Capstone Courses and Projects

City of Philadelphia Streets Department

Philadelphia Streets Department 2.0: Helping a Traditional Municipal Agency to Meet the Challenges of a New Age
The Philadelphia Streets Department (PSD) oversees and maintains many of the city’s vital infrastructure and services, including its streets, street lighting, sanitation, snow removal, traffic control, and bridges. The PSD’s Deputy Commissioner of Transportation requested a Capstone team to evaluate the Department in order to identify opportunities for pursuing innovative management and program initiatives. The team’s strategy consisted of a combination of research methods. The first was to evaluate the agency based on organizational structure, budget size and allocation, and service provision. To do this, the team interviewed current and former employees, as well as relevant PSD partners. These interviews helped inform the second part of the research, which was a comparative analysis of peer transportation agencies. Through an in-depth survey of these peer agencies regarding personnel, infrastructure, and budgets as well as phone interviews with staff, the team was able to provide a comparative context to help inform its final recommendations to PSD. In addition, the Capstone team identified innovative practices and initiatives from municipal agencies nationwide that it saw as providing valuable lessons for Philadelphia. Based on this internal review and analysis of external practices, the team prepared recommendations for strategically directing and developing the Department over the next five years. The report's recommendations will provide an important framework for PSD to use as it evolves and renews itself to meet the changing needs of the 21st Century city.

Emerging Markets, Inc.

Improving Access to Financial Services in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn
Access to and use of traditional banking services has historically been limited in low-income neighborhoods, forcing residents to rely on fringe financial services providers with higher rates and fewer opportunities to save. Emerging Markets Inc. (EMI), a hybrid for-profit/not-for-profit firm carrying out 'place-based initiatives,' partnered with Capital One Bank to request information about the Cypress Hills Brooklyn neighborhood that may reveal opportunities for community economic benefit as well as profitable bank activity. The Capstone team, through primary and secondary research, developed a detailed snapshot of the neighborhood, including demographic conditions, business patterns, and existing financial services. In addition, the team profiled the landscape of neighborhood organizations and identified opportunities for banking partnerships with local businesses as a way of expanding their reach in the neighborhood and increasing community member access to mainstream financial services.

New York City Department of Sanitation

Plastics Recycling in NYC: A Survey of Residents’ Understandings
NYC suffers from a low rate of plastics recycling, and the national plastic resin identification coding (RIC) system is undergoing revisions that may influence this trend. The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) seeks to identify the causes for the low rates in order to increase residential diversion of recyclable plastics. DSNY requested a Capstone team gather data through a consumer research study. The team held focus groups to inform design of a citywide survey, and the resulting survey was distributed to 10,000 NYC residents through community boards, professional and academic networks, social media channels, and community groups. The team analyzed the survey data to produce a report that will assist DSNY in assessing its outreach and education efforts. It also provided DSNY with statistics on the benefits and shortfalls of the current and proposed plastic labeling system. The final recommendations will be used to make recycling more efficient in NYC and to contribute to the national debate on plastics recycling behavior.

Brooklyn Borough President’s Office

Bedford-Union Armory Revitalization Project
Despite Brooklyn’s renaissance over the past decade, parts of central Brooklyn still suffer from chronic poverty, high unemployment, and lower educational attainment. The Brooklyn Borough President’s Office (BBPO) is currently conceptualizing a new initiative to provide comprehensive support services to central Brooklyn residents. The BBPO envisions the Bedford-Union Armory, located in central Brooklyn, as the home for this initiative, and tasked the Capstone team with identifying how the Armory can best serve the local community. The team began the community engagement process by holding an Armory Open House and Town Hall, allowing hundreds of residents to share ideas about potential services and programs. The team also interviewed dozens of stakeholders and researched comparable armory redevelopments and place-based revitalization efforts. The team’s final product is a public document containing recommendations on programming, operations, outreach, and improvements to the facility that together create a vision of what is possible at the Armory.

Restored Homes Housing Development Fund Corporation and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods

Foreclosure and Neighborhood Stabilization in Jamaica, Queens
Restored Homes (RH) Housing Development Fund Corporation was selected as the local nonprofit to implement the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) in New York City. NSP is a federal program created to address increases in home abandonment, blight, and crime, as well as the erosion of property values following the foreclosure crisis. Jamaica, Queens has been referred to as ground zero of the foreclosure crisis in New York City. RH uses $24 million in federal and city subsidies, and $32 million in private financing to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell HUD-owned and bank foreclosed properties to low-income buyers. RH partners with the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN), which works to identify and assist homeowners who are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. The Capstone team investigated a small section of Jamaica, identifying the current state of physical and financial distress in each home to create recommendations to improve programs to address unmet neighborhood needs.

Township of Woodbridge, New Jersey

Green Technology Park at Woodbridge
After taking office in 2006, Township of Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac identified the Pennval Road Redevelopment District as one of four priority project areas. The Township has since proposed that the 104-acre site be transformed from its current industrial, transportation, and waste management uses into a green technology park. The site has great potential, as it is conveniently located near a proposed transit village, not far from Woodbridge Center (a large area mall), and a New Jersey Transit railroad line that provides quick and easy access to Manhattan. A concept plan and implementation strategy was completed by consultants; it explored the possibility of establishing a green technology incubator, which would then be incorporated into the park upon its development, and it analyzed the potential costs associated with site remediation. Building on the concept plan and implementation strategy, the Capstone team conducted extensive benchmarking and research into demographic and economic conditions, in addition to creating a plan to guide the Township’s next steps. The plan included: land assemblage options, an assessment of the local development climate, potential financing resources, necessary public improvements and infrastructure requirements, suggested building typologies, recommendations for partner corporations and educational institutions, and steps to take toward environmental remediation. This plan also serves as a marketing package to attract potential developers to transform this site into a sustainable technology hub in Woodbridge.

The City of Rye, The Town of Mamaroneck, The Village of Mamaroneck, The Village of Larchmont, and the Rye YMCA

Completing Complete Streets
The Capstone team worked with the City of Rye, the Town of Mamaroneck, the Village of Mamaroneck, and the Village of Larchmont to create a Complete Streets Manual and a pilot implementation guide for bike sharrows (shared right-of-way markings). The manual covers four administrative areas--law and policy, planning process, public outreach and education, and maintenance and financing--and analyzes what steps can be taken in each area to further a program of improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. The recommendations in these areas were based in part on best practices research focusing on similar towns in the tri-state area and New England, compiled in an interim memorandum delivered to the clients. The sharrows guide takes the municipalities step-by-step through the implementation of bicycle sharrows, which the team considers a readily achievable project.

Manhattan Community Board 5

Penn Station Area Inventory and Recommendations for Community Board Five
The Capstone team worked with Manhattan’s Community Board Five (CB5) to inventory and assess current conditions and planned projects in the Penn Station area as a foundation for future community planning efforts and a potential 197-A plan. The study area extends from 8th Avenue to Lexington Avenue and from 59th Street to 14th Street. The team assessed opportunities and challenges in the area including open space, office and residential capacity, traffic and congestion management, and economic activity. As part of this assessment they analyzed digital data sources, conducted field surveys, and interviewed stakeholders. The final product was an assessment of the area and recommendations for further inquiry into zoning open space, transportation improvements, and economic development programs.

Two Bridges Neighborhood Council

Design Solutions for Public and Affordable Housing in the Lower East Side
The Lower East Side contains the second highest concentration of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing in Manhattan, and provides stable affordable housing in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The Capstone team explored best practices and policies for cultivating livable, affordable, interconnected, and vibrant communities that possess significant social, economic, and cultural diversity. The study provided a framework for broad application within the City of New York with a special focus on Lower Manhattan. NYCHA’s Smith and Vladeck Houses and their surrounding neighborhoods within Community Board 3 and the Two Bridges Neighborhood, serve as case studies for the project. The study provided urban design guidelines and recommendations for communities containing public and affordable housing that generate vibrant, livable, affordable, and well-resourced built environments.