As we all witness the effects of climate change on our cities, it is impossible to ignore how environmental issues perpetuate long-standing social injustice and inequality. Disproportionate tree canopies, long-neglected infrastructural repairs, lack of investment, and increased police presence in public greens spaces located in lower income neighborhoods perpetuate social, economic, and health inequities, as is shown through data sets such as heat maps and maps of green spaces in New York City.
As researchers and designers, we ask ourselves whether the existing data fully encompasses the experiences and needs of all NYC residents. What type of data is needed for foundational design shifts in the built environment at various scales? Who should be involved in data collection and analysis? This conversation will explore these topics and invite discussion around how data can be used to shift the design of public spaces, empowering communities, researchers, and designers to create more equitable, just, climate-resilient, and healthy space.
Ibrahim Abdul-matin, Co-founder, Green Squash Consulting; Board Member, International Living Future Institute; Board Member, Sapelo Square
Helen Cole, PhD, Co-coordinator for Urban Environment, Health and Equity, Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (BCNUEJ), Institut de Ciència Ambiental i Tecnologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB)
Timon McPhearson, Director of the Urban Systems Lab and Professor of Urban Ecology, The New School; Research Fellow, Cary Instute of Ecosystem Studies, Stockholm Resilience Center, and the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science
Jessica Elliott, AIA, WELL AP, SEED AP, Associate Architect, Hart Howerton NYC
About the Speakers:
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is an urban strategist whose work focuses on deepening democracy and improving public engagement. He has advised two mayors on the best ways to translate complex decisions related to the cost, impacts, and benefits of environmental policy on communities. Since 2018, Abdul-Matin has worked with governments, CBOs, and select corporate clients to provide strategy and support around infrastructure policy, the land use process, strategies for climate adaptation, resilience, water management, and the built environment. He is the founder of Green Squash Consulting, a management consulting firm based in New York that works with people, organizations, companies, coalitions, and governments committed to equity and justice. He is the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet. In addition to the New York Advisory Board of the Trust for Public Land, he is sits on the board of the International Living Future Institute, encouraging the creation of a regenerative built environment, and on the board of Sapelo Square, whose mission is to celebrate and analyze the experiences of Black Muslims in the United States.
Helen Cole is a post-doctoral researcher and co-coordinator for urban environment, health, and equity at the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability. She is alsoco-coordinator of the Healthy Cities and Environmental Justice Research Group of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Medical Research Institute of the Hospital del Mar. She holds a Doctorate in Public Health from the City University of New York Graduate Center, specialized in community, society and health, and an MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cole specializes in urban health, health equity, and community health. Drawing from the fields of sociology, critical geography, and urban planning, her work challenges traditional public health perspectives by questioning and evaluating the long-term social justice impacts of structural urban interventions (e.g., the potential for green/environmental gentrification resulting from urban greening). Her current work explores whether, and how, healthier cities may also be made equitable, placing urban health interventions in the context of the broader urban social and political environments.
Timon McPhearson is the Director of the Urban Systems Lab and Professor of Urban Ecology at The New School. He is also a Research Fellow at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Stockholm Resilience Centre, and the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. McPhearson is an urban ecologist with expertise in urban data science and nature-based solutions for urban climate resilience and sustainability. In 2019, he was awarded the Sustainability Science Award and the Innovation in Sustainability Science Award by the Ecological Society of America. In 2020, he was named an NYC Climate Hero by the NYC Department of Transportation and Human Impacts Institute and was appointed by the Mayor de Blasio to the New York City Panel on Climate Change. He is also a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). McPhearson has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles as well as books, over 50 book chapters, and writing for popular press. His scientific work is published in top journals such as Nature, Nature Climate Change, and Nature Sustainability, and his recent books include Resilient Urban Futures, published in 2021, and Urban Planet, published in 2018. His work is widely covered in the press, including in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, on NPR, and more. McPherason advises multiple international organizations and UN agencies and works closely to advise on climate resiliency planning with the City of New York.
Jessica Elliott is an Associate and licensed architect at Hart Howerton in New York City. She graduated from the University of Florida before completing a Masters in Architecture at Yale University. Jessica serves as a Board Member on Manhattan Community Board 11, serving on the Land Use, Landmarks and Planning committee, the Executive committee, and as Chair of the Environment, Open Space and Parks committee. Jessica serves on the steering committee and volunteers regularly with ULI’s Urban Plan program to teach high school, college students, and public officials about urban planning. Jessica is also a part of the 4th interdisciplinary cohort of the ULI Health Leaders program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Leaders program working on issues of health equity in the built environment with a focus in East Harlem. As a first generation college graduate, Jessica is passionate about economic mobility and social justice.