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New Jersey Meadowlands: Planning the Ecology of Disappearance, 1929–2004

Sevin Yildiz, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Summer Fellow 2011

During my stay at Dumbarton Oaks, my research focused on two different things : the theoretical underpinnings that structure the framework of my dissertation and the historic understanding of my case study in a large regional perspective. My first aim was to go through the works on ecology from the fields of planning and environmental history at Dumbarton Oaks collection, to attain an understanding of the evolution of the ecological city discourse in the early twentieth century. Dumbarton Oaks has selected papers from planning conferences as early as 1935 which benefited me for understanding the roots of planning tradition's relationship to the landscape. The review of these publications along with more recent debates on ecology provided me with crossovers for understanding the evolution of ecological city concept throughout the twentieth century. This was particularly helpful in situating the case study of the New Jersey Meadowlands in a larger perspective of ecological planning for my dissertation.

The Meadowlands which has been conceptualized and perceived as a wasteland, a marshland, an ecological estuary, a piece of urban wilderness intersected by major transportation infrastructure, has always been in the middle of major urban changes in the region. Being close to the densest urban center in the northeastern seaboard, New York City, the Meadowlands played all the roles; an example of New Jersey's diverse natural environments, an independent entity of its own and the backyard of the metropolis overshadowing. The specific relationship to the metropolis made up the second part of my research at Dumbarton Oaks. This second part, which was equally productive as the first part, was the preparation for an article I am writing for the SACRPH conference in November 2011. I spent many hours in the stacks or on historic books from ILL services to understand how the Meadowlands related to the metropolis especially in the early nineteenth century.