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Closeup photo of the UnDesign the Redline exhibit at Barnard College
The exhibition "UnDesign the Redline" at Barnard College. Photo: Barnard College Communications.
3/27/24, 6pm - 8pm
Center for Architecture

This is the first in 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.

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? Historic preservation has historically applied a narrow toolkit of landmarks and districting, traditionally used in prosperous neighborhoods to protect and build wealth, and to prevent undesired change in the built environment. In this context, 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?

Angel Ayon, AIA, NCARB, NOMA, LEED AP, Principal, AYON Studio Architecture, Preservation
Chris Cirillo, President and Executive Director, Ascendant Neighborhood Development
Mary Rocco, Director of Engaged Scholarship & Community Engagement, Barnard College
Leah C. Johnson, EVP and Chief Communications, Marketing, and Advocacy Officer, Lincoln Center
Dr. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, Principal, BUSCADA

About the Speakers:
With over 25 years of historic building experience, Angel Ayón has developed a mission to not only preserve significant historic architecture but improve it—with more sustainable and resilient approaches, as well as contemporary technologies. He currently leads AYON Studio, a practice centered on this mission. Both an architect and preservationist, Ayón has practiced in his native Havana, Cuba, Washington, D.C., and New York City. His expertise ranges from building envelope evaluation and repair to full-scale rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of commercial and residential properties, as well as cultural and educational institutions, including work on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY; The Colonial Theater in Boston, and Eleven80 in Newark, NJ.

Ayón co-authored the award-winning book Reglazing Modernism – Intervention Strategies for 20th Century Icons and serves his community as Vice President of Save Harlem Now! and through his work with the Historic Districts Council, The Municipal Art Society of New York, the Preservation League of NY State, and the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation. He has a professional degree in Architecture and an M.S. in Conservation and Rehabilitation of the Built Heritage from Havana’s Higher Polytechnic Institute, as well as a Post-Graduate Certificate in Conservation of Historic Buildings and Archaeological Sites from Columbia University in New York.

Chris Cirillo became the Executive Director and President of Ascendant Neighborhood Development Corporation in July 2012. Based in East Harlem, Ascendant has preserved and developed over 800 affordable rental apartments in Northern Manhattan. The organization currently has over 2100 affordable rental apartments in its development and rehabilitation pipeline. Since arriving at Ascendant, Cirillo has expanded the organization’s work to include neighborhood planning, historic preservation, and asset management. Cirillo helped to establish Landmark East Harlem, an alliance of local historic preservation advocates. Before joining Ascendant, he spent 6½ years as Vice President for Development at The Richman Group Development Corporation. Cirillo also held several positions at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) over a 10-year period, including Director of Large Scale Development and Assistant Commissioner for Neighborhood Planning. Cirillo is a graduate of Brown University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies. He completed his Master of Science in Historic Preservation at Pratt Institute. He now serves as Visiting Assistant Professor in the Historic Preservation and Real Estate Practice programs at Pratt. Cirillo currently serves on the Board of Directors for Friends of La Marqueta.

Leah C. Johnson is an experienced communications strategist and entrepreneur who has worked successfully across industries to influence outcomes and lead change. Currently the EVP, Chief Communications, Marketing & Advocacy Officer at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA), she has led teams and advised Fortune 250 CEOs, nonprofits, and high-level political campaigns on how to define and promote brand value while navigating complex, challenging environments.

Johnson is at the nexus of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ ongoing transformation into a place all New Yorkers can feel welcome. She led the communications campaign for the opening of the reimagined David Geffen Hall, where among her many duties she drove inclusion programs resulting in 42% Minority & Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) participation, 51% of the workforce from underrepresented communities, and a job training program which resulted in long-term employment for individuals from the local community.

Her work is vital in expanding audiences at LCPA, and she is centering new, accessible ticketing models – including "Choose What You Pay" – and deep community engagement practices. Johnson is also spearheading an ambitious participatory planning process with local stakeholders to reimagine the Amsterdam Avenue side of Lincoln Center's campus to make it a more welcoming space that better serves close neighbors, including residents of NYC Housing Authority campuses at Amsterdam Houses and Addition. She also leads the "Legacies of San Juan Hill" project as part of an ongoing commitment to confront injustices in Lincoln Center's founding history. A digital hub with scholarly essays, interviews, photography, video, and more, it explores the Manhattan neighborhood that existed prior to Lincoln Center's construction and uplifts the stories of the people who lived in the neighborhood and the arts and culture that flourished there.

Johnson sits on numerous boards, including New York City Tourism + Conventions, the executive committee of the Museum of the City of New York, and is Vice Chair at New York Public Radio. She is a graduate of Harvard College and holds a B.A. in Psychology. A Brooklyn native, Leah makes her home in East Harlem with her husband and daughter.

Mary Rocco is the Director of Engaged Scholarship and Community Engagement in the Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion at Barnard College. In that role she convenes campus and community partners to further opportunities for engaged teaching, learning and research toward public impact. Rocco leads the college’s local community engagement strategy through collaboration and partnership with local stakeholders and organizations across NYC. Her research interests include: city planning, and neighborhood development with specializations in the roles of philanthropic foundations, community economic development and shrinking cities. Rocco co-led the preparation, launch, and programming of the Undesign the Redline @Barnard project and exhibition. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of Urban Affairs, Planning Perspectives and elsewhere. Rocco is an affiliated faculty member in Urban Studies at Barnard. She is a 2024 Anchor Fellow with the Anchor Institutions Task Force.

Dr. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is a visual urbanist and principal of the interdisciplinary studio Buscada. She is author of Contested City: Art and Public History as Mediation at New York's Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (University of Iowa Press, 2019), finalist and honoree for the Brendan Gill Award. Bendiner-Viani’s new book, The Cities We Need: Essential Stories of Everyday Places, is coming this fall from MIT Press. A widely exhibited photographer, she was previously a professor of urban studies at the New School and a visiting fellow at the Centre for Urban Community Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. She holds a doctorate in environmental psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Organized by
AIANY Historic Buildings Committee; AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee
Closeup photo of the UnDesign the Redline exhibit at Barnard College
The exhibition "UnDesign the Redline" at Barnard College. Photo: Barnard College Communications.
3/27/24, 6pm - 8pm
Center for Architecture
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