As part of the WHSAD Makerspace presentation series, Mr. Winston Von Engel spoke to students about the intricacies of getting jobs done in New York City. Through an investigation of New York City history in both its social and architectural aspects, Mr. Von Engel provided a clear connection between societal needs and the building that goes on in a city such as New York.
Below is the full video of Mr. Von Engel’s presentation along with some student takeaways.
Today in the WHSAD Makerspace Studio, we had Winston Von Engel as our guest speaker. He is director of the Brooklyn Borough Office of the NYC Department of City Planning and works for Mayor Bill de Blasio. Before entering where he is now, he took a five-year architecture program and graduated from Pratt Institute. In the presentation, he began talking about “Contextualized Design in the Neighborhood” and his experience working as a director. He also took us back to the days of the conditions that used to be in New York City and the years when places we all know such as the Brooklyn Bridge or Central Park were built.
Further into the presentation, Winston explained there was a decrease in New York’s population in 1980 due to housing conditions and where people began to abandon their buildings or where they lived. But as the city’s budget stabilized, the city began working on renovating many abandoned buildings like in East New York in Brooklyn. During these years, few housing programs in New York City were made to help lower-income families, people with disabilities, and the elderly. In 1990, crime, such as murders, was increasing in New York where some neighborhoods were not safe for people to live, and in 2000, New York City began to grow or reach its population peak in 30 years. By the end of 2019, New York City had over 4.0 million private jobs and 4.1% unemployment.
One fact mentioned in the presentation was anti-development are people who don’t like changes such as new housing, stores, cafes, or any zoning changes. Another fact is that new buildings are being built where the population is growing, and people can pay for the housing, where people want to live or where buildings are allowed to be built.
-Emely Patino, Senior
Winston Von Engel, who works for the Department of City Planning gave us a presentation titled, “How the Real World Works”. Not only was this presentation extremely informative but it was also very interactive. The beginning of Mr. Von Engel’s presentation included lots of important dates significant to New York City. He mentioned that building laws were first regulated in court during 1879 because the population started increasing rapidly. He then mentioned that Central Park was completed in 1883, and the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 as well. Lots of these significant landmarks in NYC have gone through their own share of history significance because they are what make up NYC. New York City has faced several crises like the current pandemic. He mentioned how building has been affected and how much our economy has been affected but somehow the city always comes back. The struggles of the city have driven over 700,000 people out of NYC between the 1970s and 1980s and because of this the city has changed, but by 2000 the city had regained its population, which continues to show how NYC will always overcome its struggles.
Later on in Mr. Von Engel’s presentation he presented a pop quiz and fun facts: one being that NYC is the only big city that depends on mass transit unlike other cities that depend on cars. New York City is actually the city with the least amount of energy use per person because of how compact the city actually is. Later on during the pop quiz one of his questions was “Who has the greater population growth between New York City and the U.S.” I then answered that I thought it was New York City, on which he asked me why I thought that New York City had a greater population growth than the U.S.? I said “I believe NYC had a greater population growth because of the endless amount of opportunity found in such a big city like NYC.” He then responded that the U.S. actually has the greatest population growth because of the other cities and that although NYC was a big city it only had a 2.0% population growth. This was extremely interesting to me because of how many jobs I have seen living in NYC.
Mr. Von Engel then spoke about the zoning and gentrification in NYC. He mentioned several neighborhoods well known to us and how much they have changed over time because of the needed improvements like affordable housing. During the Q & A, I asked what were some challenges he faced as a city planner. He said that it was hard knowing that people are distrustful of the government and the development. He continues to say that it sucks that people don’t trust the city enough to believe in the changes.
Overall, Mr. Von Engel’s presentation was way more than informative; it was extremely eye-opening to see how much our city has changed. I am beyond excited to see what the future brings for New York City.
-Mayra Gomez, Senior
Being able to get an understanding of Winston Von Engel and his job as a City Planner has been a very intriguing part of my week. Mr. Von Engel, through his presentation and answers to the questions from myself and coworkers, provided us with very informative details on subjects that have opened my eyes toward the future and my own current job. Mr. Von Engel spoke on the importance of helping the lower class before their homes are stripped away through gentrification and changes to the job and home markets. He provided me with more knowledge on other things to take into consideration with zoning; things such as making sure that lower income families and their homes are safe and allowed to remain in their home. Other considerations such as birth rate and immigration are two topics I’ve never thought about in my small time learning the zones of an area.
Winston Von Engel was a joy to listen to, and his work has been intriguing to hear about. The more that he spoke, the more I thought of the city and even the country differently. I’ve never known the fact that New York is the greenest state as far as energy consumption. Each topic he brought up felt like new knowledge being brought to me that I know will remain useful for many years to come. His presentation and all of the information he granted us was truly something special.
-Gilver Bueno, Senior
Mr. Winston came to Makerspace to present about city planning and zoning in New York City. After his informative and interactive presentation, I was able to ask him questions about the correlation between zoning and city planning. The other question I asked was about his motivation for being in the field of city planning. He answered the first question with zoning is a tool for city planning. Zoning is the many components of planning in a city like NYC. The needs of an area are looked at through many things like population growth and birth rate. Then zoning is incorporated to reach the point of a well-planned city. This response is fascinating because I am surprised by the fact how zoning is a tool, not just rules to restrict people with. The answer to the second question is he got into city planning after being invited to contribute to a project in East New York. I find that answer really motivating since all it needs is the right mindset of serving others, any field can become helpful, like city planning.
I found Mr. Winston Von Engel’s presentation really informative and interactive. At the beginning of the presentation, he provided something of a history class about New York City. He talked about significant events that took place in NYC, such as the crack-cocaine epidemic, which I never knew about, that caused crime (including murder) rates to go up. Another event is 9/11, which had a devastating effect on the country and the people, especially the people who are related to the ones that died in this event. On top of directly giving information, Mr. Von Engel interacted with students by incorporating a pop quiz. The answer to each pop quiz question was really shocking, especially knowing that NYC is the greenest place in energy consumption. After the pop quiz, he talked about zoning. He spoke about how more zoning is done with new buildings going up, and the wrong mindset is developed, known as zoning discrimination. He believes these mindsets should not have happened as he stated you have an umbrella because it’s raining, not because you have an umbrella, raining will occur. He is saying that new buildings are going up because people are moving there, not for any sort of discrimination. Overall this experience with him is really informative and interactive.
-Yu Feng Zhou, Senior