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Yonkers, NY: Street Festival to Gather Public Input on Brownfields Redevelopment

In the 1940s, Southwest Yonkers had a train called the Putnam Line, which traveled between Van Cortland Park and Getty Square. However, after World War II, the line was abandoned by New York Central in 1944 after a series of legal challenges by the city (Source: WCBJ). Though the rail tracks were pulled up, the right of way still remains for the long-abandoned three-mile branch line. We are now looking at different options for this corridor and how improvements can benefit the neighborhood.

Groundwork Hudson Valley was awarded a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency as part of EPA’s Brownfields Redevelopment Program to clean up and reuse former industrial sites. Groundwork has formed a steering committee in Yonkers made up of local non-profits, churches, the Municipal Housing Authority,  governmental agencies, and other project stakeholders to gather public input and identify ways in which a multi-use trail and improvements to adjacent streets could better serve the needs of the community. The path will provide a direct link to the subway and access to jobs in New York City, helping revitalize the community.

Through our grant with HUD-EPA Sustainable Communities Initiative, we were able to provide support for Groundwork Hudson Valley and the team to organize a public neighborhood Street Festival this summer on Lawrence Street, a major corridor in Yonkers, NY. The Street Festival served to demonstrate the potential of the neighborhood and to solicit public input to identify wants and needs of the community.

Along with Alta Planning + Design, we were able to demonstrate some great complete streets features in the neighborhood with street calming elements. We taped down a pop-up designated bike lane with parallel parking between the bike lane and the street, serving as a barrier to protect cyclists from car traffic. This allowed kids to ride down the street without fear of being too close to moving cars. Once we began taping down the bike lane and crosswalks, traffic on the street instantly slowed. It was great to see how quick and easy traffic calming elements really made a difference for Lawrence Street; it completely changed the street experience in less than an hour–from cars whizzing down the hill, to kids and families playing in the street. The team also recruited several local businesses and stakeholders to come “open shop” and help residents imagine new businesses and a more active streetscape with food trucks, activities for kids, music, and seating areas.

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We also collected public input from the neighborhood during the street festival. We invited participants to give feedback through:

  1. An 11-question multiple-choice/open-ended paper survey, which asked participants about their vision, barriers, and transportation mode in the Lawrence Area Neighborhood; and
  2. A visual preference survey dot exercise, that asked participants to rate 4 examples in each of the following seven category of Retail, Mixed-Use, Single-Family Residential, Multi-Family Residential, Parks & Public Spaces, Sidewalks & Trails, and Youth Activities.

We also made a version of the survey available online and through an SMS-based (mobile text messaging) survey platform called Textizen, to give residents several ways to give us feedback. With translation assistance from Groundwork’s youth team, we were also able to provide a Spanish-translated survey (approximately 11% of the surveys were administered in Spanish).

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After the July 31st charrette, PlaceMatters prepared a full report on findings for the team, which is available here. Some key findings included the identification of a priority vision to be “Cleaner” and “More Active,” and that crime and safety is a major barrier for the community. Additionally, there is a want for more cycling, bus, and Metro-North (train) access in the community, and a large majority of respondents indicated that they would use a multi-use trail. Residents are excited about improvements to their community, and seemed to be very supportive of any type of development that was an improvement to existing conditions, rather than being picky about specific styles. There was a high priority for public space improvements, including activities for families and youth, trails, and parks.

PlaceMatters is still providing minimal assistance as Groundwork Hudson Valley moves forward in the process of creating a multi-use trail. To learn more, visit the project website here. If you or someone you know lives in the area and would like to get more involved in the public process, please contact Curt at Groundwork Hudson Valley. Check out below for even more pictures!
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Now Hiring: Development Director

PlaceMatters is seeking a dynamic and sustainably-minded person to join our team as Development Director. This person will direct and manage PlaceMatters’ fundraising activities, including generating significant foundation and corporate support, individual donations, and special events. As a small non-profit with a variety of projects, we seek employees with flexibility, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor. PlaceMatters is looking for a bright, energetic, and creative person to become our next team member. Candidates should have experience in or knowledge of community decision making and sustainability principles, and be well-organized and have good public speaking and written communication skills.

For the full job description and to apply, visit bit.ly/PMDevDir. The deadline for applications has been extended to Monday, July 31st, 2014.

PlaceMatters – Development Director Announcement PDF

PlaceMatters and WalkDenver Expand Collaboration on Active Transportation

PlaceMatters and WalkDenver are pleased to announce an expanded collaborative partnership focused on walkability and other forms of active transportation in the Denver metro area.

The two organizations first began working together in 2013, when PlaceMatters launched its Active Transportation Initiative aimed at assisting communities that want to become more pedestrian, transit, and bicycle friendly.  As a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to making Denver the most walkable city in the country, WalkDenver faced a challenge common to many American communities: while planners have a wide array of tools for collecting, tracking, and analyzing data about driving, the tools and data needed to make informed decisions about more active transportation modes is sorely lacking.

Walk ID

PlaceMatters and WalkDenver therefore teamed up to develop WALKscope, an open-source tool for crowdsourcing data about walkability, with grant funding from Mile High Connects.  Community members can access the tool via smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers to report data related to sidewalks, intersections, and pedestrian counts. WalkDenver is using WALKscope to engage residents in assessing the walkability of their own neighborhoods, to educate residents about the connection between walkability and quality of life, and to advocate for infrastructure improvements.

Just a few short months after its launch, WALKscope began attracting attention from communities throughout the Denver metro area and at the national level.  The outcomes of this collaborative effort contributed to WalkDenver’s success in acquiring additional grant funding from other sources, including a major grant from Kaiser Permanente announced this May.  This in turn allowed WalkDenver to expand their capacity by hiring a full time Policy and Program Director.  Jill Locantore, who supported the development of WALKscope as Program Director for PlaceMatters, will be shifting over to WalkDenver on July 1 to fill this new position.

With WalkDenver’s transition from a primarily volunteer-driven organization to a professionally-staffed advocacy group, and with support from other local and regional partners including the Denver Regional Council of Governments, WalkDenver and PlaceMatters are gearing up to build upon their previous efforts.  Collaboration over the next several months will focus on 1) implementing key enhancements that will increase the effectiveness of the WALKscope tool, and 2) expanding the focus of community engagement and walkability assessments to current and planned FasTracks corridors, with an initial emphasis on the West Line.

Jill can be reached in her new position at jill.locantore@walkdenver.org or 303-895-6376.  Critter Thompson will be taking the lead on WALKscope-related projects for PlaceMatters, and can be reached at critter@placematters.org or 303-964-0903.

 

Slow City: Denver @ 3MPH [One Day in Denver]

Is Denver built for people or cars? On April 26th, Walk2Connect’s Community Program Director, Rachel Grace Hultin, led a free walk with 27 people across the city of Denver (a total of 13 1/2 miles), facilitating a moving talk story about the “Future of Our City” through the lens of slowing down to make space for sustainable choices.  Participants explored their dreams, fears, and big ideas about how to create a slow city.

As a partner on the walk, PlaceMatters led discussions about how land use and transportation planning and decision-making has traditionally focused on cars more than people. PlaceMatter’s Active Transportation Initiative supports communities that want to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly by pioneering techniques for civic engagement tailored to these issues, and providing tools to gather the data and community experiences that allow for informed decisions.

The walk was filmed and uploaded to the One Day in Denver website as part of the national “Your Day, Your City” collaborative film event in 11 cities across the country. You can check out the 7-minute video below or through the link here!

SlowCity One Day in Denver from Rachel Hultin on Vimeo.

 

Event Partners:
WalkDenver ~ Place|Matters ~ Arts & Venues ~ 5 Fridges Farm ~ Greenway Foundation ~ Slow Food Denver ~ Denver Urban Gardens ~ Denver Kids Inc

Videography by Holly McClelland [Clementine Studios] and Daniel Weinshenker [Denver Center for Digital Story Telling].

 

Welcoming New Board Members to Our Team

We are pleased to announce the addition of two new members to our board: Robert Goodspeed and Brian Gryth. Both Rob and Brian have worked with PlaceMatters on various projects in the past, and we are excited to add them to our board of directors. We are confident that their unique passions and skills will be an incredible asset to the future of PlaceMatters.

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Robert Goodspeed is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. He teaches in the areas of geographic information systems, collaborative planning, and scenario planning. His research investigates how new information technologies can be used to improve the planning process and planning outcomes. His dissertation analyzed the relationship between the use of planning support systems and participants’ social learning through mixed-methods research in Boston, Mass. and Austin, Texas. He earned a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.C.P. from the University of Maryland, and a B.A. in history from the University of Michigan. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D., Goodspeed worked as a research analyst at the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and co-founded three award-winning websites, ArborUpdate, DCist, and Rethink College Park.

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Brian Gryth is a serial government intrapreneur and passionate advocate for civic innovation and technology driven open government. Brian leads the Business Intelligence Center program and its Go Code Colorado initiative. This program centralizes access to government data relevant to businesses and incentivizes the tech and entrepreneur communities to use the data and create tools useful to business owners. Previously, Brian lead the creation of the Operational Support Team in the Colorado Secretary of State’s Business and Licensing Division. In addition to his government work, Brian co-founded OpenColorado, a nonprofit formed to help facilitate a transformation to a more useable and interactive government. OpenColorado deployed data.opencolorado.org, one of the first community driven data catalogs in the world. This catalog makes nearly 1100 government datasets accessible to the public and tech community. As part of OpenColorado’s educational efforts, Brian lead the effort to create the opengovernmentinitiative.org, which creates and publishes open government policy templates to help governments adopt and institutionalize open government in their organizations. Brain also educates the community as a frequent presenter and panelist on the topics of trends in Open Government, civic engagement, data transparency, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Brian earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Northern Colorado and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law.

PlaceMatters HUD work includes planning for resiliency

Over the past several months, PlaceMatters has been working extensively with EPA and HUD grantees providing one-to-one assistance to disaster-impacted communities helping them incorporate resiliency into recovery efforts. This has been a major part of our Connecting Planning with Water and Energy Initiative, and our efforts include workshops in Colorado and New Jersey.

Colorado

In partnership with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, PlaceMatters hosted a training workshop on Tools for Effective Community Engagement for communities in Colorado impacted by the severe rainstorms and flooding in September 2013. The May 22nd workshop was attended by local government staff and elected officials, and community-based partner organizations.  The training covered tools and techniques appropriate for different levels of public engagement and special considerations for community engagement during disaster recovery.  Materials and a video recording from the training are available on the PlaceMatters website.

Little Ferry, New Jersey

This week, PlaceMatters has partnered with the Regional Plan Association and the Consensus Building Institute to host a scenario planning workshop in Little Ferry, New Jersey. The project brings together a mix of stakeholders and agency staff to demonstrate how GIS-based tools like CommunityViz can be used for recovery planning efforts. Scenario planning exercises were set up to help understand the different costs of different redevelopment strategies and site-scale interventions and how combinations track against the various evaluation criteria. The goal at the end of the exercise is that participants have a better sense of the fiscal and other tradeoffs of different mitigation options. The workshop incorporates the use of the PlaceMatters’ Touchtable, which makes it possible for people to experiment with scenarios on a large map projected down onto a table with infrared pens.

New Funding Available for Communities on Resiliency

On June 14, President Obama announced the National Disaster Resilience Competition, responding to demand from state, local, and tribal leaders who are working to increase the safety and security of their communities. Nearly $1 billion through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds has been identified for the competition, inviting communities that have experienced natural disasters to compete for funds to help them rebuild and increase their resilience to future disasters. More information can be found on the White House website.

Any communities interested in working with PlaceMatters on a project should contact Ken Snyder (ken@placematters.org) or Kayla Gilbert (kayla@placematters.org) or at 303-964-0903.

Meet our Community Outreach and Engagement Intern!

jennyphotoWe are pleased to announce Jennifer McGinnis as our Community Outreach and Engagement Intern this summer. She is currently working on a dual Masters’ degree from University of Colorado Denver in Regional & Urban Planning and Public Administration, with specific interests in affordable housing policy, bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, and public participation. She believes that community development should involve and improve the lives of all people, not just the ones with deep pockets or loud voices.

In 2010, her interest in housing led her to embark on a cross-country cycling trip with an organization called Bike and Build, where she found out about the field she had always wanted to go into, but never knew existed: urban planning. After a couple years spent working as a vet tech and wilderness therapy field instructor, she decided to pursue her dream and moved to Denver to start her Masters’ programs. Since then, Jenny has spent time with multiple Denver organizations, including Transportation Solutions, where she worked on educating neighborhood residents about alternative modes of transportation, and as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, focusing on volunteer outreach.

In her spare time, Jenny enjoys biking, baking pies, playing yard games, attending the multitude of Denver events that require costumes, and trying to keep her garden alive.

Moving Talk Story: The Future of Denver @ 3MPH [One Day in Denver] April 26th

This Saturday, April 26th, Walk2Connect’s Community Program Director, Rachel Grace Hultin, will lead a free walk across the city of Denver, facilitating a moving talk story about the “Future of Our City” through the lens of slowing down to make space for sustainable choices. We will share dreams, fears and big ideas about how to create a slow city. You are invited to join for some or all of the walk which will be filmed, edited and uploaded to One Day in Denver website as part of the national “Your Day, Your City” collaborative film event in 11 cities across the country.

The walking route is approximately 13.5 miles and will be broken into three 4.5 mile segments. Each segment will focus on specific aspects of a slow city as we walk through context-specific neighborhoods. Participants are invited to walk the whole time or choose individual segments. All meeting points are along the Light Rail to make parking and returning to your car easy.

To help guide the conversation and understand barriers and opportunities to creating a future slow city, we are inviting thought leaders and change-makers from relevant topic areas to join us for each segment. Please consider joining the talk story and guiding the conversation on manifesting a better tomorrow.

Event Partners:
WalkDenver ~ Place|Matters ~ Arts & Venues ~ 5 Fridges Farm ~ Greenway Foundation ~ Slow Food Denver ~ Denver Urban Gardens ~ Denver Kids Inc

Segment  1 :: Nourish and Sustain [urban agriculture and open space conservation]
8:00 AM Leave at Cushing Park [700 W. Dartmouth, near Englewood Light Rail]
10:30 AM Arrive at Alameda Light Rail Station

Segment 2 :: Thrive and Enlighten [wellness, community service and education]
11:00 AM Leave Alameda Light Rail Station
1:00 PM Arrive at Millennium Bridge [16th & Little Raven] for brown bag lunch

SOLD OUT Segment 3 :: Move and Inspire [transportation and art] email Rachel [at] Walk2Connet [dot] com to be placed on wait list 
1:30 PM Leave Millennium Bridge [16th & Little Raven]
4:00 PM Arrive at Our Mutual Friend [near 29th & Downing Light Rail]

Please register below to indicate which segment(s) you plan to join. Please note registration deadline is April 23rd! Event details, including exact meet up locations, will be confirmed the week before the event. This is open to all so invite your friends to come along and talk about the future of our city.

Thank you to our sponsors and partners!

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Reposted from Walk2Connect.

Summer Internship Positions

PlaceMatters is pleased to offer two internship positions for the summer of 2014. The application deadline is fast approaching!

Graphic Design Intern

You will work on our Communicating Complexity Initiative to improve how technical information is communicated in city planning contexts.
Learn more: bit.ly/pm14gdia or PlaceMatters 2014 Internship Program – Graphic Design Intern Announcement PDF
Deadline to submit applications extended to April 26th.

 

Community Outreach and Engagement Intern

You will work on issues around community outreach, engagement, walkability, and active transportation
Learn More: bit.ly/pm14coia or PlaceMatters 2014 Internship Program – Community Outreach Intern Announcement PDF
Applications due this Friday, April 11th.

 

About PlaceMatters

PlaceMatters is a non-profit organization that works with our partners to create and maintain sustainable and vibrant communities by improving decision-making processes. We work across the United States—currently our projects range from Hawaii to Albany, NY—to bring more people to decision processes, and ensure that their decisions are based upon robust local information and models. More information is available at: www.placematters.org.

PlaceMatters is a relaxed, team-oriented work environment. Internships include a stipend and transit pass. This is a temporary part-time position.

Candidates should have experience in or knowledge of community decision-making, sustainability principles, and be well organized, have good public speaking and written communication skills, and have an interest in improving community decision making via equitable, informed, and transparent decision-making processes.

Announcing Graphic Design Internship – Summer 2014

Communicating Complexity Initiative

Today we have access to the most information and data we’ve ever seen in the city-building professions. We’re also in the midst of unprecedented efforts to open up the institutions that make decisions regarding how cities are designed, built, and managed. These two currents present a new challenge: although more and more information and data is available to help us make decisions, it’s no longer enough for a select professional class to possess this knowledge. PlaceMatters’ Communicating Complexity Initiative works with communities to improve how technical information is communicated in city planning contexts. This position will work with PlaceMatters staff to implement several projects within this initiative.

Graphic Design Intern

The ideal candidate for this position is someone with strong design skills and a desire to use them to improve communities across the country. You will work closely with PlaceMatters program staff to support a range of activities, including:

Web Design/Development: UI improvements for a range of civic technology tools, including WALKscope and CrowdGauge;
Print Design: layout, illustration and general design assistance on a mix of short and long-form materials;
Branding/Identity: strengthening our current branding and graphic identity with standards, templates, and other tactics.

You should have:

– Strong skills in Adobe Creative Suite;
– Ability to design templates and other materials for use in non-design software (Word, Powerpoint, etc.);
– Experience working with a variety of media, including reports, posters, and flyers;
– Ability to problem solve across a range of design tasks, including layout, illustration, and typography.

We’d be even more excited if you have:

– Experience working in HTML, CSS, and Javascript;
– Video production skills;
– Interest in planning, civic engagement, or similar issues.

About PlaceMatters

PlaceMatters is a non-profit organization that works with our partners to create and maintain sustainable and vibrant communities by improving decision-making processes. We work across the United States—currently our projects range from Hawaii to Albany, NY—to bring more people to decision processes, and ensure that their decisions are based upon robust local information and models. More information is available at: www.placematters.org.

PlaceMatters is a relaxed, team-oriented work environment. Internships include a stipend and transit pass. This is a temporary part-time position.

Candidates should have experience in or knowledge of community decision-making, sustainability principles, and be well organized, have good public speaking and written communication skills, and have an interest in improving community decision making via equitable, informed, and transparent decision-making processes.

To apply, please submit your contact information, cover letter, resume, and work samples online via bit.ly/pm14gdi by April 11th. Interviews will be conducted the week of April 21st and finalists selected by April 28th. Deadline extended to April 25th. Interviews will be conducted shortly after.

PlaceMatters 2014 Internship Program – Graphic Design Intern Announcement PDF