Crown Heights - Exploring the grid

This presentation is about the site Crown Heights, and in this analysis, we are exploring the grid. During our analysis we have seen a potential to improve the livability of the grid. That’s why we asked ourselves some questions related to these topics.
Our first approach was to define the borders of Crown Heights, between which we collected all kinds of data. But after a while we came to the conclusion that neighborhoods that are located in the grid don't have specific borders. The aspects that form these borders can change in a very short period of time. That is why we changed our area of analysis to a larger area, including parts of adjacent neighborhoods such as East Flatbush, Brownsville, Prospect Heights and Bed-Stuy.

Presentation made by Antrees Engelen, Koen Moesen, Pieter Van den Poel, Arnout Van Soom, and Sofie Verjans.


Presentation by Studio Brooklyn at GSAPP Columbia University

- intro -

- city ecology -

- transformation moments -

- official respons on part 1 -

- collective culture -

- living models -

- official respons on part 2 -

- final discussion -



As an experiment, I looked at the subway as a destination instead of an instrument to get from point A to point B. I have therefore taken the subway 24 hours and lived one day without daylight. On the map below I wrote down my findings and feelings.


00.00 Start
00.40 A man has made a drawing of me to make money, but I think that
      I do not look like it(see below).
01.02 I feel okay.
01.22 I feel sorry for the woman and child who sleep in the subway.
03.10 Alternating hot and cold makes it hard.
03.30 It is strange to realize that at day, mass transit is for 
      everyone, and at night it becomes a sleeping place for 
      thousands of homeless people.
06.00 Commuters come on stream.
06.30 I'm falling asleep.
06.54 I feel tired and shaken.
09.45 I feel lonely in the crowd.
10.00 The words "see something say something" do not make me feel
10.20 Transporting people is only part of the job of the subway.
      Much more takes place there : shelter for the homeless, 
      (illegal)trade, art, care of drunken people.
10.40 Subwayman loves it to say "stay clear of the closing doors 
10.45 A drunkard talks to everyone and finds everyone beautiful
12.00 I have seen 3 people arrested and removed by the police. I
      think they are more alert than usual.
13.20 It feels like I see a lot of people for the second time. 
      They all start to look alike.
14.00 Just watched boxing on TV in the subway at Time Square.  
      All tourists are awake
14.30 I talked with a crazy old Italian woman
16.50 Solitude and the airco is too hard.
18.30 Peak hour is insane.
19.00 Many tourists leave the subway.
19.10 Now it is enough.
20.15 Man has a tattoo of an external hard drive.
22.31 People smell like alcohol.
13.30 A man gets a stroke and is carried away by the police and 
24.00 Stop

In the Time Square station, in the corridor between the blue line and other lines is a poem hidden in the ceiling:

so tired 
if late, 
get fired 
why bother? 
why the pain? 
just go home 
do it again


Presentation of the theme 'Living Models'

Our sub theme is Living models. First of all, I shall explain what Living Models mean for us. Having a home is a social right. And for us Living Models is about the position of the housed individual in the global tendencies inherent to New York. It’s about the individual subjected to these large scale trends. We started our research by investigating and mapping these tendencies.

In the last decade Brooklyn’s population has grown with 39.000 people, which means right now Brooklyn has to provide housing for just over 2.5 million people.
To fulfill this demand 69.000 extra housing units have been built over the last ten years. This is more than new units in Manhattan and Queens together. Apart from a few exceptions, we can see a pretty homogeneous growth in housing units in the area of Brooklyn.

A third widely known trend is the persistent growth of rental prices. Throughout the history the city developed a wide range of tools to control rents. However it seems that some tools miss effect, as the PH rent for example almost doubled in 6 years. Today, in times of economic crisis affordable housing is more important than ever.

The last trend we noticed was the ever decreasing footprint of housing projects. This offcourse has many reasons but one of them is that Brooklyn is running out of space.

Basically we can recapitulate the problem as follows: On one hand there’s a great need for more affordable housing, on the other hand there’s less and less buildable space. Combined with a real estate driven housing market, we quickly saw the complexity in the present housing problem.

Next up, we researched some typical Brooklyn typologies. As you can see, there’s a clear relationship between typology and morphology. The tenement for example, designed to maximize the unit density, is much deeper than the brownstone. The word typology implies a multiplication of the same configuration.

As a result the morphology has an influence on the block. This is clear when we study the negative space of a building block. Each typology implies different qualities and different uses of that unbuild space.

So taking the present tendencies in account, we can ask ourselves the question which typologies are the most suitable today.

Another theme that we have studied is Brooklyn’s public housing. By gathering different distinguishing characteristics we tried to systematize the public housing projects. For example the distance to the nearest subway station, the median income and the unemployment rate. But very soon the data became very impersonal, so we came up with the idea to create the Brooklyn Public Housing Cardgame.Its the same cardgame you typically find with cars, boats and so on. We replaced the amount of horse power with median household income. So for example project A with a higher median income will beat project B. We also added some cards with non public housing projects, color coded by typology. It gives a really strange feeling to literally play with these emotionally charged buildings.. We also think it’s an interesting way to continue the debate over a drink.
By creating this game we got some new insights on typologies. A typology is an answer to the needs for a specific group of people. Therefore a typology will continue to attract that same group. So basically typologies make a city static. If so, should we continue to think in terms of typology?

Next map shows all the public housing projects in relation to the poverty rate. The results are striking. Even while the city has historically strived to achieve a mix of incomes in public housing, almost two third of PH residents live in concentrated poverty. Possible explanations are the past of racial discrimination, the persistent building on the economical least desirable locations, the modernist urban design ideas and the political failure to created mixed income. Concentration of poverty has a serious impact on unemployment, education, crime, etc. Off course throughout time deconcentration of poverty created a challenge for urban planners. But why do these ideas miss implementation? Can we develop a radical new system of public housing to deconcentrate poverty?

Presentation of the theme 'Living Models', by Camiel Van Noten, Pieter Van den Poel and Koen Moesen.
Presented at GSAPP Columbia University on Wed. 9/28.


plaNYC a greener, greater New York

plaNYC is a policy of Mayor Bloomberg to respond to these challenges: growth, infrastructure, a global economy and climate change. This plan was first presented in 2007 and is in 2011 revisited. The plan has been built from several goals witch I will discuss below some. 

Housing and neighborhoods. 

They have to create homes for almost a million more New Yorkers before 2030. Through zoning they have to make neighborhoods more dense otherwise there will be more and more car-dependent areas in New York (more than half a mile of transit). They will also make mixed-use communities with a variety of employment opportunities and local retail and services. They have to invest in affordable housing, not only in new units, but also in preservation and upgrading the existing units. 

Parks and public space

They have set the goal that every New Yorker lives within a 10-minute walk of a park. This means protecting the public spaces that were made in the paste and creating new places. For the new places they look in the grid for open spots and for open underutilized spaces as playgrounds or part-time public spaces. They create also playgrounds for the time of the year when the need for play space is even more acute. They also upgrade and improve the destination parks and continue to expand usable hours at existing sites. There is a plan to plant one million trees in New York City and at this point they have already planted over 430 000 trees. 

Vacant or underutilized land often thought to be unusable due to environmental contamination represents one of the greatest opportunities to secure new land for development. 


They expand the Bleubelt program as a successful model of a cost-effective sustainable storm water management strategy that provides multiple benefits in addition to improving water quality. 

The strategies must focus on the key transportation need: handling increased demand from population and job growth; optimizing the speed, safety, reliability and comfort across modes; and managing the flow of goods into, out of, and around New York city. By diversify the transportation system they can reach more New Yorkers therefore they invest in: busses, subway trains, trains, ferry service, bicycles, taxi’s and airports. 

Further on they take care of water supply, energy, air quality, solid waste and climate change

Source: Mayor Michael R.Bloomberg, plaNYC; update April 2011; a greener, greater New York, The City of New York


This website contains much information been divided into the different neighborhoods and even the history of each lot individually.
Any statistical information on population by area
The website is not clear but after a bit you will find what you're looking for.

Do the right thing

Do the right thing of Spike Lee (1989)