Course Syllabus


Tensions and transitions in New York’s Long Island City


Throughout human history we have been drawn to water as a source of resources and a conduit for trade. As industry harnessed fossil fuels in the 19th century, cities grew around the nexus of waterfronts and railroad networks. Although the emergence of highways, refrigeration, and containerized shipping negated the importance of urban waterfronts as settings for industry in the twentieth century, the relationship of cities to their waterfronts continues to evolve. Cities are repurposing waterfronts to new urban uses as the 21st century unfolds.

This studio will address waterfront development in New York’s Long Island City.

LIC has a complex character shaped in part by its location proximate to but on the periphery of New York City’s midtown urban core. Historically an industrial district conditioned by its infrastructure, LIC today has evolved into a curious mix of old and new manufacturing businesses, utilities and infrastructure, artistic and cultural practices, all operating in their own right and supporting – and often competing with – a burgeoning residential core.

The emergence of high density residential development in a number of subdistricts has presented both challenges (including increased demand for a higher quality public realm) and opportunity (potentially supporting a market for high density commercial development) for LIC. The area’s fraught dalliance with Amazon HQ2 is evidence of the viability of such development, but the uneven quality of recent waterfront development throughout the city suggests the need for careful planning.

Careful planning is particularly needed because waterfront districts like LIC are likely to be among the most impacted by climate change. Hurricane Sandy, which caused $19 billion in damages across the city, is only indicative of the present danger. With sea levels projected to rise 11-21 inches by 2050 and 22-50 inches by 2100, stakeholders are in broad agreement that LIC will have to prepare for chronic inundation as well as periodic hurricane and storm events. The Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency project is representative of the scope and ingenuity required to plan for climate change but no comparable efforts have yet been developed to address the Long Island side of the East River.

The client for this studio is the Queens office of the New York City Department of City Planning. DCP is the city’s primary land use agency and helps manage the city’s physical and socioeconomic development. To capitalize in the pause in development post-Amazon HQ2, DCP has engaged the studio to take a fresh look at the complex challenges of managing growth and development of a district in transition. Such challenges include consideration of the impact of waterfront development on LIC as a whole as well as the critical need to plan for resiliency. In particular, your client is interested in proposals that address the following:

  • Managing change in waterfront development:
    • Plan for highest and best use in large parcels along waterfront, including physical planning for 21st century industry and commercial uses
    • Leverage development to ensure public value and amenities, including open space, community institutions, and continuous access to the waterfront
  • Planning the gap:
    • Consider placemaking and public realm improvements to establish a stronger connection along the 44th corridor between waterfront parcels and the LIC core ½ mile to the east, including consideration of cycling and other modes of travel.
    • Consideration of this corridor will require careful negotiation between a range of stakeholders and land uses.
  • Resilience:
    • Climate change threats include both periodic and chronic inundation and, while most acute around the Anable Basin, will increasingly extend through much of LIC. Revision to NYC’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan will likely address resilience but more immediate and local study is needed.
    • Your client is interested in work that demonstrates awareness of the city’s emerging resilience planning efforts, considers the nature and magnitude of climate change threats to LIC, and suggests resilience planning strategies appropriate to the local context.
  • Authenticity:
    • Your client recognizes a unique sense of place in LIC born of its history, geography, infrastructure, and legacy industries and recognizes that both the intensity of emerging development and the conflicts from competing land uses have strained the district and its public realm.
    • Outcomes of the studio should draw from LIC’s unique character and help sustain it through the next phase of LIC’s growth and evolution.
    • Your client is particularly interested in strategies that preserve affordable space for artistic production and smaller manufacturing businesses.


The first year planning studio allows students, working individually and in teams to explore planning possibilities in a real world context. By the end of the class, students will be able to:

  • Explain the roles that planners play in the regeneration of urban waterfronts
  • Identify an appropriate process and methods for the conduct of a professional planning study in service of a client
  • Independently research and analyze multi-dimensional planning issues
  • Develop a vision and alternative recommendations, assess the relative merits of recommendations, and consider implications of implementation
  • Demonstrate professional mastery in oral and written communication
  • Consider professional ethics and negotiate a planner’s varied responsibilities to their client and the public


The following schedule should be viewed as a loose outline, subject to revision as you and peers assume ownership of your project.


For the first few weeks of class you will learn about planning and development in Long Island City, investigate issues raised in the studio brief, and define project parameters for subsequent studio work.

WEEK 1 (January 24)

  • Introduction, course expectations, and studio brief

WEEK 2 (January 31)

  • Long Island City: understanding site and context
  • Site visit

WEEK 3 (February 7)

  • Land use and urban development

WEEK 4 (February 14)

  • Resilience planning


In the second section you will synthesize your preliminary research, present your vision for the project, and propose an agenda and work plan for the rest of the semester

WEEK 5 (February 21)

WEEK 6 (February 28)

WEEK 7 (Midterm Presentation Wednesday, March 4 12-6pm)

WEEK 8 (March 13)



The third section of the project will involve detailed research, analysis, and development of planning responses.

WEEK 9 (March 27)

WEEK 10 (April 3)

WEEK 11 (April 10)


Studio outcomes must include a report document summarizing research, engagement, mapping, studies, and recommendations for the client (NYC Department of City Planning). Students may also elect to disseminate findings from studio work in other media such as video.

CLASS 12 (April 17)

CLASS 13 (April 24)

CLASS 14 (May 1)

FINAL PRESENTATION (Wednesday May 6 10am-6pm)

FINAL REPORT DUE (Week of May 11)

END OF YEAR SHOW (Week of May 18)



Bloomberg, Michael and Carl Pope 2017. Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses and Citizens Can Save the Planet. New York: St. Martin’s.

Brenner, Neil J., ed. 2014. Implosions / Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Berlin: jovis Verlag.

Campo, Daniel 2013. The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned. New York: Fordham.

Corner, James 1999. “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention” in Mappings Dennis Cosgrove, ed. London: Reaktion Books.

Fogelsong, Richard E. 1986. “Planning the Capitalist City” reprinted in Readings in Planning Theory Scott Campbell and Susan S. Fainstein, eds. Wiley – Blackwell.

Goodell, Jeff 2018. The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. New York: Back Bay Books.

Jackson, Thomas and Richard Melnick 2004. Images of America: Long Island City. Chicago: Arcadia.

Jacobs, Jane 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage.

Jacobs, Jane 2016. Vital Little Plans Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring, eds. New York: Random House.

Klein, Naomi 2014. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Marshall, Richard 2001. Waterfronts in Post-Industrialized Cities. New York: Routledge.

Moss, Jeremiah 2017. Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul. New York: Harper Collins.

Mostafavi, Mohsen, ed. 2010. Ecological Urbanism. Baden, CH: Lars Mueller.

Porfyriou, Helena and Marichela Sepe, eds. 2017. Waterfronts Revisited: European Ports in a Historic and Global Perspective. New York: Routledge.

Smith, Harry and Maria Soledad Garcia Ferrari, eds. 2012. Waterfront Regeneration: Experiences in City Building. New York: Routledge.

Steiner, Frederick R. et al., eds. 2019. Design With Nature Now. Washington DC: Lincoln Institute.

White, E.B. 1949. Here is New York. New York: Harper.


City plans and related documents

Contemporary media


Course Summary:

Date Details Due