Associate Professor Jennifer Minner Featured in CNN Travel Countdown to Expo 2020

Rendering of the 1,080-acre Expo 2020 site in Dubai.

Rendering of the 1,080-acre Expo 2020 site in Dubai. / photo Expo 2020

Associate Professor Jennifer Minner contributed to CNN Travel’s Countdown to Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In the countdown, Minner provided a historical overview of previously held expos. The 1962 expo in Seattle, Washington, she stated, was a prominent example of developing civic space and iconic architectural pieces, including the Seattle Space Needle. “One measure of a successful Expo is whether it has a societal impact in urban planning,” Minner commented.

Professor Minner has been interested in the concept of mega-event sites in her research. In the department, she has taught seminar courses on how city government agencies have channeled public and private investments to become host cities. Her special topics course Cultural Landscapes, Public Space, and former Mega-Event Sites has provided students the opportunity to research and develop design, preservation, and cultural strategies for various mega-event sites throughout history.

The CNN Travel video on the Expo 2020 countdown is part of the Global Gateway series, which documents the rapid developments occurring in Dubai. Minner’s interview can be heard at 1:13 in the video.

Field Trip to a Rust-Belt City: Utica

group of people posing with a statue

photo / Gianni Valenti

by Gianni Valenti B.S. URS ’22

Before making the three-hour trek from Ithaca to Utica, NY, I had many assumptions about what this trip could possibly have in store; the City of Utica simultaneously surpassed and dispelled all I had believed. Planned and hosted by the Organization of Urban and Regional Studies student group (OURS), the journey itself was one well worth the time and energy because, as a sophomore, I was not only able to further bond with my cohort, but also to get to know the new freshman class and enjoy their company as we dissected the urban fabric of this unique place.

The first stop on our excursion was the Community Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides funds for social investment and urban development. There we had the chance to take a look at a masterplan for downtown Utica that the Foundation funded. This plan detailed the unique issues of planning in a rust-belt city and how Utica is trying to rebrand its urban core. I was not only surprised with the ambition of the plan, but also intrigued by the ways in which the Community Foundation wants to advertise the future of the city. The crown jewel of Utica is The Aud, a mixed-use auditorium that not only stands as a symbol of civic pride, but is also somewhat of a beacon of hope for the city’s future. This contrasts with a great tension in the city – the hospital. During our meeting with the Community Foundation, we got a glimpse at the conversation surrounding the new hospital complex planned for downtown.

Traveling between destinations, we drove through various different zones of the city, getting a taste for the new, old, and in-between parts of Utica. Reaching downtown, we finally saw the site for the new hospital. With all the original warehouses and industrial buildings still intact, the streets and sidewalks were fenced off chain-link, covered with signs showing renderings of the new hospital. The group came face-to-face with a physical manifestation of the briefing we had received about the hospital controversy when we spotted a row of buildings with a banner reading “NO HOSPITAL DOWNTOWN” strung across their fronts. With this in mind, we continued on to our second stop.

We next visited The Aud, the official name for which is the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Aud is more than just an entertainment venue – it is the most visited site in the city and contributes to an overwhelming feeling of civic pride. During our visit, we were guided by three personnel from The Aud’s financial and management departments and their enthusiasm for the building spoke volumes about how important this site is to Utica’s decisions in planning. Many of us came away from that visit with our eyes opened to a new form of civic engagement and placemaking surrounding sports and entertainment. I know I usually think of social gathering spaces centering more on parks and public works, but this private enterprise serves the roles of all of these spaces and more in Utica.

Our last visit was to The Center, a refugee resettlement and aid center located in Utica’s downtown. Personally, this was my favorite part of the trip because the topic of refugees and immigration is not only increasingly important in modern planning, but is also something none of my classes have touched on in a modern sense. At The Center, we were able to discuss with organization leaders just how important the refugee community is to Utica’s urban fabric and future development. Resettling between 400 and 600 refugees in the city a year, this organization assists almost all of the total immigrants to Utica. We had an active discussion regarding how to plan for these populations and meet their needs as they move to America, and specifically how Utica accommodates them. While the conversation was inspirational in terms of planning for diverse populations, it was kind of depressing when looking at Utica’s future as the current presidential administration continues to block refugees coming into the country.

Ed LeClear: Planning in University Communities: Balancing Innovation and Preservation

a downtown street lined with shops

photo / provided

Date and location: November 22, 12:20 p.m. in Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium, Milstein Hall

Ed LeClear (M.R.P. ’10) is the planning and community development director for the borough of State College, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the borough, LeClear was the community development director for the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities and a community planner with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. He began his career in downtown revitalization working for the Pennsylvania Downtown Center.

A native of Northeast Ohio, LeClear received his B.A. from Miami University (Ohio), a master of science in urban studies from Cleveland State University and a master of regional planning from Cornell University. LeClear is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and provides service to the profession as a board member of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association, for which he serves as chair of the legislative committee.

Abstract:

University communities are dynamic places for planners to apply their craft across nearly every specialty in the profession. Whether it is cutting edge climate resiliency work, economic development, multimodal transportation planning, affordable housing, or critical zoning enforcement, working as a planning professional in a college town requires that you do it all. University communities are laboratories for innovation but are also often resistant to change, particularly in terms of land use. This colloquium’s discussion will focus on specific techniques and tools being used in State College (home of the Pennsylvania State University), to balance innovation and preservation, particularly in this era of a booming purpose-built student housing market. Come for an interactive discussion with a CRP alumnus working in local government for more than 15 years (with a few scars to prove it).

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Eric Nost: Climate Services for Whom? The Political Economics of Contextualizing Climate Data in Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan

satellite image of hurricane over the state of Louisianna

Hurricane Katrina making landfall over Louisiana in 2005. photo / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Date and location: November 20, 4:30 p.m. in Room 115, West Sibley Hall

Eric Nost is a geographer researching how data and technology inform conservation. He draws on and contributes to the fields of political ecology, science and technology studies, and digital geographies. Nost’s most recent project followed the state of Louisiana’s efforts to simulate future wetlands loss along the Gulf Coast. Based on interviews, document surveys, and attendance at public meetings, Nost explored how bureaucrats and ecosystem scientists develop an infrastructure for modeling, build an institution and lean on technologies to learn from their simulations, and apply their findings to planning large-scale coastal restoration. Nost received a Ph.D. in geography (2018) from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Nost is currently an assistant professor at the University of Guelph, where he teaches classes in nature-society geography and (web) mapping, using maps to publicize hidden dimensions of environmental policy. He also participates in the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, tracking how the U.S. federal government portrays climate change and other issues on the web. For the past several years, Nost has collaborated in an effort to collate and visualize U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data on the North American hazardous waste trade.

Abstract:

Adaptation planning includes contextualizing global and regional climate data within specific decision-making processes. As such, planners are increasingly interested in climate services. Climate services involve the expert production of forecasts, scenarios, economic analyses, and other data products to help users meaningfully address local changes and variabilities. For instance, in the state of Louisiana, modelers tailor 50-year storm, precipitation, and sea-level rise predictions to help planners select adaptive ecological restoration projects. Modelers do so by downscaling the data, combining it with other social and biophysical information, and framing results in terms of stakeholder interests.

In this lecture, Nost questions what it means to develop adaptation information that is geared towards specific users and stakeholders. Given the growing recognition that adaptation planning can prove maladaptive, Nost asks, when do climate services actually exacerbate existing vulnerabilities? To answer, he draws on three cases from Louisiana’s coastal Master Plan and highlights political-economic factors informing climate services: influential stakeholders, funding dynamics, the framing of planning decisions, and differential harms and benefits. Nost argues that when climate data is made relevant to existing interests, budgets, and plans, it can reproduce vulnerabilities and foreclose transformative adaptation. However, marginalized stakeholders can also pressure experts to contextualize data in ways that mitigate vulnerabilities. I conclude that climate services research and practice should expand user-centered approaches by asking climate services for whom and by assessing the winners and losers from climate variability, change, and adaptation actions themselves.

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CRP out in full force at the ACSP 2019 conference

People seated at round tables in an event space

photo / Kay Meyer Photography

The Department of City and Regional Planning (CRP) was well-represented at October’s annual conference for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) in Greenville, South Carolina. CRP faculty and Ph.D. students engaged in a variety of different events, ranging from paper presentations to participation in panel discussions.

“It was inspiring and gratifying to see the significant participation by Cornell at this year’s ACSP annual meeting,” said department chair Jeffrey Chusid. “Eleven members of our faculty, as well as 11 CRP Ph.D. students, delivered presentations on their research, while a number of them and other Cornellians engaged in panels and other discussions about the future of the planning field. The intellectual life of the department is thriving.”

For Ph.D. students, the experience presenting their research to a broader audience outside the department provided insight into areas of exploration for furthering their work and introducing them to other academics in the field.

“My initial approach to the ACSP conference was broad. I wanted to see a wide variety of sessions throughout the conference tracks,” Ph.D. candidate Dylan Stevenson commented. “Doing so offered me a glimpse as to how different planning ‘circles’ communicated and the ways in which planning subfields attempt to tackle the same problem.”

CRP faculty and alumni were among the recipients of faculty awards at the conference. Assistant professor Nicholas Klein was recognized as one of the Top Reviewers for the Journal of Planning Education and Research (JPER). In selecting a Top Reviewer, editors examine the quantity, quality, and timeliness of each candidate’s reviews.

Additionally, Courtney Knapp (CRP Ph.D. ’14), associate professor at Pratt Institute, received the Paul Davidoff Book Award for her publication Constructing the Dynamo of Dixie. The award recognizes an outstanding book regarding participatory planning and positive social change, opposing poverty and racism as factors in society and seeking ways to address social and place-based inequalities.

The 2020 ACSP conference will be held in Toronto, Canada.

Steven Higashide: Winning the Fight for U.S. Urban Transit

bus sketch on street

Envisioning better surface transit in Boston, created as part of a campaign for bus improvements. illustration / Ad Hoc Industries

Date and location: November 15, 12:20 p.m. in Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium, Milstein Hall

Steven Higashide is a writer, planner, and the director of research for the national foundation TransitCenter, which works with advocacy organizations and public transportation agencies to improve transit that makes cities more just and sustainable. Over a 12-year career in transportation advocacy, he has helped defeat congressional attempts to end federal transit funding, won state legislation strengthening penalties for careless driving, and authored research into the preferences of transit riders and city policies that prioritize transit. Higashide is the author of Better Buses, Better Cities, and his writing has appeared in outlets including The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Next City, and Planning & Environmental Law. He received his master’s degree in urban planning from New York University and is a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Standing Committee on Transportation Demand Management. He was named to the Association for Commuter Transportation’s “40 under 40” in 2016.

Abstract:

Better urban transit is essential to making U.S. cities more just and sustainable. Yet implementation lags, even though better bus and rail service mostly requires enacting best practices that have long existed elsewhere. Why is this? In this talk, Steven Higashide shows how reactionary local, state, and federal politics have enacted structural barriers that make even incremental change difficult in American transit. Cities that overcome them do so through alliances between civic advocates, public agency leaders, and pro-transit elected officials. From New York to Indianapolis to Seattle, transit reform hinges on visionary bureaucrats, steadfast mayors, and advocates of all stripes—wonky transportation bloggers, progressive churches, downtown business groups, and civil rights lawyers.This talk details structural impediments to better transit (like public engagement processes and funding programs that are biased against riders) and the campaigns and coalitions that reformers have used to win transit funding, street space, equitable policy, and operational excellence.

This is a Russell Van Nest Black lecture.

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