Students Collect Inventory of Scenic Resources in the Catskills

People wearing orange safety vests on a highway shoulder taking photos of surrounding hillsides

Students (L-R) Jenna Rice, Tong Wu, Owen MacDonnell, and Quinn Otto-Moudry document an agrarian landscape along NYS Rte 23A in the Town of Catskill. photo / George Frantz

Over the weekend, students in Associate Professor George Frantz’s Land Use and Environmental Planning class traveled to the Town of Catskill, New York, to conduct field studies as part of a scenic resources inventory. The class has been conducting inventories with the financial support of the Hudson River Estuary Program since the spring semester of 2016, with an aim to protect scenic resources. This semester’s class logged some 125 miles of driving on the highways and byways of the 60-square-mile municipality, located on the Hudson River about 95 miles north of New York City.

Scenic resources are locations or features in the landscape that are viewed, visited, and enjoyed by the general public for their aesthetic quality. They can range from farm fields and orchards along local roads and highways to panoramic views toward or from hilltop locations to distinctive or historic structures and main streets to small micro-landscapes such as those found along streams.

Scenic resources can be protected in a number of ways, including through local land use regulations, vegetation management programs along roads and highways, purchase of conservation easements, and, in some instances, outright acquisition by the government or a land trust.

red barn near a body of water, immediately backed by a hill

Example of a scenic resource photograph: enclosed view of an old barn across Kaaterskill Creek backed up by a wooded hillside. photo / George Frantz

The Town of Catskill was selected for the study because of its location between the Hudson River on the east and the Catskill Mountains on the west, including parts of the New York State Catskill State Park and Catskill Preserve. A substantial number of historic structures and sites inhabit the Village of Catskill as well as rural areas and hamlets beyond the village.

In addition to their field work, students also hosted a community open house Saturday afternoon in Catskill village, during which they discussed the data collected to date and the scenic resource inventory process and solicited suggestions for scenic resources from community members.

Students Discuss Climate Change Impacts at ICSD

dinner table group photo

Gerard Finin and his students meet with Tongan guests following the ICSD. photo / Gerard Finin

Visiting Lecturer Gerard Finin (M.R.P. ’86, Ph.D. CRP ’91) and students of the multi-disciplinary special topics course Global Climate Change Science and Policy traveled to New York City to participate in the International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD). In its seventh year, the conference was hosted by The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

The ICSD was part of the week-long Climate Week NYC 2019 event, which provided a forum for non-profit organizations, various levels of governments, and businesses to share practical solutions and goals for climate adaptation and mitigation.

At a dinner meeting following the conference, Finin and the students met with guests from the Kingdom of Tonga, which included: Hon. Mahe Tupouniua, Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Dr. T. Suka Mangisi, Deputy Chief of Mission for the Permanent Mission of Tonga to the United Nations; Rose Kautoke, Assistant Crown Counsel; and Siosiua Utoi’kamanu, Kingdom of Tonga Representative.

Students discussed the strategies for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The guests from Tonga and the class shared their thoughts on the challenges SIDS face when trying to accelerate climate adaptation and mitigation practices both domestically and at the international level.

“Although SIDS have historically been relatively small contributors of global carbon emissions, they have been the most vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change – from degradation and loss of fisheries to devastating cyclones,” shared Louis Chua (M.S. R.S. ’20) following the dinner.

Later in the semester, a student team led by Finin in the course will focus on the Kingdom of Tonga. They will be developing strategies and consulting for the kingdom, leading up to the COP25 conference, which will be held in Santiago, Chile later this year.

Global Climate Change Science and Policy is a multi-department seminar supported by Engaged Cornell. In addition to Finin, the course is taught by faculty from other colleges within the university, including Assistant Professor Linda Shi of City and Regional Planning.

Past courses and workshops of Finin’s have worked with constituents of Tonga to study the climate change impact on the kingdom. This past spring, Finin took his International Planning and Development Workshop to Tonga where they saw firsthand the impact of global warming on their livelihood. Students witnessed the coastal erosion conditions and water infrastructure, which were just a few challenges among many that communities face as a result of climate change.

Patric Hollenstein, Liisa North, and Mildred Warner: Listening to Local Voices: Using Collaborative Ethnography to Understand the Links between Community Well-Being, Public Services, and Family Strategies in Ecuador

Rural road

Tungurahua, Ecuador

Date and location: October 4, 12:20 p.m. in Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium, Milstein Hall

Glenn H. Beyer Memorial Lecture

Patric Hollenstein has a master’s degree in political studies (FLACSO Ecuador). He is professor at the Central University of Ecuador. His work specializes in markets, agrifood networks and chains, fair trade, popular and solidarity economies, and rural territories. He is writing his doctoral thesis on the transformation of public food markets in Ecuador.

Liisa L. North is professor emerita from York University in Toronto and FLACSO in Ecuador. She has written 12 books and more than 60 articles and chapters on rural development, agrarian reform, political economics and public policy in Andean countries. Her most recent book is Dominant Elites in Latin America: From Neo-liberalism to the “Pink Tide” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018).

Mildred Warner is professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University. She served with the Peace Corps in Tungurahua, Ecuador, in 1979 and has maintained connections with the region since that time. Her research focuses on public services and community development. She authored more than 100 journal articles and several edited volumes.


The province of Tungurahua, Ecuador is one of very few places in Latin America that has achieved economic growth and reductions in inequality at the same time. Investments in infrastructure, and connecting rural and urban through roads, markets, and education has built an integrated region. This has made real the politics of buen vivir in the lived experience of rural people in place —the buen lugar. We use the power of narrative to build situated knowledge to enhance scholarly understanding of this rural transformation, and we promote knowledge equity by engaging local voices. By lifting up individual experience we can articulate the particularity of the local within larger forces.

Liisa North, Patric Hollenstein, and Mildred Warner will present the context and the oral histories of rural residents featured in their recent book, Un Buen Lugar en Tungurahua: Estrategias Familiares de un Pueblo Rural, (FLACSO Ecuador, 2018).

Cosponsored by the Latin American Studies Program and the Einaudi Center

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Efforts to Alleviate Poverty in a Zambian Slum

Team group photo.

Site team with members of the federation. Anushi Garg MRP ’20 on far left

By Anushi Garg, M.R.P. ’20

During July and August, I interned with the People’s Process on Poverty and Housing in Zambia (PPHPZ), a small scale non-profit located in Lusaka, Zambia that supports the work of the Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation (ZHPPF), a grassroots movement of informal settlement dwellers. ZHPPF is also an affiliate of the international federation Slum Dwellers International (SDI) which is present in 34 countries. PPHPZ provides technical and financial support to the federation and facilitates linkages to the government, funding partners, academia, and like-minded civil society organizations.

My work there involved two main projects; the first was a sanitation project based in Kanyama Ward 10, the biggest slum in Lusaka, inhabited by 29,000 families. The project was in collaboration with Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) who were technical partners and Water Aid-Zambia (WAZ) funding partners. Our team’s role was mobilizing the community, educating them about project benefits and getting people to sign up for toilets. Families were to pay for the toilets themselves, the cost for which was subsidized by WAZ. My role in the project involved regular field visits with the team to understand the crucial role of PPHPZ and the challenges faced by both the team and communities.

workers setting materials

Low-cost housing development project

The second project I worked on was a low-cost housing project. With the aim of building 250 low-cost housing units a year on a greenfield site, the houses built were to be small scale and cheap to construct. I was responsible for making the final designs for these houses, in accordance with the given limitations. The land was owned by the federation and not a gift by the government, thus allowing the poor more ownership and voice in the process. The target population was a large group of tenants who live in extremely poor and vulnerable conditions in the ghettos of Lusaka. I also provided graphical and communication support for the project.

Apart from these two main projects, I was involved in several smaller tasks during my internship. The office is involved in a working group about a relatively new concept of community philanthropy. I got a chance to attend a few of their network meetings in which they discussed how to expand the concept, which has the potential to become an interesting one for urban development in the global south. I had a chance to contribute in the form of ideas during the development of models, community mobilizing, and road shows. The office had a lot of different work going on beyond straightforward planning, which taught me about the interdisciplinary nature of work required of development planners.

team meeting in office

Team meeting at the office

The experience was especially unique because of my regular interactions with the federation members, who are primarily women who grew up in the slums in a city where over 60 percent of the population resides in slums. They have the best knowledge about the issues faced by their people, and this ensures that the projects reach the neediest families. Savings are a major component of the identity of the federation, and all members are part of saving schemes. One community can have one or many saving schemes, directed at different purposes such as education, daily savings, health, livelihood, etc. The overall idea behind this is that the community must be able to help itself, independent of any donor or entity.

Apiwat Ratanawaraha: Street-Smart David vs Digital Goliath: Competitive Dynamics between the Top and Bottom of the Informal Mobility Pyramid in Bangkok

parked motorcycles

Motorcycle taxis in Bangkok

Date and location: October 3, 4:30 p.m. in 115 West Sibley Hall

Apiwat Ratanawaraha is an associate professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. His teaching and research cover land policy and management, infrastructure finance, technology and innovation policy, and strategic foresight. His recent and ongoing research focuses on urban issues in Thailand, including the futures of Thai urban life from womb to tomb, foreign ownership of land, informal mobility, parking policy, and urban citizen science. His publications include The Land Economy of Thailand (2015); “How Operators’ Legal Status Affects Safety of Intercity Buses in Thailand”(with Saksith Chalermpong, Transportation Research Record 2672 [2018]); and a chapter on Bangkok in Parking: An International Perspective (with Saksith Chalermpong, Elsevier, forthcoming).

Ratanawaraha holds a B.Eng. in urban engineering from the University of Tokyo, an M.Phil. in land economy from the University of Cambridge, and an M.C.P. and a Ph.D. in economic development and technology policy from MIT. He was a visiting assistant professor at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and a visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute.


Motorcycle taxis are everywhere in Bangkok, serving millions of trips a day throughout the city. Rent-seeking activities and informal governance at the street level have allowed the operators and the “influential people” to capture monopoly rents from the relatively captive market for a long while now. Things have changed since global ride-hailing firms started to provide comparable, if not more convenient, services a few years ago, luring away their passengers and chipping away their market power and income. In this talk, Ratanawaraha uses the concepts of economic rent and competitive dynamics to explain the competition and contention between the two groups of informal operators, and to discuss policy options.

Cosponsored by the Southeast Asia Program

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Flood Adaptation and Mitigation Planning in the Netherlands

By Onam Bisht, M.R.P./M.L.A. ’20

group by lake

Roelof from the subsurface and groundwater systems department at Deltares,demonstrating subsidence caused from peat decay in one of the polders

With my exit project focusing on the topic of flood adaptation and mitigation planning, I was incredibly fortunate to get an opportunity to spend my summer working at Deltares, an independent research organization in the Netherlands that provides flood management consultancy solutions to projects worldwide. With more than two-thirds of the Netherlands vulnerable to flooding, it is seen as a forerunner in water management planning for being able to continuously adapt with the rising sea level and changing climate. Therefore, working at Deltares provided me the opportunity to understand some of the innovative tools and techniques used in flood management planning while working with a multi-disciplinary team of over 800 water experts including planners, engineers, scientists, and designers.

As an intern, I really enjoyed working on some of the projects at Deltares. I conducted a literature review for international project sites on climate risk data with a focus on flood risk, scanning and summarizing existing adaptation strategies, as well carrying out actor analysis for present stakeholders. Not only did I gain a lot of knowledge about the existing landscape of climate change and flood mitigation efforts existing in different regions worldwide, but this kind of study also helped me develop a methodology for my master’s project.

Working at a large institution like Deltares was very exciting as I was also exposed to some other exciting things that were happening there during the summer. Besides skill-based workshops and conferences that happened regularly, I also got a chance to meet some visiting design students from MICA, Baltimore who presented and discussed their studio projects that they had developed in collaboration with Deltares. I also got a chance to go on field trips with my supervisors to understand the centuries-old Dutch practices of flood management and to really grasp their deep-rooted cultural ideology of “living with water.” The entire rural landscape, flanked with dikes, ditches, canals, and windmills, was a delightful sight to encounter. An exciting all-day department picnic was full of fun activities and traditional Dutch cuisine of krokets and apple pies. The team exercise for the picnic involved practicing our sheep-herding skills by madly running around a herd of sheep to teach us an important skill of having the right balance between control and freedom while managing employees in the workplace.

Sheep herding

Sheep-herding team exercise during a department picnic event

Spending the summer in the Netherlands was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I would want to go back there, if possible. Although people proudly speak their native Dutch language, everyone is very skilled at speaking English as well so settling in was very easy. The Dutch enjoy the simple things, are obsessed with their bikes, and believe in having a good work-life balance so much so that people at Deltares don’t have an assigned desk and have to pick a new desk every day when they come in to work. This was not only environmentally efficient in saving unnecessary office space required to accommodate the entire staff, but also to encourage people to work from wherever they could. Overall I had a memorable summer internship where I not only gained a lot of knowledge working at Deltares but was also fortunate to experience and evolve from progressive culture in the Netherlands.

mom and daughter on bike

A Dutch family sharing a bicycle


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