Five Urbanists appointed to Future Culture: Connecting Staten Island’s Waterfront

The Design Trust for Public Space and Staten Island Arts announce five urbanists to work with local artists and community members, area developers, and New York City agencies in infusing Staten Island’s rapidly expanding North Shore waterfront with integrated cultural programs. Lisa Dahl, Staten Island artist; Ben Margolis, urban policy expert; Margie Ruddick, landscape and urban designer; John Schettino, graphic designer, and Gareth Smit, photojournalist, will lead the research, design, and community engagement efforts for the multi-year project, Future Culture: Connecting Staten Island’s Waterfront.

Through a community-led collaboration, the Design Trust for Public Space and its Fellows will examine how art and cultural activities can enrich the public- and privately-controlled open space of Staten Island’s North Shore. We will test design and programming recommendations through public art pilots. Quarterly newsletters will apprise the St. George, Tompkinsville, and Stapleton communities and policy makers with the findings and elicit their input. These efforts will result in a plan that will inform long-term strategies for neighborhood revitalization, sustainability, and equitable economic development, ensuring the social, ethnic, and economic diversity of the community for years to come.

Design Trust Fellows
Lisa Dahl, Participatory Art Fellow, and a Staten Island artist, won the Community Artist Award for the Historic Tappen Park Community Partnership’s Illuminate Stapleton initiative, and completed a public art commission at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. She will organize a multi-faceted community engagement process to encompass a diverse and broad spectrum of perspectives on the Staten Island culture, including the activities of the local maritime and creative industries, the festivals and practices of the North Shore’s many different ethnic groups, and the projects of cultural institutions.

Ben Margolis, Policy Fellow, has more than twenty years of experience working on economic development projects in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, among them New York City Economic Development Corporation and The Brookings Institution. He will identify key opportunities for the local cultural community by analyzing the political context and market conditions of the North Shore. His findings will guide the creation of a series of policy recommendations.

Margie Ruddick, Urban Design Fellow, and a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award winner, who led the Queens Plaza’s acclaimed renovation, will develop design and site recommendations for effectively facilitating and integrating public art and cultural activities into the built environment. She will analyze the physical context, ecology, natural systems, and transportation infrastructure of the North Shore.

John Schettino, Graphic Design Fellow, and the creator of the The New York Penn Station Atlas, a personal wayfinding tool for America’s busiest transit hub, will build an identity for the ‘naturally occurring cultural district’ along the North Shore, and ideas for better wayfinding to improve the pedestrian experience – and help mitigate the impact of the millions of additional visitors expected to visit Staten Island.

Gareth Smit, Photo Urbanism Fellow, a visual storyteller whose photographs are regularly featured in The New York Times, brings an established body of work on Staten Island. He will document the rich cultural community and changing urban landscape of Staten Island’s North Shore through photography.

Future Culture: Connecting Staten Island’s Waterfront
Future Culture is a project of the Design Trust for Public Space in partnership with Staten Island Arts. The project has the participation and support of NYC Economic Development Corporation and developers including BFC Partners, Ironstate, New York Wheel, and Triangle Equities.

Staten Island’s waterfront including St. George, Tompkinsville, and Stapleton neighborhoods—a Naturally Occurring Cultural District (—is home to hundreds of artists and arts organizations. The area hosts multiple private development projects and related NYC government initiatives, such as the Bay Street Corridor Plan. This diverse community faces challenges in planning for cohesive, quality public space during a rapid transformation.

Future Culture will initiate a common understanding and shared purpose among the arts community, private developers and business owners, and public agencies about the character of the public realm on the waterfront. Artists will be able to access and use new spaces, including key public- and privately-owned sites and storefronts, for the production and presentation of their work. Developers will have the tools to help them plan, operate, and sustain cultural activities to enliven and connect their properties to the area’s neighborhoods. NYC agencies will have a cultural plan to complement the Bay Street Corridor rezoning in 2017-18, the citywide cultural plan, and other agency initiatives.

Find out more at the Future Culture: Connecting Staten Island’s Waterfront website

Image Credit | flickr Doc Searls


About Damian Holmes 5728 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at