Designing Infrastructures of Inclusion in The Rockaways, Part 3

Designing Infrastructures of Inclusion in The Rockaways, Part 3

Spring 2018 DUE Studio 2 focused, one more time, on the alternative spatial formations, participatory frameworks, and environmental strategies, as well as innovative models of ownership, property, and social relations in The Rockaways, Queens. The studio was taught by Professor Miodrag Mitrašinović, and our key studio partner remained the Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability & Equity (RISE), previously known as the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA). As in the previous semesters, RISE helped students connect to a wide network of advocates and activists, non-profit organizations, faith organizations, educational institutions, and other critical, local actors. With all of them, students had developed design scenarios at the neighborhood level. Our main task this semester, was to design strategies for fostering deeper connections between Rockaway communities and the waterfront.

Initially, the studio focused on the spaces under the elevated tracks of the A train along the Rockaways peninsula, and we researched the communities that live and work along its track. We employed spatial extensions under the elevated tracks as a catalyst for learning about Jamaica Bay and its diverse and complex ecologies. As the studio advanced, and as the core thematics emerged, most of the students decided to expand their research, engagement and design proposals beyond the elevated and into the expansive spaces of the Jamaica Bay.

In collaboration with our main community partner and other associations and individual citizens, students develop critical design-based engagements and inclusive strategies for urban transformation. This studio book is the record of students’ attempts to propose design strategies that would transform one of the most neglected of New York City’s neighborhoods into a just, inclusive and economically prosperous urban space co-produced by its citizens, varied actors in the domains of civil society and the government, as well as with many members of the vibrant entrepreneurial and small-business communities in The Rockaways.

The first student team’s proposal —Rockaway Connections: Redefining Resiliency in Edgemere— worked on renewed and strengthen connectivities through three design proposals: A Culture of Health (addressing health inequities in The Rockaways), Commoning Rockaway (designing the framework for community appropriation and stewardship of public land), and Strategies for Improved Mobilities (which attempts to correct the historic disinvestment by creating a new mobility system). The second team addressed ecological systems in the Jamaica Bay, and in their project “The Living Lab” put forth a proposal for the green infrastructure network in The Rockaways. The last team re-imagined the notion of “disaster” in The Rockaways and proposed three foundational “shifts” as vectors of a more comprehensive urban transformation: institutional shift (Office of Resilience and Racial Equity), culture shift (Rockaway Urban Exploration) and history shift (Sankofa).

We continue to be deeply grateful to RISE for hosting our workshops and brainstorm sessions with community members and leaders, for facilitating our work, and specifically to Jeanne DuPont, Ana Fisyak and Judah Asimov for teaching us so much about community organization, development and planning in The Rockaways.

This is the third and final publication in the series of three Studio Books documenting the work of the MS Design and Urban Ecologies program in The Rockaways, in partnership with RISE and led by Professor Miodrag Mitrašinović.

Team members
Design and Urban Ecologies students:
Maha Al Khater
Daniel Bieckmann
Kevin Capuno
Gillian Chisholm
Isaac Diebboll
Gemma Duffee
Julianna Galvao
Alie Kilts
Sarah Kontos
Khadija Munir
Grace Paik
Claudia Rot
Abby Schwarz
Rosella Soravia
Manon Vergerio
Anna Yulsman
Miodrag Mitrašinović
Book design:
Gamar Makarian and Blake Roberts