Equitable Resilience Through Preservation - Columbia University

A Columbia University graduate Historic Preservation studio & work with PortSide NewYork. 2020

PortSide was engaged to work with the 2020 Spring semester of Columbia University's graduate Historic Preservation studio which used Red Hook as a study area.    At the bottom of this page, is an audio tour PortSide gave along this theme.  

You can read more about the studio here and download the final 234 page report here.

In their words:

This historic preservation studio focused on how preservation can serve as a tool to promote equitable resilience in the community of Red Hook, Brooklyn, by critically exploring the following questions:

  • How are diverse histories, narratives, and multiple publics represented in the built environment of Red Hook?
  • In what ways have the community values and heritage resources of Red Hook evolved and been challenged – historically and more recently – by environmental factors (e.g. land reclamation, coastal flooding, pollution and brownfields contamination, etc.) as well as socio-economic and political factors (industrial shifts, demographic change, new development, etc.)?
  • How can the preservation enterprise intervene, so as to instrumentalize heritage toward equitable resilience in Red Hook?
Here is how they describe their working method:

To understand how social histories and values manifest within the community today, the students engaged with multiple community-based organizations and stakeholder groups, and conducted informational interviews. Given the aims of this studio, students focused on more than a dozen Red Hook organizations that have been working for over a decade in the areas of equity and social justice, economic development and jobs training, and arts and education, as well as on several organizations focused on resiliency and sustainability issues created since Hurricane Sandy. 

PortSide contributed to this project in multiple ways. 

  • In the words of Professor Avrami, "Red Hook WaterStories has been a terrific resource as we prepare for the studio." 
  • We were asked to give a tour of Red Hook (see below.) The tour map was developed by PortSide staff and the Columbia team of Professor Erica C. Avrami, Bryony Roberts and Tim Michiels. 
  • PortSide’s Historian/Curator Peter Rothenberg and ED Carolina Salguero joined students and faculty via Zoom for their midterm review, a subsequent planning discussion with one break-out group, and the final review. We sent more info by email and phone throughout the process.

During about three hours in January 2020, the tour drove around Red Hook, with frequent stops, exploring issues of equity and resiliency over a 400-year period.  The main voice you will hear is Carolina Salguero, PortSide’s founder and Executive Director, followed by Professor Avrami.  Wayne is the bus driver who skillfully got the oversize bus through Red Hook’s narrow streets.

The pandemic hit before the midpoint of the semester, and the students were not allowed to do more field work, and all classes and meetings had to move on-line. The Columbia students and facility were very committed to this study and worked hard to compensate for the lack of ongoing physical access to the neighborhood.

The final student work includes a summary of their research and recommendations for the future in terms of pilot projects.  The research had a lot of useful information about the flood risk to Red Hook buildings in terms of doorway heights above sea level, number of doorways in buildings, building construction material and more. 

We were inspired by their commitment to the project and their thoughtful, conscientious approach to the work. We hope the final report proves useful to Red Hook and others studying our neighborhood.

The audio below is unedited and includes some directions to the bus driver.



Audio File 1

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Audio File 2

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Audio File 3

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Audio File 4

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Related Tour



  • Red Hook, Brooklyn: Equitable Resilience Through Preservation, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; Historic Preservation Studio II, Spring 2020. (Link to PDF)

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