September 26, 2022

Faculty Spotlight: Schack Institute Clinical Professor Barry Hersh

Clinical Professor Barry Hersh designed and coordinates the MS in Real Estate Development program at the NYU SPS Schack Institute of Real Estate, teaching courses on Land Use and Environmental Regulation, Sustainable Development, and the Development Capstone. In June 2022, he was selected to serve on the US EPA Environmental Financial Advisory Board.

Initially a city planner, he became a successful real estate redeveloper focusing on environmentally challenged properties, waterfronts, affordable housing, and adaptive reuse of historic buildings. He is the author of numerous articles, including recent studies of the NY State Brownfield Program and the Rheingold Brewery redevelopment in Brooklyn, as well as the book Urban Redevelopment, published in 2017. He is a former NAIOP Distinguished Fellow, an active member of the Urban Land Institute, vice chair of the City of Stamford Historic Preservation Commission, and an advisory board member at the Center for Land Recycling and the Waterfront Alliance.

He wrote a book chapter entitled “Leading the Way; the Role of Non-Profits in Waterfront Redevelopment” for the just-published Handbook of Waterfront Cities and Urbanism, in which he discusses how local, regional, and global nonprofits have shaped waterfront developments in the United States and the world.

Tell us about the state of waterfront cities. What are the current challenges facing these cities?
Global climate change poses an enormous issue for waterfront cities; the risk of sea level rise and storms requires that waterfronts be increasingly resilient. How to provide public access and beneficial economic development with adequate flood protection is a design and policy challenge. My chapter in the Handbook of Waterfront Cities and Urbanism shows the role nonprofit organizations around the world have played in meeting these challenges.

What are the emerging trends in urban development and waterfront cities?
More cities are managing growth on waterfronts to be far more resilient while allowing residents to enjoy their waterfront. In some cases, frequently flooded areas have been returned to nature, while areas that can be protected are being redeveloped with improved resilience. Design features, such as softer, more naturally resilient water edge treatments, are being utilized extensively. Public input is being sought on how to best provide waterfront amenities.

What does your book chapter focus on?
My chapter focuses on the role of nonprofit organizations as catalysts and advocates for improved waterfront projects in terms of public access, resilience, sustainability, and overall design quality. Several national, or even international, organizations are discussed, as well as case studies of largely local nonprofits dealing with one specific waterfront. Here in New York, for example, I talk about the Domino Sugar Redevelopment by Two Trees, which includes new buildings, affordable and market-rate housing, historic restoration, and a new park. The many projects of River Action in Iowa are also included, ranging from bridge lighting to new parks with access to the Mississippi riverfront.

What are other waterfront areas in NYC, and what is being done to bolster them?
Adjoining Domino Sugar is the extensive multiphase Brooklyn Bridge Park, which includes the adaptive reuse of former piers, extensive new recreation opportunities on the East River, and additional housing. There are several projects along the Bronx River, including those led by the nonprofit Bronx River Alliance, which is focusing its efforts on an overall cleanup and the redevelopment of a new park on a former industrial site.

What are other projects you are working on?
I continue to work on the redevelopment of brownfields, formerly contaminated properties, which have received a big boost from recent federal legislation. Many brownfields are also waterfronts and are complicated projects.  I am also active in the adaptive reuse of older buildings, often featuring historic renovation.

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