SACRPH 2022 Tours, Plenaries, and Events
Friday, October 21
Tour 1: The Cross-Bronx Expressway
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
This walking tour focuses on “One Mile”, perhaps the most famous case study in The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s monumental biography of Robert Moses, first published in 1974. Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opus has sold almost half a million copies and is one of the most read, quoted and admired books relating to New York’s planning history. “One Mile” through the neighborhoods of Bathgate, East Tremont and West Farms is a portion of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, one of America’s most hated highways. The group will walk around 3.5 miles, criss-crossing the Expressway so as to better understand the highway’s characteristics, its impact on surrounding areas, and the potential to mitigate its negative features. All participants should read the two “One Mile” chapters from Caro’s The Power Broker in preparation for the tour. Additional optional reading and references will be provided.
Tour 2: Foodscapes of the Bronx
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
The Bronx is a puzzle when it comes to food. It has the largest concentration of food warehouses and wholesale distributors in the United States, and at the same time the highest level of food insecurity and hunger in New York. Moreover, this planned concentration of trucking-based distribution connected to nearby interstates has created an air quality crisis in the South Bronx, which has the highest asthma rates in the city. And the provision of cheap food via corporate capitalism has led to a proliferation of chain fast food outlets across the borough, even as tons of fresh produce move through the area each day.
This tour takes a look at several sites in the Bronx in order to build a picture of the borough’s contradictory foodscape. The goal of the tour is twofold: first, to see the food system as it operates at varied scales of production, processing, distribution, and consumption; and second, to learn what Bronx residents are doing to regain some control over their food environment.
Tour 3: Washington Heights
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Our hour-long opening plenary focuses on the history and present challenges facing Washington Heights, once known as the home of German Jewish refugees from Hitler, since the 1980s has been the site of the largest Dominican community in the United States.
The neighborhood has seen many of the changes and conflicts that have redefined New York City since the 1940s: gang wars, school integration disputes, housing reclamation, drug wars, and, since the 1990s, Dominican political empowerment, the rise of a local arts scene, gentrification, the reclamation of public parks, and rising economic inequality.
Our tour will proceed from south to north, starting at 155th Street and weaving back and forth across Broadway until we finish at Fort Tryon Park near 190th Street. Portions of our walk will be uphill. We’ll see a variety of parks, housing and commercial areas, visit sites that figured in community organizing efforts, and finish with a spectacular view of the Hudson River. Throughout, we’ll explore how the neighborhood’s geography and history shape its politics and culture.
Tour 4: Histories of Community Development in Harlem
10:00am – 12:00pm
In reshaping Harlem, mid-century urban renewal also sparked a robust and lasting wave of grassroots efforts to put planning in the hands of Harlem’s residents. This tour centers that history of insurgent, often radical planning that began in the 1960s and which saw the neighborhood become a testing ground for experiments in community development. Such efforts included the first community design center in the U.S., the Architects’ Renewal Committee in Harlem; early community development corporations (CDCs), including the Harlem Commonwealth Council and Harlem Urban Development Corporation; and housing- and commercial development-oriented CDCs that followed, especially the Abyssinian Development Corporation. In focusing on a portion of Central Harlem, this tour will introduce sites associated with those groups and their efforts toward self-determination, including blocks where they arose and focused their efforts, neighborhood institutions that inspired their thinking, and built works that record their legacies. Walking Harlem’s streets will show both the imaginative possibilities of radical planning in the era of Black Power and the often compromised outcomes that resulted, as community developers shifted from the aspirational to the pragmatic and grappled with the meaning of gentrification.
Tour 5: Municipal Archives
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Take a behind-scenes-tour of the New York City Municipal Archives – get a close-up look at rarely seen treasures such as Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’ drawings of the architectural features of Central Park, and original documents dating from the Dutch colonial settlement of New Amsterdam in the early 1600s. See how the City preserves over 9 million vital records and 2 million photographs with tours of the conservation laboratory, the digital photography studio, the processing room and the storage vaults. Participants will learn about the Archives’ special collections including two-hundred years of Mayoral papers, and its collection of records pertaining to the administration of criminal justice, the most comprehensive in the English-speaking world.
Tour 6: The New Bronx
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The phrase “The New Bronx” was coined by former Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. during his 2014 state of the borough speech. On this tour we will review The New Bronx versus The Old Bronx. During Covid-19 all construction projects continued in New York. We will examine the pros and cons, the economic inequality and social impact, the affordability and opportunities for the local community. Many land-use rule changes approved since 2009 enabled development to expand in The Bronx, allowing developers to build bigger. These changes by developers and investors (as in Williamsburg and Dumbo) have been daunting for the local residents and businesses. Let’s explore some of the new buildings coming up in the South Bronx and the potential changes to the landscape.
Tour 7: Manhattanville – Old Heart of West Harlem
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
This walking tour takes its name from Eric K. Washington’s book, published twenty years ago, which reintroduced the forgotten neighborhood at City College’s threshold. Eric created the first comprehensive tour of this bygone pre-“West Harlem” neighborhood, already steeped in Revolutionary War history when it was laid out in 1806. Manhattanville has been in continuous flux ever since, yet its founders still reside there, buried beneath the New York City landmarked St. Mary’s Episcopal Church-Manhattanville, which is about to turn 199 years old. Despite the conspicuous rise of Columbia University’s new Manhattanville campus, history reveals that its namesake — the surrounding centuries-old valley enclave — is greater than the sum of any redevelopment footprint. Discover why Manhattanville, a once crucial 19th-century town, became “a place of considerable consequence” for all Harlem. Also see where the struggle between institutional might and community spirit is forging some vibrant new neighborhood features that make this a neighborhood worth exploring afresh.
Tour 8: Green Space at the Center of the Metropolis
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
This 2-hour program offers participants a unique, comprehensive tour of one of America’s most notable urban green spaces: the New York Botanical Garden, a 250-acre site at the heart of the Bronx. This tour focuses on two landscape features that are connected to issues at center of current national debate: the African American Garden and the Thain Forest, the 50-acre old-growth forest-remnant of the original ancestral homeland of the Lenape (Delaware) people. The Garden is a designated National Historic Landmark. Its impressive natural terrain, sharp rock outcroppings, and dramatic Bronx River cascade, originally were recognized by Calvert Vaux and by the Olmsted Brothers for their picturesque landscape potential. The Garden not only operates a foremost plant research center with libraries and laboratories, but is also known for its many display-gardens designed by prominent female landscape designers, such as Beatrix Farrand (Rose Garden), Ellen Shipman (Ladies Border), Penelope Hobhouse (Herb Garden), and the designers and restorers of New York City Parks, Lynden Miller (Perennial Gardens) and Sheila Brady (Oehme Van Sweden; Native Plant Garden).
The tour starts with a short introductory viewing in the Mertz Library of several original maps and drawings of the Garden, setting the stage for the rest of the day’s explorations. The subsequent walk of the premises, takes participants through the Native Plant Garden—reflecting the essence of North America’s ecosystems—through the Thain Forest, across the Bronx River, to the Edible Academy on top of the hill. This state-of-the-art facility features innovative educational programming that encourages nutrition awareness and environmental justice and stewardship. Here participants can explore the newly laid out African American Garden, curated by Dr. Jessica Harris, well-known scholar of the African Diaspora. The garden consists of eight semi-circular arranged plots featuring a selection of food crops involved in the trade and enslavement of African Americans. Turning back toward the Garden’s main entrance, the tour concludes at the recently restored glasshouse, the historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. After the official tour has ended, participants are welcome to stay and explore the Garden on their own and visit the Garden’s Shop at the Visitors Center.
Tour 9: Slavery in the Bronx
1:00 – 3:00 pm
Like the rest of New York, what is now the Bronx was a site of enslavement for Black and Native people for two hundred years, from the arrival of Europeans until the 1820s. The labor of those who were enslaved here remains evident in the roads, landscapes, and historic structures that they shaped. This tour will include the Van Cortlandt House Museum, a British Loyalist house that ran a plantation on slave labor, and the history of its transformation into one of the first historic house museums and large city parks. Recent work with burial grounds on the property, including those of Black residents, will be discussed, along with efforts to find descendants, memorialize those buried here, and educate those in the Kingsbridge and Riverdale neighborhoods about the legacies of enslavement here.