring to the foregroung, “borough equity� (Sze, 2007). The need for rethinking about waste disposal facilities, water pollution control plants and energy demands, has to be brought together with the fact that each borough carries its own responsibility. Therefore, starting from borough equity, only Brooklyn is taken into account for the estimation of potential outcomes. The outcomes are described in the diagram of the next page.

Design proposal

Dynamics of New Social Economies


energy reducting its volume by 90% and enabling to compost the left overs The proposed site is a 42 acre terrain a 24 acres terrain would be able to take all the organic waste Brooklyn produces and convert it into undigested compost on site. Placing 14 digesters extra on site would be able to reduce 10% of Brooklyns organic waste. this would provide 93MW/day which would provide energy for 19.600 homes/day which is half of Sunset Parks households

Benefits calculations Organic Waste Ton per week

1 digester

46,6 TPW

Anaerobic Digestion


Sunset Park

Heat producted

Power produced out of hydrogen

71 MW/Week

423 MW/Week 6x

307 TPW



9025 MW/Week 6.000 TPW



1430 MW/Week 932 TPW


(content based on: Arsova, 2010; Astoria Generating Company, 2008; Center for the Study of Brooklyn, 2012; Kim et al. 2004)

eft overs

e to take ted



Amount of solid waste produced per week per borough 9.032 TPW

fertilizer: 10% waste is left over at 7 dollar per ton

4,66 TPW = $ 33 10.431 TPW

30,7 TPW = $ 215 16.021 TPW

173 18.100 TPW 33% = 6.000 TPW organic waste 600 TPW = $ 4200

Power demands: 875MW per week

931 TPW

33% = 307 TPW organic waste 40% residential 60% commericial and industrial

4.328 TPW

93,2 TPW = $ 652 = $ 238.126 per year


Local assets

Supermarket in Sunset Park. (authors 2012)

Map 5: Local businesses


Local businesses and public facilities able to provide commercial food waste. (Map based on: Brooklyn Community Board 7, 2007)

Brooklyn Wholesale Meat Market commercial/office buildings public facilities and institutions mixed residential and commercial buildings


Brownfields at the Sunset Park waterfront. (authors 2012)

Brownfield Opportunities

“Brownfield Opputunity Areas (BOA) was crafted as a tool to enable low-income communities burdened with multiple brownfield sites, high incidence of disease, and unemployment, to identify and implement alternatives to noxious uses as the primary future for reclaimed brownfield sites.� (KASS et al. 2011)

Industrial decay. (authors 2012)


There are numerous brownfield1 sites in New York City,

as part of the 2003 Brownfields Law, these are generous

former thriving industrial sites that are now left neglected

refundable tax credits that are awarded based on

and underused. A majority of them are located within

specified categories of costs involved in remediating

low-income communities of color such as Sunset Park.

and redeveloping a brownfield site. According to NPCR

These brownfields are much contested because of their

these BTCs have been controversial since the beginning.

potential to be effective on future economic growth, social

As most of the subsidies have been pumped to projects

revitalization and the public health of the surrounding

located in prime or promising locations, there is no

neighborhoods. At the same time the definition of such

agreement as to how many of the properties that have

brownfields for these neighborhoods are abandoned

been cleaned up required the motivation for development

industrial spaces and disinvestment for their depraved

to happen. (NPCR, 2012)

environment. However we have to be careful with proposing


Community actors see these spaces as opportunities to

brownfield redevelopment because of its potential to

meet their pressing community needs such as affordable

lead to gentrification. Several concerns have to be taken

housing, good jobs, facilities for the community and

into account. When brownfield revitalization brings in

education, waterfront accessibility and as confirmed in

now job opportunities, neighboring communities are

the analysis of Sunset Park, open space (Tylke 2012).

less vulnerable to displacement (EPA, 2012). Therefore

For the past nine years, New York State’s brownfield

community organizations can be involved to mediate

cleanup program has relied primarily on one type of

between the neighborhood residents to bring in local

incentive, Brownfield Tax Credits (BTCs), to encourage

resources. They can provide job training for the new

private investment in brownfield redevelopment. Created

economical impulses and brownfield remediation.


The term brownfield site means ‘‘real property for which the expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant’’ (U.S. Congress, 1980). Brownfield sites are generally abandoned or under-utilized old industrial and/or commercial facilities, and can be major eyesores and/ or health hazards for residents of the communities in which they are located. Source: ADELAJA ET AL. 2010

Economic benefits for the community should be considered, the organic waste recycling can not only provide job opportunities on site, local businesses can bring their organic waste and save money on paying private charters to collect the waste. Site of the DSNY waste transfer station. (authors 2012)


Soil, groundwater and sediment at and underneath the Sunset Park industrial zone became contaminated in the 1970s due to unauthorized disposal of construction and demolished debris, liquid wastes including oils, oil sludge and wastewater. Furthermore the communities health is impacted by traffic, industrial spills, dumping, household and industrial use of fertilizers and the spread of pesticides. (EPA, 2012)

Sunset Park has a total of 232 acres of brownfield sites,

To act in response to environmental decay and answer to

which are almost 1/3 of the 585 acres of industrial

the community needs alternative strategies are used for

waterfront. As Alan Berger would call it: drosscapes, in

the brownfields. They can serve as energy crops and/or

an urban environment, which has been left neglected but

as permeable surface for water runoff and reduce sewer

at the same time have a huge potential for increasing the

overflow (which is a critical problem in New York City),

biodiversity of the urban landscape. The waste landscape

and counter the need of desired open space while still

has to make space for continuous energy flows and

being productive by growing food and bringing Sunset

transformations, and therefore place has to be made

Parks inhabitants closer to the consumption and disposal

for non-permanent structures, but integrate inevitable


‘dross’ into a more flexible strategy (Berger 2006). Investing in redevelopment of brownfields has been slowed down for investors by expensive cleaning fees, 180

high insurance for protection of the investors who have no liability protection and complicated approval processes (RYAN 1997). In order to facilitate a more attractive





governmental incentives are given at federal, state and city level (NPCR, 2012).1

1 Government agencies at the Federal - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-, State -Department of State (DOS)-, and City - Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) – level provide incentive programs to see these brownfields be redeveloped. These incentives include Brownfield Tax Breaks (BTCs), environmental insurance policies, liability protection, Brownfield incentive grant (BIG), Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA), Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), Community Brownfield Planning District, NYC Brownfield Partnership, Brownfield Works, Environmental Training Program and NYC Pocket Parks Program. All these incentives should provide money for environmental cleaning and development and job training and job creation (NPCR, 2012).


The areal maps give an understanding of the decline of industry leading to the underutilized spaces and brownfields. (Google earth 2012, Oasis Maps 2012)

Brownfield strategy Brownfield strategies


4 years

hazordous soil

Energy crops 182

water retention

water retention

Extracting of air and soil pollution by phytoremediation

Extracting of air and soil pollution by phytoremediation

Creation of inclusive social space

Creation of inclusive social space

Anaerobic digestion of food waste

Anaerobic digestion of food waste

10 years

Site remediation becomes one of the structuring elements of a new industrial landscape. The brownfield remediation strategy can be seen in different phases over time. They will make space for flexible usage depending on the grade of contamination on the site. In this way some plots can immediately be ‘redeveloped’ and used as community garden or large biomass production sites, others will need a longer restoration time. In this way the process of remediation becomes dynamic and allows for future flexible functionalities, without obstructing future expansion or

Energy crops

productivity. The technique of phytoextraction is a technique that

water retention

exploits the phyto-remediation plants for the removal of pollutants in the soil, some plants have the ability to translocate pollutants to the cell compartments and

Production of vegetables

digest them. The plants are cultured in the polluted soil, the absorption of the pollutant is carried to the roots, which then translocate pollution to the air. The aboveground part of

Creation of inclusive social space

the plants, i.e. the part in contact with the air, will then be removed and with it also the pollutant. The harvest of the biomass has to be processed as hazardous waste

Anaerobic digestion of food waste

depending on the level of pollution, others can be used in the anaerobic digestion system. (Korade et al. 2008)


Phytoremediation simulation of Bush terminal


Typical ccontaminants present at the waterfront and plants used for phytoremediation CONTAMINANT







found in paints, dyes, metals, pesticides and soaps

Polychlorinated Biphenyls






C16H10 Pyrene


C14H10 Anthracene

Alpine Pennycress Common Wheat*

Indian Mustard*

Accumulate in fish and marine mammals at much higher levels than in sediments and water

Paul’s Scarlet Rose*


White rot fungus


White Mulberry*

They are also contained in gasoline and diesel exhaust, soot, coke, and cigar and cigarette

smoke. In addition, they are the byproducts of open fires, waste incinerators, coal gasification, and coke oven emissions.

C18H12 PAH*Benz[a]anthracene

*Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Multi family housing, recreation, park

Chinese brake fern Sunflower*




Single family housing, gardening, playground

Farming animals, growing food

(Diagram based on: Korade et al. 2008, Division of Environmental Remediation, 2004)

Hybrid Willow*

Ryegrass* * can be used in context Sunset Park

New site restoration proposal based on flexible remediation strategies

From brownfields to greenfields

biomass production

Climate protection Image improvement for redevelopment Energy Educational function Increasing of greenspace Recreationall value Soil upgrading Sustainable development



â‚Ź 4.000 - 6.500*

Energy production regional organic waste

Soil remediation Marketable product

Excavation & fill

â‚Ź 40.000 - 80.000*

*The costs associated with remediating lead contamination on a 2,500sf lot through phytoextraction using Indian Mustard can be reduced to 10% of those using common methods of excavation and fill (EPA, 2010)

Site Proposal Infrastructure: Sunset Park has due to its waterfront the

waste in order to have more productive energy rates.

perfect location to distribute the end produced fertilizer. The former railway, which is currently not being used, is

Although the spreading of odors is almost limited due to

penetrating into the site enabling a direct disposal of the

the process of anaerobic digestion, a wind study is made

organic waste coming from Brooklyn. waste collection

to see the direction of the prevailing wind flows in order

points are attached along the railway, in order to prevent

to prevent any disturbance to neighboring inhabitants.

saturation of transport through one particular community.

The huge surrounding area can be used to grow biomass

As illustrated in the map on the next page, collecting

and as a green landscape for the community residents.

facilities can be sited in industrial business zones along the rail line. 186

The Brooklyn Army Terminal is governmentally owned,

Map 6: most common wind directions

which is currently being used predominantly as storage of goods. It can accommodate more activities to fill in the enormous space available. This creates the opportunity of using the building to store the final product before exporting







improvements of the facility.


Presence of the wastewater treatment plant: currently owns 6 functioning digesters that process the sludge before sending it to landfills. They do not however extract energy, which would be limited when sludge is digested alone, therefore the existing digesters can be (as mentioned before) an offset to co-digest organic




1 Miles

Map 7 Waste network with collection points along railline

Red Hook Container Terminal



Sunset Park

Strategic regional location with rail and water connection

Significant maritime and industrial areas Industrial business zones Marine container terminals Existing rail infrastructure Road network





TO POWERGRID New York Power Authority





LOCAL: Urban agriculture site remediation PROFIT: Botanica Gardens export rooftop farms











UPROSE works as a mediator between municipality and community to represent community needs

LOCAL BUSINESSES Brooklyn Wholesale Meat Market Restaurants Supermarkets, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores


Public Schools Green Carts Farmers Markets CSAs Urban agriculture



Garbage has had a very negative connotation up till

Brooklyn Botanical Garden, urban farming projects and

now in the face of many poor income communities, this

CSA’s to provide the income of waste materials and the

is why this project is particularly sensitive to the people

distribution of fertilizer.

of Sunset Park. To create a community synergy with the

Together with UPROSE the recycling facility will create

waste facility, and let them benefit of the waste profits,

the ‘TASTE-THE-WASTE’ program to create a public

a local community group UPROSE is included in the

awareness of the possibilities of organic waste and to

project to be the mediator between NYC officials and the

promote recycling and urban farming. The ‘TASTE-THE-

community. They will be included on many levels, from

WASTE’ gardens can be maintained by local residents,

promoting waste recycling to finding new stakeholders

and UPROSE can start educational programs for children

to participate in the waste processing.

and adults about recycling and food cultivation.

Commercial businesses can reduce their expenses by

The design will integrate much desired open space

bringing their own recyclables to the recycling facility.

and create a synergy with the surrounding community

UPROSE will be in charge of finding local employees

involving in more actors in the project to create an open

and find potential partnerships with for example the

ended model.


Creating Creatingsynergies synergies


households Brooklyn

The parallel interrelation of different facilities and the

Brooklyn Wholosale Meat MArket


potential of new synergies are an important aspect in

regional organic waste

creating an efficient methodology in the waste landscape. Although creating these synergies would generate benefits for all actors involved, they are not dependent to

food vendors


each other in order to function.

cargo tram rail urban agriculture

+ 190 biomass


Water management


biomass fields

Industrial rooftops


Beneficial outcomes

excess heat

amount of waste before digestion amount of waste after digestion

stored biogas





191 NYC Power Grid

mixture of sludge and organic waste ANAEROBIC CO-DIGESTION



Owls Head Wastewater Treatment Plant

shipped to landfill as odor cap

toxic biomass


surrounding households

hazordous soil


The site is interpreted as a model that allows flexible

recycling, and see the lifecycle of their organic waste.

adjustments and gradual transformation. With its

The environment around the Brooklyn Army terminal

waterfront access to connect to the public water transport

is re-qualified with parts of urban biomass production,

system, and the greenway crossing the recycling site,

phytoremediation and an orchard that can nurture trees,

steers people attention to different sectors of the facility.

which later on can be planted within the city fabric. In

Transparency in the project is very important and public

this way the site creates a new form of economical and

participation is one of the most essential parts of its

ecological value where the former monotone landscape

succession. The community gardens of the TASTE-

made place for public productivity.

THE-WASTE program allow people to learn about

Axonometry of design proposal


Brooklyn Wholesale meat market organic feedstock

STEP 4: Electricity

regional power grid 194

Shipping $

In order to make the previous proposed synergetic diagram more tangible, this diagrammatic functioning of the site is showing an optimal usage of the existing infrastructures. It reveals the dynamics of the brownfield strategies in synergy with the waste recycling.

Diagrammatic organic waste cycle on site

Recycling collection point Households


Phytoremediation STEP 5: Storage

Biomass Taste The Waste 195

STEP 2: Anaerobic digestion

STEP 4: Compost drying STEP 3: Gas collection

Cargo tram with regional organic waste

STEP 1: Pre-treatment

STEP 2: Anaerobic co-digestion with sludge

To landfill 90% reduced Waste water treatment plant

Detailled section of ‘cut and fill’ groundworks


The rainwater network is captured and guided to the

connections, one is the greenway, which goes along the

open space at the waterfront where it can be stored

whole Brooklyn waterfront, the other one is connecting

in water ponds. These ponds are interwoven into the

the residential neighborhood with the waterfront. A

landscape of the brownfields and start to form the new

new waterfront transportation system is brought to

landscape through cut and fill applications. Intentionally

the abandoned pier and gives a fast connection to

placed tree lines create a higher buffer on top of the filled

Manhattan. This gives a welcome push to the shortage

spaces keep the soil settled. During heavy rainfall the

of fast public transport. The pier has a multiple usage

biomass fields can serve as extra water buffers and form

because it also facilitates the anaerobic digesters and


composting process. In this way the recycling facility can

The system of water management and brownfield

help to fund the public usage of the pier.

remediation can bring back biodiversity within the deprived industrial waterfront and form recreational

Furthermore the new development structure is just a

spaces for neighboring residents.

guide towards positioning of new small-scale businesses. Small boxes are scattered along the waterfront, which

The transport network on the site enables passers a

serve as manufacturing spaces. These boxes mainly

glimpse on the new recycling landscape. The recycling

contain one floor and can be filled in or redeveloped if

facility is sited at the cross point of two important soft

the existing structures are deteriorated.

Map 8: rainwater network rainwater catchment rainwater carriers green buffer permeable surface with biomass production rainwater collectors cut and fill

Map 9: transport network internal industrial traffic soft waterfront connector new public watertransport greenway connecting the waterfront parks of Brookyn cargo tram rail

Map 10: new development structure

new development and infill of vacant manufacturing buildings new affordable housing


tree nursery

compost drying


view waterfont access






section 1-1’


water transport

cargo tram





10 0m

2nd avenue


biomass production

rainwater collector

internal truckroad


compost drying



10 0m

recycling drop-off point


view from section

view from section


recycle drop-off point

rainwater carrier

research unit


water transport

section 2-2’




2nd avenue

rainwater collector

rainwater collector


parking Brooklyn Army Terminal

internal truck road


compost storage


waterfront connection

10 0m

This thesis tries to tackle with the issues and constraints observed in sunset park during the course of its research. To the author’s eyes the complexity of the current obstacles can be seen as interrelated socio-economic layers, ranging from the lack of job opportunities/ economical activities to the hazardous and unhealthy environment. Additionally, it is noteworthy to mention the absence of political voice of the neighborhood; in other words the interests of the inhabitants are not considered in perspectives of the city vision plans. The existence of waste dumping and power plants in Sunset Park manifest inequalities that thrive in New York City (Sze 202


2007). The uneven distribution of the polluting facilities should be restored and each borough should carry the responsibility of its own waste management and power production. In respect to the aforementioned conditions the taken redevelopment strategies should bring a common solution. In other words the problems cannot be tackled individually, a common sense is needed to create synergies between the multiple aspects of the problems. The waterfront area is taken into account as a platform for implementing the urban revival strategies due to its potentials and proximity to the neighborhood on one hand, and the urgent need of rethinking about the

environmental impact of the present facilities and the

path crossing the Brooklyn waterfront. Environmental

brownfield legacies on the other.

restoration of the surrounding brownfields becomes one of the structuring elements of the site and strategically

Moreover waste is seen as an asset to restore the deprived

placed educational platforms are implemented near

environment and a food waste cycle is envisioned at a

surrounding residential buildings and public accesses

local and regional scale as a benefit for local economic

offering multi-functional, collaborative use of space.

development as prototype for New York City’s waste

Local residents and community organizations maintain


these educational platforms, known as the ‘TASTE-THE-

Environmental impact of fossil fuel-based energy

WASTE’ program.

production demands an urgent shift to cleaner and more sustainable manners of power production.

This process cannot be seen as a closed entity;

Recycling organic waste, of which daily over 13.000

therefore the role of community is of major importance

tons is being shipped to landfills, has the opportunity to

for the succession of a new form of participation in the

create three byproducts: power, heat and fertilizer as a

production and disposal cycle of the city.

marketable product. To the opportunities of this system

The role of the community organizations like UPROSE,

for the environmentally deprived community should not

which are the political voice of the inhabitants of the

be overlooked, heat can be used in surrounding houses,

neighborhood is to improve and accelerate the course

and the fertilizer can be used at the degraded polluted

of the redevelopment strategies through reflecting the

soils for growing crops to restore the contaminated

people’s needs to the decision makers and make a stage

environment. The resulting clean power source meets the

for a continuous dialogue between both parties. A major

demand of the neighboring community and can replace

duty of the communities is to motivate people to be

existing polluting power plants.

involved in urban redevelopment projects and instead of being passive consumers invite/educate them to be an

To create a participatory environment the recycling

active part in the local economic chain and have a feeling

facility is implemented in an open landscape with two

of ownership to these projects.

public access corridors. One is leading to a new water transport connection; the other is the greenway cycling


TOWARDS A LEARNING COMMUNITY “I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. I believe that education, there fore is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” Dewey on education, John Dewey, p22


Education, inclusion and urbanism

Education is an important aspect in every ones life. It af-

interesting. Can a landscape be designed in such a way

fects your place in the class system, your chances on the

that it stimulates a community of learning that can offer

job market, the way you think,… No one will contradict

opportunities for both the community and the school at

that education has an important impact on your future

the same time? Can a decentralized educational land-

and your life in general . Therefore it seems logical that,

scape bring advantages to the less fortunate, which

in an inclusive neighborhood, everyone should have the

schools by thermself are not able to.

right and get the same opportunities to go to school and attend a meaningfull and good education.

In this design I will focus and examine these questions through reflecting them on Sunset Park. First some as-

Nevertheles it became clear that, especially in a low-

pects of the US and NYC educational system are in-

income immigrant neighborhood such as Sunset Park,

vestigated, highlighting some particular policies that

eduction cannot be specified only on the formal system

have great influences on disadvantaged neighborhoods.

of public and private schools. In a neighborhood as this,

Secondly, an analysis is made on the region of Sunset

the interrelationship between school and community is

Park itself, especially focusing on the needs and con-

not to be underestimated. Poor achievements in educa-

cerns regarding education. Hereafter, a short theoreti-

tion are often linked to the social and economical dys-

cal framework is given about some interesting concepts

function of that community and visa versa. Therefore the

such as the community school, the network school and

argument is raised that schools should not be treated as

the principles of COL “the City of Learning”. Finally, a

isolated entities, neglecting the different issues concern-

design to enhance Sunset Park’s “learning community”

ing the neighborhood. Instead, the question is stated if it

is proposed consisting of five basic strategies. In cer-

is possible that school and community develop interest-

tain places of the community several of these strategies

ing relations that are able to improve both the community

come together. These places will begin to function as

together with the schools.

“educational platforms” in the neighborhood. A zoom is made on three specific schools in Sunset Park and the

Because of this interrelationship between schools and

possible new connections and collaborations they can

the surrounding neighborhood, the connection between

establish towards these proposed platforms.

urban design, inclusion and education becomes really



Education in NYC

Classroom at PS971 (Source: authors, 2012)


This makes that schools situated in poor neighborhoods, with deteriorated properties, are not able to raise as much Education in NYC

money for schools, as schools that are situated in more

Education in the US is mainly provided by the public sec-

wealthy neighborhoods. This funding gap is crucial, and

tor (+/- 80%). Compulsory education differs from state

manifest itself very explicit in NYS. This leaves children

to state. In NYC school attendance is required between

in less wealthy neighborhoods already with considerable

6 and 16 which includes elementary school or primary

disadvantages, not taking into account all other disad-

school and high school. After that, students can enroll

vantages children in poor neighborhoods already have to

into college or university. Most children already attend

deal with. This funding gap contributes to a viscous cir-

school from nursery school or kindergarten. The public

cle children in subordinated neighborhoods giving those

school system in New York City is managed by the New

neighborhood any opportunities at all.

York City department Of Education (NYCDOE) and is


the largest in the United states. The NYCDOE consist of

No Child left behind

1700 schools and serves more then 1.1 million students.

An important and particular major school reform was the “No Child Left Behind (NCLB)” – act, president Bush de-

Funding gap

veloped in 2001. NCLB is focusing on school success as

Funding for public education is coming from three levels:

measured by student achievement. The goal of the NCLB

federal, state and local level. Particular about this funding

– program is to raise academic standards, close achieve-

system is the funding gap that can be identified among

ment gaps, encourage more school accountability, and

different schools in different neighborhoods. Local fund-

offer more choices to families and students. (NYCDOE,

ing is a big part of the public education funding which

2012) NCLB requires a state-wide standardized test that

makes that the amount of money particular schools re-

all students have to fulfill every year. The level of a school

ceive varies dramatically. This local funding depends

depends on the yearly progress report that is based on

largely on property values, not just from state to state but

the progress students make on these standardized tests

from district to district. 44% of the local funds comes

on the one hand as well as an evalu

from property taxes from residential and commercial properties of the district in which the school is situated.

ation of the teachers. Ratings are given on performance levels in English language arts and mathematics. A key part of the law are the consequences schools that score inefficiënt are imposed.

In schools that are rated “in

need of improvement” for two years it becomes possible for students to transfer to another school. Students in “schools in need of improvement” for three years may receive free additional tutoring (supplemental education services). If schools are “in need of improvement” for longer than 5 years, the school is eligible for closing, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly. Due to the education reform policies, major Bloomberg, closed the past decade, 117 of the least performing schools spread


over NYC , from which 25 last year. (NYC coalition for educational justice)

George Bush (Source: www.washingtonpost.com, last viewed on august 26 2012)

Although this reform act was been created to reach the same performance level among students in all of the US

it’s actually achieving lowered standards because many

schools, including the less fortunate, the act received a

states have ‘dumbed down’ their tests or changed the

lot of criticism and is not solving any of the problems so

scoring of their tests to say that more kids are passing

far. In the book “The death and life of the great American

than actually are (Ravitch, 2010).She believes that in this

school system”, Diane Ravitch stated that the basic strat-

way we are tending toward an education marketplace

egy of NCLB is “measuring and punishing” and that it

and there should not be any competition. Schools op-

turns out that, as a result of putting so much emphasis on

erate fundamentally — or should operate — like fami-

the test scores, there’s a lot of cheating going on, there’s

lies. The fundamental principle by which education pro-

a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards

ceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share

what works; schools are supposed to get together and

supervision of every classroom. The general idea behind

talk about what has been successful for them. They’re

the changes is that the mayor runs the school system as

not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a

a business (Ravitch, 2010).

survival of the fittest competition with the school down

The tests were considered to be the major performance

the block.” The No child left behind standards are still

indicator besides which the school could also include

standing under the policies of Obama although Obama

other subjects. However because teachers and students

acknowlidges some of the issues and therefore allowed

know the tests are in fact the only measures, there is little

for more flexibility in each state.

motivation for them to include other subjects. Elementary and middle schools have little reason to pay attention to

Bloomberg on education

subjects that are not included in the test, such as: art,

Between 1969 and 2002, control of NYC schools was

physical education, science, history or civics. (Ravitch

decentralized. When Michael Bloomberg was elected in


2001 he claimed that he would transform the school sys212

tem drastically. In 2002 he put his word to the test.

Public education in the US

(NY times, 2012)

Obviously education is critical in the individuals, community, city and state level to achieve economical suc-

A lot of changes were pushed through such as large sala-

cess, success in the labour market and success in life

ry increases for teachers, closing a many low performing

in general. Education affects every part of our lives. For

schools and opening smaller charter schools. The most

the majority of people your education level will determine

radical change was the fact that he persuaded the state

your income level, your place in the class system, your

legislature to give him ultimate power and responsibility

health and your future. Despite several decades of for-

for the city’s schools. The Bloomberg-Klein program is

mation, public education in the United States, once be-

called Children First and it supports the same ideas as

ing a model-system, is still criticized and under pressure.

the federal No Child Left Behind program.

Examining the case of Sunset Park it becomes clear that the most vulnerable neighborhoods and children are

The reorganization installed a corporate model of tightly

still suffering from a system, where schools get unequal

centralized, hierarchical, top - down control, with strict

chances and opportunities.

Structure of education in the United States Postdoctoral Study and

Master’s Degree


Doctoral studies

Professional 6 Schools

Master’s Degree Studies

5 4

Bachelor’s Degree

3 Associate Degree or Certificate

High school diploma 17 15

4 - Year HIgh Schools

1 12

Senior High Schools

Combined Junior- Senior High Schools

14 13 12

Middle schools


Junior High Schools

11 10 9 8 7 6



9 8

Elementary (or Primary) Schools

4 3





5 4 3 Age


Kindergartens Nursery schools

Elementary (or Primary) schools


Secundary Education (Academic, vocational, Technical)


Undergraduate Programs

Vocational Junior or technical Community institu-

Postsecondary Education (College, University, Professional, Vocational, Technical)

Ph.D or Advanced Professional Degree

PK Grade

Bron: national center for education statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d99/fig1.asp source: national center for education statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d99/fig1.asp, last viewed on 20/08/12)



Educational barriers and opportunities in Sunset Park

Dreamers picture, (Source: authors, 2012)


NEW YORK CITY Number of public schools


Number of students


Public and private school enrollment


Not enrolled





Grades K - 5

Private 21%

Public 79%





Grades 6 - 12

Disconnected youth

Between 16 and 24, not in school and not working


Educational attainament 25 years and older

Less than a high school degree Bachelor degree or higher

21% 33,6%

Public 28,9%

Disconnected youth - Between 16 and 24, not in school and not working





294 754

10 283

43,5% 24,5%


24.9% 75,5%



5,7% 20,6%

73,7% 7,7% 92,3%


13,9% 86,1%





29 %


SOURCES: Brooklyn neighborhood reports 2012, community district 7, Center for the study of Brooklyn, Diirector: G. Maneval http://insideschools.org/districts/brooklyn/district-15

EDUCATIONAL BARRIERS IN SUNSET PARK Language skills and literacy is a main issue for residents to integrate into community and find decent jobs. For most residents in Sunset Park the primary language “What happens after the final school bell of the day rings

they speak differs from English (70%) and 31% does not

is as important to students as what goes on in the class-

speak English well or at all. Furthermore, the ability of

rooms.� Mayor Bloomberg.

the parents to speak English is closely connected to the success of their children in school or the success they have in labor market. A lot of the parents are not able


Sunset park is a low income, immigrant neighborhood

to support their children with their homework . A lot of

that has different particular issues and needs that con-

residents lack the language skills to enter documentation

cern education. Even today new immigrants are arriv-

or access to the facilities they are in need of. Among

ing in Sunset Park. At this moment Sunset park has an

people who are undocumented there exist a fear towards

largely Hispanic/Latino population (47%) and a growing

seeking the help they need from agencies or government

Asian population that almost doubled between 1990 and

or to join certain community organizations. (Lutheran

2000 ( 27%). This cultural diversity is a hallmark for the

health center, 2010)

neighborhood but contributes to struggles that manifest on educational level as well. Overall 40% of the residents did not complete high In Sunset Park still 24.8 % of people lives underneath the

school and 15,6 % of youth between 16 and 24 is not in

poverty level. This percentage increases among fami-

school and not working. (Brooklyn neigborhood report,

lies who have children. In these families the poverty rate

2012) . This percentages are worse than the averages in

increases to 34.9%. This high percentage of poverty is

Brooklyn and NYC. Sunset Park also knows a high drop

linked to low-wage jobs these immigrants fulfill. A phe-

out rate caused by several reasons such as the pressure

nomena that is highly caused through the fact that peo-

of the yearly state exam, the un-supporting environment

ple in Sunset park are unskilled or have low – language

the youngster often live in or the hopeless future the un-

and literacy levels.

documented immigrants face because their lack of legal

Youth age 16-21 Unable to Speak English well or at all - Brooklyn Community district. 0.7% - 1.3% 1.4% - 2.1%


2.2% - 4.0% 6.5%

4.1% - 7.0% 7.1% - 17.5%


1.6% 1.0%



1.7% 1.3%

17.5 %





3.3% 2.0%


6.8% 3.4%

2.0% SOURCE: Youth in Brooklyn: Demographic, Economic, Education and Risk Behavior Data for Youth Age 7-21,Produced for the Brooklyn Community Foundation November 1, 2009 Center for the study of Brooklyn, Director: G. Maneval

status limits their access to college scholarships and employment. Drop outs are a problem that is manifested all over NYC but knows

alarming high percentages among Mexi-

can immigrants where about 41 percent of all Mexicans between ages 16 and 19 in NYC have dropped out of school.

Another key issue is the time gab because schools in US end around 3 ‘o clock where on the other hand parents have to work until at least 6 o ‘clock. The time in between is crucial to find safety nets for children’s whose parents are working long hours. Children who do not have this safety net are said to often end up in vandalism, youth


gangs and so on. Sunset park is a poorly funded area, where a lot of parents have struggles to find programs for Children served in Child Care & Out-of-School Time (OST) New York City, 2009- 2013

there children already. Even more, this issue is becoming increasingly problematic, now there are plans to cut child care and after-school services for more then 47.000 children all over NYC. 36% of parents using after school pro-

137 225 120 062

113 794 94 215

85 513

73 186

68 680

grams, serving elementary and middle school students, -61.1%

52 000 53 315 27 000



Child care Enrollment **



Mayor’s proposal for 2013

OST enrollment*

* OST enrollment based on fiscal year data contained in the Mayor’s managment reports. ** Child care enrollment based on januari 2012 enrollment data from ACS Child care snapshots.

stated they would quite there jobs so they could stay home with the children. ( Campaign for children, 2012)

























EDUCATIONAL GAB LACK IN - yearly state exam - unsupporting environment - cutting funds




Runs a program wiht children from PS 503 and PS 506 i in the community garden in Sunset Park.

“ The issue of gardening at schools would really take some thougt and organization. But what they could do… there are communitygardens all over the city that are in walking distance of so many schools and that are vacant during the school day. And they could easily create programmes simular to our programme, it would be easy to hook up a programm that would be a collabaration with communitygardens in 100 different schools of more… “

“It took a decade, to adjust to the huge phenomena of parents not being home until 6o’clock. And one result of that is that children have to stay in schools or in programmes. This is a very porely funded area where people really struggle to find stuff for the kids to do cause they are still at work until 6oclock. And the food justice movement is fairly young so we did not figured out a way to connect it up yet.”


“In New York city the school system is very hard to change, it is very much of a top down thing … that creates micro managment of every moment, morning , noon and afternoon. There is no time to do anything thats not going to achieve the goal of testing better on mandatory tests. In that sense, like everybody else, i dont see a way of making any progress on this, in terms of the larger city.”


It seems that schools are still operating as independent islands, focusing on achieving high standard mandatory test to weed out the least performing teachers and schools. Too much emphasis is being put on a “poor pub-

Sunset Park has scores lower than averages in Brooklyn

lic education system,” when so many of these problems

and NYC on educational achievement. It is a neighbor-

are embedded into the social – economical conditions of

hood that is poorly funded and has to deal with a lot of

the surrounding community. Policies are less concerned

barriers and limitations concerning education. These lim-

about improving connections between community and

itations are strongly connected to the conditions of the

schools although the interrelationship between both is

community being a low income immigrant neighborhood.

not to be underestimated. We can not fix schools without

On the other hand schools in NYC are working in a sys-

looking to the community and visa versa. How can a Win-

tem where huge emphasis is put on achieving test result

win situation for community and schools be designed?

and scoring well for the yearly progress report. If schools are rated more than 2 years as “in need of improvement”

A lot of theorist believe in the idea that school and com-

children are stimulated to go to another school. So the

munity should be more connected as well that education

solution of the government is rather focused on aban-

should not only be situated inside the classroom but has

doning schools an sending children to adjoining neigh-

to happen in the community making valuable connec-

borhoods in stead of improving schools or connecting

tions that are able to improve as well community together

community and school through looking what the specific

with the schools.

needs and concerns of a certain neighborhood are. The funding system for schools that is partly based on property taxes only strengthens the vicious circle. A disadvantaged neighborhood that has the highest needs of quality education and neighborhood improvement gets the least opportunities.

John Kixmiller in garden (Source: authors, 2012)



Educational alternatives


The purpose of this design is not to make the case against schools, but to look how schools can be stronger connected to the community, as well as the other way around, how can the community serve as a educational

“Education is not a process that ends in mid-teens: that

platform in collaboration with the schools. Is it possible

is schooling. The two should not be confused. Education

to find in this way a landscape, a society that is more

is potentially a life-long process of exploring and discover-

inclusive and that enables advantages for the less for-

ing the workings of the world. Schooling is a compulsory

tunate ?

process, rigid, hierarchical; run according to the demands of a curriculum rather than its pupils.� Peter Buckman,


Education without schools, last page.

Many theorists that studied the topic of education such as Dewey and Illich, talked and discussed the role of the school in society. Both criticize the institution of the school. The school is acting too independent, there is almost no connection to the community, the reality of the society where the youngsters grew up and the world around. The school is acting as an island where students are imprisoned all day long and where they are bounded to a curriculum that has almost no connection to their real life.

Many people believe that we learn the most from our surrounding, from our friends and from people who share interests, in groups. (education without schools, p5.)



Principal at PS 971,a new charter school in the south of Sunset Park.

“ In this district are serious overcrowding problems in schools. This is a new school, that only exist for two years, but we already have to deal with a lack in indoor and outdoor space. I am dreaming of a new sports hall for my school, with a play area and garden on top of it... ”


“ Enrollment is all about zoning. If people want to move into this school, they have to move into this area. If people from a certain zoned area are from one culture, children will not experience another diverse culture ”

“ Our school is focussed on art, cooking and healthy food, and we want to make children more aware of their environment. Unfortunately we do not have an own garden to grow food, and we do not have relations with the community gardens... ”


He stated that education being a social process, the school is simple that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own power for social ends.

“ I believe that much of present education fails because

(Dewey on education, John Dewey, p22.)

it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place

Deweys ideas formed the basis for the development of

where certain information is to be given, where certain les-

what should later be called “community schools” and

sons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be

what at this time is well-known concept in the US. The

formed.” Dewey on education, John Dewey, p24.

coalition for Community schools CCS is one of the latest organizations that is working on education on both national, state and local level. They are one of the latest and only movements for full service community schools. On

John Dewey was one of the leaders on educational

the level of NYC the children’s aid society, that is an ac-

theories in the US at the beginning of the 20th century.

tive and founding member of the CCS, works strongly to

His work had great influence on the current ideas about

achieve community schools and works together with the

education. In his book Experience and Education (1938)

NY city department of education as well. Although this

Dewey put emphasis on the experience, purposeful

organization supports several projects in the boroughs of

learning and hands – on learning outside the classroom

Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten island, it does not sup-

and next to the imposed curriculum. Education should

port any community school in Brooklyn so far.

be more concerned with the students experience instead of delivering knowledge. Dewey was one of the first

“A Community School is a strategy for organizing the

thinkers that saw the school as the center for the com-

resources of the community around student success. It

munity and where the school could serve as a pivot for

is both a place and a set of partnerships between the

social life and neighborhood based social services.

school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, services, supports and opportunities

Ruth Stanislaus (Source: authors, 2012)


leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone —all day, evenings and weekends, year round. (Children’s aid society; community schools in NYC, 2010 )

The most important aim of the “community school” is to bring community and school closer together, to start collaborations between the students, teachers, parents, non profit organizations, health and youth centers in the community. Here the school will not function, only as a school anymore but will become a community center where everyone of the community has a sense of belonging. The 228

school is opened after school hours and even during the weekend to host other facilities that profit everyone.

Children in garden (source: www.cityfarmer.info, last viewed on 15th of august 2012)


Illich claims that educational disadvantage cannot be cured by relying on education within the school. He says that it should be obvious that even with schools of equal quality a poor child can seldom catch up with a

If a person is to grow up he needs, first of all, access to

rich one. Even if they attend equal schools and begin at

things, to places, and to processes, to events and to

the same age, poor children lack most of the educational

records. He needs to see, to touch, to tinker with, to grasp

opportunities which are casually available to the middle

whatever there is in a meaningful setting� Ivan Illich, p14,

class child. These advantages range from conversation

The deschooled society. Education without schools

and books in the home to vacation travel and a different sense of oneself, and apply, for the child who enjoys

A second concept concerning the relationship between

them, both in and out of school. So the poorer student

school and society is the networked- school. Here it

will generally fall behind as long as he depends on school

is not as much the community that integrates into the

for advancement or learning. (Ivan Illich, 1983)

school-building but the school that integrates and is a


part of an educational network in the community. Illich

Is it possible that in a neighborhood as Sunset Park, that

criticizes the institutionalization of education that is tend-

has limitations, low literacy and educations level, higher

ing towards the institutionalization of the society as a

poverty rates than average numbers in Brooklyn or New

whole. He believes in a de-schooled society and talks

York city, a de-centralized landscape of learning can

about educational networks that should create a learning

bring educational opportunities to the disadvantaged

environment without schools being the center and only

ones which schools by themselves are not able to?

focus of education in a neighborhood. He says that the current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse; educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. (Ivan Illich, 1983 )


The concept of COL is based on 10 strategies.

1. Integrate COL stakeholder – teachers, students, administrators, parents, and civic and business leaders – “Urban public schools are one the greatest domestic

into the planning process.

challenges facing the United States. Often, the dys-

2. Break out of the “big box” school

function of city neighborhoods and schools is related:

3. Coordinate school projects as part of a strategic plan

students from deficient schools inhibit community


and economic development; depressed community

and towns and construct a lesson plan derived from lo-

economies reduce local tax revenues that can be used

cal resources.

improve schools. Together, schools and communities


enter into a downward spiral.” Roy Strickland, the city of

ings as opportunities for various kinds of learning and


recreation facilities.

Inventory learning opportunities in neighborhoods

Inventory neighborhood and town sites and build-

6. Where possible, mix uses at school sites


7. Coordinate agencies, programs, and funding sources COL, the city of learning, is develop by Roy Strickland,

that can contribute to school projects.

architectural and urban designer at the university of


Michigan. COL provides a strategy for revitalizing the

facilities and services

urban public school system through providing valuable

9. Include learning space into building of all types

connections with the community and is already executed

10. Use technology to support COL

in different cases in Washington DC, Berkeley CA, and so on. COL is built on the premise that teachers and learners can contribute to community life and community resources can contribute to learning.

Concerning the public sector in delivering learning



A good example of the feasability of the COL principle is the Metro-Paterson Academy for communications and Technology (MPACT). Several principles were successfully implemented in this project.

Paterson had many existing vacant industrial buildings in the city. The upper floors of these buildings offered large spaces to expand the number of classrooms and


secondary facilities such as design studios without building new campuses. This way, mixed use between private sector, neigborhood and school was introduced into the new campus for the school.

Principles col, (sources: Roy Strickland, 2003)

schools, green pathways were installed in Paterson beThe same statement holds true for the brownfield site in

tween the school buildings.

sunset park where classrooms, sportclubs businesses and community organizations will be combined. In both

Finally Paterson set up a collaboration project between

situations capital and space intensive facilities are (or will

the schools and several public and private instances

be) shared between different school facilities on the one

such as hospitals and local buisinesses.This approach

hand and third parties on the other hand.Furthermore, to

stimulated the external learning possibilities for the stu-

connect these renovated sites with the existing


COMMUNITY SCHOOL - Het Keerpunt , Antwerp

A good flemish example of the concept of the “Brede school” is the school “het Keerpunt” in Antwerp. When the technical school that was occupying the buildings was closed, several buildings became available for functional re-orientation. The building is now being used for partial education. At the same time the school is opened for external organizations such as: a nursery, a music school, an art school, several local committees and a cooking school. These functions are often after-school activities but also enable contact between the daytime students and the community. The nursery for example 232

enables single moms to enjoy the lessons and provide hands on internships for the students of the care-studies. The snack bar “Hacienda” in the school forms the meeting point for everyone visiting the school and is run by the students of the school. However, three evenings per week the snack bar is transformed into a real restaurant where the students from the cooking school prepare meals for their guests.

Het keerpunt, antwerp: (source: Agion)



Design strategies Creating a web of education in Sunset Park











Design strategies in Sunset Park


The 5 main strategies used in the design towards Sunset park as a learning community are the following:


Building community partnerships & create a lesson plan

- building community partnerships & create a lesson plan

derived from local resources

derived from local resources.

Sunset park has a lot of local resources and learning op-

- mix uses at schools & include learning space into build-

portunities within its neighborhood which benefits should

ings of all kinds

be used as good as possible. Again: learning by doing, resources such as cultural institutions, libraries, hos-



pitals industry and so on can be used to provide new

- rethinking existing educational infrastructures

ways of education. New programs or activities can be

- Use of potential vacant infrastructures

created and can be tied into the standard curriculum of

- Create opportunities and spaces for life long learning

the schools and can help support educational programs

and cultural exchange

such as internships, work-study programs,.... Furthermore, the existing infrastructure of these institutions can

These strategies are partially based on the principles of

be supplementary to the already existing school facili-

COL, as explained before.

ties. Inclusion of learning spaces into a diverse palette of buildings. This approach can also be viewed the other way around: new functions and programs can be integrated into the existing school facilities.

Lutheran Family Health center Important local resources in Sunset park are: Sunset Park recreation center, Sunset park Branch library, Sunset park industrial businesses , the commercial 5th and 8th avenue and so on. However, the most obvious, and at

Sunset Park family health center

Sunset gardens - elderly care

Sunset park Branch library


Head start center

Sunset park recreational center

Lutheran “magical years� childhood center

St. Andrews childare

services (sources, google maps 2012)

Lutheran family support center

Center for family life

this moment the most important one, is Lutheran health

and rights in the benefit of the community. A few of them

center. Lutheran Family Health Centers (LFHC) has been

are already providing educational programs such as a the

a strong partner and a leader in working towards the re-

Center for family life, Adelante Alliance, Sunset Park Alli-

vitalization of Sunset Park since its foundation in 1967.

ance for youth or La Union.

LFHC offers primary care services but also focuses on the connection with the community. It tries to identify the


problems in the neighborhood and provide an answer to

Mix uses at schools and create leaning space into build-

the problems and needs of the residents. Today LFHC of-

ings of all kind

fers a wide range of services within the neighborhood of

As already mentioned infrastructures can be mixed and

Sunset Park. Besides the larger hospital, LFHC also runs

can offer supplementary facilities to the already exist-

smaller family health centers, senior housing, home care

ing school facilities. New educational spaces can be

programs, early childhood services, and so on. LFHC has

housed in the buildings of Lutheran family health cen-

school based health centers in 14 schools in and around

ters, the Sunset park library and so on. The other way

Sunset Park for primary care, mental health, counsel-

around is also possible: new functions and programs can

ing and dental services. LFHC employs nowadays over

be integrate into the existing school facilities. The school

3000 people which makes them the largest employer in

should not function anymore as an isolated island open

Sunset Park.

from 9AM to 3PM instead it should open its doors from early morning until late evening, allowing for a mixture of

Community based organizations

after-school programs, additional learning programs, and

Other big players in creating community partnerships are

encourage activities organized by organizations that do

community based organizations who function as a medi-

not have there own community space.

ator between the schools and other community resources. They will play a key role in organizing, pushing and coordinating the different programs. Sunset park already has a strong history of community involvement, which is expressed in a large number of organizations fighting for or strengthening community awareness for certain issues



Sunset park Highschool 980

IS 136 Charles O Dewey 490

PS 24

MS 821 Sunset Park Prep 744


PS 1 The Bergen 1208

239 PS 503 The school of discovery 944

PS 169 Sunset Park

Al Madrasa Al Islamya islamic private school



PS 506 The school of journalism & technology

PS 94 Henry Longfellow

813 1459

St. Aghata catholic private school 184 IS 220 John J Pershing 1261

PS 971 160

Our Lady of Perpetual help catholic private school 182


and green, offering more hands on opportunities.

Next to this increased educational web of partnerships, programs and collaborations a design for a visible, physical and safe structure in the neighborhood is proposed that can support and complement the educational web. Here fore two main strategies are used.

Rethinking existing educational infrastructure Sunset park is a neighborhood that already has a vast number of school infrastructures and a limited amount 240

of additional infrastructures where educational programs take place such as the Sunset park recreation center or the sunset park Branch library. These spaces can be reinvented in a way they become more functional.

In addition to inside infrastructures, existing play grounds that are bounded to the schools can be rethought as well. At this moment the majority of school yards are concrete play grounds which do not contribute towards any creativity or learning processes . Schoolyards can be transformed into dynamic centers of recreational, learning and community life, by adding new elements such as: outdoor classrooms, outdoor libraries, gardening boxes,.. . Playgrounds will be rethought to become more inspiring playgrounds in Sunset Park: Sources (authors, 2012)


Center for family life Community board7

Sunset gardens elderly care Lutheran Augustana elderly home

Sunset park family health care

Lutheran medical center

Sunset park branch library

Sunset park recreation center

241 St. Andrews Childcare Head start center

Lutheran “magical� years childhood center

Park ridge family health center

Our lady of perpetual help Lutheran family support center

Use of potential vacant infrastructure

Rethinking existing vacant industrial buildings

Rethinking potential vacant sites

The waterfront in Sunset park, once a thriving industrial

Within the boundaries of Sunset park a decent amount

area, is at this moment under utilized, has a decent num-

of vacant lots can be found. One can find smaller vacant

ber of huge industrial warehouses . Some of them are in

lots in the residential area as well as a huge potential in

ownership of the municipality and become in that way,

brownfield sites at the waterfront. These in-fill sites are

very interesting to become new educational facilities that

potential spaces to contribute towards the learning com-

can offer an answer to the huge problems of overpopula-

munity and provide new functions that give more needed

tion in schools in Sunset Park.

public inclusionary space to the inhabitants of Sunset Park. They can be places of learning, meeting and exchanging of culture and skills.

Rethinking existing infrastructure 242

Furthermore, a network of soft connections will be created by downgrading infrastructure that is at this time over-dimensioned. By doing this, more space will be available for a green and safe pathway for children and parents going and coming from school and in-between all the different existing and potential educational infrastructures.

“School can start at a student’s front door, if the commute is designed as well as the building. Walking paths and bicycle trails connect a school with the home it serves� The third teacher

Vacant sites in Sunset Park (Sources: google maps, 2012)


Platforms of education

Greening 3th avenue learning pockets Waterfront recreation and community park

Lutheran Medical center Healing Gardens



strategic elements come together. In the first place there are the different health services from Lutheran family

All these strategies should strengthen the Sunset Park

health center. Second there are the potential open and

educational web which is spread all-over the commu-

vacant spaces surrounding this site and finally you have

nity. However in certain areas several of these strategies

the neighboring schools that are in need of more useful

come together creating stronger feasible elements. As

space. This new learning platform will be a contribution

such they start to function as educational platforms. In

towards the surrounding health services, offering them

the design, 3 main educational platforms can be distin-

green space to rehabilitate. To conclude they also form


opportunities for collaborations between services and


schools as well indoor as outdoor.

Third avenue is at this moment immensely over dimensioned and therefore will be downgraded. This allows for


a lot of new public space along this road. Furthermore dif-

The third platform will be the new nascent park develop-

ferent public schools are connected with their backside

ment at the waterfront where one of the existing indus-

to third avenue as well as some of vacant spaces. The

trial buildings will be re-used to become a new commu-

new physical structure that appears is a linear one with

nity school. This platform will offer answers to a lot of

pockets attached to connecting different school physi-

direct needs of the neighborhood, such as public - and

cally together. This new structure facilitates a safer con-

community space and pressing overcrowding problems

nection on the one hand and opportunities for interven-

in schools.

tions and joint projects of different schools on the other hand. These learning pockets become flexible opportuni-

To specify the concrete collaboration between these

ties for creative learning such as temporarily exhibitions

platforms, schools and local resources, the design will

, outdoor libraries, outdoor classes, students markets,…

zoom in on three schools. Two existing schools: Sunset

that are as well public for everyone in the community.

park high school and PS 971. A third zoom is made on the nascent park development at the waterfront where

2. LUTHERAN HOSPITAL – HEALTH GARDENS The site of Lutheran medical center is one where more

one of the warehouses will be transformed into a new community /school building.



vision behind the Promise Neighborhood Program is the idea that all children that grow up in such a neighbor-

Although policies in US mainly seem to focus on achiev-

hood should be able to have access to “great” schools

ing high scores on the yearly progress exam, there are

and can have the needed community support that will

also some great initiatives coming from federal level such

enhance this. So in these communities there exist strong

as the promise neighborhood grant Sunset Park received

systems of family and community support that will pre-

in 2010. The leading organization, Lutheran family health

pare students to attain an excellent education and make


a succesful transition to college and a career.

is awarded this grant to create the “Sunset

park promise neighborhood”. Here fore they received an


amount of $498,614. From more then 300 communities

“it is a wonderful opportunity for the Lutheran Fam-

that applied, only 21 where awarded a grant, and only 2

ily Health centers network to facilitate a community re-

of them situated in New York City. Lutheran family health

sponse that supports our most vulnerable assets - our

center on the one hand and Abyssinian Development

children” Larry K. Mc Reynolds, executive director, Lutheran

Corporation in Harlem on the other hand.

Family Health centers.

“Communities across the country recognize that education is the one true path out of poverty, these Promise Neighborhoods applicants are committed to putting schools at the center of their work to provide comprehensive services for young children and students.” Secretary


Arne Duncan, US department of education.

The collaborations in this design will be based on the partnerships Lutheran medical health center is already

The promise neighborhood grant is a part of Obama’s

establishing within its planning for Sunset park promise

campaign where he planned to invest $210 million in

neighborhood. This will be a starting point for the de-

the educational budget of 2011. The Promise Neighbor-

sign organized with a limited number of organizations

hoods Program occurred under the legislative authority

and schools but provides the option for extension in the

of the Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE). The


Lutheran medical care centers

Sunset park Branch library St. Andrews day care center

Sunset gardens elderly care Head start center

Sunset park recreation center




LUTHERAN FAMILY HEALTH CENTERS Future: La Union, Sunset park alliance for youth,...




PS 24






Sunset Park HIghschool

PS 971

Bush terminal - warehouses: future new school and community building 248

Design proposals Zoom on 3 schools in Sunset Park

Sunset Park Highschool, (source authors 2012), PS 971, (source authors 2012), Bush terminal warehouses, ( source, Nathan Kesinger)


Sunset Park high School is a newly constructed highschool build in 2009 after 38 years of community envolvement. The school works with three small learning communities: Visual and performing arts Business and entrepeneursship Health and human services


Sunset park Highschool already collaborates closely with the community based organization Center for family life who organizes advisory partnership and an after school program at the site as well as the programme YEP (Youth employment programm). In addition to the already existing programs new programs will be add in collaboration with Center for family life as well as Lutheran family health Centers that are taking place in the community and that anticipate on the existing local resources in the surrounding of the school on the one hand and strenghten the school goals on the other hand. 250






After school programme YEP (youth employment programme)

GO GREEN Bush terminal students farmers market School based health center


Internships / Work-study program

Sunset Gardens Lutheran family health centers


Center for family life

Lutheran family health center


252 Greening 3th avenue

Sunset park Highschool

Students run farmers market

Transformed green play- yard

“Go Green� programme

The new programs proposed for Sunset park High school

The second “DO CARE” program is in collaboration with

are related to the focuses the school already has.

“Lutheran health center” and with “Sunset gardens elderly care”. This initiative fits under the learning program

The “GO GREEN” program is a concept where students

“health and human services” and can be executed in in-

run a farmers market. They run a small parcel on the

ternships and work - study programs for the students.

urban farm but sell the products also on the market of their school. Students will be responsible for: growing

Furthermore, the play-yard of the school will be trans-

and selecting products at local farmers - learning about

formed to a more agreeable and green space that allows

each product they sell and selling fresh produce at their

for a range of different activities and will be tied into the

schools. This program will on the one hand be a learning

new learning pockets around third avenue.

experience on “business and entrepreneurship”, one of the learning programs of Sunset park High school. On the other hand, the students will learn about healthy food and have hands - on experiences in the neighborhood.


PS 971 Is a new school that opened its door in 2010. At this moment the school serves pre--K, K and first grade. The school will expand each year with one grade until it reaches fifth grade. The school is focussed on art, cooking ad healthy food and wants to make the children more aware of there environment. Although the school is new, it already has to deal with serious overcrowding problems. The school has almost no outdoor space and has no connection to the nearby community garden. The municipality is cutting funds in after-school programmes and so far PS971 has no programme to bridge the educational gab between 3 and 6 o’clock.

Starting collaborations

Center for family life

Lutheran family health center

Through new collaborations with Center for family life and Lutheran family health centers PS 971 will be strongly connected to the Lutheran health site.

Creating new programmes


After school programme WHITE 6%




Outdoor learning PRE-K

5th grade

LOVE FOOD Healty cooking initiative at Lutheran healing gardens.

DO SHARE Healty cooking initiative at Lutheran healing gardens. Two girls (source: authors 2012)

Lack in outdoor space

PS 971


Cutting public funds

No after-school programme

Out of school time Beacon programmes Cornerstone programmes 255

256 Love food program

Lutheran family health

Health gardens

Lutheran Medical center

Lutheran Augustina eldery care

The proposal for PS 971 will build on the current main

their own vegetables and prepare them in the outdoor

issues this school is experiencing. Due to diminishing

kitchen that will be developed in one of the vacant sites

funding they cannot offer an afterschool program to

around the care facilities. The “DO SHARE” program is

their students yet. Despite the fact that this is a recently

based on collaborations between the Augustina elderly

build school, they are already experiencing overcrowding

home and the school. This new after-school program

problems. Further more, this school has limited outdoor

brings young and old together to share and learn.

space. The health gardens themselves will be designed with a The school will develop a strong connection with the new

colorful pallet of different native plants, flowers and spe-

educational platform that is situated around Lutheran

cies interspersed with some open space allowing for ac-

medical care. The new health gardens offer an alterna-


tive for the limited outdoor space the school has, and is complementary to the focus of this school on healthy food, cooking and sustainability. In the “LOVE FOOD” program, children learn how to grow


Multi - purpose banquet room

Students of the new elementary and middleSchool



Sport club

classrooms Community members Sport- infrastructure

Office- space 258 Media- center




260 New Sunset waterfront school community building

Water retaining

development of sport site

municipal park development


One of the industrial buildings at the waterfront

low different stakeholders to take profit out of it.

will be transformed into a new school and com-

The design of the surrounding Brownfield focuses

munity building. This building that is owned by the

on the development of additional sport fields that

municipality is situated in front of the nascent park

are now underrepresented in Sunset Park. Through

that is currently being developed by the munici-

adding these community functions next to the na-

pality as well. This building provides an immidiate

scent park development, the connection between

solution on pressing issues of the neighborhood,

the inhabitants of Sunset Park and the waterfront

such as the critical shortage of school infrastruc-

will be strenghtened instead of only attracting other

ture and community space. In addition the build-

developers. It is a opportunity to make this site a

ing will house office-space, sport infrastructure, a

valuable opportunity for the community of Sunset

childcare center, a multipurpose room and a me-


dia center. A flexible use of these spaces will al-



Drawings of children (Source: authors, 2012)


Sunset Park has scores lower than averages in Brooklyn

additional services such as the Lutheran Family health

and NYC on educational achievement. It is a neighbor-

center, Sunset Park Library or vacant infrastructures such

hood that has to deal with a lot of barriers and limitations

as the industrial warehouses at the waterfront. Through

concerning education. These limitations are strongly

capturing these already existing resources it can reveal

connected to the conditions of the community being a

a lot of opportunities on which schools can rely for new

low-income immigrant neighborhood. On the other hand

collaborations, programs, or the creation of new learn-

schools in NYC are working in a system where huge em-

ing spaces. Lutheran Family health Center will become in

phasis is put on achieving test result and scoring well for

this design the main organizing component to create this

the yearly progress report. It seems that schools are still

new web of collaborations with as main driver the Sunset

operating as independent islands, in a system where too

park Promise neighborhood grant.

much emphasis is being put on a “poor public education


system,� when so many of these problems are embed-

The second finding in this design was that the connec-

ded into the social – economical conditions of the sur-

tion of the schools and their community took place on

rounding community.

two levels: a programmatic level of new and enhanced collaborations and programs on the one hand and a vis-

This thesis investigated how in a disadvantaged neigh-

ible, spatial network, creating a feasible structure in the

borhood such as Sunset Park the connection between

neighborhood on the other hand. Both layers work to-

schools and the surrounding community could be

gether and complement each other. At certain places,

strengthened to obtain a more inclusive, win-win situation

were more educational elements come together these

for both. This case demonstrated that there are possibilt-

layers become strong educational platforms that form

ies to design the school and the surrouding neigborhood

the pivots of change in the neighborhood.

in such a way that it stimulates a learning community and offers opportunities for both at the same time.

I believe that such a multidimensional educational network has a power to make the shift between a top-down,

The first remarkable finding is that the neighborhood of

achievement driven school system to a system that stim-

Sunset Park has many resources that are currently not

ulates education among the entire community. Expected

recognized or used at their full potential. Examples are

dynamics of such a system can be viewed in different

timeframes: from short term to long term. Where in short term there is an increase of additional programs through collaborations that can give an immediate answer on specific needs in the community, such as: closing the educational gap through new after-school programs, empowering parents to get closer connected to there child education, offer more needed public and community space and so on. Further more, this system can be self-sustainable within the community through relying on community-based organizations and local supporting resources, not totally depending on state or city funding.

The most important change however is the long-term dynamic that such a network of learning will enhance. The neighborhood now offers a system of learning and experiences that supports and motivates the community, giving people life long support to overcome different barriers. I am convinced that this approach will help to gradually help the schools in ÂŹÂŹSunset Park to break through the current vicious circle. This trend will step by step increase the value of the neighborhood, turning the current situation into a positive upward spiral.


Hi, I am Gabriela and this is my son, Carlos, he is 8 years old. Carlos has difficulties in school but I was My name is Kaj, I was not enrolled into any after-

not able to help him because I had difficulties with

school programme, because there was no place.

English. Thanks to the new english - reading pro-

Now I go every day to the new garden at the hospital

gramme in the library I can learn to talk and write

to play and learn together with my friends and the

English in a decent way.

old people that live there.


Kid (Source: authors, 2012)

Mother and kid (Source: Chris Arnade, 2011)

Hello, I am Fernanda, I recently started to give healthy cookclasses at children from PS 971. I am Jessica and I am 4 years old.

Sometimes the kids come as well to my restaurant

Sometimes we go out the school to the garden and

and can have real experiences.

learn about different flowers. I love flowers.


Girl (Source: Chris Arnade, 2011)

Women (Source: Chris Arnade, 2011)



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Jana Grammens

Amber Kevelaerts

Maarten Wauters