Posts Tagged ‘low-income’

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

In North Carolina, history, industry, and climate change work in tandem to create landscapes of toxic waste.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In Houston, it was the petrochemical plants. In North Carolina, it was the hog farms. In both places, churning floodwaters caused by recent storms were turned into a toxic stew that endangered local water resources and public health. In September 2018, Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina, where seven million gallons of hog waste overtopped the region’s ubiquitous open-air lagoons and quickly made its way into neighbors’ yards and nearby streams.

As by-products go, the fecal sludge of an industrial-scale hog farm is far from benign. The waste can carry viruses, parasites, nitrates, and bacteria such as salmonella. Even in the best circumstances, the odors from these open-air lagoons, which number some 3,300 across the state but are concentrated in the heavily African American counties of eastern North Carolina, are noxious enough that in August 2018 a jury awarded six families $473.5 million for having to live near a hog farm in Pender County. Combined with a severe storm, however, these lagoons become all the more dangerous, threatening the water supply of entire communities and far-flung ecosystems.

Hurricane Florence was just the most recent example of how severe weather events, strengthened by a warming climate, can interact with industrialized landscapes to create new threats to public health and safety. If landscape architects are to grapple with the environmental and human health impacts of climate change, they will have to educate themselves about agricultural waste. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A group of designers, artists, and community activists are fighting to save the bridge. A rendering by the landscape architect Michael Beightol illustrates the viaduct’s potential as a linear park. Image courtesy Michael Beightol.

IN ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA, A HISTORY OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ANIMATES THE DEBATE OVER A PIECE OF CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE.

 

Michael Keys used to walk the McBride Viaduct nearly every day to and from school. It was the most convenient route over the busy rail yard that bisected his east side Erie, Pennsylvania, neighborhood. Now, as a member of the local urban design advocacy group Erie CPR: Connect + Respect, Keys is one of dozens of residents fighting to save the 1,700-foot-long viaduct. The organization argues that the bridge is a crucial linkage between some of Erie’s poorest communities and that tearing it down could do harm to populations already considered vulnerable.

Erie CPR projects that removing the viaduct, which has been closed to vehicles since 2010, will force residents to cross the tracks at grade, which can be dangerous, or walk some 2,000 feet to a busy road known as the Bayfront Connector. With its high-speed traffic and blind corners, the connector is far less safe for pedestrians than the viaduct, says Adam Trott, an architect and the president of Erie CPR. Another danger, especially for children, is daily exposure to vehicle emissions. A recent World Health Organization report found that 10 percent of deaths among children under the age of five are attributable to air pollution.

The city’s decision to demolish the viaduct, which was originally built in 1938 and overhauled in the 1970s, is based on a feasibility study conducted by the engineering firm L. R. Kimball. The engineers reported that rehabilitating or replacing the viaduct were cost-prohibitive, in part because the bridge no longer meets basic road width requirements. And yet, having studied 11 alternatives— (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A broad coalition of community organizations and officials takes a preemptive stand against gentrification.

A broad coalition of community organizations and officials takes a preemptive stand against gentrification.

From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Data can be deceiving, or at the very least hard to parse. But for the residents of East Harlem, the numbers spoke loudly. On average, the community was losing nearly 300 affordable housing units per year, based on eight years of data collected by WXY Architecture + Urban Design. If real estate development continued at the current rate, more than 4,000 affordable housing units would be lost over the next 15 years. “People began to realize that a ‘do-nothing’ option was not going to result in the same old thing,” says Adam Lubinsky, a planner and managing principal at WXY. “A ‘do-nothing’ option would mean 300 homes lost per year to development.”

East Harlem, a largely Latino community where one in three residents lives below the poverty line, was also named as one of eight neighborhoods out of 15 that have been identified for rezoning by the city. Rather than wait to respond to a zoning proposal by the city’s Department of City Planning (DCP), local organizations began working vigorously with elected officials to develop recommendations for how to use zoning to preserve affordable housing stock, open space, and the community’s cultural heritage. The result was the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, and according to people involved, it marked the first time a community in New York has developed such a plan ahead of a DCP proposal.

“I’ve rarely seen such a broad-based and grassroots approach to plan and comment on zoning,” says Deborah Marton, the executive director of the New York Restoration Project, an open-space conservancy that participated in the process and also manages nine community gardens in East Harlem. “It was a sincere and messy effort that eventually resulted in (more…)

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