My name is Elijah Ness and I am a fourth year student at Vassar College pursuing majors in Urban Studies and Chinese Language. This past Spring semester I have been working at Hudson River Housing as a Community Design intern. I have worked to develop a series of synthetic maps that depict housing conditions and occupancy rates on the Northside of Poughkeepsie. This has involved on-site surveying, data compilation and analysis, and mapping and design. The time I have spent at Hudson River Housing has been informative and engaging, specifically with respect to understanding the complexities of planning and design in the context of deep-seated community engagement.
Although most of my time was spent on the technical aspects of mapping, working in the HRH environment where every initiative was inextricably linked to a multitude of local Poughkeepsie constitutes drove home the connection between my own (often remote) work and the neighborhood I was working with. Mapping became not merely a project of static data representation but an active part in an on-going and collaborative process of planning, requiring me to continually re-evaluate my assumptions on my own role as a designer. Understanding the very specific role that my work would play in this larger process synthesized much of what I had read and discussed in the classroom concerning planning, but experiencing it first hand is an entirely new type of learning. Working firsthand with the frustrations and complexities involved was eye-opening and informative on an entirely different level from this previous “classroom knowledge”.
I am ultimately most grateful for the opportunity my time at HRH has given me to get to know the city of Poughkeepsie more closely. Attending school at a residential college located outside the city limits means I rarely get the chance to spend time in Poughkeepsie proper, and getting to know the city has been by far the most rewarding part of my time here. In addition to seeing the various HRH projects and endeavors (including the opening of the Poughkeepsie Underwear factory) my time spent in Poughkeepsie as an average commuter and resident has given me a newfound and enduring love for this city.