Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Amphibious Public: A historical geography of municipal swimming and bathing New York City, 1870 - 2013

    Author:
    Naomi Adiv
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    Since 1870, the city of New York has engaged in a project of building and maintaining enclosed sites for municipal bathing, including building floating `river baths' (1870 - 1942), indoor municipal baths (1901 - 1975), eleven enormous outdoor pools built with WPA funds (1936 - present), and outdoor pools of various sizes built under the Lindsay administration (1968 - present). This dissertation explores the changing rationale, over almost 150 years, for the municipal construction of public bathing places in New York City, and the ways in which the physical structures have taken on new social goals, meanings and ideals, both for patrons and for agents of municipal government over time. Each bathhouse and pool is a physical site that belongs to an infrastructural network, and is also bound up in its relationship to reigning ideas about what public space should encompass and for whom it should provide. Throughout, water has been attributed particular characteristics in order to mediate social life in public space, through programs of building, teaching and regulating. These are theorized in terms of public space and the public life that bring them together as a material, technological, symbolic whole. The municipal bathing project has resulted in corporeal publics over time, which produce public social life through the bodies of users, both real and ideal, through infrastructures that integrate materials, water, capital and political will. Contests over who belongs to the corporeal public and how it should be managed, based on race, gender and sexuality, class, and age, are mediated through shifting notions of hygiene and wellness in the urban setting. Research methods include archival research in New York City since 1870, including municipal records, other local archives, newspaper sources, and secondary histories; observation (and some participation) and interviews with the Harlem Honeys and Bears, an African-American senior citizen synchronized swim team; and comparative ethnography of outdoor pools in the summer, including extended participant observation at Kosciuszko Pool and McCarren Pool in Brooklyn, as well as interviews with Parks Department officials.

  • ACCESS TO URBAN FOOD OUTLETS AS A PREDICTOR OF DIABETES

    Author:
    Philippe Amstislavski
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Juliana Maantay
    Abstract:

    Background and problem statement:There is an unprecedented rise in diabetes in urban populations worldwide. A relationship between spatial concentration of other metabolic diseases and poor access to healthy foods in some underserved urban neighborhoods have been reported. Concurrently, a relationship between increased risk of developing diabetes and consumption of unhealthy foods and has been shown to exist. Neighborhood food contexts hypothesized to lead to developing diabetes need to be studied. Study goals:: The main hypothesis of this study is that the degree of access to food outlets near residences influences the outcome of diabetes. Covariates include individual-level variables of age and gender of the subjects, and neighborhood-level variables of educational attainment, percent of residents in poverty, of housing units without vehicles, and of female-headed households with children. Methods:Address, demographic, and health data extracted from medical records of black visitors to hospital emergency department were linked to geo-referenced socio-economic and food outlet data for the visitors' Census Tract (CT) of residence. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to consider the effect of variation in food and socio-economic environments on diabetes among the subjects. A cross-sectional study was designed and a multilevel logistic regression analysis was performed. Results: Spatial access to food outlets was not a significant predictor of diabetes in this study. However, subjects living in the socio-economically deprived neighborhoods had a higher probability of having diabetes. For every unit decrease in the neighborhood's socio-economic index constructed from the census variables, the subjects were 7 percent more likely to have diabetes (CI 1.03-1.12, p-value 0.0024). Female gender and older age were strongly associated with odds of having diabetes. Conclusions: Socio-economic context of neighborhood was shown to affect probability of having diabetes, while local food outlet access did not. The results indicate that there may be a critical difference between economic and spatial access to foods and the actual choices individuals make about their diets. These choices may be driven by individual cultural and social preferences. More research is needed to study these individual biosocial factors and to analyze how they affect diet and diabetes outcome.

  • West Side Stories: Everyday Life and the social space of West Forty-Sixth Street

    Author:
    Christian Anderson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    This is an ethnographic study of macro-structural change from the vantage point of everyday life on a few blocks of a single street in the Hell's Kitchen/Clinton neighborhood of New York City. The study tells stories from daily life on several blocks of West Forty-Sixth Street between Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River as documented over three years of close observation. These stories show how the actions of some residents serve to lubricate outcomes like privatization, rising housing costs, discriminatory policing, displacement, and eviction. These outcomes then negatively affect others who have less power--particularly undocumented migrants, the elderly, the poor, and people of color. This finding is complicated by the fact that people here are not acting malevolently, but more often than not out of well-intentioned common sense ideas about community, quality of life, and progress. What this means, I contend, is that processes like gentrification, neoliberalization, and inequitable urban development are not simply imposed from outside by macro forces such as real estate capital or top-down urban policy. I argue that these processes are also deeply contingent on everyday life--on the daily actions, ideas, and subjectivities of ordinary people in places such as West Forty-Sixth--which act as a kind of social infrastructure. This situation presents a mash-up of spatial, political, and structural questions about hegemony and power that span the intimate and the global in scope while complicating existing understandings of urban space and everyday life.

  • Public Market to La Marqueta: Shaping Spaces and Subjects of Food Distribution in New York City, 1930-2012

    Author:
    Anne Babette Audant
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    From Public Market to La Marqueta: Shaping Spaces and Subjects of Food Distribution in New York City, 1930 to 2012 by Anne Babette Audant Advisor: Setha M. Low Public markets are definitive parts of the urban landscape. Policies shaping municipal food provisioning, including public markets, produce and reproduce differentiated subjects and unevenly developed spaces. Social science has not paid sustained attention to public food markets; this research contributes to a fragmented and multi-perspective body of work that demonstrates the many ways in which markets intersect with urban processes. I look at the geographic distribution of food in and through New York City's public markets from 1930 to the present by mapping intersections of politics, citizens, consumers, social class, gender, ethnicity, race, government, capital, and the retailing landscape. Tracing these processes over more than a century, this study demonstrates that food distribution is a dynamic and highly contested aspect of urban life, underscoring a deep if sometimes under-articulated recognition of the work done by the flow of food through city streets. Focused on New York City's public markets, particularly the enclosed retail markets built in the late 1930s and early 1940s to contain New York City's pushcarts and street peddlers, this study explores how the immigrant working classes became the objects of municipal food policy. Food habits became a means through which to Americanize - and civilize - the masses. Along with their bodies, their food landscapes became the targets of state intervention. Working class neighborhoods were - and are - vulnerable to state interventions that too often further alienate already disempowered populations. Food policy has the potential to advance social justice. In New York City, we are witnessing the emergence of a new municipal food policy, which, if implemented, will be the first comprehensive policy to be proposed since the Progressive Era. Aimed at reducing inequities and improving public health, and integrated with broad goals of environmental and economic sustainability, the proposals on the table point in promising directions.

  • Historical Relationships between Land Elevation and Socioeconomic Status in New York City: A Mixed Methods GIS Approach

    Author:
    Jennifer Brisbane
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Juliana Maantay
    Abstract:

    The role that topography has played in the development of New York City is essential to understanding its present urban form and foreseeing its changes. Geographers and economists have generally agreed that for cities in the United States, socioeconomic status increases with land elevation. This seemingly simple relationship between elevation and class, however, is complicated by factors such as technological innovations, economic shifts, politics, cultural perceptions, and the idiosyncrasies of cities and the neighborhoods within them. The lack of comprehensive research in this area coupled with conflicting findings warranted further exploration into the complex and changing relationships between elevation and social class. This longitudinal study utilized a mixed methods GIS approach to reveal historical relationships between land elevation and socioeconomic status in New York City, and explain factors that may mediate these relationships. This study departed from the traditional use of regression results by mapping standardized residuals clusters, which were found to be an extremely efficient way of pinpointing anomalous areas that would be appropriate case study areas for in-depth, qualitative analysis. Relative elevation was found to be a better determinant of socioeconomic status than absolute elevation for three out of ten analysis years examined. The presence of urban fringe uses on high elevation land was affirmed. The persistence of historical settlement patterns was also affirmed, and it was found that this persistence was able to withstand technological, economic, cultural, and significant physical topography changes. Public policy, such as through the use of zoning tools and eminent domain, was the most influential force in the transformation of historical land use and settlement patterns. Climate change is poised to become another powerful force in the transformation of cities, and should be incorporated into future studies that examine the relationship between physical topography and residential or land use patterns.

  • Gravity Modeling of Casinos in the United States: A Case Study of Philadelphia

    Author:
    Moira Conway
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    John Seley
    Abstract:

    Recently, casino gaming has emerged in the United States in a variety of new locations as a source of economic development. Despite this, in the United States there has been only a very limited amount of research that has examined gambling from a spatial perspective. An important concern identified in international gambling research is that of problem gambling. This project seeks to examine the potential impacts of casinos in the major metropolitan area of Philadelphia, which is currently the largest city in the United States with an open commercial casino. There are three additional casinos in the metropolitan region. In order to examine the decisions that led to the casino locations, interviews and media and policy analysis were conducted. To ascertain the vulnerability to problem gaming of the neighborhoods where casinos are located in the metropolitan area of Philadelphia, a GIS vulnerability model was created. The model combines an index of socioeconomic disadvantage and a gravity model in order to examine the accessibility to the casino of those most vulnerable to problem gaming. For validation, the model is rerun for the two casinos of metropolitan Pittsburgh. The GIS results show that three out of the four casinos in metropolitan Philadelphia are located in areas where people are vulnerable to problem gaming. Through the interviews and media analysis, it is revealed that a variety of stakeholders were involved in the casino location process, and some effects of the casinos, both good and bad, have been observed so far. These findings demonstrate a need for public policy to mitigate the potential impacts of problem gaming on the community. The GIS model created for this project is the first vulnerability study of a major urban area in the United States. It has the potential to be used in developing guidelines and regulations for new casinos as they are introduced throughout the United States as well as to contribute to international gambling research. Additionally, the model may be modified to examine the impact of others forms of consumption based economic development both domestically and abroad.

  • SUBURBAN HEAT ISLANDS: THE INFLUENCE OF RESIDENTIAL MINIMUM LOT SIZE ZONING ON SURFACE HEAT ISLANDS IN SOMERSET COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

    Author:
    Jennifer Cox
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    William Solecki
    Abstract:

    The process of suburbanization blurs regional bounds, forms mega-regions and fosters the expansion of multifaceted environmental problems, such as the urban heat island (UHI) effect. Defined by differences in air- and surface- temperature between rural and urban areas, UHI is the result of the characteristics of urbanization which modify the land surface condition, urban geometry, thermal properties of construction materials, anthropogenic heat and air pollution, which increase storage and re-radiation of heat to the atmosphere. Climate change is predicted to worsen the UHI effect. Hence, the objective of this research to characterize the UHI effect as it pertains to suburban and exurban development patterns, which are neither low-density rural nor high-density urban, yet the dominant landscape pattern in America's mega-regions. Using multi-resolution remote sensing data, this dissertation describes the geography of the surface urban heat island (SUHI) effect across the New York Metropolitan Region's urban-rural continuum and the influence of residential minimum lot size zoning regulations on the Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Brightness Temperature. The study area for this research endeavor is Somerset County, New Jersey. An inverse relationship exists between NDVI and Brightness Temperature, where increases in vegetation and tax lot size reduce Brightness Temperature; and therefore UHI Intensity. However, utilization of a cumulative metric, such as net thermal flux by tax lot, is critical to illuminate the role that suburbanization has on the expansion of regional environmental problems. The Landsat ETM imagery combined with tax lot data provide an efficient and effective method for assessing the cumulative impact of suburban development in the study area and evaluating mitigation techniques to lower urban heat, save energy and facilitate reintroduction of natural elements into urban environments.

  • Scaling food security: a political ecology of agricultural policies and practices in Bukidnon, Philippines

    Author:
    Ryan Ehrhart
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    Debates over food security strategies in the Philippines have pitted the neoliberal paradigm of trade liberalization, export cropping, and chemical and biotech agricultural methods against the food sovereignty paradigm of protectionism, staple cropping, and sustainable agriculture methods. The Philippine government has long pushed for yield increases of staples. However, there has been dissonance between governmental desires for rice self-sufficiency and pursuit of a more export-oriented agricultural economy. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Trade Organization have pressured the government of the Philippines to adopt various tenets of neoliberalism (trade liberalization, privatization, deregulation, and budgetary austerity), which have hindered the achievement of Philippine goals for self-sufficiency in its staple foods and stunted the potential benefits of land reform. Through ethnographic research of the social and ecological conditions in three rural villages in the province of Bukidnon, this examination of agrarian change explores how various actors--small farmers, collectives, large planters, and agribusiness corporations--have been scaling their projects in the agricultural economy. The use of chemical inputs has damaged soils and saddled farmers with debts. In many cases, control of land has been lost to elites through sales or pawning arrangements. Relatively egalitarian corn- and rice-farming areas have given way to a stratified landscape of sugarcane and banana plantations, as former smallholders have been forced to work as wage laborers. Multinational agribusinesses have steered the area away from staple production and threatened human and environmental health with pesticide exposure and erosion. Some farmers though have organized against these prevailing trends. Production and social reproduction have been rescaled through collective marketing, reciprocal labor arrangements, and more equitably gendered divisions of labor. Agroecological methods, such as composting, organic fertilization, seed saving, and indigenous pest control have scaled the reproduction of environmental conditions more locally and increased farmer incomes because their inputs are created on the farm. Protecting local control of the means of production--seeds, fertilizers, and especially land--has become an important method for preserving a smallholder class, maintaining more self-determination, and working toward greater food sovereignty.

  • POLICY CHANGE, SUSTAINABILITY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: APPLICATIONS OF THE LONG ISLAND MARKAL MODEL

    Author:
    David Friedman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Yehuda Klein
    Abstract:

    The objective of this study is to develop a robust and sustainable energy (electricity) path for Long Island. Waste water management and solid municipal waste have been incorporated into a MARKAL energy-planning model for the short through long term (50 years) planning horizons. In addition, an analysis of the impacts on the local scale, of a carbon tax has been carried out. By examining the Long Island MARKAL the nexus of sustainability and environmental justice is elucidated. Suggestions for examining, testing, and improving sustainability plans are also provided.

  • And Then the Neighborhood Changed: Jewish Intra-Urban Migration and Racial Identity in the Bronx, NY

    Author:
    Bradley Gardener
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Marianna Pavlovskaya
    Abstract:

    The major research goal is to explain the causes of urban Jewish migration from the West Bronx to Riverdale and determine how it impacted their racial identity. I ask the following questions: Why did Jews leave the West Bronx? Why did they move to Riverdale? How did moving between these places affect the racial identity of Jews? Employing a relational understanding of race and space, I use a mixed method approach consisting of both qualitative and quantitative techniques to examine how the racial identity of Jews was affected by moving from the West Bronx to Riverdale. The primary methods employed in my study were participant observation, residential histories, and GIS. My study makes three primary theoretical contributions. First, my research shows that white identity or whiteness is fluid. As Jews moved from the West Bronx to Riverdale, their white identities changed. More specifically, their white identities changed in relation to material processes like neighborhood disinvestment and migration. These processes condensed into a historically and geographically specific articulation of white identity related to the conditions under which my participants moved from the West Bronx to Riverdale. In a second related contribution, my research shows that the connections scholars make between Jewish whiteness to suburbanization is largely an over generalization. Although the race of Jews was impacted by suburban migration, it was not the only way in which they negotiated the racialization process. Further, contrary to the notion that Jews assimilated into static racialized places, they profoundly changed the places they moved into. As their identities changed, so did the meaning of the places they inhabited. Third, my research opens up possibilities for reimagining narratives of white flight and racialized interpretations of neighborhood change. Often, white flight movers are made legible through rational choice theory. My research challenges the logic of white flight, showing that my participants didn't move to the suburbs because they wanted to continue urban Jewish living.