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The Research & Policy Brief is published every other month and highlights research and policy-relevant work on a variety of important community development topics. CaRDI publications are designed to provide our readers with research-based, policy-relevant information to help foster dialogue at the local, regional and state-level, and to inform public and private decision-making around critical community and economic development issues.

The Research & Policy Briefs are written by university faculty, state agency representatives, and CCE Educators, among other partners and collaborators.

The Research & Policy Briefs are free for public reproduction with proper accreditation. For questions and comments about the briefs, or any other CaRDI publication, please contact Robin Blakely-Armitage at rmb18@cornell.edu.

Research Policy Briefs

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Creative Placemaking: Linking Arts, Culture, and Community Development

Feb 1, 2016

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 71
By Paula Horrigan, Cornell University

It is a familiar scenario in the downtowns of many “rust belt” cities across the Northeast: Oneida Square in Utica, New York, lacks social activity and aesthetic appeal, there are few places to sit or safely walk, and it is known around town as an unwelcoming and unsafe place. This area of Utica has seen some recent infrastructure upgrades—a roundabout, new sidewalks, and lighting—but it still falls dramatically short in the neighborhood and city’s eyes. Utica and underserved neighborhoods like Oneida Square bear a visible legacy of disinvestment, urban decay, and public spaces that prioritize automobiles over people.

Yet Oneida Square is a home to one of Utica’s most diverse downtown neighborhoods in a city hoping to benefit from the trend of people returning to cities. Cities rich in arts and culture attract people because of their quality of life, character, and opportunities for participation and investment. A growing movement called creative placemaking puts arts and culture at the center of community development efforts. Utica’s Oneida Square has been the focus of recent creative placemaking activities that have had positive effects on the neighborhood.

Conservation and land use Figure 1

Conservation and Land Use: Linking Municipal Capacity and Biodiversity Outcomes

Dec 16, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 70

From zoning to wetland protection to decisions about  how to allocate land for open space or development, municipal governments make decisions that can significantly impact habitat and natural areas. The clear role of local decision makers in conserving biodiversity has led to calls for greater incorporation of ecology and conservation biology principles in local land use planning.

To educate and support decision makers in the 260 municipal governments of the biodiverse and populous Hudson River Estuary watershed, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University established the Conservation and Land Use Program in 2001. The extension program provides planning tools, training, and technical and financial assistance to municipal officials in the watershed.

It is important to understand how well this type of extension programming can influence municipal land use practices to achieve meaningful conservation outcomes. Using the Conservation and  Land Use Program as its focus, a recent study examined how conservation of habitat and natural areas is incorporated into land use planning by municipal officials who have participated in the program.

Engaging Municipal Officials to Improve Natural Resource-Based Planning

Engaging Municipal Officials in Improving Natural Resource-Based Planning

Dec 1, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 69 
By Karen Strong [1], Laura Heady [1], Shorna Allred [2], Richard Stedman [2], and Caroline Tse [2]

New York State’s (NYS) Hudson River Estuary watershed contains many unique and high-quality ecological communities. Although the watershed is only 13.5% of NYS’s land area, 85% of the state’s bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species occur here [i]. Situated between New York City and Albany, the watershed is also home to nearly three million people. Population growth and sprawling development patterns have stressed the watershed’s natural systems [ii]. Land use planning is a key step toward balancing future growth and development with protection of natural resources. The responsibility for conservation and planning often falls to the watershed’s 260 towns, cities, and villages.

In 2001, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program partnered with Cornell University to address the key biodiversity threat of habitat loss and fragmentation not being met by existing laws and programs. With funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund [iii], extension staff at Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources developed a comprehensive outreach program called the Conservation and Land Use Program to help communities respond to the challenge of incorporating natural resource protections into land use decisions.

Informed decision making

Improving Community Communication around Controversial Issues

Oct 1, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 68
By Robin M. Blakely-Armitage and David L. Kay, Cornell University

Every year, in every community, local officials deliberate and make decisions about schools, roads, budget or development priorities, zoning rights, and other issues that are important to their constituents. Elected and appointed officials in New York State communities are expected to be well-informed about the often complex and sometimes controversial issues their communities face.

At the same time, trust in most traditional institutions and sources of information, including government and higher education, has declined. Decision making processes at all levels—local, state, and national—have become increasingly polarized and contentious. While universities like Cornell offer valuable resources, given this context, how can university researchers and Extension educators help local leaders access, interpret, and utilize relevant information with which to address complex or controversial issues?

Evaluating visitor experiences in NYS parks

Analyzing Online Reviews: New Tools for Evaluating Visitor Experiences

Aug 1, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 67
By By Hari Prasad Udayapuram and Srinagesh Gavirneni, Cornell University

The New York State (NYS) park system consists of 214 parks and historic sites, over 2,000 miles of trails, 67 beaches, and 8,355 campsites. It attracts approximately 60 million visitors every year. The State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation is responsible for operating and maintaining the state park system, and one of its strategic priorities is to “Increase, Deepen, and Improve the Visitor Experience”. Visitor feedback is integral to achieving this objective, but traditional feedback methods – public meetings, web-based surveys and comment cards – are often tedious, expensive, and limited by low participation. Public online review platforms such as TripAdvisor, offer a large volume of visitor feedback that could vastly improve how NYS park managers and other community leaders concerned with tourism or business development currently understand and improve visitor experiences.

Sprawl image

An Opportunity to Make NY Smarter about Smart Growth

Jun 1, 2015

Issue 66 / Research & Policy Brief / June 2015
By Russell Glynn and David Kay, Cornell University

Urban sprawl and its negative impacts have become a potent catalyst for new policy action—often termed “smart growth” policies—over the  last decade. At its worst, sprawl has drained urban and  village centers of key employment and retail opportunities while marginalizing the poor, degrading  farmland and open  space, and promoting growth in private vehicle use among those able to “buy in” to suburban living. New York State (NYS), arguably the creator of the development pattern now associated with the term, took decisive action against publicly subsidized sprawl with passage of the State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act in 2010.

Median household income graph

Broadband's Contribution to Economic Health in Rural Areas. Research & Policy Brief, Issue 64.

Feb 1, 2015

The diffusion of broadband Internet access across America during the 2000s brought with it a significant amount of concern that rural areas might be left behind in terms of the availability, adoption, and benefits of this technology. While much has been made about the potential benefits of broadband for rural communities, the presence of a rural – urban broadband “digital divide” is well documented in the economic literature.

The Importance of Farm Labor in the NYS Yogurt Boom

The Importance of Farm Labor in the NYS Yogurt Boom

Oct 1, 2014

By Mary Jo Dudley, Cornell University
While there has been a great deal of discussion about how New York State (NYS) can take advantage of the yogurt boom, little attention has been paid to ensuring the labor supply required to support an increased demand for milk.

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