Laura Greenberg, MAUD 2020
Organization: Boston Harbor Now, Boston, MA
Sponsor: Greater Boston Area Community Service Fellowship
“I am sad to say I have vacated my desk at 15 State Street! My summer with Boston Harbor Now went so quickly, and I feel like it just started. I worked on two main projects and submitted a report for each. The first project analyzed the opportunities and challenges of Peddocks Island Pilot Programs, and the second project developed suggestions about the future of Long Wharf accompanied by a series of diagrams. The 10 weeks were wonderful, and I learned a lot that will serve me well in my post-GSD career. Some lessons I will take with me include:
Fight to Keep Waterfronts and Urban Parks Public
All of Boston Harbor Now’s efforts (policy, planning or programming) work towards activating and increasing access to the waterfront and Harbor Islands. As a frequent user of waterfronts and urban parks, it was an amazing opportunity to learn more about these spaces that I too often take for granted. Here in Boston, there is a complex network of public, private and non-profit entities that collaborate to keep them running smoothly. During just my 10 weeks, I had the opportunity to work with leadership at the National Park Service, Department of Conservation of Recreation and the BPDA. It’s encouraging that there are many types of places to work if you care about these issues!
It was interesting to go to the waterfront and Harbor Islands with a better trained eye for policy and a deeper historical understanding of Boston’s relationship to its Harbor. So much of the public waterfront can be attributed to Chapter 91, and people would not even want to use the waterfront had it not been for the decades-long Harbor clean-up effort. This speaks to the complexity of urban issues: cleaning up the Harbor has spurred luxury development throughout the city, but it has also resulted in more water transit options and additional public space. People are fighting to keep this public space truly public through policy and on-the-ground action (like the Conservation Law Foundation’s Pitch a Blanket). I am starting to understand the spatial, political, economic and cultural variables that impact Boston’s relationship to its waterfront, and that will be useful in my work moving forward, wherever I end up.
Choose Feedback Methods Deliberately
Both of my projects this summer involved gathering, analyzing and synthesizing people’s feedback. This is not something I had much experience with, so it was interesting to see the variety of strategies that BHN uses. We collected feedback through in-person group sessions, in-person interviews, phone interviews, email correspondences, public voting and online surveys. I really enjoyed the in-person interviews because it felt more personal than phone, and I could adjust to the other person on the fly. Each method has benefits and challenges, but after participating in all of them, I am more aware of the differences between them. I am much better equipped to tailor feedback methods in the future.
Center People and Experience in Design
Finally, my work this summer underscored the importance of centering people and experience in design. It is easy to get caught up in form and aesthetics and forget that, ultimately, we are designing spaces for people to use. Boston Harbor Now’s approach to the Peddocks project focuses primarily on identifying the ways that people want to use the island. The physical elements that are needed to achieve those uses is somewhat secondary, which is a different mindset than I am used to in design offices and at school. A good urban designer should be well-versed in both, and I was able to further develop this skill through my projects.
Thank you to the Greater Boston Area Community Fellowship and Boston Harbor Now for the opportunity!”