The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a nonprofit organization that uses design and art to improve public participation in shaping the places where we all live. We do this by creating visually-based educational tools that demystify urban policy and planning issues.
CUP’s Urban Investigations programs ask basic questions about how the city works and answer them over the course of a semester. Where does our garbage go? Where does our water come from? Who built public housing? Students make site visits and conduct interviews while working with CUP staff to produce award-winning videos, exhibitions, magazines, and other media that communicate what they’ve learned to a wide audience. These products are screened in theaters, exhibited at museums, and used by advocacy organizations to educate others.
Who decides where supermarkets go? Does the Bronx have enough supermarkets? Does it matter?
Who decides where supermarkets go? Are there enough supermarkets in the Bronx? Why does it matter? In the summer of 2012, CUP collaborated with teaching artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and a group of public high school students from CUNY College Now at Hostos Community College to look at who gets supermarkets, who doesn’t, and why.
To find answers, the group got out of the classroom and into the frozen food aisles. We visited grocery stores across the boroughs, the Fresh Direct distribution site planned for the Bronx, and the real estate department of a major supermarket. For the story on how supermarkets choose sites, we interviewed the CEO of Western Beef, a supermarket site analyst, the Department of City Planning, a Bronx Community Board member, community organizers, and public health experts.
We’ve designed a booklet to teach others what’s funky and what’s fresh about Bronx supermarket access. At the end of the summer, NYU hosted a public event where students presented the project to a standing-room only crowd. At this event, students put their interviewing skills back to work in a live interview with James Johnson-Piett of Urbane Development about strategies other cities have used to bring grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods. The project is also being featured on WBAI and will be distributed to food justice organizations throughout the city.
Share, Where? A look into Fair Share in NYC.
An intrepid group of Bronx public high school students teamed up with teaching artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín to find out how New York City decides where to put the burdensome, smelly, and dangerous facilities that make the city run—but nobody wants in their backyards.
Turns out, there are some guidelines called Fair Share that were made a couple of decades ago to try to spread the burden of noxious facilities more evenly throughout the city. How does it work? Are communities taking on their fair share? How else could the city promote fairness?
To get the scoop on Fair Share, the crew hit the streets and interviewed sanitation workers, environmental justice advocates, an anti-waste facility neighborhood group, policymakers, policy-shakers, and Fritz Schwarz, the father of the 1989 Fair Share legislation. The crew collected their knowledge nuggets into a book that is helping community groups and others to find out how Fair Share works now, and how it could work better in the future!
Students: Jorge Blass, Kristina Colon, George Dzagali, Sergio Garcia, Kelvin Guzman, Malik Herrera, Dorly Ixcoy, Khemilla Kedarnath, Paula Laverde, Malik Lynch, Aldrin Martinez, Stefan Needham, Steven Peña, Raymond Perez, Fatoumata Seck, Ebony Sharon, Jason Valerio
Who Benefits from Community Benefits Agreements?
Summer of 2010, 15 high school students came together to tackle a subject that baffles even the most seasoned experts: Community Benefit Agreements, or CBAs- the phenomenon that has taken NYC’s real estate world by storm!
Are CBAs the best way to negotiate between megaproject developers and potentially affected communities? And who benefits, anyway? Students from the College Now program at Hostos Community College looked for answers in their backyard – the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory. Along with CUP teaching artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermin, and teaching assistant Prudence Katze, the students went on site visits and interviews with City officials, lawyers, and community leaders. Many brainstorms and design charrettes later, we bring to you a tasty and informative poster that breaks down the Kingsbridge Armory’s CBA process and presents experts’ hopes and dreams for the future of CBAs.
Students: Joel Baque, Constance Barfoe, Amanda Dalley, Tykel Eddy, Taylor Feliciano, Nicholas Flores, Yanica Garcia, William Hamilton, Orlando Ixcoy, Deshaun Jefferson, Sekou Keita, Julia Marinez, Luis Peña, Tyreek Watson, Brandon Wlesh.
I Have a basement apartment. NOW WHAT?
From 1990 to 2005, more than a third of the new housing created in NYC outside of Manhattan were phantom apartments – illegal conversions of basements and cellars. These invaluable sources of affordable housing, often occupied by New York’s newest immigrants, also happen to violate many of NYC’s building and zoning codes and pose serious safety threats. What should happen to all these homes? Who decides? Through research, interviews, drawings and writings, we produced a series of multilingual comic book that educates the public about the complicated issue of illegal basement apartments in the city.
Students: Crystal Afriyie, Iris Camarillo, Martina Carrillo, Jose Chavez, Soraya Angie Chouloute, Taina Chouloute, Mohamed Keita, Aurelie Kengne, Monica Lindsay, Laura Lopez, Rodrigo Lopez, Shatai Melvin, Ignacio Mercado, Saleem Mohamed, Diandra Nicholas, Jessica Vergara, Adriana Vidals, Briget Whittaker.
I Heart East New York (a story book record)
In 2009, The Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP) asked CUP to team up with their students to investigate neighborhood change. CUP, teaching artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, and the students, many of them East New Yorkers, noticed some odd new buildings popping up in a desolate landfill on the border of East New York. What were these strange rows of houses and where did they come from?
The huge development was being built on what was dubbed “the murder capital” in the 1990’s, and creating a new neighborhood from scratch. To find out what was going on, the crew interviewed a pastor, a development manager, a community board member, and a neighborhood homeowners’ group. They visited the modular building manufacturer and the development site. Through their investigation, they uncovered the story of the Nehemiah Spring Creek Houses: a visionary development model for low- and middle-income communities through congregation-based community organizing. They created a storybook record (with a dozen original songs) to teach other what they learned.
On July 23, 2009, students presented their book to an audience of artists, architects, and advocates at the Sculpture Center in New York City. Students also presented their project to thousands of listeners on an East Village Radio Show during the “Performa 2009” festival.
Students: Ian Boyd, Thaddeus Cooke, Nayelly Escobar, Dionne Matthias, William Metellus, Gavin Noble, Isaiah Peeples, Kendra Tull
This project won the first prize on other media category for the Tech Soup Global and Adobe Show Your Impact Design on April 12th, 2010.
Check an article about it here: