Alum Q&A: Elyse Belarge M.R.P. ’19

office lobby

Elyse Belarge (center) at the VHB White Plains office. photo / Leslie Kahan Photography

A recent graduate from the regional planning program, Elyse Belarge M.R.P. ’19 is currently working as a planner for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), a multidisciplinary engineering consulting and design firm, at their White Plains, New York office. Belarge has been involved in several projects across the Hudson Valley, Westchester, and Long Island areas, including projects outside the state. Since joining the firm this past summer, projects she’s been involved with have focused on land use and community development, zoning, and environmental reviews.

While at Cornell, Belarge was involved in several different academic organizations. She served on the Board for the Organization of Cornell Planners (OCP) as social chair, where she planned and coordinated department functions including the OCP Auction fundraiser. 

Recreationally, she led several cross country skiing and day hiking classes through Cornell Outdoor Education. Within the department, she captained West Sibley FC, the planning intramural soccer team, for two years.

Belarge recently reflected on her time at Cornell and what experiences she’s been able to apply to her position as a planner in an engineering firm:

Q: What kinds of projects are you currently involved with at VHB?

Belarge: I’m currently part of a team working on a Consolidated Plan and Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI) for Nassau County, New York. This includes going to committee and stakeholder meetings to hear what agencies and organizations who work in housing and related fields think the county needs to focus its efforts on over the next five years. I’m assisting with drafting reports on the Affordable Housing and High Opportunity Area (HOA) studies that will inform the AI project as well as future applications for development in the county. 

Q: What courses do you think have been relevant to the projects you’re working on now?

Belarge: Definitely Graphic Communications (I’m one of two people in my office who know the software). Professor Booth’s law class and Professor Frantz’s Environmental Impact Review class have both been closely related to the studies I’m focusing on. 

Q: Were there any other experiences at Cornell that informed your work as a planner?

Belarge: I’m a big advocate for Design Connect and getting the project management experience from that opportunity. I worked on two tactical urbanism projects through Design Connect. My first project produced a tactical placemaking handbook that would be used by residents of Tompkins County. The second was a weekend-long pop-up park called ‘Eddy Gate.’ The goal of that project was to assess the wants and needs of users in this public space by the Collegetown entrance of Cornell to inform potential future park designs for the neighborhood.




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