Parsons Design Students Address Tensions on Roosevelt Avenue

Government leaders in Queens and local business owners along Roosevelt Avenue have been at loggerheads ever since a business improvement district (BID) was proposed for the diverse and busy street in 2013.

Advocates of the project believe the BID would lead to cleaner, safer streets, as well as a better economic outlook for the area; local business owners say it would hasten gentrification and spoil the area’s mom and pop milieu.

It’s a tense situation—one that New School students addressed through urban design projects created specifically for the Roosevelt Avenue corridor.

The students’ work will be on view in Roosevelt Avenue Urbanites, a new exhibition opening Wednesday, January 28 at 7:00 pm at the Falchi Building, 31-00 47th Ave. in Long Island City. Students from Parsons School of Design worked in conjunction with three Italian universities, as well as local activists, business owners and policy makers to develop innovative design solutions to complex issues.

“Through this exhibition, students were able to see how real political conversations happen and how design itself can create a third way to foster dialogue,” Quilian Riano, a lecturer at Parsons who helped organize the exhibition. “It was very important to show how their design ideas could actually be applied.”

Roosevelt Avenue Urbanites features eight projects that imagine alternative plans to the BID, which would cover Roosevelt Avenue from 82nd St. to 114th St. and include roughly 1,000 businesses. Projects include an oral history and social map of the area, an exploration of the area’s unused open spaces and a board game that fosters dialogue between parties involved in the dispute.

“It’s a mix between Monopoly and Dungeons and Dragons; it’s a way to help facilitate negotiations,” Riano said, adding that the game has been implemented in meetings between activists, business owners and backers of BID.

Believing in the power of design to address real-world issues, Riano hopes that other projects will be implemented in the future. He added, “This exhibition shows how Parsons is using creative and courageous solutions to address issues right here in New York City.”

Following the opening reception, the exhibition can be viewed by emailing Riano at rianoq@newschool.edu.