Date of Award

Fall 2016


John Van Buren


As the general population and specifically urban populations continue to grow, cities must become more sustainable. Unfortunately in New York, cherished green spaces and their respective ecosystem services have been gravely degraded. This is especially true for underserved urban neighborhoods that often have the highest levels of pollution. In restoring mixed-used parks and protecting their ecosystem services, city dwellers can reap the benefits of improved social fabric, quality of life, local environment and economy. In my exploration of this subject I reference natural science and social science quantitative data. This data describes the ecological degradation and climate change and the negative impact it specifically has on the health of the residents of East Harlem and the South Bronx. The data also addresses the ecosystem services of urban parks in New York concentrating on Randall’s Island Park. Overall, I have shaped my research around three disciplines of environmental studies: Environmental History, Ecological Economics and Urban Design. I investigate the Environmental History of the Northeast, New York City and Randall’s Island. In regards to Ecological Economics, I explain the undervaluation of ecosystems and their services, their potential benefits, and the complexities of ecological valuation methods. As for Urban Design, I discuss various urban planning movements, the importance of neighborhood and park diversity and the role parks play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. I integrate the findings of these disciplines into park policy recommendations that address environmental justice, waste management, and the restoration and maintenance of native species.