Pratt's Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment

Students in Pratt’s Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment (GCPE) gained real-world experience in land use, policy, and planning through an innovative new studio class this past spring that focused on the East New York/Cypress Hills area of Brooklyn, which was rezoned in 2016 under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York Plan for affordable housing.

The studio, Land Use and Urban Design, aimed to help students examine the dynamics of community change in East New York following the rezoning and explore the options and possibilities it presents for the area. A group of 20 students from a cross-section of GCPE programs, including Urban Placemaking and Management, City and Regional Planning, and Sustainable Environmental Systems, took the studio, which was taught by GCPE Visiting Assistant Professors Paula Crespo and Michael Haggerty.

“The studio brought together many different modes of learning in a real-world context, from community engagement, to academic and policy research, to planning and urban design methods,” said Crespo. “It gave students the opportunity to really experience the linkages between planning, policy, and design and real-life social impact and outcomes, which is an excellent preparation for professional practice.”

The East New York rezoning is intended to create up to 3,250 affordable units and commitments for investments in public spaces, community facilities, economic development, and other resources, and will set the stage for the rezoning of up to 15 other New York City neighborhoods included in the Housing New York Plan. 

With the help of input from a community client, the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC), the students worked in four teams to create proposals for what might be built on a 6.8 acre neighborhood site called Arlington Village. The class made two presentations of their work to the CHLDC during the semester, allowing the students to work directly with members of the local community and incorporate their insights and suggestions into their proposal development. The final site proposal included a high-density, mixed-use development scenario with residential, commercial, and community facility land uses.

To inform their proposal development, the students spent the initial part of the semester studying the East New York area and examining the potential impact that changes in factors such as population and the real estate market could have on the neighborhood. A series of guest speakers from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Community Board 5, as well as housing policy and design professionals, and community members visited the class to share perspectives and give feedback. The students also drew from previous research into the area done by the Pratt Center for Community Development, where Crespo is a senior planner.

The proposals will be used by the CHLDC to help them work with community stakeholders to explore and visualize the possibilities for what could eventually be built at the Arlington Village site once it is redeveloped.  

Image: Arlington Village rendering, Land Use and Urban Design class