Connecting Staten Island’s Waterfront to Its Community in a Time of Rapid Change
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
Staten Island’s North Shore is changing at an incredible pace; yet how do we ensure that the creative and cultural sectors have a role in and are connected to this transformation? A 630-foot tall observation wheel will mark the Staten Island waterfront and tower above a 300,000-square foot shopping and entertainment complex serving millions of Staten Islanders and ferry riding visitors. New residential developments at the former Coast Guard and Homeport sites in St. George and Stapleton, respectively, will provide hundreds of mixed income and affordable units for many families. All of this new urban development already has become an economic engine for New York City’s least populated, and often forgotten, borough.
Arts and cultural activities of the local community have played a key role in steady, yet equitable development on the North Shore. This waterfront community encompasses the neighborhoods of St. George, Tompkinsville, and Stapleton. This diverse downtown area is home to hundreds of artists and arts organizations. Their civic engagement and local investment have made the North Shore a desirable location, collectively designated as a Naturally Occurring Cultural District (nocdny.org). For the most part, the North Shore waterfront development is disconnected from the residential neighborhoods and most residents think of it as a place for work or transportation, not a public space. The culturally rich downtown community faces challenges in planning for cohesive, quality public space. These new development projects are happening very quickly, and up until very recently there has been little community involvement. We are opening up that conversation.
The Design Trust for Public Space and Staten Island Arts have initiated Future Culture: Connecting Staten Island’s Waterfront, a multi-year project to engage local artists and cultural practitioners, community members, area developers, and New York City agencies in planning Staten Island’s expanding North Shore waterfront together. The project has the participation and support of NYC Economic Development Corporation and developers—BFC Partners, Ironstate, New York Wheel, and Triangle Equities. We plan to build on both public and private efforts, amplify the voice of the arts and cultural community, and ensure the existing cultural assets are strengthened and expanded during this time of change.
Multiple public and private efforts will complement each other including NYC Department of City Planning’s Bay Street Corridor rezoning plan to provide a wider range of retail and services, affordable housing options and a walkable pedestrian friendly neighborhood to meet current and future community needs.
In 2014 the local arts council Staten Island Arts was selected in an open call by a jury organized by the Design Trust for Public Space to foster Staten Island’s unique cultural communities and ensure their role in the future character of the North Shore’s developing waterfront. Together we engaged a Cornell design studio to analyze the urban conditions of the area, starting with the transportation hub at the Staten Island St. George Ferry Terminal. We developed a project scope and built relationships with key public and private stakeholders over the next year and a half.
In August 2016 the Design Trust awarded Fellowships to a multidisciplinary team of professionals, including a Staten Island artist, to work with local artists and community members, area developers, and New York City agencies alongside the Design Trust, in developing and communicating a vision for arts and cultural involvement in the waterfront.
Our project requires intensive local engagement, leading to actionable design, planning, and policy recommendations to share with arts and cultural practitioners, key public officials, and private stakeholders by early 2017. The engagement activities include an open-house information session, a weekly working group gatherings, one-on-one meetings with community members in an ‘office hour’ format that is open to all, meetings with public and private stakeholders, and presentations at community events. Quarterly newsletters will apprise the St. George, Tompkinsville, and Stapleton communities and policy makers about the latest findings and elicit further input. We aim to test the recommendations through pilot public art installations—to be chosen through an open call in 2017—for activating public space along the waterfront.
Capitalizing on the power of the arts and quality public space to bring people together, we are drawing on local knowledge and civic engagement to produce a common understanding and shared purpose among the arts community, private developers, business owners, and public agencies about the character of the public realm on the waterfront that benefits everyone and creates vibrancy. Artists will not only be able to contribute to, but also gain access to these new spaces. They will enliven key public- and privately-owned sites and storefronts for the production and presentation of their work. Developers will have the tools to help them plan, operate, and sustain cultural activities to interconnect their properties and to enrich the area’s neighborhoods. NYC agencies will have a home-grown arts and cultural strategy to complement the Bay Street Corridor rezoning in 2017 and 2018; the citywide cultural plan; and other city agency economic development and housing initiatives. Ultimately these efforts will result in short and long-term strategies for neighborhood revitalization, sustainability, and equitable economic development, ensuring the social, ethnic, and economic diversity of Staten Island’s North Shore community for generations to come.
Featured Image: Staten Island Ferry. Photo courtesy of Gareth Smit, Future Culture Photo Urbanism Fellow, Design Trust for Public Space
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.
What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.
More than ever, urban transit services are in need of sustainable and affordable solutions to better serve all members of our diverse communities, not least among them, those that are traditionally car-dependent. New mobility technologies can be a potential resource for local transit agencies to augment multi-modal connectivity across existing transit infrastructures.
We envision a new decentralized and distributed model that provides multi-modal access through nimble and flexible multi-modal Transit Districts, rather than through traditional, centralized, and often too expensive Multi-modal Transit Hubs. Working in collaboration with existing agencies, new micro-mobility technologies could provide greater and seamless access to existing transit infrastructure, while maximizing the potential of the public realm, creating an experience that many could enjoy beyond just catching the next bus or finding a scooter. So how would we go about it?
Dedicated anti-trafficking actors across the nation are trying to build better systems in big jurisdictions like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and in smaller but scrappy jurisdictions like Waco, Texas and Boaz, Alabama. They all share the same need, for stronger interconnectedness as an anti-trafficking field, and more collaboration.
The Forging Freedom Portal is a one-stop shop where a police officer planning a victim-centered operation can connect with their law enforcement counterparts, and the right service providers ahead of time, collaborating to make sure they’re planning for the language skills, social services, and legal support that victims may need. The portal is a place where the people who care most about ending human trafficking, who are doing the hard work every day on the ground, can learn from each other and share best practices to raise the collective standard of this work.