Is a Livable Urban Environment For All Possible?

The humanities and sciences came together on Friday, Feb. 26, as the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) hosted Ethical Landscapes and Environmental Law, a colloquium featuring three Fordham professors.

The discussion, which took place from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Mertz Library Reading Room,  was presented by the garden’s Humanities Institute, which was established in the spring of 2014 as a way to bridge the divide between the arts and sciences, and bring together scholarship relating to nature, landscape, and the built environment.

It featured:

J. Alan Clark, Ph.D., associate professor of conservation biology, who shared how he uses radar, acoustic recordings, and flight tunnels to explore bird migration through urban landscapes in a talk titled, “Bird Migration Through Urban Landscapes;”

Sheila Foster, Albert A. Walsh Professor of Law and Faculty, and co-director of the Urban Law Center at Fordham School of Law, explored the urban commons framework as a concept for developing cities that are both revitalized and inclusive in a talk titled “The City as a Common Good;” and

Roger Panetta, visiting professor of history, detailed how the renewal of the Brooklyn waterfront has caught the attention of politicians, planners and the public here and abroad, and drawn a remarkable concentration of civic energy to the water’s edge, in a talk titled “Whose Waterfront?”

Vanessa Bezemer Sellers, humanities research program coordinator at the NYGB, said the topic is important because the natural environment of cities is being damaged in a myriad of ways in the service of economic interests.

“If a neighboring building is demolished, and it becomes a temporary green spot or a community garden, it’s nilly-willy just taken away for development. Money is always still number one, and that becomes a very serious issue because there’s simply too little space and too much stress [on]human dignity,” she said.

This marked the first time a Fordham contingent spoke at the Institute. The University and the NYBG pledged to work together more closely in 2012, when both joined the Bronx Science Consortium.

Sellers said she hoped the colloquium might inspire Rose Hill campus-based students to cross Southern Boulevard more often.

“I see students [jog]around the perimeter here. I thought well, if they run here, it would be nice to have them come on a regular basis and build a rapport with the professors, so that our green environment becomes a regular part of the program of incoming students,” she said.