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Urban Studies

Times Square Street Scene

Designed as an interdisciplinary program, Urban Studies offers a broad introduction to the city and the urban environment.

Students combine course work and urban issues with hands-on experience in New York City. A dedicated faculty offer courses ranging from urban politics and community, architecture and the built environment, urban history, immigration and class relations, to literary representations of urban space.

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To BID or Not to BID?

BIDS in NYC

On October 30, 2019, the Urban Studies program and Political Science department co-sponsored a panel discussion on “New York City’s Business Improvement Districts: Contributions and Critiques.” Featured speakers were Prof. Abe Unger of Wagner College, author of Business Improvement Districts: Private Government and Public Consequences (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2016); Rob Walsh, Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships at Manhattan College and former Commissioner of Small Business Services under Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and Prof. Paul Kantor, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Fordham University.

We asked two of our Urban Studies undergraduate students, Mae Symmonds and Gregory Eppinger, to comment on the presentation. Both Mae and Gregory worked as interns during the fall 2019 semester with the Mosholu Preservation Corporation (MPC) in the Norwood area of the Bronx north of Fordham. Gregory did his placement with the Jerome Gun Hill BID, while Mae worked with Northwest Merchants Association (NMA) in its effort to form a BID.

mae symmonds

The Debate on BIDs

Norwoods, BronxThe recent panel discussion about Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) included Abe Unger, who touched on what a BID is and its overall value and limits; Rob Walsh, who discussed why BIDs were created; and Paul Kantor, who talked about the urban economy in terms of switching to small state governance and the inclusion of BIDs within these arrangements. After hearing their views, I think that there is much discussion to be had about the proper role of a BID within society. There is much discrepancy over the overall value of BIDs because they are a public-private hybrid.  continue . . .
This means that, in terms of public power, once they are formed BIDs have the power to tax the businesses and properties within their jurisdiction. In terms of private power, BIDs are considered private corporations run by a board through a local non-profit. Through the public-private hybrid, BIDs are able to tax publicly and to spend privately, which poses an accountability problem for some people.

Since BIDs are partially a public entity, they allow more people with different backgrounds to come to the table to discuss effective business practices. The privatization of BIDs allow them to branch a bit away from the city governments that they are partially a part of, as people cannot rely on city governments to have the creativity and beautification efforts that those that live in the neighborhood could. The public-private hybrid of BIDs allows them to be more successful than if a BID was simply a public or private entity.

gregory eppinger

What Do BIDs Do?

Jerome Ave fruit standStudents who make their daily trek down East Fordham Road towards the Fordham College at Rose Hill campus undoubtedly characterize the region by encounters with the multicultural populations, the smell of food carts, and the sound of a tattoo parlor overtly calling your attention over the clamor of traffic. However, the component separating this area from other neighborhoods in the Bronx is its unique abundance of small businesses. The organization tasked with maintaining the renowned commercial retail stretch is known as the Fordham Road Business Improvement District (BID).  continue . . .
BIDs are privately owned, non-profit corporations that allocate publicly funded grants to revive and bolster small businesses inhabiting depreciated properties. These organizations require substantial resources to maintain storefronts and improve foot traffic. Last year alone, Fordham Road BID’s expenses totaled an astounding output of nearly one million dollars. A large portion of the resources was dedicated to park upkeep, sanitation, and pop-up markets promoting community engagement.

The practicality of these programs and supplemental services is dependent on the size of the designated commercial areas. Smaller institutions, such as the Jerome Gun Hill BID located north of the Grand Concourse, lack sufficient funds necessary to administer equivalent assistance to storeowners. Although they are a recent innovation, Business Improvement Districts are deserving of increased financial support to further cement their integral roles expanding stability and productivity in the city’s small businesses.


Built Heritage special issue on Shanghai

Built Heritage Shanghai cover

A new special issue of Built Heritage, “Shanghai: Heritage at the Crossroads of Culture,” is edited by Fordham Professor of History Rosemary Wakeman. The journal is published by the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University in Shanghai.

from wakeman's introduction: 

“Shanghai is among the most dynamic global cities of both the 20th and 21st centuries. The city is China’s gateway to the world and its aspirations for the future. With more than 24 million people, 40 percent of whom are migrants, it is a global crossroads and one of the most multicultural cities in the world. It has more skyscrapers than New York and a public transport system that overtakes most global cities. Shanghai is a trading city, an entrepot of commodities. It exports electronic information products, automobiles, petrochemicals, fine steel, equipment, and biomedicine. It has the highest GDP of any city in China’s mainland and has become one of the leading financial sectors in East Asia, with major Western banks flocking to its new financial centre. With well over 500 multinational companies, the city attracts more foreign investment flows than most developing countries. Along with them has come a highly-skilled workforce from all over the world. Shanghai’s urban middle-class has fuelled China’s consumer revolution and a property boom. Sleek skyscrapers and glamorous malls, its brilliant skyline, dominate the global image of Shanghai and beckon tourists to its shores.”

Read more of “Shanghai: Heritage at the Crossroads of Culture” at built-heritage.net.


Mapping Conference Tackles Justice Issues from a Geographic Perspective

Mapping Injustice

from fordham news: 

In a three-day symposium titled “Mapping (In)Justice,” dozens of scholars came to Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9 to examine how digital mapping is being used by academics as a methodology to study justice and injustice, particularly when researching underserved communities.

Gregory Donovan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies and co-founder of the Fordham Digital Scholarship Consortium, organized the conference with department chair Jacqueline Reich, Ph.D.

“Spatial media have politics, these are not neutral things,” said Donovan, who teaches a course of the same name as the conference for the Masters in Public Media. “We need to look at how our subjects are using digital mapping in their own lives and not just use this technology to study them from afar, like a scientist with a clipboard.”

Read the full article by Tom Stoelker at Fordham News.

View Digital Maps Project Gallery

from m(i)j project gallery: 


What Makes a Great City Tick?

Prof. Annika Hinze

Director of Urban Studies, and Professor of Political Science, Annika Hinze, is researching the best practices for making cities just, fair, and equitable for all.

If you go into communities and interview people who live in what we call gentrifying communities, a lot of them welcome the changes in the neighborhood. Everybody wants to live in a nice neighborhood, with good infrastructure, and good schools that come with gentrification. It’s just that the residents want to stay in the neighborhood once it turns.

Because cities are growing in importance around the globe, Hinze said she’s eager to continue partnerships with institutions in Pretoria, Berlin, and Amsterdam, and recruit more international students to study in New York. Closer to home, courses like The Urban Lab, which is being co-taught this semester by former urban studies director Rosemary Wakeman, Ph.D., professor of history, and Fordham Law’s Sheila Foster, exemplify the way the urban studies degree is truly interdisciplinary.

Read the full story by Patrick Verel at Fordham News.


UrbanTOPIAS Conference | Berlin

urbanTOPIAS conference

Fordham Professors Annika Hinze, Director of Urban Studies, and Rosemary Wakeman, Coordinator of University Urban Initiatives, discussed the future of Urban Studies at the UrbanTOPIAS conference held at the Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University Berlin.

The 5th Annual Conference of the International Graduate Research Program / IGK Berlin-New York-Toronto: “The World in the City: Metropolitanism and Globalization from the 19th Century to the Present” included urban scholars and activists discussing the challenges of changing cities.

The recent conference explored the multiple forces of threats and anxieties that shape urban reality, the practices of resistance and adaptations to urban transformations, and investigated different perspectives on the urban future.


Mark Street Defends the Art of Street Photography in Filmmaker Magazine

Mark Street

Mark Street, writer, filmmaker, and Assistant Professor of Film in the Visual Arts Program at Fordham, defends his craft in a new article for Filmmaker Magazine: "In Defense of Street Photography in an iPhone Age."

Oddly, as filming in one medium (the cellphone) has become ubiquitous, people seem to fear the semi-professional more and more. A professional film shoot ascribes to standards — releases are signed, tacit agreements are made, those filmed understand the scope of the project. As someone who works alone (without a crew that creates a kind of picture a passerby might be able to understand) I often find myself at pains to explain myself.

Read the full article at filmmakermagazine.com

Mark Street FilmsLima Limpia (2014)


Vertical Landscape

Congratulations and bravo to Urban Studies major Zhiyi Zhou for her outstanding photography! Zhiyi's exhibit "Vertical Landscape" premiered at the Ildiko Butler Gallery at Lincoln Center, 113 W. 60th St., New York, NY.

From the artist:

The exhibition, "Vertical Landscape," consists of ten black-and-white photographs taken with a 4*5 large-format camera. Over the past two years, I have photographed in Rockaway, New York and during trips to China and Cuba. Inspired by an interest in people's living space, the photos capture vernacular architectures both dwelled by humans and inhabited by nature.

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Practicing Utopia

Fordham News: Professor Calls for Return to Regional Planning’s Utopian Age


Graffiti Murals

Special Feature

Urban Studies alumnus Patrick Verel talks about his book Graffiti Murals: Exploring the Impact of Street Art.