January 24, 2022

Urban Land Institute and the NYU SPS Schack Institute of Real Estate’s NYU Urban Lab Collaborative Research Project on the FDR Drive Receives Curtis Infrastructure Grant

Congratulations to the NYU SPS Schack Institute of Real Estate’s NYU Urban Lab for being a part of the Urban Land Institute team that recently received the ULI Curtis Infrastructure Grant to help create resilient cities! The NYU Urban Lab, directed by Schack Clinical Assistant Professor Matthew Kwatinetz, fosters collaborations between students, faculty members, and industry leaders to address the unique real estate challenges facing cities, emphasizing inclusive growth.

Last summer, the NYU Urban Lab held a webinar, “A Green New Deal for the FDR,” in conjunction with ULI, the oldest network of land use and real estate experts in the world, and the Waterfront Alliance, a coalition working to bring about change to the region’s waterways. The expert panel addressed questions of the FDR’s future in the context of coastal flood protection, smart highways, and environmental and social justice on the east side of Manhattan.

The building of the FDR Drive, which was originally known as the East River Drive, began in 1934, with its first sections designed by the urban planner Robert Moses. It has evolved over many years. While there have been several proposals to redevelop portions of the FDR in the past few years, these have normally been narrowly focused on specific areas (such as the recently released Lower Manhattan Coastal Resilience Plan, or the East Harlem Resilience Plan) or to address narrow concerns that do not sync up the useful life of infrastructure investments, federal support around regenerative infrastructure, and the promise of technology to shape the future of urban transportation.

Connecting the original construction of the FDR to the hope for its future, Kwatinetz said, “It was a New Deal project that got it started, and now we have the chance for the Green New Deal to kick it to the next level.”

Kwatinetz, who used to chair the ULI Technical Assistance Program, approached ULI to continue the collaboration after the 2021 panel and study. “We have only just begun to scratch the surface of several critical issues related to the future of NY as an inclusive, resilient city. It’s a very large project—something that approaches the scale of a Battery Park City or Hudson River Park. We are fortunate to be able to partner with ULI's members who are some of the best in the industry at tackling programs of a scale that even stalled Robert Moses,” said Kwatinetz.

As part of the grant, the NYU Urban Lab team has been invited along with teams from six other cities to join this year’s Curtis Infrastructure Cohort. This Cohort, comprised of ULI members, local leaders, and other global experts from each of the cities, will meet regularly to identify key issues, share best practices, and provide project support/technical assistance to create equitable, resilient cities.

As part of their research collaboration with ULI, the NYU Urban Lab team will examine the types of structures and city, state, and private organizations that are best suited to advance this project. In addition to Kwatinetz, the Urban Lab graduate student research team consists of Sanjana Dalal, Lia Manos, Daniela Marin, and Stokala Spring. More information on the group can be found here.

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