Hudson Valley Initiative

The Hudson Valley Initiative (HVI) facilitates applied research into the complex spatial, ecological, and economic opportunities of this vast region. Extending several hundred miles north from Manhattan Island, touching five states, the region includes nine counties, 13 cities and over 200 villages and towns, and its watershed covers over 13,000 square miles. The status and future of this area deeply affects the lives of millions, from New York City to a broad swath of the American northeast. By serving as the GSAPP clearinghouse for urban design, architecture, landscape, preservation, and planning work, the HVI enables substantive contributions to the long term health and viability of the region.

Historically, the Hudson Valley contributed to the feeding, building, educating and housing of innumerable individuals and communities but since the Second World War, deindustrialization has cut deeply into economic health and social mobility. Population decline, job loss, and social inequality plague many towns and cities, and the disparities of wealth and poverty are glaring. Making the situation more difficult, there are many worthy yet conflicting visions, plans, and proposals from local and sub-regional organizations. The Valley’s cities and towns, including Poughkeepsie, Beacon, Newburgh, Kingston, Hudson, and surrounding towns and counties, often operate in isolation from one another, and the regional needs and capacities do not fully inform the public imaginary or professional practices. More recently, economic opportunity has extended north from New York City, providing fuel for jobs, housing and culture but with development comes difficult questions of power, equity and knowledge. Ensuring long-term benefits to a greater cross-section of the population is both necessary and difficult.

The Initiative works with non-profit organizations, community groups and local municipalities to advance the communities’ goals and enhance GSAPP students’ educational experience through real-world collaborations, both in the classroom through studios and seminars and beyond the classroom through applied research and design projects. The Initiative pursues projects that improve the built and natural environment by expanding social impact design, taking research and scholarship beyond the classroom, and providing community leaders and citizens with tools, techniques and knowledge to help build resilient communities. Students can participate in these projects as research assistants or community design assistants.

In addition, the HVI facilitates knowledge exchange between students, faculty and local leaders in the Hudson Valley by convening regular meetings that act as open forums for discussion on planning and design issues.

Want to work with us? Contact Director Kaja Kühl to discuss your organization’s needs and ways in which we can contribute within our curriculum and beyond.

Please click here to sign up for occasional emails. Follow us on Instagram for more frequent updates

current projects

In Newburgh, the Hudson Valley Initiative is collaborating with Scenic Hudson and the City of Newburgh to develop a toolbox for city-owned vacant lots as part of the city’s comprehensive Open Space Plan. This toolbox will describe different options and mechanisms for design, stewardship, programming and long-term maintenance of these lots. As part of this project, the team will install a pilot at 191 South Street to test ideas and collect feedback from residents. #lotsofideasnewburgh
191 South St Outreach September 2018.JPG
Community Members offering ideas for vacant lots during Newburgh Open Studios, September 2018
191 South St Pop up Community Building Day October 2018_3.JPG
Newburgh Free Academy Students build prototypes during a Community Building Workshop, October 2018
The Hudson Valley Initiative is assisting the Eutopia Foundation in framing the design parameters to establish a community at Wally Farms, in Columbia County. The Foundation seeks to develop space and opportunity for like-minded individuals to form a community that addresses the challenges of climate change by drawing on the arts, sciences and practice to develop and share innovative solutions that respect all beings. The final report documents research and design scenarios and explores models of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable living which supports exchange among Foundation targeted populations including artists, makers, scientists and innovators.
In Hudson, the Hudson Valley Initiative is working with Friends of Oakdale Lake to perform research and conceptual design in order to improve ecological conditions and recreational opportunities at Oakdale Lake for all Hudson residents and in particular youth participating in Hudson Youth Department summer programming. #OakdaleLake
03_August 2018 Workshop with Summer Camp at Oakdale Lake Hudson.JPG
Summer Campers designing a Nature Trail at Oakdale Lake, August 2018
MAP - Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, New York City
In 2018/19 GSAPP is partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and the Center for Court Innovation as part of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP). MAP is a comprehensive approach to reducing crime and strengthening neighborhoods in and around 15 New York City Housing Authority developments that experience high rates of violent crime. MAP is deploying Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) strategies — from investing in extensive upgrades to lights, cameras and layered access, to exploring how CPTED practices might be leveraged in capital construction projects slated in and around the 15 MAP sites. As part of the program, 15 students joined community working groups at each of the 15 MAP sites to explore design and public space activation solutions to areas within and near NYCHA. These workgroups consist of NYCHA residents and are managed by a Map Engagement Coordinator. GSAPP students will assist these working groups in developing an action plan and identify and design programmatic or physical interventions.
Wagner meeting bwsmall
Design Workshop with Stakeholders at Wagner Houses, May 2018
Hudson Valley Barge Meet

October 7, 2017
Kingston, NY

The Barge Meet is a project development workshop for the many organizations active in the Hudson Valley. Attendees may have a new proposal or an idea for a project, or have a new project just underway, or are looking to shift or expand a current project – the Meet provides an arena to listen, find collaborators, and re-imagine projects. Participant groups may be at different stages of work, with complementary missions, with different scales of operation and capacities, and serving varied constituencies, but all share a commitment to equitable change in the Valley.


The Urban Urge Prize is given in honor of Moji Baratloo to a student or team of students at GSAPP in the MSAUD program. The prize is a seed grant to fund a physical and/or programmatic intervention that grows out of work and research from the Summer or Fall Semester Urban Design Studio. Apply by Dec 17, 2018.
Each year, the Open Space Institute offers the Barnabas McHenry Hudson River Awards to up to four exceptional young area leaders in the fields of environmental conservation, historic preservation, the arts, and tourism.
The Hudson River Foundation Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship is a student research program conducted through the Hudson River Foundation in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It provides a summertime grant ($5,000 for each fellowship) and research funds (up to $1,000) for eight students to conduct research on the Hudson River. Applications are due February 19, 2019
Awesome Newburgh seeks to promote the city’s strengths and to catalyze more community projects that engage and bring the community together. Each month, the Awesome Foundation Newburgh Chapter awards a grant of $1,000 to a project idea in, from or for Newburgh, NY. Submissions are due every first Monday of the month.


Each Fall semester the Regional Urban Design Studio at GSAPP examines the Hudson Valley, reaching north from New York City and including territory as far as the Erie Canal and Great Lakes. The studio explores new industries, tourism, food systems, education, mobility and economic development to enable regional actors and stakeholders to prosper. The Regional Studio is also premised on the practice of Urban Design as interdisciplinary, collaborative and research-based. To this end, the studio process includes the intensive participation of local officials, organizations, non-profits, community groups, planning and design professionals and other educators. Below are samples of the student work in the past five years.
The Newburgh Path

Ross Brady, Anais Niembro Garcia, Nans Voron, Ye Zhang

MOVING IMAGES Urban Narratives and Regions in Newburgh, New York and the Hudson River Valley Fall 2014 Urban Design Studio

Spring 2018: Historic Preservation Studio in Newburgh
Re-thinking Heritage Tourism in Newburgh proposes strategies to leverage and preserve Newburgh’s varied built environment, including recognized and under-recognized heritage assets, to foster pride of place and encourage the development of Newburgh as an attractor, both internally and externally.
Spring 2017: Historic Preservation Studio
Past as Prologue: Preservation as a Tool for Social Inclusion explored the evolution of Poughkeepsie’s Main Street by mapping and analyzing current physical and socio-economic conditions, and developing policy and project proposals that utilize preservation as a tool for social and economic inclusion. By understanding the role heritage plays within urban dynamics, students sought to examine how preservation can generate positive long-term outcomes for the diverse Main Street community. Click to download a PDF of the full studio report.
Summer 2017 Workshop: Hudson Valley

2017 Summer Workshop: Hudson Valley

Justice in Place:
Downtown Regeneration in the Shadow of Urban Renewal in the Hudson River Valley
August 1 - 18, 2017

View documentation of the research here.


Past and Current Research Assistants, Community Design Assistants & Volunteers
Betsy Daniel (MSAUD ‘18) Donovan Dunkley (MSAUD ‘18) Sofia Valdivieso (MSAUD ‘18) Lorena Galvao (MSAUD ‘19) Greg LeMaire (MSAUD ‘19) Aura Maria Jamarillo (MSHP ‘19) Whitney Bayers (MSHP ‘19) Shouta Kanehira (MSAUD ‘19) Shuo Yang (MSAUD ‘19) Carolina Godinho (MSAUD ‘19) David Mauricio (MSAUD ‘19) Gabriel Vergara (MSAUD ‘19) Sharvi Jain (MSAUD ‘19) Alex Wong (MSArch ‘19) Alaa Marrawi (MSAUD ‘19) Shivani Agarwal (MSAUD ‘19) Alicia Laryn French (MSArch ‘19) Huiwon Hong (MSAUD ‘19) Angela Crisostomo (MSAUD ‘19) Maria Palomares Samper (MSAUD ‘19) Dhanashree Reddy (MSAAD ‘19) Adi Laho (MSAUD ‘19)
This website uses cookies as well as similar tools and technologies to understand visitors' experiences. By continuing to use this website, you consent to Columbia University's usage of cookies and similar technologies, in accordance with the Columbia University Website Cookie Notice.