Legacies of Redlining: Preservation and Development in Staten Island

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Staten Island—NYC’s least populous borough and the only one not connected by subway—has long stood apart from the rest of New York City. The island’s geography and history shaped its 1930s redline maps in response to environmental degradation from industrial proximity driving neighborhood classification reinforcing racial segregation. This Staten Island-focused roundtable, part of the Legacies of Redlining: Preservation and Development series, will highlight local voices and case studies to provide historical and cultural context and discuss present-day preservation and development initiatives with particular consideration for environmental justice awareness and next-generation narratives of community identity. 

Fallon Samuels Aidoo, Assistant Professor of Real Estate & Historic Preservation, Tulane University
Judah Asimov, Assistant Vice President, NYC Economic Development Corporation, Neighborhood Strategies Division
Amie Gross, Founding Principal, Amie Gross Architects
John Kilcullen, Vice President, Preservation League of Staten Island
Victoria Munro, Executive Director, Alice Austen House

About the Legacies of Redlining: Preservation and Development Series:
Building on a launch event hosted in January 2023, this is a series of borough-based roundtable discussions intended to build capacity, share narratives, and develop a collective understanding of both historical parallels and preservation paradigm shifts happening now. The roundtables will identify interdisciplinary areas for tactical consideration and policy-based intervention and will set the stage for subsequent field visits in partnership with the Historic Districts Council and Open House New York's Building Capital: The Power of Place. Together, participants from across the program series events—including local experts and engaged professional practitioners will reconvene to develop a white paper, i.e. policy workshop.

In New York City and across the nation, redlining has left a seemingly indelible impact. Even after 90 years, neighborhoods labeled as "hazardous" by federal home lending policies in the 1930s still show physical scars from 1960s urban renewal demolitions and remain racially segregated, with high rates of poverty and chronic illness. While official policies of redlining may have ended with the passage of the Fair Housing Act (1968) and Community Reinvestment Act (1979), the disparities in homeownership rates, generational wealth, and provision of public services have persisted.

What has persisted, too, in many redlined neighborhoods are strong communities born of self-preservation, survivalist ingenuity, and cultural bonds—but these communities and places are at risk of dissolution, facing historical erasure as a result of renewed urban investment. What policies and structures can ensure development proceeds equitably, bringing economic resources to the people and organizations that have built and sustained vital, thriving communities in the face of neglect? Where Historic preservation has historically applied a narrow toolkit of landmarks and districting, traditionally used in prosperous neighborhoods to protect, build wealth, and prevent undesired change in the built environment, what roles can more expanded, inclusive, and engaging practices of preservation play in protecting or representing the historic and cultural assets of communities that have endured the legacies of redlining?

About the Speakers:
Dr. Fallon Samuels Aidoo is a preservation planner interested in the history and future of real estate vital to Black, indigenous, and immigrant history and culture. Her research, teaching, consulting, and public service revolve around reinvestment in cultural heritage endangered by development, disrepair, and disasters. The diversity of practices and populations that preserve heritage at risk are analyzed in peer-reviewed publications (e.g. Preservation & Social Inclusion, Routledge Handbook on Cultural Heritage and Disaster Risk Management, Future Anterior 18:1: Retrofit) and accessible through public scholarship, e.g. surveys, context statements, markers, nominations, and virtual tours and storymaps (e.g. Shifting Landscapes: Slavery and the Built Environment for Hermann-Grima + Gallier Houses). Her public service (e.g. appointments to Louisiana’s National Register of Historic Places Review Committee, the Expert Advisory Committee of ACHP, the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation) informs her community consulting via StudioRxP to National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service and Mellon Foundation grantees (e.g. African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard, Tulsa’s Greenwood Chamber of Commerce), and vice-versa. At Tulane University School of Architecture, Dr. Aidoo is an Assistant Professor of Real Estate and Historic Preservation and a Mellon Faculty Fellow in Community Engaged Scholarship. She recently held the Jean B. Boebel Endowed Professorship in Historic Preservation at the University of New Orleans Department of Planning & Urban Studies. Previously Dr. Aidoo taught at Northeastern University, Harvard, and MIT and consulted on historic structures for VREF, AECOM, DMJM. Dr. Aidoo holds a PhD in urban planning (Harvard), M.S. in architectural history (MIT) and B.S. in civil/structural engineering (Columbia University).

Judah Asimov serves as an Assistant Vice President in the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s (NYCEDC) Neighborhood Strategies department, where he advances place-based projects that promote equity, resilience, and economic opportunity. At NYCEDC, Asimov works on a variety of Staten Island projects, including the Staten Island North Shore Action Plan, New Stapleton Waterfront, and Tompkinsville Esplanade. Prior to joining NYCEDC in 2021, Asimov worked at the Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (RISE) for 6 years. He earned his Master’s in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute and is a lifelong New Yorker.

Amie Gross founded Amie Gross Architects (AGA) in 1984, with the conviction that people of all incomes and needs deserve to be surrounded by harmonious and sustainable environments. With decades of multidisciplinary work, she has championed the causes of diversity, community alliance, and engagement with urban policy. At AGA, architecture is the art of building communities with its work in multifamily housing, education, civic architecture and healthcare. Gross elaborated on this approach in her TEDx talk, “Seeding Community.” Gross graduated from the Washington University School of Architecture, where she received its Distinguished Alumni Award.

John Kilcullen who has been a resident of Staten Island for the last 29 years. A Long Island native, he traded the big island for a smaller one. He and his husband, Jim, live in a restored New York City Landmark shingle-style Victorian in Tompkinsville’s Fort Hill neighborhood. By day he works in Tottenville with New York City Parks, as the director of Conference House Park, a 270-acre park with five historic houses, three miles of shoreline, and an emerging new forest. An active member of the community, Kilcullen is currently on the board of directors, President of the Preservation League of Staten Island, a volunteer organization advocating protecting the Island’s architectural and historic environments. He is also a member of the Island’s Greenbelt Conservancy, and Friends of Tompkinsville Park. Kilcullen enjoys open water swimming in Lower New York Bay and trail running on the many trials of the Greenbelt, and of course Conference House Park.

Victoria Munro is the Executive Director of the Alice Austen House, a nationally designated site of LGBTQ+ history and the only museum in America to represent the work of a solo woman photographer, Alice Austen (1866-1952). Munro is an Art and Art History Educator, Maker, and Curator, and consults and speaks on LGBTQ+ curriculum development and historical and current LGBTQ+ interpretations in public and private institutions. Munro is the Board President of the Museums Council of New York City, serves on the Executive Board of Historic Artists Homes and Studios, and is the founder of the Queer Ecologies Garden Project at Alice Austen Park.

Past Events in This Series: 
January 18, 2023: Redlines and Green Zones: Reassessing the Redline Maps
March 27, 2024: Legacies of Redlining: Preservation and Development in Manhattan