This Thursday, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is presenting another installment of their excellent People and Buildings series of live talk shows. This one will shed light on the fascinating back-story of the partnership, leadership, reverendship and, er, ‘architectship’ that has, to date, constructed almost 3,000 single-family, owner-occupied homes in Brooklyn. The program will feature a conversation with Reverend Dr. Youngblood and architect Alexander Gorlin about the Nehemiah Homeownership Program. More info is below; I recommend attending. Highly.
The Omnibus’ proud parents, the Architectural League of New York, have a long history with East New York, one of the neighborhoods where you’ll find Nehemiah houses, such as the ones designed by Alexander Gorlin’s firm, pictured above and featured in the League’s 2006 exhibit, New New York: Fast Forward. Way back in the winter of 1994 – the same year that the Nehemiah model pioneered by the East Brooklyn Congregations went national – the League held a design study called Envisioning East New York. The study invited architects, planners and landscape architects to share a variety of urban design strategies with a community that had experienced decades of disinvestment and contained within its borders many lots of city-owned, vacant land. As we’ve seen on the Omnibus, East New York has been entrepreneurial in its use of vacant lots, digging into urban agriculture in addition to experimenting with a variety of housing typologies and financing strategies. According to Envisioning East New York participant Perry Winston – who is also a trusted Omnibus informant from our days spent looking into community farming in the neighborhood – the League’s inspiration to hold the design study stemmed from “disappointment with the lack of imagination shown in the disposition of City-owned vacant land in the neighborhood.” He goes on:
The impetus for the call-for-ideas was … the desire to tap the imaginations of architects, planners, and landscape architects to broaden the range of development possibilities. The Architectural League’s brief challenged entrants to bring current urban design theories and strategies to bear on the problems and opportunities of this low-rise, mixed residential and industrial area of Brooklyn.
The results of the study – submissions from 25 teams of designers – were exhibited at the New Lots and Cypress Hill Branch Public Libraries in East New York as well as the Urban Center galleries in Manhattan. One month after the exhibit, Community Board 16 began drawing up a “197a Plan.”
Curiosity piqued? Then be sure to get to LIC on Thursday to hear the story of Nehemiah.
People and Buildings: Nehemiah! A Case Study in Radical Pragmatism
A slideshow and discussion with Reverend Dr. Youngblood and Architect Alexander Gorlin about a visionary project made real: the Nehemiah Homeownership Program. We’ll look at how religious leaders, Alinskyites, and architects worked with the City bureaucracy to develop 3,000 single-family homes for low- to moderate-income buyers – and build community in New York’s poorest neighborhoods. This program is presented in conjunction with the University of Trash exhibit at SculptureCenter in Long Island City.
Reverend Dr. Youngblood served as Senior Pastor of the St. Paul Community Baptist Church (SPCBC), located in the East New York section of Brooklyn, New York from 1974 to 2009. Dr. Youngblood is recognized on the national political front as a result of his work with East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC), the Brooklyn organizing entity of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). Dr. Youngblood is credited through EBC with leading the Nehemiah Housing Project, which to date has constructed 2,900 single-family owner-occupied homes in Brooklyn.
Alexander Gorlin opened his practice in 1986 after returning from his Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. He has since created an award-winning, internationally recognized architecture firm distinguished by its commitment to applying Modernist design principles to projects across the social spectrum. The firm designed the Nehemiah Spring Creek Houses on the edge of East New York. His contribution to the architectural field was recognized by American Institute of Architects when it admitted him as a Fellow in 2005.
Nehemiah! A Case Study in Radical Pragmatism
Thursday, July 23, 6 p.m.
44-19 Purves Street
Long Island City, NY
Free and open to the public.
Seating is limited, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org