Along the Shore

A Letter from the Project Director

Project Director:  Richard E. Hanley, Ph.D.
      Director, Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center
      Professor, Department of English
Assistant Director:  Shelley E. Smith, Ph.D., AIA
      Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Architectural Technology
Phone: 718.260.5230

Dear Colleague:

No—we don’t have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, but we do have a bridge and other historic landmarks along the Brooklyn waterfront that we would like to show you.  We invite you to apply for a weeklong NEH Landmarks workshop entitled, Along the Shore: Changing and Preserving the Landmarks of Brooklyn’s Industrial Waterfront.  We will offer the workshop twice—June 3-9 and June 17-23—and if you come, you will explore the changes and preservation efforts that have come to the landmarks along Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront, declared one of America’s eleven most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2007.   You will also explore the nature and meaning of different types of landmarks along the waterfront and document and interpret specific landmarks using a range of digital media that will bring these landmarks alive for you—and perhaps revolutionize your understanding of the term “landmark.”
These one-week workshops will combine discussions and presentations, introductions to and use of primary source materials, media presentations, site visits—consisting of walking, bus, and boat tours—and media laboratory workshops in which you will produce digital journals and geotagged maps (electronic maps into which information has been embedded.)  City Tech’s location across the street from one of the nation’s major landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge, and its advanced multimedia laboratories make the site and the institution an ideal venue for the program.  Our location, just two subway stops away from Manhattan and served by every major city subway line, is also ideal as a starting point for exploring New York City’s other boroughs.

What the Week Will Look Like


We will open with an early evening reception and panel discussion introducing you to Brooklyn and the program.  The event will be housed in the common area of the residential complex—the renovated former St. George Hotel, a landmarked building and at one time the largest hotel in New York City.

Richard E. Hanley, the project director, will introduce the program and give an orientation to Brooklyn and the week’s program.  Shelley E. Smith, the project co-director, will speak on “How to Define a Landmark.”  Then Francis Morrone, a well-known New York City author, historian, lecturer, and teacher, will speak on the History of Brooklyn. The evening will end with a walk along the famous Brooklyn Heights Promenade with its panorama of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the new Brooklyn Bridge Park.  All of the tours scheduled throughout the week will proceed, regardless of weather conditions, so please bring rain gear and comfortable shoes.

Daily Technology Component
On the first day, you will receive a flash drive containing templates for your digital journal as well as additional files and links. Each day will have a technology demonstration offered by Robin Michals, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising Design and Graphic Arts. These demonstrations will be primers on acquiring the text, photos, video, and audio that will comprise the digital journal you will keep.  There will be time set aside for you to use the multimedia lab to download your files on maps, “geotagging” your days by embedding your journal onto an electronic map.  In doing this, you will be “tagging” a virtual place and creating your own landmarks of the sites you visit.  Labs and assistance will be available to you both in the mornings and evenings.


The old industrial neighborhood of Greenpoint, along with the adjacent Newtown Creek, will provide the areas of this day’s study. Peter Spellane, associate director of the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center and chair of City Tech’s Chemistry Department, will speak about the petroleum and chemical industries that lined and, in some cases, polluted the creek.  Daniel Campo of Morgan State University will follow with a presentation on Greenpoint’s industrial history with an emphasis on the changes that have transpired there in the last two decades, and Kathleen Schmid, director of the Newtown Creek Alliance, will speak about the creek’s status as an EPA Superfund Site.

Professor Campo will lead a walking tour of the Greenpoint-Newtown Creek site and will focus on the buildings of particular importance to the early industries and their workers, including banks, factories, and churches.  After a group lunch in a restaurant in Greenpoint’s Polish community, we will have a boat tour of Newtown Creek and the Greenpoint waterfront led by Michael Marrella, director of Waterfront and Open Space Planning of the NYC Department of City Planning.

The afternoon will end with a presentation by the environmentalist Michael Heimbinder, founder and executive director of Habitat Map, who will speak on “Using Digital Maps to Tell Environmental Stories.”  Robin Michals will lead the first technology session on creating digital journals. 


Following the major themes of the program—change and preservation—we will study three waterfront areas to examine the response to change and efforts at preservation.  Each area represents a different response: the Brooklyn Navy Yard is still a workplace, albeit the nature of the work is now different; the Red Hook Commercial Center has combined retail, manufacturing and residential venues in nineteenth-century waterfront warehouses; and two vessels—a barge and an oil tanker—have been adapted to new uses and are still afloat in Brooklyn.

The first speaker of the day, Roberta E. Weisbrod, president of the Partnership for Sustainable Ports, LLC, will present an overview of the maritime industries still operating along the Brooklyn waterfront and the efforts being made for their preservation.  She will be followed by project co-director Shelley E. Smith, who will offer a slide presentation on the architecture of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the preservation efforts being made there. 

We will then proceed by bus for a site visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard led by BNY vice president for Programs, Research, and Archives, Daniella RomanoThat visit will be followed by a bus tour of the Admirals’ Row and Vinegar Hill areas outside the Yard and then lunch.  Afterwards, we will travel south to board the tanker Mary Whelan. There we will hear two presentations: one by Carolina Salguero, founder and director of Portside New York, on the “History of the Mary Whelan” and another by William Van Dorp, assistant professor of English at Union County Community College and founder and publisher of the Tugster blog on “New York’s Active Harbor.”

From the berth of the Mary Whelan, we will travel by public transit to the Redhook Commercial Center for walks, drinks, and an informal dinner on the waterfront.  We will then walk to the nearby Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, where we will hear a presentation by the museum’s founder, David Sharps, and then Peter Catapano, an associate professor and  historian in City Tech’s Social Sciences Department, will lead a discussion about 1950s journalism related to life on the Brooklyn docks, stories that ultimately led to the making of the film, On the Waterfront.  We will close with a screening and discussion of that film.


The day will begin with a presentation by Matthew Urbanski, a principal and landscape architect with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, on “Creating Brooklyn Bridge Park.”  After that, Richard Haw of John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) whose books, The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History and Art of the Brooklyn Bridge: A Visual History, capture the cultural influence of the bridge, will explain the bridge’s importance in American culture.  We will then take the subway across the river to Manhattan and be led by Richard Haw on a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Brooklyn where we will have lunch in the renewed waterfront warehouse district, known as DUMBO. 

After lunch, we will walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park, stopping for a discussion on the literature of Brooklyn, led by City Tech authors and English Department professors, Mark Noonan and Caroline Hellman. When we return to City Tech, we will view and discuss Ken Burns’s film The Brooklyn Bridge and learn about the engineering and architectural feats that were performed during its construction.  We will then proceed to the lab for our technology session where Robin Michals will suggest ways to integrate the photos you have taken of the Brooklyn Bridge into your digital journal.


Our day will begin with a presentation by Sherida E. Paulsen, former chair of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on “What Makes a Neighborhood Historic?”  We will then focus on New York City’s first neighborhood to be designated an “historic neighborhood,” Brooklyn Heights.  Our trip to Brooklyn Heights will include an architectural tour led by Francis Morrone.  Along our way we will spend time at the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, whose famous pastor, Henry Ward Beecher, was a major agitator for abolition in the decade before the Civil War.  The Church also played an active role in the Underground Railroad that provided sanctuary to fugitive slaves.  Beecher famously staged mock slave auctions at the Plymouth Church and invited as speakers noted abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass.  Over the decades of Beecher’s tenure, thousands of Brooklynites as well as tourists who took the “Beecher ferry” attended Plymouth Church, including in 1860 the soon-to-be Republican nominee for the presidency, Abraham Lincoln. 

At the church, we will hear a presentation by historian Prithi Kanakamedala on the presence of African American seamen along the Brooklyn waterfront in the decades before the Civil War.  We will also hear of the possibility of the connections these seamen had with smuggling slaves up to the Underground Railroad.  We will then walk to the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) for a detailed orientation offered by BHS staff regarding the primary sources and documents relating to the week’s study that are housed in the BHS collection.  We will also explore research opportunities related to the Brooklyn waterfront.  The day will end with a technology session led by Robin Michals.


At the morning session, Geoff Zylstra, assistant professor of history at City Tech, will speak about the “Rise and Fall of Coney Island: A Story of Industrial and Post-Industrial Consumption.”  He will be followed by a representative of the City’s Department of City Planning, who will speak on the recent zone changes and the effects they will have on Coney Islands’ famous amusement area.

Unlike other sections of the Brooklyn waterfront that have bridges and buildings as landmarks, Coney Island’s landmarks include the amusement rides. A trip to Coney Island will include passing—and if you are fearless, perhaps riding on—those landmarks.  It will also involve a trip to one of Coney Island’s unique museums that chronicle the heyday of the area.  Of interest will be an examination of the social forces that drove the development of amusements at Coney Island and how those forces were replaced by others that led to the area’s decades-long decline. 

While there is still no way to know how New York City’s current financial crisis will affect redevelopment plans, the city has recently passed a new zoning plan for Coney Island that is still an occasion for contention among various groups.  The theme of this program, the examination of how change is the only constant on the landmarked areas of the Brooklyn waterfront, is most easily discerned in the battle of the visions for Coney Island.  Developers, planning commissions, economic development entities, residents, and not-for-profit advocacy organizations have all put forth visions of change—some that entwine preservation in their change and some that do not.

There will be free time for you to explore the area, walk along the beach, and, perhaps, take a ride on the Wonder Wheel or the Cyclone.  The day will end with a group dinner at one of the famous Russian restaurants in neighboring Brighton Beach.


Our program will end Saturday morning when you will be asked to make a presentation of your digital journal.  We will close with a reprise of Sunday’s discussion, “What is a Landmark?” now informed by an intense week of examining that question in the context of the Brooklyn Waterfront.

Staying in Brooklyn

We have made arrangements for you to stay in a Brooklyn landmark.  What was once the Hotel St. George is now a student housing complex run by the non-profit company, Educational Housing Services (EHS).   The building is just an eight-minute walk from City Tech and is located in one of New York’s toniest neighborhoods, historic (and landmarked) Brooklyn Heights.  It is convenient to stores, shops, restaurants, and transportation.   Please see the section of our website entitled Accommodations for complete information. 

We hope you remain in Brooklyn for your entire stay.  Please see the section of our website entitled, Visiting Brooklyn.   I will note just one highlight of City Tech’s neighborhood:  A ten-minute walk from the college takes you to Smith Street, one of the most exciting new culinary strips in the city.  There are new restaurants, bars, and pubs opening every month, featuring many cuisines at a variety of prices.  If you wish to leave Brooklyn, you are only two subway stops or a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan and its many attractions.   

If You Wish to Apply

If you would like to apply to this program, please see the Application instructions enclosed with this letter or on our website.  You should first submit an application cover sheet to the NEH, available at  Then, your completed application,  postmarked no later than March 1, 2012,  should be addressed to me at the address listed above.  Perhaps the most important part of the completed application is an essay of one or two double-spaced pages (no more than that).  This essay should include information about your professional background and interest in or curiosity about place-based education.  It should speak about your special perspectives, skills, or experiences that might contribute to this workshop and it should also express your comfort in using (or learning to use) the various technologies mentioned in this letter.  You might also want to add how you think this experience might enhance your teaching or professional service.

Please also be sure to submit a letter of recommendation from your department chair, division head, or other professional reference in support of your application.

If you are accepted into one of the workshops, you will receive a stipend of $1,200 at the end of the session.  This stipend is designed to help you cover the expenses associated with this program.

Please contact us if you have any questions.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Richard E. Hanley, Ph.D.

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