Undergraduate Student Aims to Transform Views of Affordable Housing Neighborhoods

Throughout all five boroughs, more than 7,000 acres of former industrial sites are subject to high levels of contamination, leaving them underdeveloped. Ameliorating these hazardous properties, known as brownfields, has been a top priority in the last six years within New York City. An engineering school may not be the most obvious place to look for urban planners dedicated to transform brownfields into vibrant communities, yet NYU Tandon junior Kevin Barrow is up for the challenge.

The NYC Brownfield Partnership awarded Barrow, who is in the Sustainable Urban Environments program, with the 2016 Abbey Duncan Scholarship during the annual Big Apple Brownfield Awards. The scholarship is designed to provide financial support to promising students pursuing careers in the brownfield industry in New York City.

The Sustainable Urban Environments program at NYU Tandon combines liberal arts and technology, preparing students for the technical and social aspects of sustainability within cities. Jonathan Soffer, NYU Tandon Technology, Culture, and Society Department Chair, explains, “The Sustainable Urban Environments program provides both academic and practical education in remediating the environmental problems of cities, and Kevin Barrow is dedicated to that goal.” A unique aspect is how the program allows students to select specializations, as Barrow has selected the urban planning route with a focus in transportation.

In addition to being Vice President of Operations for the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) at NYU, Barrow is also dedicated to programming Earth Day activities for the Brooklyn campus, such as teaching the benefits of composting and coordinating a fun bike tour for students. Diane Dittrick, adjunct faculty of the Technology, Culture and Society Department and mentor to Barrow, describes him as, “an earnest and active listener and participant, paying attention to the details of his work in the classroom, while being open and friendly with his classmates at the same time. Kevin showed promise and appeared to be willing to do what was necessary to be a good student in order to become a successful professional.” Barrow also has ambitious plans to use urban planning as a way to relieve stigmas surrounding affordable housing neighborhoods.  

In the near future, Barrow plans on furthering his studies in graduate school with the ultimate goal of becoming an urban planner. He hopes to design neighborhoods that “lessen the burden on low-income areas” by providing residents in affordable housing with access to fresh food, shorter distances to public transportation, and more job opportunities within the neighborhood to promote growth within these areas. Overall, Barrow wants to eliminate the “sense of hopelessness” of underdeveloped areas through his sustainable and progressive urban designs.

In the meantime, Barrow is beginning his Capstone Project by developing the Two Bridges neighborhood between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges on the Lower East Side — previously a largely immigrant community that is now an area known for mixed-income and affordable housing as well as public housing provided by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). 

Natalie Boykoff
B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Class of 2018