An Enjoyable Experience

Posted in Uncategorized on May 22nd, 2009 by Sapna Kishnani – Comments Off

I did not mind working in a group, however, I preferred to work alone. It was much simpler that way since I would know what I had to do and was not to be held accountable for anyone else’s responsibilities. At the beginning of this project, I felt as if I was thrown into a group with random people who I was only working with because we all put down Coney Island as our primary choice. Leo, Dalya, and Kate. I heard their names before, but never really spoke to any of them. When we first addressed the project, it seemed impossible. Who was going to do what? Initially, no one could come up with how to divide the work because everyone had different ideas of where to take the assignment. It was a mess until the last few weeks.

Initially, all we knew was that we wanted to preserve the sentimental value of Coney Island; we wanted to make sure it remained a place where families could come and relax. However, we knew no one would invest in keeping the amusement park open, so we investigated the idea of building a casino since it seemed the most probable way to increase economic productivity. There was a contradiction here. How could we build a casino and still preserve sentimental value?  We went back and forth until the words of the people we spoke to in Coney Island set our minds in one direction (instead of four).

People’s reponses were almost unanimous. We had to not only keep the amusement park, but extend it. Our only problem left was to fugure out how to make it a year round establishment that brought in the money. After several suggestions we all agreed upon a multiplex cinema with surrounding restaurants. Once this was established, the rest came easy. Everyone expressed an interest in an aspect crucial to the formation of the new Coney Island. Kate, for instance, agreed to investigate safety of both the rides in the park and the neighborhood. I jumped at the idea of building a model and Leo and Dalya both took on finances and video work.

We all went about doing our own research, but constantly kept in touch through e-mail, text, and phone calls. Whether it was help that I needed with Photoshop or a website concerning issues of park safety in Coney Island we all helped each other by sending one another information. Even the video soon came to be the product of each of our opinions. Meeting together helped smooth transitions from one topic to another. Each of us soon became an expert on the other’s research.

I am extremely proud of our accomplishments and was surprised when I began missing the times all of us stayed up till 3am in Leo’s room adding finishing touches to the presentation. All we needed was a direction, and once we found it, we were set.

-Sapna Kishnani

Group Reflection by Alexandra Koenig

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16th, 2009 by Alexandra Koenig – Comments Off

The power point project I believe was personally an overall a great learning experience for me. The project enabled me to experience first hand the benefits and challenges associated with working with a large group of my peers. The class provided me with valuable experience in research, presenting and public speaking. The greatest challenge that my group faced was the lack of corporation from the professionals within the field and from non-profit organizations, which we attempted to contact. The overall lack of corporation from outside sources hindered the depth and development of our design plan for Governors Island. As a result a number of necessary details were missing from our research. Another obstacle that the group had to overcome was learning how to use and operate new technology, which none of us had ever used before. Aside from the setbacks that we faced I felt that the project challenged me intellectually and enabled me to expand my overall knowledge on not only of Governor’s Island but also of New York City as a whole. The project enabled me to experience first hand the various problems that urban planners and developers face when they undertake a large-scale development project.

group project reflection

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14th, 2009 by Kayt Chang – Comments Off

I enjoyed working in the group which looked at the future of Coney Island. It has been a beach which, in the past, I have visited numerous times in the summer because it was so convenient via subway. Now, in class, to be able to research the plans various groups have for its improvement and redevelopment, was an exciting task.
I enjoyed the steps we took that led us to the finished product. We conducted interviews on a beautiful April day, on the boardwalk, in order to see what changes people in Coney Island would like to have happen. It was such an experience talking to people, interacting with people, and finding out how they feel about a topic we were assigned to investigate; they were all incredibly helpful and it was just nice to have real feedback from the people that matter.
The project also got me interested in powerpoint. I must admit that in groupwork, I have always strayed away from that part of project; I am not technologically adept. In fact, for this project, it was the other members who put the powerpoint together. BUT, it got me interested and I took a chance in doing a powerpoint for another one of my classes and it is rather fun; I found out that it is something I would definitely want to involve myself in the next time around.
I also liked presenting. I must admit that I did not have the bulk of the presenting to do in my case. However, it was excellent practice, I felt, to work on my speech making skills and building confidence and real fluency when speaking in front of an audience.
I felt this class put just the right amount of emphasis on the skills that matter and I truly did learn a lot.

Thoughts on mortgage policy

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30th, 2009 by Ming Fearon – Comments Off

My issue with Obama’s mortgage plan is that it doesn’t focus on the unemployed. It also states that people who live in higher-cost areas like New York and California won’t receive help with their mortages if they are over $729,750. Even though the mortage plan covers those who have low incomes and smaller mortages to pay off, I disagree with disqualifying people with high mortages. They should at least be able to receive some help, particularly if they were newly unemployed. In large companies, the employees to go first are always the ones who are paid the most, or who have been newly employed to the job. To me, it seems like punishing some people’s success and subsequent bad luck. Although there are certainly many bankers and financiers out there who cheated the system, there are also hardworking people who are between a rock and a hard place. Just because they took a leap of faith by taking out a large mortage in less financially turbulent times doesn’t mean that when bad ones come, they shouldn’t be given a hand, either.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25th, 2009 by Valentina Loseva – Comments Off

I do not support many aspects of President Obama’s mortgage plan for four reasons. 1. The plan makes it the responsibility of the banks and home-owning services to lower the payments down to 38% of the homeowner’s income. The government takes upon itself the responsibility to further lower it to 31%. This low interest rate will remain in effect for a minimum of five years. Since the banks and mortgage service companies are already being aided with federal money, taxpayers carry the burden for replacing the difference between what is owed now by home-owners, and 31% of their income, the 38% barrier is nonexistent. This allows people who may not need assistance to take advantage of the plan, wasting taxpayers’ money even further.

2Many of the homes at risk of foreclosing couldn’t be afforded in the first place because no or little money was put down at the start of the transaction. What made them think that they would be able to afford something tomorrow that they could not pay for today? Nothing is free. This reeks of the Madhoff scandal, in which stockholders who never second guessed a consistent flow of money during a fluctuating market but were shocked to find that their investor wasn’t playing by the rules when the flow abruptly stopped. Renters, who were not ridiculous to submit to the temptation of owning a house for free, still don’t get federal help paying rent, which is usually 40-45%  (includes utilities) of a renter’s income.

3. The plan for “saving” 9 million Americans is not specific in how the administration wants to spend the 75 billion USD. The plan supports 4million to 5 million people who are not at risk of foreclosures in refinancing their mortgages and allows 3 million to 4 million people with adjustable rate mortgages to lower their monthly interest rates for at least 5 years. Exactly where the money is going? We don’t know. Let’s look at where the money is not going. The president has allocated in his stimulus only 18 billion USD for early childhood education. Moreover, for those who are already homeless, he has allocated a measly 1.6 billion. Obviously it is more important to finance the second or third homes of people who couldn’t afford them in the first place than to do something about the number of homeless people in the country. And what about Darfur? Silence.

4. The president has referred to the present situation as “unraveling homeownership, the middle class, and the American Dream itself.” To classify the “American Dream” as home-ownership is embarrassing for people who immigrated to this country because they were faced with religious and political persecution, war and lack of good education in their former homelands.

external sources:,,

Obamas mortgage plan -By Alexandra Koenig

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22nd, 2009 by Alexandra Koenig – Comments Off

President Obama proposed his plan to deal with the current mortgage crisis on February 19, 2009. Since its introduction the plan has received mixed reviews from financiers, politicians and the public. I believe that the plan is necessary with the current ailing state of the economy. It is inarguable that the United States former economic policies have been exhausted beyond their capacity. At present over twenty-seven percent of Americans are carrying mortgages that are worth more than the total net-value of their homes. Obama’s plan attempts to ease the burden of the heavy mortgages and the pending foreclosures, which over nine million Americans are presently dealing with.

The first step of Obama’s plan is aimed at preventing the state of the economy from worsening. The first step enables those Americans who are facing foreclosure to refinance their mortgages through government aid. If mortgages generate bigger losses than expected the government and not private investors will have to absorb the brunt of these losses. Although this plan will cost taxpayers in the long run I believe it is a necessary element in stabilizing the American economy. The plan attempts to avoid an even greater increase in foreclosure rates, which needs to be the government’s main priority in order to avoid a continued decrease in real-estate values and subsequent job loss.

Did you see Prakirti’s helpful email?

Posted in Notes on April 4th, 2009 by mtheeman – Comments Off

I would encourage you to rely on your observations of the neighborhood you’re working on as well as your interviews with residents/workers/business-owners in the area. Look for signs of both resistance to and compliance with the proposed changes in the neighborhood. Try to find out if the residents are aware of the changes. If not, why not? Is the area simply a “neighborhood” or a “community”? Are there schools, libraries, community centers, nursing homes, hospitals, daycare centers that might be affected by the proposed changes? How does each side plan to deal with the disruptions to social and economic life? What do you feel needs to be preserved v. changed?…

The following might help you get started:

1. Basic planning definitions and policy ideas: (VERY helpful for the proposal section of the project).

2. Community district map:

3. New York City neighborhoods map:

4. Building information:

5. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder:®=null%3Anull&_keyword=&_industry=

5. US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) research resources:

6. Major city news sources:

7. Other York City newspapers:

8. The Urban Insittute:

9. Finding a City Council member:

10. Searching City laws:

Immigrants and their grandmothers

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26th, 2009 by Valentina Loseva – Comments Off

I immigrated to Brooklyn from St. Petersburg with my parents, aunt and grandfather in the March of 1993. We arrived in the middle of a snowstorm and one of my first memories on American soil is of my father going out to buy groceries with canvas produce bags in his pocket. We certainly were not the front runners of the green movement. We were complete newcomers to the system, unaware of some of the smallest details of everyday life in New York. We were also only one family out of the immigration wave of thousands who arrived in NYC in an attempt to make it in the new world. 

I attended the lecture on the rights of immigrants and development of facilities available to immigrants because I was curious to see what had changed and what hadn’t in the past decade. The lecture was about the new ways that immigrants would be taken care of in hospitals and emergency clinics, as well as in other municipal facilities. The two female lecturers spoke about housing, financial help, medical care, education, language development and assimilation. A large portion of time was devoted to speaking about enhancing the service that non-English speaking residents were facing in hospitals. Many issues were discussed but one in particular caused me to react strongly. The speaker had mentioned that because the list of services and application forms were translated in as many as 10 different languages, immigrants had the right to demand the forms in their native language and even to demand a translator who would sit with them. Having acknowledged that many elderly people bring their younger relatives to the hospital as translators, the speaker took time to explain that this specific practice was discouraged. Instead, the speaker proposed that an elderly immigrant experiencing pain and thrown into the confusing heap of medical history applications in unfamiliar environment was going to benefit more from having to demand that he be given medical care in the attendance of a translator who would take pains to to describe clearly what the doctor was doing. It seems to be that this idea is arrogant and insensitive to the the actual needs of immigrant patients. Imagine an old sick woman, struggling to formulate even a simple sentence in English. From who will she make demands? Of what demands that she can make does she know? It would all erupt in a painful spectacle. 

It seems like increasing the availability of  English courses would alleviate the problem. Unfortunately, a little bit later in the lecture I learned that the first programs that suffer because of financial woes are those that provide English lessons to seniors of the immigrant community.


Posted in Notes on March 17th, 2009 by mtheeman – Comments Off

NYPL Digital Gallery archives interesting photos of NYC - an especially good place to look for historical photographs of the city.

Adding discussion posts

Posted in Using the blog on March 12th, 2009 by mtheeman – Comments Off

Hi everyone - Post your comments on the common events by going to the “Discussion Posts” tab (top of screen), selecting the appropriate common event from the dropdown menu. Then click”edit this entry” at the bottom of the page.

You will come to the “back end” of the blog. You are registered as an editor so you can access this area and change content. Add your comments to the top of the editing box, title your entry with a “header 2″ font (you see a dropdown menu with paragraph, click there), and put your name in bold at the end.

Then click “save draft” and publish. If you forget the final steps…it won’t save your entry.

Alternatively, go into the dashboard and click on “pages”, “edit”, and select the common events page you would like to add to……

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