Current Loeb Fellow Angelyn Chandler, a licensed architect who has been working in New York City for over twenty years, believes in the transformative powers of parks. Before joining the Loeb Fellowship, Chandler was working in the NYC Parks Department and established the Landfill and Brownfield Task Force. She’s been an active leader in the development of the 2200-acre Freshkills Park – a site that was formerly not only the world’s largest landfill, but surpassed the Great Wall of China as the largest man-made structure on the planet. After Hurricane Sandy hit New York on October 29th, 2012, Chandler saw leading the effort to rebuild devastated shoreline as an opportunity to rethink how city dwellers engage with coastal zones.
I recently spoke with Chandler about her experience working at NYC Parks as well as her time as a Loeb Fellow so far, which inspired the illustrated day-in-the-life image included here.
Jen Saura: What were you doing before you came to Harvard as a Loeb Fellow?
Angelyn Chandler: Working for NYC Parks as the Freshkills Park Capital Program Manager and leading the design of the reconstruction of NYC's beaches following Hurricane Sandy.
JS: What were some of the projects on which you worked at the NYC Parks Department?
AC: Besides Freshkills Park and the beaches, the High Line Headquarters, Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, and the American Airlines Flight 587 Memorial (following 9/11).
JS: Tell us about your work at Freshkills Park–are there any common misconceptions about the project?
AC: The main preconception is that it will be open soon. The site is 2200 acres. We are currently working to obtain the permits for the first 20 acre park section on the landfill. Design is complete or in progress on another 500 acres. The pace of permitting and availability of funding will determine the rate at which the park gets completed.
JS: What was your role in the post-Sandy reconstruction and how did it differ from non-crisis construction projects you worked on at the NYC Parks Department?
AC: I was responsible for leading the design effort for NYC Parks. I managed 8 design consultant teams working to renovate and improve buildings damaged by the storm, design and fabricate 35 new modular buildings, and design new boardwalk, landscape and signage. The main difference with this project was the time frame: we had 5 months to design, bid and build this work. Normally this size of project would take years.
JS: What does a typical day in your life at the GSD look like?
AC: I attend class(es), maybe go to a lecture, maybe meet a professor or student for coffee, do reading for class, maybe work on artwork for my sculpture class (last semester) or for myself, go running (am training for a half-marathon in April), try to make progress on independent projects or post-Loeb work plans, and have dinner with my housemates.
JS: Is there anyone at the GSD that you were particularly excited to work with this year?
Peter del Tredici. He took the Freshkills Park team on a tour of Spectacle Island, and then we gave him a tour of Freshkills. He is working with us on planting projects at Freshkills Park.
JS: Are there any projects on which you are working right now that have come out of your Loeb Fellowship time?
AC: I took a J-term class in experimental casting techniques. I am getting ready to do a series of casts using packaging as molds. And I would like to do a photographic or video study of the way people use parks and landscapes, both currently and historically.
For me the best projects are those with complex teams, big budgets, and big civic impact. I’ve been making a lot of artwork during my time as a Loeb Fellow, and I believe that creative, hands-on projects will only enrich my work related to expanding NYC’s greenspace.