Monthly Archives: January 2013

Day 15: CUI and Neighborhood Day

Start of the second week! After a great dinner with IHP alumni and faculty from across the years we got started with our first session of CUI (Contemporary Urban Issues) which is the big team taught class that integrates all of our field work and also houses the students Comparative Analysis (CA) project, their major primary research independent study. We also did a small debrief on our time in the Rockaways last Friday. Some of the major themes that came out included voluntourism next to people who didn’t think losing their homes was “the most meaningful thing they’d ever done,”  the roll of privilege in relief work and the philosophy of mutual aid, the roll of systems in good or bad responses to disaster, and the government’s roll as insurance agency rather than relief organization. One of our students also raised a good point that the group’s playful approach to their full-body paint suits could be disrespectful when working along side people who use those suites for important reconstruction work.

2013-01-28 14.21.17The rest of the day was devoted to our first “Neighborhood Day,” a time when students are sent out into neighborhoods to explore different areas of the city deeply. Sometimes, as today, we have partner organizations in the neighborhoods. I went with a group of students to the lower east side of Manhattan to an area with a history as a working class immigrant neighborhood, and then for it’s waterfront housing projects, and today as an up an coming trendy “east village.” We met with folks from GOLES (good old lower east side), a community organizing organization that particularly advocates for its members’ low and moderate income housing. 

2013-01-28 14.20.29

We had an interesting conversation, particularly with the Executive Director who captured a lot of the ideas of the urban land ethic: that we have become used to just getting money out of properties. It’s no longer okay to just do well, now you have to be wealthy; that big companies are buying out huge portfolios of tenement buildings, it’s no longer each owner just has a building or two. Very interesting stuff and very well thought out. I will definitely need to reach back there to talk more with them about their work…

Tonight is low key. Going to continue to remember to take breaks, even in the absence of our chief morale officer, Kelly–may she get her visa soon!



Day 12: Rockaways

2013-01-25 10.53.08Today we had an all day site visit to the Rockaways to examine Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. We met with volunteers from a number of organizations and some Americorps folks, plus a local FEMA official and two women who live in the area and whose houses were rendered uninhabitable by flooding, mold, and other damage. I wish that the students had maybe had a chance to see more visual signs of damage, but it evolved into a really great discussion. The best part came as the women told their stories of loss and struggle, their experience of the relief volunteers, and their difficulty in getting money back from FEMA. After the discussion, we suited up the students (because they didn’t bring painting clothes for their 4-month trip around the world). Over the next three hours we painted the interior of the church. It’s amazing what a big group can do. Then I headed to the airport for my last weekend in Boston before we head out to the world.

2013-01-25 14.38.54

Day 11: First Day of Classes

2013-01-24 14.44.48Thursday blog post:

Today felt like the first real day of school. First off we had a debrief from yesterday’s “Agency Day” where students visited five organizations working on different issues around the city. Students had some really good reflections and connections, but we still have a lot to learn about making the most of site visits. A pitfall one group identified is just talking to “people like you” (in their case—young, ivy league, English-speaking), and not engaging with, as they did not, an older, Chinese-speaking, community organizer who had lived in Chinatown for decades. The students are also still in a school/analysis mode of looking for the organizational facts, resources, practices, etc. and struggling to ask for and listen for great stories, visual details, etc.

Up next we had a great panel discussion on planning and design issues in NYC. In particular, Peter Mullen from Friends of the Highline really brought home the complexities of planning and design in cities—the need to balance government institutions, community groups, and private developers/property owners. It turned into a great discussion about replicability of urban interventions vs. uniqueness, as well as small-scale, ecological interventions, verses large-scale change and opportunities to balance preservation with change. In the end change is inevitable. Cities that cannot change are dead or dying. Our task is to guide and shape change while accepting our limitations, the need for timing and luck, and so forth. Really great introduction the many of the issues we’ll be engaging in in my class.

After lunch we had another speaker, an urban sociologist/criminologist who spoke about the history of policing, particularly in New York. It was an interesting mix of analysis and critique, but from an insider’s perspective… so it’s not alright, but maybe it’s okay? Anyway,  in addition to a great connection to their Agency Day partner’s relationship to the police and to issues of urban order, criminality of ordinary life, and police culture/institutions which we will likely get to examine as the semester goes on.

In the afternoon, Kelly had the first class of her Politics and Development course and headed back to the hotel to work on finalizing our schedule for India and other logistics. It was a long, long day and helped us realize that part of the challenge is wanting to attend everything that happens during the day… but also making time to manage logistics, travel, lesson planning, and grading… it’s going to be an  interesting challenge! Fortunately, while Katie and I sometimes have a hard time unplugging from work and stress, Kelly is a great moral officer and reminds us to take back the hours of our evenings. As the program saying goes, “it’s a marathon, better pace yourself.”

Day 10: New York

Well it has been a crazy week as our staffing has quickly changed. One of our faculty has left the program and a new one is being brought online this week. There area million pieces to prepare and tomorrow is our first faculty session (Kelly’s) so we’ll get our first introduction the academic portions of the trip. Today was our first site visits as well. We sent out six groups to a wide range of organizations working in diverse neighborhoods of the City. I took a group to the Center for Urban Pedagogy – a really interesting civic design nonprofit and had a great afternoon with the students, and am now quite wiped. I do feel like one thing that was missing that day was the voice of the private market, the developer, the urban booster. How are we going to be effective critics if we never meet or engage with those who think things are fine or that more is better? Hopefully this is a perspective that we can work in over the semester…

Day 4: New York

Another long day of work and meetings, but our syllabi are nearly finalized and all the other course threads are coming together. I’ve started working on my first class session which will focus on interpreting the urban landscape. We will teach them their pacing (so they can measure easily while they travel) and practice observing the physical environment (after having read Jacobs and Whyte for that class). Tomorrow, I’m trying to fix my visa first thing and then organizing session for next week. Now off to bed.

Day 3: New York

day 3

The view from our conference room where we’re preparing–a rainy, grey day, perfect for working in doors.

Our third full day in New York, our preparations continue. Hammering out the syllabi for our courses and the team taught independent study course, getting caught up on emails, taking advantage of the YMCA’s gym, pool, and classes–free when you stay, pretty good deal!

Today I did a big addition to the about page on what the urban land ethic is, so that’s the big news for today.

Day 2: New York

Hello all,

Welcome to my blog. Here I will be cataloguing experiences and observations from my semester as traveling faculty for IHP Cities in the 21st Century. Today is our second day of orientation in New York, our faculty team is enjoying meeting each other and putting our pieces together for the semester. Today we’ve got long meetings about the new york program and the Comparative Urban Issues team taught course, case studies, independent research, and assignments generally. It’s great to see the pieces coming together.