Justice in Place: Downtown Regeneration in the Shadow of Urban Renewal in Hudson River Valley, NY

Aug 1, 2017 – Aug 18, 2017
Poughkeepsie, New York
Research Question
The aim of the Poughkeepsie Workshop was to create a community-informed, design-based narrative of a particular place: in this case, the Fall Kill Creek, an historic and long-ignored piece of urban infrastructure that runs through several neighborhoods in Poughkeepsie, and into the Hudson River. The Workshop was organized to test how students in different programs within the GSAPP (Historic Preservation, Architecture, and Urban Design) might co-learn; to create a safe space for interaction between students and local residents and organizations; and for students, faculty and local partners to collectively develop forward-looking urban research.
Methodology and Process
The workshop entailed intensive documentation of the Fall Kill and its adjacent and diverse communities. Each day consisted of site and area walks, recorded interviews, archival research, photography, cinematography, handheld phone datamining, and empirical note taking. On-site work was coupled with guest lectures from local speakers (politicians, journalists, historians, activists, and a youth group that organizes periodic cleanups), with GSAPP faculty, and from MASS Design Group team members (research and community engagement associates, and videographers). Students created and compiled images, maps, texts and other information to start a new archive for future work on the Fall Kill and in the region.
Output and Findings
The Workshop concluded with an exhibit demonstrating the complex history and status of the Fall Kill, and its role in the shaping of Poughkeepsie. With new maps, photographs, and an informational video showing site visits and community interviews, the exhibit sought to amplify local interest in the creek and its potential for change. The Workshop participants also produced a booklet documenting the process of research. Both the exhibit and the booklet raised questions about the social ecology of the creek, including historical patterns of industrial use, ongoing problems of waste and debris, stewardship of the creek, its walls and adjacent properties, questions of property tenure and absentee ownership, and long-term patterns of local and regional inequality. Pedagogically, the Workshop experimented with a model for Urban Design which treats the spaces of the city in experiential terms alongside their role in regional dynamics.

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