Troy Simpson


This paper examines narratives from users and designers of a recently opened public park created via brownfield remediation processes on a historically industrial urban waterfront in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. Interviews reveal that designers and community members were pivotal contributors to the transformation of a site that was previously associated with danger and toxicity into something of greater ecological and social value. Designers’ visions played a key role in subsequent user experiences in the park, but community input and struggle both sparked, and drastically altered, the park’s design trajectory in an effort to claim the park as a neighborhood asset and limit the degree to which it would contribute to displacement of existing residents. This project is unique because it is a publicly funded remediation of a municipally-owned contaminated site, yet initial project designs were geared toward on-site revenue generation to fund operations. Two broad implications of this study are (a) projects of this nature can represent a paradox of activism in that it is unclear how far community activism can go to address the systemic problems associated with environmental gentrification and (b) there is a need for studies of environmental gentrification to take a granulated approach to the positive and negative aspects associated with these spaces rather than look at them as more holistically positive or negative endeavors. The multiple scales of ambiguity and ambivalence that emerged from this study are emblematic of the dynamics associated with brownfield remediation, green space creation in historically underserved communities, and environmental gentrification.


How to Cite
Simpson, T. (2019) “Remediating Sunset Park. Environmental Injustice, Danger, and Gentrification”, The Journal of Public Space, 4(4), pp. 187–210. doi: 10.32891/jps.v4i4.1242.
Reports from 'Past Present and Future of Public Space'
Author Biography

Troy Simpson, City University of New York, The Graduate Center

Troy Simpson is a doctoral candidate in the in the Environmental Psychology program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is a research associate at the Public Space Research Group and a founding member of the User Design Information Group, research sub-groups of the Center for Human Environments. His research interests include human-environment relationships, largely in the contexts of sustainability initiatives and public space, as well as the application of social science research methods to design processes. Troy’s current research focuses on the digital technification of public spaces. Previously, he conducted research at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and he worked as a green building and policy advisor in the non-profit environmental sector. Troy holds a BS in psychology and political science from Santa Clara University and a MA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.


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