LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: I'm Leonardo Vargas-Mendes. I'm the director of the Cornell Public Service Center and the person responsible for those hats that you have around and you are welcome to.
We have a pretty amazing project for you to present. It's an action research project, a form of collaborative research between faculty at Cornell University and members of the local community in Utica, Upstate New York.
And we are going to just go right into it. And I'm going to present Professor Scott Peters to provide a general framework for the project itself and a broader view of what an engaged university is about. Thank you.
SCOTT PETERS: Morning, everyone. I got up at 4:30, so I'm doing well on my four shots of espresso that I had already. The project that you're going to be hearing about this morning-- can you hear me?
The project you're going to be hearing about this morning is a remarkable project that embodies, in my judgment, the absolute best spirit of community-university partnerships and engagement. And it actually embodies, amazingly well, the best spirit of the tradition at Cornell.
And I want to read you one paragraph that I think you're going to see come to life when you hear the folks that are engaged in this project talk about their work. And by the way, I'm deeply engaged as a faculty member in this work, as well. And a group of my students are involved this semester and will be involved in the next several years in contributing to the project.
There was a woman named Ruby Greene Smith. She was a faculty member here at Cornell for decades-- many decades. She did her PhD at Cornell. She worked with Extension at Cornell from 1917 to 1944.
In 1949, she wrote the history of Cornell's extension work. It was a wonderful book called The People's Colleges. Here's a paragraph from Ruby Greene Smith's book.
"There is vigorous reciprocity in the extension service because it is with the people as well as of the people, by the people, and for the people. It not only carries knowledge from the state colleges to the people, but it also works in reverse.
It carries from the people to their state colleges practical knowledge, whose workability has been tested on farms, in industry, in homes, and in communities. In ideal extension work, science and art meet life and practice.
Mutual benefits result for the people and for the educational institutions they support, thus the extension service develops not only better agriculture, industries, homes, and communities, but better colleges." There is incredible wisdom in Ruby Greene Smith's words there.
And one thing I study is university engagement. I'm a historian of American higher education. And my focus is on the work of academic professionals in public life.
And one thing that we need to learn and understand is that the work of engagement that so many faculty at Cornell and other places are doing with their students and with staff is much, much, much richer than it might appear on the surface. It's actually an opportunity, an avenue, to pursue an integration of research and teaching and service or engagement.
And at its best, as Ruby Greene Smith tells us, it helps improve not only communities and deal with social problems, but it actually helps improve our colleges by bringing us into partnership with wonderful folks who have a lot to teach. So with that, I want to pass the microphone over to a woman who is a close friend and colleague of mine, who I think fully embodies Ruby Greene Smith's spirit, Paula Horrigan from landscape architecture.
PAULA HORRIGAN: Thank you, Scott. That's great. "Science and art meet life and community." I think that's a perfect segue into this project to share with you this morning some of our work with the Rust to Green project in New York State.
And one of the wonderful things in my particular discipline, landscape architecture, is I share a floor with education. So I have Scott Peters down the road, literally, in Kennedy Hall.
And it's been a remarkable thing for me as an educator and as a landscape architect because it's been a way to bridge disciplines and also to expand the thinking around projects like this, to engage the effort with a much larger constituency at Cornell. It's something we don't always get to do because our disciplines tend to be more isolated. So it's been a great experience.
Anyway, the Rust to Green project in New York State, this was an invention that a number of us, including Scott, Jamie Vanucchi, my colleague up here, and Shorna Broussard Allred in natural resources, as well as a colleague who's now moved on to the University of Oregon-- we invented this concept and idea because we'd done some work in both Binghamton and Utica, New York.
We realized that there was an opportunity for us to really share our knowledge with the communities in upstate New York which are in need of that support, and also to use it as an effort to enhance our education, teaching, and research at Cornell.
The work was actually inspired by a report by the Brookings Institute called "Restoring Prosperity." Brookings identified 64 cities in the United States that actually have the promise of prosperity based on their resources and their assets.
Many of them tend to be in what we know as the Rust Belt. It turns out there are actually seven cities in New York State identified by Brookings. You can see here on the slide up above they actually all occur along the original Erie Canal Corridor.
There's six red dots up there. We've got Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Rochester, Buffalo. Did I name them all? I think so-- Syracuse. Yes, we forgot Syracuse.
And then you have the lone southern city. That's Binghamton. Interestingly enough, it used to be connected to the Erie Canal by the Shenango Canal. So it was a really big part of that system.
These were obviously very prosperous cities. And we know, in terms of the major infrastructure that initiated them, the Erie Canal was a real engine of change and prosperity that fueled the development of them.
It turns out they got all of the other things that come along with industrialization. They got the park systems. They got fantastic cultural resources. They got universities. In Utica alone, I think there's seven universities that surround it.
So you know, they've really got incredible assets on which to build, not to mention the physical infrastructure. So you have sewers and water systems. You've got buildings and streets and all those kind of things.
So we thought, well, what could we do as university partners to help facilitate the kind of prosperity that Brookings was suggesting was possible within these cities? How could we actually become actively engaged with trying to help initiate that, make it happen?
These are some of the issues, obviously, that are facing many of these cities. They've lost major populations. In Utica, I think we're down to 60,000 people from a high of around 110,000. So there's been major population loss.
There's been abandonment and disinvestment. Right now in the city of Utica alone, I think there are 900 vacant lots that are actually city-owned. And there are up to 3,600 lots in the city itself that are either in private ownership-- but they've become basically abandoned vacant lands.
So you have a lot of loss of revenue. You also have a lot of policy decisions that have been made over the last decades which have actually fueled development around the city and basically resulted in sprawl.
So you get a lot of development on the edges and not within the city itself. So at the expense of the city, we've seen development and planning decisions create prosperity outside the city itself.
Some of the things that they have-- I just mentioned cultural institutions, extant infrastructure. They have transportation networks. Of course, the Erie Canal was then followed by the New York State Thruway and the barge canal system and so on.
But even today in Utica, you've got Amtrak that comes right through that city. So it's tied to transportation networks and trade networks. And obviously there are a lot of neighborhoods there.
We're seeing in Utica-- Utica's got a very changing population as a result of refugees who are coming to that city. And I believe they just published the master plan for the city in, how many languages? 50? 56 languages or something like that. Yeah. So it's an interesting transition that's going on in that city.
I mentioned a minute ago that we decided to start with these two cities, Utica and Binghamton, because we knew them from former projects. So we had partners to begin this enterprise, the Rust to Green project, with.
So we started with them. But our aim, as this project unfolds, is to actually use the learning that's happening in these particular cities to advance it and develop models and principles that can be used in other cities in New York State.
One of the other reasons we're starting small is that we're a small group. We have a small amount of funding that's coming from USD Hatch. So we're starting our efforts where we can be the most effective. And we're hoping that they will then build the approaches that we can then use as we move this project out into a larger arena.
It's also very interesting that the two cities have very quite different qualities. And you're going to hear from our Utica partners today. I mean, Utica just developed its first master plan in, I think, over 50 years.
So it has had a lot of history of planning, but not a lot of planning in the most recent past, whereas Binghamton is more, you might say, advanced in terms of some of its planning and the infrastructure within City Hall that's helped to fuel larger planning concepts and ideas. Although, it still faces many of the same problems.
These are the questions that are basically behind this project. So one of the big questions is, how can we, as university partners, help advance the shift from rust to green in these cities? What contributions can we make to that?
What models and policies and theories can we develop from the project itself? And you know, the big question here is, what are the barriers in these cities to, basically, the prosperity that they have the opportunity to pursue?
Obviously from our disciplines, we hope to expand beyond our own disciplines. Right now we're starting with partners in landscape architecture and education and natural resources. But we see the opportunity of this project that, as action steps and proposals unfold, that we will bring in other partners from throughout the university who bring other knowledges to the table.
I like to think about the fact that this project is really framed around designerly thinking. So I think the idea of the blending of art and science is really appropriate here.
But as designers, we can bring this capacity to convene the larger picture and to look at the problem and the context at hand and say, what is needed to both understand the problem and to address it? And I think that's one of the big concepts and opportunities we're bringing to this project.
There is also a lot of pedagogy associated with this. We're embracing service learning as a major teaching approach in this project. So bringing students as co-researchers into the project is very important-- using participatory action research as the main methodology where the community is actually a collaborator in the process so that the action steps that unfold are coming out of the dialogue and the mutual effort that's undertaken as a result of convening the partners at the table.
This is a very important underlying principle of this project, that we're not interested in working on the community. We're interested in working with the community and bringing our knowledge to bear on action steps that are viable and that actually emerges as the project unfolds.
So we don't wait till the end game. We're actually engaged immediately in action steps. And you'll see some of the action steps that we've already taken in this project.
And we've actually been at this since last February. So we're in, what, about month 10 I think. And we see this as being a three- to five-year initiative or maybe for the rest of my life. I'm not sure--
--about that. These are a little academic in terms of slides. But this shows you a little bit about what participatory action research is. And I'll just take a look at the diagram.
I think it's interesting because, as a research process, action research really has to do with the constant integration of reflection on your actions. So as you undertake the research effort, you reflect on how you're doing, what you're doing. Then you act as a result of that conscious reflection and the integration of the knowledge that's coming to bear.
Then you react again so that you're sort of going through loops as opposed to going in a more linear, typical research process. So really, the dialogue and the energy for the research act really comes from the collaboration and the problem-solving that's part of the activity.
Relevancy to community groups is really important in this process, as well. So again, through the partnership, we're really defining the problem and the issue. And it's different in each city. And you're going to hear from the Utica partners what some of the issues are there.
Our goals are to make lasting contributions to community-based decision-making and to further green development policies. We're hoping that we can really help to shape, in the city of Utica, some really viable strategies for things like, what could they do with their vacant lands? How could they think about downsizing or making the city smaller but more green and more habitable and more livable for both the people who are there as well as more attractive for others who might want to come there?
How can we rethink things like their stormwater system, for example, that is currently polluting the Mohawk River? How could we rethink the infrastructure for something like stormwater drainage so that it actually enhances water quality as well as provides assets like open space in the city?
Jamie, you want to join me and just talk about a couple of these theory concepts behind our project? I know I'm talking for too long now, right? How we doing?
JAMIE VANUCCHI: Morning, everybody. I'm Jamie Vanucchi from landscape architecture. I just want to take one minute to say-- can everyone hear me? I just want to take one minute to thank Bob and Pam for coming down. It's been such an amazing opportunity to work with Bob and Pam and the rest of the partners in Utica.
You know, I've always heard about action research. But actually doing it, having boots on the ground this past year, has been amazingly rewarding. And I really attribute that to you guys. I mean, your openness, mutual respect-- there's never tension in the room. It's really hard work, but it's so much fun, too. So thank you guys.
So I'm just going to talk about some of the key concepts that we've been working with as, sort of, foundational ideas for the Rust to Green project. Paula mentioned many of the issues facing Rust Belt cities in New York-- the New York Seven, as we refer to them. And one of them is, of course, shrinking population.
So this is work that studio students have done this semester. I have junior students working in Utica. And essentially the map here shows vacant land within the city limits.
And then you see suburbanization over time in blue. So you see development actually spreading further and further away from the city as the red light's going out, buildings coming down within the city. And then on this far chart, you see-- it's hard to do this without a pointer. Oh, OK.
So here you see population building in Utica in the green. This is urban population. And the blue out here is suburban population. So you see it rising, rising, rising, and then starting to fall off as the urban population grows.
And then this little section is the interesting part. This is the refugee population in Utica. One in six residents in Utica right now is a refugee. So that's one of the, I guess, resources that we really see as important and significant in Utica. Yeah?
AUDIENCE: --in Utica, could you point to the city center?
JAMIE VANUCCHI: The city center? Yeah. Genesee Street comes through here. So this is North Utica. This is the Thruway and the Mohawk River coming through this area. And then this is the rest of Utica.
One of our key concepts is urban resilience. This graph is from Howling. And he looks at the adaptive cycle of ecosystems. And we think about the city in this way.
So we say, OK, you begin-- ooh, sorry-- you begin down here with pioneer species, looking for niches in the ecosystem. So they're exploiting niches in this phase and then growing and storing capital up through here, until you get to here, where you've got this, I guess you could call it, climax phase, where you've got lots and lots of stored capital.
You also have lots of connections between different components of your system, which makes for a more brittle system, which is potentially going to be affected by disturbance. So I think what happened in Utica was you start down here exploring empty niches, exploring opportunities such as, for example, location along the Erie Canal. You exploit that resource. You build industry.
Over time, you store capital in your system, right? So you expand, you build fabric. You have cultural institutions like the Stanley Theatre, the Munson Proctor. You build up the city in terms of infrastructure. And so you have industries that support one another but are also dependent on one another.
And then if one of those industries goes under or the Erie Canal infrastructure becomes no longer as significant as it was, you're subject to disturbance. So you have a release phase where you release some of that stored capital.
But I think what's important here is that this graph isn't just the city moving up and up and up in population and capital and then going down and down and down, and you have that arrow pointing down and you don't know where it's going to end. This graph really helps us to see that it's all part of an adaptive cycle.
So as we're moving up here, we're reorganizing. And then what are the empty niches now? So we can look at the vacant lots as a potential resource.
You can look at, if you're an opportunist developer, you can come into the city and say, hey, there are lots of buildings here. I can get a great, great historic building here for very little money. What am I going to do with it?
Some of the key areas of urban resilience. This is from the Resilience Alliance. Looking at the metabolic flows in the city, looking at the governance networks, the social dynamics, and the built environment-- these are all key areas of urban resilience.
And I think one of the things that's exciting about Rust to Green is that we're looking at each one of these categories in terms of thinking about how we can build resilience in the city through each one of these category areas. So for example, when you build infrastructure in the city or when you think about how you construct buildings, you're thinking about building resilience in and how are you going to do that.
Green infrastructure is another one of our key areas. And green infrastructure is a way that you can rethink urban infrastructure in a more resilient way.
So we used to be over here as landscape architects, where we'd be called in when the architect was done. And we'd sort of throw some foundational shrubs around the building. And that was our job. Make it look pretty, right?
Now this has really been shifted around so that green infrastructure is really the framework and everything else fits within that framework. And you're using natural processes to do much of the work of the city.
So it's a much more resilient system, in that we don't have all these energy inputs, we don't have all these maintenance inputs into the system. But we actually allow natural process to do a lot of the work.
So I should mention, when you're thinking about all of that vacant land within the city and then you start thinking about something like green infrastructure, it's a really interesting parallel. That's one of those empty niches that's potentially available to us to exploit as a resource, and thinking about how we can get those functions of the city done in a way that's more resilient.
Ecological citizenship is another one of our key categories. And one of our projects that we'll talk about is working with Cornell Cooperative Extension to develop a curriculum around ecological citizenship for the city.
But this is Groundwork Lawrence in Massachusetts. And essentially, they have an amazing number of people doing work in the city. So here we have cleanups. We have high school students doing water quality testing. We have farm awareness programs and celebrations because we can't forget that we need to celebrate our natural resources and our cultural resources.
And then this idea of the smart network. I showed you that resilience diagram. And I talked about how, when you get to that upper right corner of the diagram, you have a potentially more brittle system because you have so many connections among the parts.
The way we think about the smart network for R2G is constructing a network of people that perform work. But you don't talk to everybody all the time. It's really project-specific.
So when a project comes online, you identify key players and pull them into that project. And so it's a much more, I guess, dynamic kind of system. So here we started out in February with our core group. I know you can't read this, but that's OK.
This is our core group. And this group was really assembled by Bob, I think, yes? Yeah.
JAMIE VANUCCHI: [LAUGHS]
So he pulled together, I think, 10 or 12 people to work with us. So that was February. And now we have this network eight months later.
So you can see that this is really project-driven. And all the green rectangles here are action projects that we have going on right now.
Some of these are projects that were in the works already, and R2G is just supporting them. And some of these are projects that have emerged from the process.
And then as these projects come online, we say, who do we need at the table in order to get this work done? And so we continue to expand this as we go.
Yeah, sure. So this is the vision and mission that's emerged from our work with the partners. Our vision is "Growing our city into a resilient, vibrant, sustainable community for the 21st century."
Our mission-- "Cultivate an open and dynamic network," or, "We can't do it alone;" "Identify and nurture our assets," or "Celebrate who we are;" "Craft and share adaptable principles, tools, and practices to guide the way," "Learn as we go;" and, "Take action to accomplish our vision of a resilient, sustainable, and vibrant 21st-century Utica," or, "Don't talk rust, act green." So now we're just going to talk about some of the action projects that we've been working on.
PAULA HORRIGAN: I should just mention as well that the vision statement that you just saw was actually crafted by the Utica group. So that's not our vision.
You saw some of the principles that Rust to Green is shaped by. But that vision actually came out of a whole session with the core group in Utica to develop and adopt it, as well as the logo, which you're seeing, was actually developed by Pam Jardieu, who's a graphic designer. And she's here at the table.
So the action step of actually developing the vision statement and the identity for Utica was one of those early-on action steps that actually came out of the core group. Another action step was to right away create some presence in the city. So one of the partners works with Utica Monday Nites, which is an arts organization that has a 13-week festival all throughout the summer.
So we developed a project to actually have something called the Rust to Green Marketplace at the State Office plaza. So we spent eight weeks actually, eight Mondays, throughout the summer having a presence in the city so that we could actually use the research to educate the constituents and involve a Rust to Green project with community partners.
Here's a little slide of us demonstrating rain barrels. The city had gotten a grant to get some rain barrels with us for a neighborhood. And they didn't have a venue for actually teaching people how to use them. So we used that as an opportunity to demonstrate, what are some of the opportunities for addressing water issues, stormwater drainage, and so on in the city? And how would you use a rain barrel?
Our students, last semester-- we kicked off this project actually, and the students will talk a little bit about it, with a large workshop called the Rust to Green Workshop. So students were involved with some of the visioning early on about how to move these action steps forward.
So we still have in the works the concept for the Rust to Green bus, which we're hoping will be sort of an educational bus that'll be able to move between neighborhoods in the city of Utica. We've just finished a grant for developing a food policy for the city of Utica with a number of partners who came out.
This is an action step that actually came out of the map Jamie showed you. So we've got a group of partners from the Resource Center for Independent Living. We've actually got Cornell Cooperative Extension from Oneida County.
And we've just submitted a major proposal to undertake a food policy, which is really interesting because when you want to address the resilience of a city, you want to address issues of hunger and food security and also how you might reinvent or rethink your whole region to make it more resilient in terms of its capacity to produce food, distribute food, and also, obviously, nourish your citizenry.
Right now we're actually working on developing a proposal for Genesee Street, which is the main corridor that goes through the city. Much of it is within the community block grant designation. Bob will talk a little bit about that, I believe.
And so we're looking at how can we reenvision this street, which hasn't had a lot of visioning for quite a long time. It doesn't have a lot of people on it either, as you can see.
So a lot of the vacancy and the emptiness of the city is signaled in its main corridor. So we want to look at how can we rethink that city street in ways that are going to make it more ecologically friendly, support the health and prosperity of the city, make it a more livable place, and so on.
So we'll be looking at a lot of alternatives to that, things that will also probably challenge many of the more typical approaches to streetscape design because we really want to make interventions in the city of Utica that are strategic and also help to build sustainability in every regard.
Just finally before I hand this over, I wanted to mention the R2G College Consortium. This is one of our efforts, too. It's been really interesting.
This summer we actually had the first Rust to Green intern. A civic research fellow, we're calling him. We had six from Cornell. But we actually had one from Hamilton College.
So one of our goals here is to develop a college consortium. I've met with the president of Mohawk Valley Community College. We've got Hamilton's Levitt Center onboard. We've met with Colgate's Upstate Institute. These are all the colleges within the area.
So our goal is actually to have research fellows from all of those universities be part of this project. I just met with New York Campus Compact the other day. And they're very interested in this model of how we develop a college consortium around addressing issues in the city that really connect academic research, service learning, and community partners together.
So this is, I think, a very exciting project that came really early on out of our interaction with the city of Utica because people said, hey, we're a college town, but we don't have a lot of college interactions in the city itself. So this is, I think, a really exciting project.
I'm going to hand it over to Ben and Kong. These are two of our students in landscape architecture who were part of the first professional degree. We have a first professional degree in landscape architecture. It's a three-year degree.
Actually, Ben is in the three-year program. And Kong is from China. She's in our two-year program. So they're just going to speak briefly about their experience working on this project.
BEN HEDSTROM: Yeah, good morning. I'm Ben Hedstrom. I'm a second year MLA.
CHUIJING KONG: Good morning. My name's Kong.
BEN HEDSTROM: And we'd like to thank our instructors, Jamie and Paula, and Scott for having us this morning, as well. Thanks for having us. And thanks to Bob and Pam for coming down to Utica. It's nice to have you from Utica in Ithaca for a change.
To put my experience in context, I want to read a little brief passage from my application statement here at Cornell that I wrote a couple of years ago before I got to school here. "Cornell's landscape architecture students are not limited to a local experience. Landing in an unfamiliar location and then developing a plan based on a sense of place tests all one's skills as a designer.
After my degree at Cornell, I'm confident I would have the skills to take on any job as a professional. While other MLA programs investigate the same habitats year after year, Cornell's professors encourage ingenuity and innovation in themselves and their students by presenting new and stimulating challenges."
Now this has pretty much outdone my expectations, this program, of what I was expecting at Cornell. It's allowed me to get out of the studio up in Kennedy Hall and thinking about hypothetical situations, actually get on the streets and work in a city alongside people who are doing real things and real exciting projects.
CHUIJING KONG: To describe my experience with Rust to Green, I took Rust to Green as a class last semester. And I found it really worth it and really interesting. This class was lead by three excellent teachers in our department. And their teaching styles really opened--
At the beginning, combined with lecture, reading, and group discussions, we learned some basic principles and methods of participatory research, place observation, and site analysis. And then after that, by using those things we learned from the class, we did a city intervention in Binghamton.
And there were so many interesting things that happened during the class. As you remember, the areas that grew up did a site analysis [? inside ?] of Binghamton.
And by arguing that the size of the city is the spirit of the city culture and that by mapping the size out and to categorize them, they told a very interesting story about the city. So I think none of the students in the class will forget what we've learned, what we've experienced in this class.
BEN HEDSTROM: So now we're just going to take you through some slides describing our experience this summer in Utica. This right here is our first day, actually. Bob was kind enough to show us around town and show us some of the different areas of the city that had a lot of potential for growth, and just kind of assessing the scene.
He took us to visit Cassandra Harris-Lockwood's garden that's been a successful project in that neighborhood where anybody in the neighborhood, refugees, anybody who's willing to put in the work, can trade work for food, basically. And it's been an awesome, successful project.
So we were just kind of looking around. A lot of us had never been there. I might say we were part of a team. Down here on the right, you'll see our entire team.
So we were mostly landscape architects and MRP, master regional planning students. And Kevin, our Colgate student, Hamilton, is a Rust to Green Civic Fellow and was there, as well.
This is, like Paula showed before, the Monday Nite events. So this was an awesome opportunity to get out and talk to people about what was really important to them in their community as well as share some information that we'd found with them and different tactics about how to save money on energy and how to green up their home.
This up on the left here is actually kind of indicative of the procedure. That was our first week in Utica. And we arrived with no-- we didn't really even know we were doing an event that night. So it made us think on our feet how were we going to get our message out and get to know some of these people.
So we had these cards that we had people fill out and asked them about what their future vision of Utica was. And it was this thing that just kind of grew. We started putting them on the wall.
And suddenly we had an entire wall full of vision statements. It was super helpful. And with that, we've been able to produce some documents that show people what they really think about and what's important to them.
Weights of different word colors show-- I think you saw it earlier in one of the slides. But that's good proof of how we worked, is being able to think on our feet and see exactly what the result is.
Down here, we greened up our space because after the first week, it was barren concrete out in front of a civic building. So we put some trees in, planted sunflowers, got some people involved.
And the next week, we had the rain barrels demonstration because the city had just got a bunch of rain barrels. So we partnered with them in order to inform people about how to use the rain barrels, how they'd help out their home, save some water.
So we had a demonstration down there. And we're actually watering the plants with them. And as you can see, we had good turnouts, lots of interaction, lots of good opportunities to meet a lot of people.
Down there, we did a Saranac Thursday night event where we surveyed people and talked to people. So it was trying to find different demographics in the city and talk to everybody [? who went. ?]
This is some of the opportunities we had this summer. So you can get a chance to see some of the variety of experience we had every week. Mondays and Tuesdays were spent in Utica doing things like site analysis.
Paula talked about the Genesee Street revisioning project. So that was us taking in the measurements and looking at what was there. We did soil samples around the city to find out what the soil conditions were in different spots in the city. We got to work with some city engineers.
There was a parking lot project that we had some input on. And so it was real-life experience. It was out there talking to people who are really making these-- you know, my future is looking at parking lots and looking at designing them-- more than that. But it's nice to walk into a city and sit down with the engineer and go over a blueprint, you know? That was an experience I'd never had before.
These were the meetings with city officials and city leaders, all the Rust to Green partners at the Hage building. And it's just really great to build communication skills and get to know people and hang out with people who are really doing things and really making impacts in their community, building partnerships.
That's me and Kevin moving a rain barrel into a car, trying to get it down to the event-- so working with students from different colleges. And these are some of the documents we produced. We produced a website that's kind of an interesting website because our goal is to try to make it interactive.
So there's a section on the website where people can actually input information that they have and post it on a Google map. In terms of water resources, different resources, energy, in the community, if you know of something going on that we don't, then please share it with us, that kind of thing. And Kong can tell you a little bit more about the posters we created every week.
CHUIJING KONG: Well, our main job in the summer is to design and create those posters and brochures for the citizens in Utica. And Lin and I collected information. And we sorted them, put them in the simple ratio diagram so people can read them.
As you know, there are over 40 languages spoken in Utica. So the visual aids is only in the languages that all the people read. So we worked very hard trying to make sure everyone understands what we are talking about without reading the text.
I think during the summer, there are lots of posters and brochures that were created. And they were given to the local people. And by doing that, I think we tried to arouse people's attention to the very place they lived in. And thus, they started to [? carry out ?] and take care of their city.
BEN HEDSTROM: And I think that's our last slide. So I'd like to introduce Pam Jardieu and Bob Sullivan from the city of Utica.
PAULA HORRIGAN: Yes, I think so. They're going to switch to-- so this is Pam Jardieu and Bob Sullivan. This is obvious. But Bob is the commissioner of urban and economic development.
And Pam is a local artist who's been very involved with landmarks and preservation in the city of Utica and has been a major partner from the beginning. So they represent a much larger core group. We're so happy to have you.
BOB SULLIVAN: Thank you so much, Paula. And we are incredibly honored to be here. About a year ago, I sat with Paula and the team from Cornell and discussed the possibility of Rust to Green Utica. And 12 months later, they've delivered a bounty of riches that we could have only imagined last year.
The city of Utica is unbelievably honored and proud and just incredibly fortunate to have Cornell University and the team that you've sent up to us to help us really turn our city from rust to green. And it's just an amazing unfolding process that just gets better and better every week.
And this, I guess, for me, is the cherry on the cake of Rust to Green so far. But we're certainly looking forward to many, many more events and cooperative adventures that we will have with not only Cornell University, but all the colleges that you saw mentioned up there onscreen.
Unfortunately, our mayor, David Roefaro, was not able to be here today. He is hosting former President Bill Clinton in Utica, so we gave him a pass. Former presidents do trump Cornell University. So he's back in Utica. But he did send for you a prerecorded message. And if we could play that now, we shall.
- Hello. I'm David Roefaro, mayor of the city of Utica. I would like to thank the trustees and the community of Cornell University for giving us the opportunity to share with you how truly vital the Rust to Green initiative is to the revitalization and future prosperity of Utica.
Making the shift to sustainability and urban resilience will not be easy. But it is possible through partnerships and the collaboration such as ours with Cornell through Rust to Green.
We've already made a difference. And in a short time, we've produced tangible results. From the Green Century building, the new home of Rust to Green Utica, to infrastructure redesign addressing storm sewer overflow, to implementing recommendations from our new master plan, we are accomplishing the vision of Rust to Green.
- There's a lot of stuff going on, a lot of programs either community-based-- whether it be based on food or energy or arts. But the issue is the communication among and between the city, the city being the government.
They're very excited that we have the time and the resources to dedicate to reaching out and communicating and then also including them. It's very important not to exclude the government, in my opinion. And it's very important to bring everybody to the table and to make those connections.
- I invite you all to visit Utica as my guest and witness firsthand the transformation that is happening in Upstate New York. A wise person once said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Come be part of the future New York State with the new Rust to Green.
BOB SULLIVAN: Go ahead, Pam.
PAM JARDIEU: Oh, please start.
BOB SULLIVAN: Thank you, Pam. The governmental partnership is key, I think, to this program. We're acting as a convener and not a dictator, as you can see.
We want to be a part of the process. We don't want to always be in the driver's seat. In case anyone hasn't taken a look at the Upstate New York City's government, in recent years, it has not done a great job in steering the course of where some of those old Erie Canal cities have gone.
The city of Utica just enacted, and we're about to present to the Common Council, the first comprehensive master plan that we've had in place since 1950. And since that was 10 years before I was born, I think that's a pretty good indicator of how we got into the situation that we got into.
The Rust to Green Marketplace at Utica Monday Nite-- for those of you who don't know about Utica Monday Nite, it's a 15-year multicultural event which focuses on several different venues within the city of Utica being presented every Monday night. It was a tradition in Utica in the old days, when downtown was a vibrant and bustling mercantile and business district, that stores would stay open on Monday night.
So building on that tradition, event founder Lynne Mishalanie created Monday Nite. And we thought it was a perfect venue to introduce the Cornell University team and Rust to Green process to the city.
We also partnered with the Cornell University 5-year HUD consolidated plan for community development block grants. In case you may not know, Utica is an entitlement city, which means that we receive close to $5 million every year from the Department of HUD, Housing and Urban Development, to be used in a target area for the benefit of low- to moderate-income individuals.
We were kind of flirting with the possibility of our funding not being approved because our consolidated plans for many years had not really reflected the needs of the community. And with the incredible stewardship of Paula and Jamie and the team from Cornell, we were able to not only secure those funds but really craft an exciting and vibrant plan for the next five years.
We're also working on a local waterfront access plan, LWAP, which Utica, being on a site on the old Erie Canal, has a wonderful waterfront that we just kind of forgot about. We've turned our back on it. We have a former--
PAM JARDIEU: Contaminated.
BOB SULLIVAN: --contaminated former harbor. So we're working with the DEC and the Canal Corp. and Cornell University to help turn that waterfront region around and really make it a vibrant benefit for the city of Utica.
And finally, Genesee streetscape and infrastructure design plan-- you know, we come to beautiful little cities like Ithaca, and we say, why can't we have that in Utica? And I know other cities, old cities on the canal, say the same thing.
So what we're doing is partnering with your team from Cornell to come up with the Genesee streetscape and infrastructure design plan that's really going to greet people with a welcoming and really warm and wonderful feeling when they come into the city, as opposed to what you may see in certain circumstances today. Oh, still me, OK.
PAM JARDIEU: Still you.
BOB SULLIVAN: We are trying and working to move from isolation to integration, improving the interdepartmental communication and cooperation. I will tell you that, as a nearly 20-year veteran of city government, departments have not always communicated well with each other.
That's an understatement in the city of Utica. And for the first time in over 20 years, we have seen the collaboration between departments as never before. And this is a direct and complete result of Cornell University Rust to Green.
These ladies got people who have not spoken with each other since Ronald Reagan was president to actually talk to each other. It's--
PAM JARDIEU: And work together and create something that is not only functional, it will save the city money. It will address-- we're under a consent order to fix our sewer overflow system. The benefits are myriad.
And I just want to say that the caliber of the faculty and the students is unsurpassed. And the cachet that Cornell brings and the kind of third-party, trusted party is invaluable to us. And it really has been directly responsible for improving the communication between the departments.
BOB SULLIVAN: One of the projects that Paula and Jamie were able to partner early on was a new parking lot, which we don't usually like to build parking lots in this day of looking at things like stormwater runoff and all the things that accompany asphalt paving.
We wanted the new parking lot to be green. And unfortunately, the longtime employees of the engineering department didn't really understand what that meant.
Thanks to Paula and Jamie, who walked the site with the engineering department and integrated things like trees and grass and also a water retention area so that all of the water that's dumped from that parking lot doesn't go into the stormwater management system and threaten to contaminate the Mohawk River with overflow. We also worked on rain barrels to combat the sewer overflow. We had those manufactured by a small company in town.
And also, we just installed several Silva Cell streetscape improvements for some stormwater management. And a Silva Cell is basically a big plastic box. It looks like it's made out of pipes.
And you excavate the ground. You put that box in the ground. And you plant your tree in it. And what that does is it helps the root system of the tree spread this way so that you have a better, stronger tree, and it's able to absorb more stormwater. How did I do?
PAM JARDIEU: You got one more.
BOB SULLIVAN: And finally for me, the government partnership, we're separate, but we're connected. And Utica, as we mentioned before, is a college town, we just don't know it yet. Or we've forgotten it, or we've turned our back on it. Having the colleges kind of ring the city around the outskirts helps to contribute to that feeling.
With the introduction of Pratt at Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute-- in case you've never visited Utica, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is a premiere arts institution celebrating its 75th year of existence and its 50th year of the Philip Johnson-designed main sculpture court and gallery building, which if you haven't seen it, it's a remarkable structure.
And so that introduction of Pratt University into the downtown section has really kind of reinvigorated and revibrated the city with the influx of the college students. The R2G Civic Fellows, the College Consortium, and finally, the downtown campus in the Rust to Green Green Century building.
The Green Century building is a former mansion that was built in 1820 that was currently a surplus property owned by the city of Utica's Urban Renewal Agency, of which I'm also the executive director, listed on the National Register because for many years it was a private women's club whose main focus-- and Pam will talk more about this-- was to promote voting rights for the women of the turn of the century era, hosting such notables as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others.
The abolition movement was headquartered there for a time. It's an Italianate-style mansion. The auditorium that you see on the bottom was designed by Frederick Gouge in 1897. And the vision for the building is to be the downtown home of Rust to Green, a community research and mapping center, a shared multi-college campus, and a public venue for lectures, events, and education.
We are thrilled and excited that we are going to be able to associate the name Cornell University with our downtown Green Century building. It's an amazing accomplishment and something that we could have only dreamed and imagined several years ago.
PAM JARDIEU: This building has been a white elephant for multiple administrations in the city of Utica. It sits right on our Main Street. It was a complete eyesore.
It used to be owned by our local Community Action. When they went belly up five, six, seven years ago, they took this building with it. And it's been vacant ever since.
Bobby and I are both, what we'd like to call, building huggers. We're preservationists. And there was a real threat that this building was going to come down. And we couldn't have that happen.
So we lobbied very hard to get this building moved into Rust to Green's ownership. And we're in the process of doing that. But this building will become the hive, the tangible face, of Rust to Green in the community.
This auditorium space down here is really going to provide us with a venue to walk the walk. It'll allow us to do educational programs, symposia, have a virtual multi-college campus downtown, which is another initiative that, for multiple administrations, everybody said this was the holy grail. If we can possibly get the colleges downtown, everything will be fixed.
So under the very apt tutelage of the Cornell professors, they've actually made that happen. And that is no small feat. It's very, very impressive. And it's incredibly important to the city of Utica because government doesn't have the resources in a small town like this.
For instance, the planning department is a one-man show until about six months ago. Bobby was able to hire another planner. You can't possibly run a city on the staff that we run the city on.
So this additional professional expertise is unparalleled in its significance. It really brings things that we would never even have any idea how to design-- a parking lot-- in this fashion. It really has brought that expertise to town. And we are immensely grateful for that.
So what Bobby probably didn't say is I'm also the grant writer for the city of Utica. And one of my main missions is to get this building up and running.
So that's what we'll be working on in the next year because this is where the rubber meets the road. All of this visioning and ideas and community is fabulous. But if you don't have any money, it stays on paper.
So we have already begun. And from a grant writer's seat, this is both an amazing project to work on, and it's a terrifying project to work on. It's such a big tent. There's a table for everybody. And that just means that I need to be in 15 places at once, which is absolutely impossible.
So we have identified the low-hanging fruit in this year. We have allocated some CDBG funds to the tune of about $250,000-- $50,000 immediately going to the Green Century building to secure the envelope of that and make it habitable.
We've just written for a $250,000 food policy council grant with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. This is another partner-- big, big player in our community, huge budget, lots of very impactful projects that really nobody knew about.
And for me, the best part of Rust to Green has been this communication and networking. And if it all went away tomorrow, we have already produced really tangible, solid partnerships that we can work on in the future.
A lot of co-applications possible here, bringing a lot of external funding to our community in a way that has never been done before. This is truly groundbreaking stuff for us. The Civic Fellows-- since I've turned this off. How do I do this?
BOB SULLIVAN: [INAUDIBLE]
PAM JARDIEU: Thank you. The Civic Fellows, our local Community Foundation-- very conservative but very well-funded-- they took an immediate interest in this.
The director of our Community Foundation, Peggy O'Shea, saw the potential of this. Our Community Foundation is trying to step up and become a leader in philanthropy for Central New York.
And they immediately hooked on to this idea of embedded students doing real practical work that can then be shared with many of the projects that the Community Foundation funds. So we'll be going to them for some additional funding.
And lastly, currently in play, we have some New York Main Street money from the Department of Housing and Community Renewal to do streetscape along our Main Street corridor. There's a whole universe of potential funding over here. The green infrastructure grants coming down the pike are legend.
They're going to be huge. They're going to be unwieldy. And they're going to require these types of partnerships. This type of consortium is going to be a prerequisite for applying for many of these grants, especially for the DEC.
Smart growth, historic preservation, private foundations, business sponsorship, and earned income-- so we'll be looking at a blend of funding, as always. Our goal for next year is about $2.5 million.
We're doing this on absolutely no money. Cornell has been incredibly generous with the staff time, the students, and their back office support. But we're really doing this-- this is bootstrap urbanism. We are doing this with spit and duct tape basically. We're obviously always looking for an angel investor around the million dollar level. We have--
BOB SULLIVAN: We've got our eyes on a couple of people, but--
PAM JARDIEU: They've expressed a little bit of interest.
BOB SULLIVAN: Yeah.
PAM JARDIEU: But you know, as I say, there are lots of discrete funding opportunities, which makes it a challenge. It's always exciting. It's never the same thing twice. And I just really look forward to what tomorrow brings with Rust to Green.
BOB SULLIVAN: Just in closing from the city of Utica, one of the reasons why we're so excited about this program is, of course I will admit, selfish in nature. We want to turn our own community around.
And we want to make it everything wonderful that it once was and that we believe it can be again. But we're really excited to be able to hand this program off in the future to other cities and municipalities across the state and across the country.
Pam and I were fortunate. A couple of weeks ago we went to a workshop at Syracuse University in the School of Architecture entitled "Formerly Urban." And you know, we met folks involved in Detroit and Newark and Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh and all these former Rust Belt cities that are really looking for new and inventive ways to actually reinvent themselves.
So we feel that this is the program that we'll be able to hand off to these other communities and that Cornell University, I think, will be responsible for really making a shift in the 21st century in what former Rust Belt American cities were to what they're going to become. And you know, for my money, you can't get any better than that. So once again, thank you so much.
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: Thank you, Paula, Jamie, students, and our partners from Utica. We have a few minutes for a few questions. Let's do it. So--
AUDIENCE: I was wondering if the professors could speak a little bit about the role of undergraduates, the potential for undergraduates in this program. And also, it's a two-part question.
I see this as a broader initiative connection to New York State and sort of the land engagement, or land-grant institution of the 21st century. How do you feel that the university can best proceed to bring service aspects to New York State into the broader undergraduate and graduate education so it's not just necessarily a summer program, but something that people are [INAUDIBLE]?
PAULA HORRIGAN: I mean, this is our goal, is to really integrate-- sorry, can you hear me through this? OK-- is the whole integration of the teaching and learning, the education with the research mission.
So we actually started last spring with the Rust to Green workshops, which had 35 students in it, including undergraduates. So a big appeal with undergraduates with this project because, again, they want to have real experiences with real communities.
And then this fall, we're actually convening-- we're kind of calling it a lab at the moment because we have very heavy teaching loads. I'm teaching eight credits this semester. It's difficult to integrate this project into that.
Jamie is doing a little better job. And she's teaching some more advanced classes, so she's able to actually integrate the research project into her classes.
So she's working actually with undergraduates right now in Utica who are at the junior level. We've got, I think about, 20 students at the moment who are really interested in long-term research senior thesis projects, actually working on specific design problems, research problems here.
And certainly with our partners at Hamilton College at our last Rust to Green meeting, we had four undergraduates from Hamilton who want to do their senior theses on the Rust to Green project, which is really exciting. So now we're getting emails from the Hamilton students.
I'm going, actually, to speak next Friday to that class. They have a requirement at Hamilton in the environmental studies department to do a senior thesis. And typically, they haven't done one that's an integrated service learning project.
So they're really excited about actually doing real projects that are going to have a community impact. And so the goal here is to cast a wide net and to integrate students at all levels into this program.
The program is escalating at a level much larger than I think any of us anticipated. So I went to my chair in the fall and said, is there anyway I can get [? released? ?] He said, absolutely not!
So anyway, there's a lot of heart and soul in it. There is very limited funding. It's a seed funding from Hatch. So you know, we're sort of running on faith at the moment to see what happens. But I don't know, did I answer your question?
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: [INAUDIBLE] in the back?
AUDIENCE: I, too, have a two-part question.
PAULA HORRIGAN: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Number one, is there anything left of the Utica business community that is participating? That's the one partnership I didn't hear about. Or is the project largely hoping that, in addition to the students that you get downtown, that you'll be able to attract business?
And the second part is, I understand the relationship to classes. I don't quite understand the structural relationship to the Public Service Center.
BOB SULLIVAN: Right.
AUDIENCE: So those are my [? two questions. ?]
BOB SULLIVAN: Thank you. Absolutely. And I apologize for not mentioning the business community has been an integral part of Rust to Green.
In fact, you saw a slide of the Hage building. JK Hage is a prominent local attorney with offices in both Utica and Washington DC. His Washington office employs about 90 attorneys and support staff. His Utica office employs about 25.
JK has the first LEED-certified platinum building in the city of Utica, downtown. He bought a former bank building and turned it into his law practice.
It's an amazing mid-century building. And JK is just an example of one of the local partners from the business community that has taken the Rust to Green project on and really is one of our main supporters.
Dave Bonacci, a local architect who is currently reconstructing a historic mid-19th century structure in downtown Utica into his local architect's office and an apartment upstairs, a loft apartment for himself and his wife, he also has a Syracuse office which employs several architects, designers, and planners. He's on the core committee of Rust to Green.
So our core committee is comprised of mostly local business people and entrepreneurs and people who do have an investment in the city. And the business community has welcomed this initiative with open arms. And I'll let Paula--
PAM JARDIEU: I also think that just about every one of our core members either has their own business or works for a smaller business. So every one of us wears multiple hats in that respect. So you're getting that.
We're also very, very cognizant of people's time. So the way that this project has been working is once we identify a specific, discrete project, we then go on and identify [INAUDIBLE] partners. So we will, in this next six months, begin, especially, a funding push to get corporate sponsorship. And in that way, we'll bring other members into the network.
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: Let me explain about the relationship between this project and the Public Service Center. The Public Service Center, in addition to the student leadership and co-curricular activities that we do, develop the county and literally the nation and, well, we don't use "the world" anymore, but the nation.
We have a very strong academic partnership through the Faculty [? Fellows-in-Service ?] Program. And here, Paula and Scott are both members of the governance committee of that particular program.
To the Faculty [? Fellows-in-Service ?] program, we usually support these kind of projects. We have a small [INAUDIBLE] program that provides for faculty to eventually do these kind of initiatives that later on pick up on other sources of support.
In addition to that, we provide support in terms of pedagogical tools and strategies and so forth. And we do that to a seminar series that we bring national scholars on the [INAUDIBLE] to actual research.
And we provide the [INAUDIBLE] faculty with some level of understanding of having classes involving these kind of practical initiatives. On top of that, we also have, thanks to the Kaplan family, we have a recognition program that [? furthers ?] support to a fellowship, any initiative that, arguably, may have in transforming the classroom into a real laboratory for practical work and learning in local communities.
So yes, we do have structural connections, not in the traditional sense. But we do have an ongoing collaboration with a large number of faculty on campus.
In fact, there are about 100 courses on campus. Not all of those courses are supported by the Public Service Center. But certainly, we have recognition with most of them. And so that's what I'd like to say.
PAULA HORRIGAN: I think there's also an interest in maybe thinking about, down the line, how Rust to Green could even be more integrated with the Public Service Center. I've been thinking about-- for example, I've just put together a grant with the Community Foundation for civic research fellows at Cornell.
And I'm wondering if that should be in our department. Or maybe it should be housed somewhere like in the Public Service Center so that it actually can have a much wider net within the University, again, to address that issue. You know, we want the transdisciplinary and the interdisciplinary energy to really be embraced by this project.
So I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the Public Service Center, by the way. It's been one of those places at Cornell, through the Faculty [? Fellows-in-Service ?] program. This is how I met people like Scott Peters, my colleague here.
I mean, it's been one of the pieces of glue in terms of bringing us together, those of us who share a real commitment to service learning and to engaged pedagogy and community service and engagement. I mean, it's been one of the important pieces of that puzzle.
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Are you guys working with Hotel Utica at all, on such a grand old building?
PAULA HORRIGAN: They gave us housing all summer. But you can speak to that.
AUDIENCE: Oh, good!
BOB SULLIVAN: Yeah.
PAULA HORRIGAN: They're one of the business partners.
BOB SULLIVAN: Our friends at Hotel Utica, one of the business partners, did donate hotel rooms for the entire Monday Nite series for the Cornell faculty and staff and students. And Hotel Utica has struggled.
They opened in April of 2001 to great fanfare after having been closed for 30 years and having been turned into a treatment center for mentally ill senior citizens and turning back into a wonderful, grand, Historic Hotel of America-recognized hotel. Of course, after September 11th, we all know what happened to the hospitality business, especially.
And now they're struggling to remain viable. And hopefully we'll have some good news about Hotel Utica. But the daily good news is that they're still open, they're operating. I think they had some pretty nice rooms for you, didn't they?
PAULA HORRIGAN: Yeah.
BOB SULLIVAN: Good.
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: We have time for a couple of more questions, so yes.
AUDIENCE: This, to me, is just the essence of Cornell brought to life. And I see the energy and the inspiration. It's an incredible project.
But I'm wondering if, down the road, there might be a local alumni component. When you think about resources, to have people who are alumni from, perhaps, all the different schools, but certainly Cornellians-- I mean, it's in our blood.
PAULA HORRIGAN: Absolutely.
AUDIENCE: And I think they would be a great resource for you. It's a really great discussion.
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: Well, we'll try to connect. We already have a few programs.
PAULA HORRIGAN: I keep saying that. I was just saying that the other day. I said, I know there's a lot of Cornellians up here. They're somewhere. I was just saying that to myself.
And I think that's really important. I mean, it's interesting in the Hamilton community. You know, JK Hage, who's on our committee, he's of Lebanese descent from Utica. And I think he was the first person-- was he one of the first in his family to go to Hamilton?
PAM JARDIEU: Mhm.
PAULA HORRIGAN: Yeah, so he's actually a graduate of Hamilton.
PAM JARDIEU: So is Cassandra.
PAULA HORRIGAN: Yeah, so it's really interesting to see the university impact on the community that's there.
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: [? And this ?] [? one in ?] front.
AUDIENCE: Yes. First of all, congratulations. It's really nice to see a big collaborative group like this working on something which I think is very important and successful.
My question is around metrics and tracking your success because I think you're going to reach a point soon where you need to start proving to the external community. And right now it seems like it's primarily public funding and the good will of groups like Cornell who help with this.
How are you going to start tracking your success? And what kind of metrics are you looking at to show people the good progress that you've made, both to external funders and to other communities which may be looking to this sort of thing?
Right now, by metrics, it seems like it's very conceptual. Just [INAUDIBLE] [? appropriate ?] [? stage. ?] But you're going to reach a point where you need to start showing some solid numbers. Can you tell me a little bit about the thought process [? around that? ?]
PAULA HORRIGAN: Well, at the moment, we're actually tracking-- you know, this is a big part of this, is the integration of the evaluation into it so that we understand how our successes are measuring up. So we're really trying to track the network, which you saw, for example, the map there.
We have a colleague, actually, at Hamilton who's really interested in supporting us in that, to really understand how the network is building and what's constituting the network and then also how the network is operating. So that's one of the things we really want to evaluate and continue to evaluate as we do this.
In terms of physical projects, that'll be another aspect of evaluation as actually the number of action steps that actually get implemented and how they get implemented. So for example, the parking lot sounds-- it's funny that we keep talking about the crazy parking lot.
But it's really interesting because we got involved with the city. And they have this really important issue in terms of their combined stormwater system. And they're in risk of being fined, and so on and so forth. And they're promoting rain barrels. And then we notice this parking lot getting built.
So it provided an opportunity for us to actually sit down with the mayor and say, listen, Mr. Mayor. You've got a big problem here environmentally. And yet, you're building a parking lot, which you're supporting, which doesn't have any green practices.
And so that was really interesting to get, immediately, a real intervention that represented a green practice. So that's an actual physical change that we made. And it also then led to a larger conversation about, OK, how can we retool City Hall so that your engineers understand these green practices?
So now we're developing actually a curriculum. We're putting together a proposal now to develop a curriculum where we would actually teach folks in City Hall about green practices and use that as a vehicle for undertaking subsequent design projects.
So the tracking of all these pieces is really important in terms of the metrics and the measures. And also, part of Scott's role here, too, is to actually be part of helping to measure some of those impacts, as well. You want to talk about the Stories project a little bit?
SCOTT PETERS: Yeah. I think we're nearing out of time here. But there are a number of ways to track the outcomes. And one of them will be actually documenting through oral history the kinds of things that are being done and the experiences that are happening.
And I think we'll be integrating that into quantitative measures and structures. So there'll be a very robust dimension of this that looks at the outcomes and what comes out of it and helps us to assess the value of this work.
AUDIENCE: I'll wait--
AUDIENCE: Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: --and speak with them.
AUDIENCE: No, you can go.
AUDIENCE: OK. I just had a question about the master plan, because it seems to me that one of the challenges always is to get people to live back downtown, live within the city limits. And I know Utica a little bit because my kids play hockey, so that should say it all. So we spend a lot of time--
BOB SULLIVAN: [LAUGHS]
AUDIENCE: --in New Hartford instead of--
BOB SULLIVAN: Sure.
AUDIENCE: --in Utica. And I'm just wondering if the master plan does include any concept of housing and revitalization of housing in the core city in order to keep people, but also to bring, whether it's older citizens or younger citizens, back into the inner core.
BOB SULLIVAN: I think the Genesee Street redesign project that we're working on right now is the first step in a larger initiative to really rethink what the old center of the city of Utica can be-- any old city. You know, you had your former downtowns with office space and mercantile and retail. And by and large across the country, that's kind of gone by the wayside.
One only needs look as far as Syracuse to see the really dynamic, exciting downtown urban loft program that they've been able to institute. And absolutely, the master plan does address that. Actually, five years ago, the city engaged the Volk Zimmerman--
PAULA HORRIGAN: Zimmerman/Volk.
BOB SULLIVAN: Zimmerman/Volk study for the potential for second floor, upper floor living. And so that's a key component. And I recognize your question as being a great one, that yes, that's something that this initiative will address because we have to kind of rethink and redesign what cities are for the 21st century.
LEONARDO VARGAS-MENDES: Well, I think we're running out of time. And I think they have another activity coming in here. So thank you very much.
BOB SULLIVAN: Oh--
--we'd better get out.
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Rust to Green NYS (R2G NYS) is an emerging network and action research initiative led by Cornell faculty in Landscape Architecture, Education and Natural Resources.
R2G NYS identifies and designs innovative ways to assist New York's rust belt cities in realizing their potential to become green, livable and resilient places. With seed funding from USDA Hatch, R2G NYS is currently working with the cities of Binghamton and Utica.
This presentation profiles the R2G Initiative, in particular the efforts in Utica. Faculty, students and R2G Utica partners present the project's principles, process, progress, and activities since its inception in February 2010.
Building on Professor Horrigan's presentation, Professor Peters addresses how we are to understand the nature, meaning, significance and value of higher education's public engagement mission and work, in and for a democratic society, a theme explored deeply in his recent book "Democracy and Higher Education: Traditions and Stories of Civic Engagement."
This event was part of the Trustee Council Weekend 2010 activities.