In Brownsville, Enormous Urban Challenges, and Hope

January 13, 2011
By Alissa Walker

In this series, we're examining design solutions to social problems and ways for designers to contribute pro bono work for the proposed solutions.

As I ride a bus through the neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn two days after Halloween, I see ghosts. The location of a once-thriving famous pickle factory. The abandoned steel plant laced with razor wire. An empty main street that once was filled with bustling furniture stores.

As part of a group of thinkers gathered for a charrette to focus on one of New York’s most underserved communities, we hear plenty from our tour guide about a phantom neighborhood of front stoops, street ball, and a vibrant Jewish community that lived here in the early 1900s. What we see is Brownsville’s reality of broken windows and vacant buildings.