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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

NYC UFS People

***** This person no longer works with the US Forest Service Northern Research Station *****

Renae Reynolds

 Renae ReynoldsTitle: Project Coordinator, Science of the Living City
Unit: New York City Urban Field Station
Address: New York City Urban Field Station
431 Walter Reed Road
Fort Totten Cluster #2, Box #12
Bayside, Queens, NY 11359


  • MA. Theories of Urban Practice, Parsons New School for Design, 2015
  • BA. Sociology, Queens College, 2007

Civic & Professional Affiliations

  • Public Allies New York, Alumni Board
  • Rockaway Waterfront Alliance


Current Research

As project coordinator of the Science of The Living City program, I work directly with researchers and administrative staff at the NYC urban field station to support the design and produce of public programs including seminars, workshops, panels discussions, lectures, film screenings and more, to engage the general program, sharing research generated by experts at field station as well as other institutional partners; in publicly accessible formats, to increase science literacy and to increase partnership and collaboration opportunities among diverse academic, science, design and policy professionals and practitioners.

Past Research

As project coordinator of the Landscapes of Resilience project, my interest was to gain a deeper understanding of how social bonds are formed among people within a community of collective practice. The collective practice in the context of this project is the design, stewardship, and management of a community garden located at the Beach 41st Houses on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, NY. The space was previously devastated by hurricane Sandy, yet in its aftermath community members persist in caring for the space. Working collaboratively among team members including social science researchers Lindsay Campbell and Erika Svendsen from the USDA Forest Service, members of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), residents of the Beach 41st Houses and TILL; a landscape architecture firm, I coordinated the efforts of a growing network of team members and conducted observational research and interviews to address core research questions including:

  • What are the formal and informal norms and institutions that govern the creation, operation, and maintenance of a public housing resident garden?
  • What are the social dynamics of the community garden as it is reconstructed in the post-disturbance context of Hurricane Sandy?
  • How does a community organizing approach to garden development impact networked connectivity between the site and other nearby open spaces?
  • What lessons can be learned from this case study that can inform resilience planning and other community greening projects?

The Landscapes of Resilience project is generously supported by the TKF Foundation’s NatureSacred program.


My graduate thesis research analyzed the transformation of the Rockaway peninsula, with a focus on the vast amounts of loss experienced by former and newly arriving residents, and offered a creative solution to the consequent realities wrought by unimaginative and shortsighted urban renewal practices. While the analysis of this dense history sought to explain the shifts that occurred on the peninsula, this research also designed and implemented a Participatory Action Research (PAR) workshop, which engaged members of the youth population of the Rockaway community in a collaborative exploration of the local neighborhood histories. The premise of this work­shop was that history can and should be a reflective tool, which supports the healing of past social frac­tures, brought on by previously ill-informed urban practices. In this way the history of a neighborhood and the processes that form it become a guide to achieving an equitable and inclusive future.

The participatory action research workshop occurred over a six- week time frame, within which co-researchers considered their own identity and spatial awareness or their neighborhood.  The phases of the workshop were as follows:

  • Reflection:  Cognitive mapping was a method utilized for co-researchers to share personal reflections on how they viewed their neighborhood, what elements where most significant to them, what were their most critical concerns and how they physically navigated the perceived boundaries of their neighborhood.
  • Archival Research: Co-researchers examined how history is constructed and communicated through institutional mechanisms such as the public library. The analyzed documents and images reflecting the dominant narrative about their community in order to consider how their identity is informed by this information, as well as what events and whose experiences were missing from the archives.
  • Observation and Oral History Exchange: Connecting with senior members of the community offered a critical thread into the past of their community. The exchange of stories between young people and older residents of the community provided an opportunity for new social bounds and
  • Dissemination: Throughout the research we experimented with two methods of sharing our results and final product. We considered the development of a digital archive in order to increase access to community members as well as a podcast to add a new layer of dialogue to images and documents of the past. In addition to an interactive dialogue these platforms allow community members to become active and empowered to engage with and contribute to construction of their communities’ local history.   

Last Modified: 11/01/2017