Elle Provolo, Environmental Studies
Life is a Highway: Designing an Effective and Efficient Highway System
Project advisor: Timothy Farnham
Building upon research done in the fall semester, I have explored the ways in which highways allow quick and efficient travel and support the national transportation system. The bulk of research came from publicly available highway design manuals and models from respective state Departments of Transportation, with scholarly journal articles supplementing this. Highways in America are standardized with guidelines to support their implementation and maintenance, but they contribute to myriad environmental, social, and economic problems. Legislative policies have acted as frameworks for ensuring the Interstate Highway System functions properly and with as little challenges as possible. Effective and efficient transportation design works in tandem with this to create a highway system that provides the most societal benefits. My research provides a comprehensive examination of design elements that are currently being used in America’s highway network. A focus on how highways are designed, and how this design shapes and is shaped by policy, results in an in-depth understanding of best practices for reducing problems endemic to highway systems and perfecting the way it functions. Transportation engineering is fundamental to incorporating design elements that increase the longevity of the highway system, and to implementing mitigation strategies to avoid future complications. My research suggests that transportation engineering must be intersected with planning principles, especially in urban settings, to ensure that an effective and efficient highway is designed.
Giselle Cabrera, Environmental Studies
Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) in Van Cortlandt Park
Project advisor: Timothy Farnham
During the Summer of 2021, Water Chestnut data were collected for the first time at Van Cortland Park’s lake (VCP) located in the Bronx, New York. Seed count and rosette count were collected, among other factors, to help us understand more about the aquatic plant. Although the data collected wasn’t massive, it helped provide a baseline for future research.
Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) is an invasive species that has impacted many bodies of water and has altered them. This research focused on gathering information on T.natans and discusses in depth some categories like anatomy and biology, development, distribution, biological and ecological impacts, economic impacts, and control efforts. The goal of this research was to help VCP learn more about the invasive species and find a potential solutions to deal with the invasive species.
Meaghan Luong, Environmental Studies
Nature in the Urban Century: Ensuring Equitable Access to Green Spaces in American Cities
Project advisor: Timothy Farnham
Cities are cultural and financial hubs, providing a wide range of employment, educational, and recreation opportunities. As urban areas face increasing challenges concerning population growth, limited resources, and climate change, green spaces and other nature-based solutions offer innovative approaches to improve their social, physical, psychological, and environmental health and well-being, as well as enhance local resilience. Green spaces serve as community-building centers for people to gather, play, exercise, learn, relax, reflect, and enjoy city life1 . Recent studies have shown that living in close proximity to accessible and well-maintained green spaces is linked to better mental and physical health outcomes2 . Moreover, green spaces provide key ecosystem services, buffering anthropogenic and natural hazards, supporting biodiversity, improving water and air quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions3 . As green spaces are powerful tools for urban communities, cities must take into account their location and spatial distribution in order for residents to fully experience the co-benefits.
This project aims to promote the creation and preservation of accessible, functional, and safe green spaces by summarizing key research findings and practical case studies on green space interventions. The project also highlights factors to consider when designing green spaces to optimize their social, mental and physical health, environmental, and economic benefits.
1 Coley, Rebekah Levine, William C. Sullivan, and Frances E. Kuo. “Where Does Community Grow? The
Social Context Created by Nature in Urban Public Housing.” Environment and Behavior 29, no. 4 (July
1997): 468–94. https://doi.org/10.1177/001391659702900402.
2 Braubach, Matthias, Andrey Egorov, Pierpaolo Mudu, Tanja Wolf, Catharine Ward Thompson, and Marco
Martuzzi. “Effects of Urban Green Space on Environmental Health, Equity and Resilience.” In
Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas, edited by Nadja Kabisch, Horst
Korn, Jutta Stadler, and Aletta Bonn, 187–205. Springer, Cham, 2017.
3 Vargas-Hernández, José G., Karina Pallagst, and Justyna Zdunek-Wielgołaska. “Urban Green Spaces as a
Component of an Ecosystem.” In Handbook of Engaged Sustainability, edited by Satinder Dhiman and
Joan Marques, 885–916. Springer, Cham, 2018.
Carola Oliveras, Geology and Geography
Los Filtros’ Lucha: Attached to Place, Attached to Justice
Project advisor: Serin Houston
Los Filtros, an informalized community in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, was founded in the 1920s and remains today. Over time, the municipio1 of Guaynabo has become home to upscale gated communities and holds the largest municipio tax base on the island. This socio-spatial context situates Los Filtros and other informalized communities within the forces of urban sprawl and extensive land commodification pressures. My thesis research engages with this complexity to investigate the scope of municipal government-led expropriation efforts in Los Filtros, the broader context of inequity that intensified such efforts, and Los Filtros’ long-sustained lucha, fight, against expropriation. I draw upon two primary methods to advance my research, namely semi-structured interviews that I held with nine Los Filtros’ community members and nine non-community members in the summer of 2021 and research in three different archives. Based on my data, I argue that in a context where land privatization and spatial homogenization are predominant pressures, Los Filtros community members’ strong place attachment has sustained their resistance to Guaynabo’s municipal government’s neoliberal practices, driven their efforts to claim a right to the city, and compelled their advocacy for equitable development. This claim and research more generally are important because they offer an analysis of Los Filtros’ fight that centers people-place connections as a basis for understanding activism movements at large.
As private developers built several luxurious apartment buildings and gated communities around Los Filtros from the late 1980s to the 2000s and land values rose, Guaynabo’s municipal government sought to expropriate Los Filtros through eminent domain. While my thesis advances a broader analysis of materialized expropriation threats to Los Filtros within a socio-spatial context that perpetuates the community’s informalization, this presentation focuses on the community’s fight to stay in place and resist expropriation while drawing on place attachment as their main strength. Significantly, Los Filtros’ community members engaged in social activism that challenged the elite’s imposition of spatial order by reasserting their right to determine their community’s future and, more generally, their right to the city. Through a geographic lens, I present Los Filtros’ case study as a way to analyze the dynamics affecting who is valuable in the city and how social justice is practiced at the urban scale.
1 Puerto Rico is divided into 78 Municipios. This legal units do not translate as Municipality because
Municipios are a smaller territorial unit similar but not totally equivalent to the U.S. County.
Dan Thu Bui, Geology and Geography
Evaluating Sidewalks In Ho Chi Minh City Through The Lens of Public Space Design
Project Advisor: Thomas Millette
As the detriments of suburbia life and urban sprawl have become apparent in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in revitalizing cities through the (re)creation of attractive, welcoming public spaces. Efforts have been mainly dedicated to the construction and renovation of infrastructures like parks and plazas, public spaces that rightfully deserve acute attention from city governments. However, few cities have been able to revive their sidewalks – a crucial component of a vibrant urban public life. While cities in the developed world have been lamenting the withdrawal of the public from urban public life and sidewalks, cities in developing countries have been gaining popularity among tourists by offering them a vibrant sidewalk experience dearly missed. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), the largest city in Vietnam, is one such city.
Still, despite the overall positive reactions from tourists, government officials in HCMC have been conducting sidewalk clearing campaigns in order to keep the sidewalks clear for foot traffic and to attain an image of modernity and civility. These sidewalk clearing campaigns target vendors and spillover (merchandise, furniture, etc...) from establishments and seek to remove them from sidewalks. My project is an attempt to illuminate the appeals of HCMC’s sidewalks through the lens of public space design and draw attention to the contributions of sidewalk vendors in transforming HCMC’s sidewalks into excellent public spaces. Using public space design principles coined by Stephen Carr and colleagues1 , I argue that sidewalk vendors’ introduction of certain physical elements and activities onto sidewalks allow HCMC’s sidewalks to meet the standards for good public spaces, and thus expressing my opposition to attempts to remove sidewalk vendors from sidewalks.
I also analyze an example of sidewalks resembling the version of sidewalks desired by government officials – sidewalks in a planned urban development in South HCMC – to further state my objection to sidewalk clearing campaigns. I argue that sidewalks clearing campaigns conducted in the hope to realize this ideal version of sidewalks in HCMC will not be effective as this version of sidewalks rests on a system of exclusion and rejects the necessary heterogeneity that fuels urban life.
1 Carr, Stephen et al., Public Space. Cambridge Series in Environment and Behaviour. Cambridge
University Press, 1992.