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SVA Students Try to Bridge Divide Between 'Old' and 'New' Stapleton

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 26, 2016 6:33pm
 The School of Visual Arts started work on their study of Stapleton Tuesday.
SVA Students Study Tries to Bridge Divide Between 'Old' and 'New' Stapleton
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STAPLETON — The redevelopment of Stapleton's waterfront has some residents fearing a divide between the "new" and "old" neighborhood and a new study aims to help bridge that gap.

The School of Visual Arts partnered with the Historic Tappen Park Community Association to start their two-week "Impact! Design for Social Change" aimed to increase connectivity around Stapleton.

"You got residents that have been here for a really long time and people in Urby. How do you kind of bring them both together and build a better community?" said Mark Randall, program chair. "It's not like the negative aspect of gentrification."

The study, which started Tuesday afternoon, has students trying to identify challenges in the design and signage of Stapleton to help find ways to entice new residents of Urby Staten Island to cross the Staten Island Railway tracks and visit their new neighborhood.

For the program, SVA partners with the city's Small Business Services department to help identify neighborhoods to focus on and chose Stapleton for one class — the other this summer is Brownsville — because of the large amount of developments headed to the borough's North Shore.

The large 900-unit Urby Staten Island building officially opened in Stapleton this month, taking over the former Navy Homeport site on the waterfront and bringing about 70 news residents to the neighborhood already.

Aside from Urby, the city has also started working on their Bay Street Corridor plan which would change the zoning to bring in more mixed-used developments and add more businesses and affordable housing to a largely industrial stretch.

"The city is creating two different Stapletons," Ed Polio, owner of 5050 Skatepark across the street from Urby, told DNAinfo New York previously, echoing concerns brought up at a recent community board meeting.

"There’s the Stapleton that I live in towards Bay Street and then there's the Stapleton on the other side of the tracks."

Urby has higher rents than the rest of the neighborhood — with studios starting at $1,500 — and will have a coffee shop and restaurants on the grounds that could lead to "creating an elitist, gated community," according to the SVA's project overview.

"We have physical boundaries, which is the railroad tracks, and we're looking to not create a bifurcation between the old neighborhood and the new neighborhood," said Kamillah Hanks, president of Historic Tappen Park.

"We don't want to create a privileged section, or a private enclave, we want to integrate as much as possible."

For their project, students will visit the neighborhood several times, talk to community leaders and business owners and eventually develop a "toolkit" to make changes to the neighborhood.

Historic Tappen Park plans to use the findings with a grant to implement some of them.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hanks led the students on a tour of Stapleton, trying to get unbiased opinions of her neighborhood, giving some history of the buildings and fielding questions on parks, business rents and why does the park smell so much.

"If they're coming here and they don't know, this is very similar to Urby residents," Hanks said. "I want to see what you see."

SVA has run the "Impact!" program for the past five years in a neighborhoods across the city and partners with local groups to find out their issues and try to come up with solutions, Randall said.

While the majority of their suggestions never get off the ground, usually because lack of resources, the program did spur the annual DayLife Street Festival on the Lower East Side.

"We try to work with really small organizations that may have never worked with designers before and don’t have the kind of resources," Randall said.