EP Student Jah Elyse Sayers Shares “to be unmade, to be unfinished, to only ever be-with”

In May, EP student Jah Elyse Sayers wrote an essay titled “to be unmade, to be unfinished, to only ever be-with” to accompany the film The Smallest Unit is Each Other (Jonathan González, 2021). The film is currently playing as part of González’s exhibit at the Project Room at BRIC House until May 8, 2022, and can also be viewed online (Click here).

Jonathan González, The Smallest Unit is Each Other (video still), 2021

“The smallest unit is each other”: a radical declaration in itself and an opening to the imperative to refuse to see or be any smaller. It is a potent poetic formulation with the potential to color reading, assessment, action—a lens for a worldview. In the 35 minutes following the 10-second holding of the title, this declaration, The Smallest Unit is Each Other, on the screen, Jonathan González constructs a six-sided film through which to breathe life into this declaration. While González names the sides as “like a cassette,” we might imagine a living hexahedron, six sides coordinated into angular and mobile relations. If “abolition geography starts with the homely premise that freedom is a place,” this hexahedral space traces out freedom’s infrastructure and offers many openings to step inside (Gilmore, 2017, p. 227). The flexibility and spaciousness that González coordinates move with the ongoingness of Black radical tradition, most centrally responding to Sylvia Wynter’s calls for a transformed humanity by way of the Third Event, or our reflexive evolution as a species through intentional telling of new stories . Per Wynter’s vividly transdisciplinary theorizing, it is our stories that make us, down to the synapses. She names the storyteller’s imperative as being to “come to know/think/feel/behave and subjectively experience ourselves… in quite different terms” (Wynter & McKittrick, 2015, p. 45). The Smallest Unit is Each Other holds open a space for feeling out, thinking through, and beginning or renewing a commitment to experiencing ourselves, that is being, differently, by only ever being-with.”

Jonathan González, The Smallest Unit is Each Other (video still), 2021

Gilmore, R. W. (2017). Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence. In Futures of Black Radicalism. Verso.

Wynter, S., & McKittrick, K. (2015). Unparalleled Catastrophe for our Species? Or, to Give Humaness a Different Future: Conversations. In Sylvia Wynter: On being human as praxis (pp. 9–89). Duke University Press.
Jonathan González (they/them) is an educator, cultural organizer, farmer, and artist at the intersections of performance and time-based media. Their recent projects and collaborations include those at MoMA, MoMA PS1, Abrons Arts Center Performance Space New York, and Danspace Project, all NY; and Paragon Arts Gallery, Portland, OR. They have done residencies and Fellowships at BRIC, LMCC, NARS, Jerome Foundation, Mertz Gilmore, Art Matters, and Performance Art/Theater Foundation for Contemporary Arts. González holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.
 Jah Elyse Sayers (they/them) is a doctoral student in Environmental Psychology. They use poetic and participatory methods to study the ways queer and trans Black, indigenous, and people of color (QTBIPOC) make and maintain place and the factors that support QTBIPOC placemaking. They frequently work with ideas of belonging, disposability, histories, and futurity whether they are crafting clocks from scrap metal; facilitating Afrofuturism workshops; making performance art; or researching the ways QTBIPOC turn pathologized and discarded geographies into sites of home, dreaming, scheming and liberation.

EP Alum Dr. Brown Appointed as Race and Gender in the Built Environment Fellow!

EP Alum Todd Brown Appointed as University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture’s 2021-23 Race and Gender in the Built Environment Fellow

Interdisciplinary environmental scholar brings expertise in environmental justice, social equity to teaching and research

Congrats, Dr. Brown!

Please see the press brief below:

AUSTIN, Texas – The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture continues to build its Race and Gender in the Built Environment initiative with the appointment of Todd Brown as the school’s 2021-2023 Race and Gender in the Built Environment Fellow.

An interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in environmental psychology, architecture, and public health, Brown’s research interests lie at the intersection of race, space, and place, and focus on increasing environmental justice and social equity in the built environment. Incorporating empirical methodologies with critical social sciences, Brown’s research seeks to problematize and elucidate the various racial—and other crucial social—factors that mediate human-environmental relationships.

“As an environmental psychologist with training in architecture, Todd Brown will bring a new, interdisciplinary perspective to our school,” said Michelle Addington, dean of the School of Architecture. “This fresh perspective, paired with Todd’s expertise in two of the most critical issues we’re facing as a society—gentrification and environmental justice—will help expand and push our discourse forward in a very meaningful way.”

Established in Fall 2016, the School of Architecture’s Race and Gender in the Built Environment initiative facilitates diversity among students and design and planning professionals and cultivates diversity in teaching and research on race and gender-related inquires in American cities. The initiative also endows an Emerging Scholar Fellowship position, which supports the development of future scholars whose work centers on the relationships and intersections between race, gender, and the built environment in the fields represented within the school. Partially funded by UT Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the program positions the university as a leader in addressing critical and complex social issues in design and planning pedagogy and practice.

Brown comes to The University of Texas at Austin with a Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology from the City University of New York Graduate Center, as well as a Master of Public Health in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, a Master of Architecture, and a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His dissertation research explored the relationship between physical environmental cues and the production of sociospatial imaginaries of the built environment in gentrifying Central Harlem, and demonstrated how constructs such as race, class, and gender are “read” in physical places, often through seemingly mundane architectural features, urban streetscapes, or even specific objects.

“It is truly refreshing and inspiring to join an architectural program with a specific interest in and commitment to examining the roles of race and gender—among other social constructs—in the production of the built environment,” Brown said. “I hope that my work at the UT Austin School of Architecture will contribute to expanding knowledge on how architecture and other physical spaces embody such constructs, both positively and negatively, while critiquing and exploring design interventions as remedial tools for socio-spatial disparities.”

Since 2016, the UT School of Architecture has welcomed five different Race & Gender in the Built Environment Fellows to the school, the most recent of which was Adam Miller, who served as Fellow from 2019-2021. During his tenure, Miller taught design studios and seminars focused on the relationship between aesthetics, power, and identity via the lens of the queer body, queer space, and queer architecture. Previous fellows include Sara Zewde (2018-2019), Edna Ledesma (2017-2018), and Andrea Roberts and Anna Livia Brand (2016-2017).

Congrats to EP Graduate Dr. Todd Levon Brown!

Dr. Todd Levon Brown completed his dissertation, Environmental Cues and the Sociospatial Imaginary: An Examination of Spatial Perception and Meaning-making in a Gentrifying Neighborhood and received his doctoral degree in Environmental Psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

Congrats, Dr.  Brown!

Dr. Todd Brown is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Overall, his empirically focused psychosocial research lies at the intersection of race, space and place with a desired outcome of increased environmental justice and social equity in architecture, urban design and planning. His dissertation research explores the sensory cues that generate spatial and social imaginaries of the built environment. In this line of inquiry, he is interrogating what environmental elements—such as design features and other physical properties—are used in the development of different individuals’ environmental schema about the socio-physical and racial characteristics of various urban spaces. His previous research has examined the relationship between the perception of architectural space as racialized and its evaluation and meaning. In this research, he examined the role of architecture in the social dynamics of gentrification by exploring the effects of perceived spatial whiteness/non-whiteness on the perception and evaluation of architectural spaces.


EP Student Eve Klein on “Decolonizing Design Research”

A reflection on the AIA New York | Center for Architecture workshop series, “Decolonizing Design Research”, Environmental Psychology student Eve Klein, Fauzia Khanani, & Shawhin Roudbari  will be presenting at Environmental Design Research Association on Friday, May 21, at 3:15 PM EST. Join them as they discuss “Decolonizing Design Research: Scholarship, Application, Activism and Assessment”.


Eve Klein is an architect and planner specializing in cultural institutions and higher education.  She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Environmental Psychology at CUNY with a focus on how spaces promote inclusion of diverse populations.  Eve received her B.A. from Vassar College, majoring in American Culture, with a focus on Art History and Geography.  She earned her Arch. from UCLA.
In her career as an architect, she trained at Polshek Partnership Architects [now Ennead], where cultural institutions and schools were her primary clients, they included: NYU, NYC School Construction Authority, The Public Theater, Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas.  She also ran her own architectural design practice, served as an advisor for the National Design Awards at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and worked at the American Federation for the Arts.
Following her work in architectural practice, she was NYU’s Assistant Vice President of Strategic Assessment Planning and Design, overseeing facilities planning and space management at the University. In this position, she had the opportunity to develop the program for the newly opened Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life with members of NYU’s clergy. The collaboration of multi-faith clergy on this complex project inspired her current academic and consulting work.
She currently serves on the Advisory Board of NYU’s Of Many Institute, the Board of Directors of the Center for Architecture, and the Board of Directors of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun.

EP Student Javier Otero Peña on Just and Livable Cities

Congrats to Javier for being recognized by the CUNY Graduate Center! Please see the following Student Spotlight:

“In his first published paper, Environmental Psychology Ph.D. student Javier Otero Peña  takes a step toward his goal of understanding why people do or do not use public spaces, and what those spaces mean to them.

“What drove me to this field, and to a Ph.D. in environmental psychology, is a desire to make cities more just and livable,” Otero Peña said.

Otero Peña was first author on the new paper, which examines park use in low-income neighborhoods around New York City. The study appears in Frontiers in Public Health.

Otero Peña and his co-authors found that while the physical environment of the park and surrounding neighborhood do have some relevance to how often people use the park, the social environment is more important. Since current urban planning efforts don’t often focus on social interactions, Otero Peña hopes the findings can inform new ideas and methods.

The researchers recorded observations at 54 parks in low-income neighborhoods with predominantly Hispanic and Black residents. They also used survey responses from 904 residents, collected through the PARCS study, a collaboration between the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The results showed that when people felt more trust and social cohesion with their neighbors, they were more likely to use nearby parks. Parks with more things to do — more athletic and children’s facilities, and more event programming — also saw more use.

The new study is also the first to quantitatively look at the relationship between stop-and-frisk incidence and park usage. Areas with higher numbers of stops had lower park use.

“Several qualitative studies, some by The Graduate Center’s Public Science Project, had already found that these policing practices resulted in low-income residents, especially Black and Latinx folks, changing their public space use patterns for fear of police harassment,” Otero Peña said. “Our study supports their findings and we hope to encourage city authorities to review their current practices and design holistic approaches to guarantee not only physical, but also social access to parks in low-income, minority-majority neighborhoods.”

With his first paper just published, Otero Peña already has several more in the works. One paper will take a look at the Guerilla Gallery, a participatory mural in East Harlem, and another will explore how low-income residents perceive park renovations in their gentrifying neighborhoods.

For Otero Peña, who is from Venezuela, these academic endeavors are just a continuation of work he was already doing out of a passion for the subject.

“Back in Caracas, my hometown, I organized cultural events in neglected and underused public spaces to promote their use and to foster a sense of belonging and attachment,” he said, “but back then, I had no knowledge or means to measure the impact of my interventions.”

Today, Otero Peña has the tools and resources to make these measurements. He works with his adviser, Professor Setha Low, in The Graduate Center’s Public Space Research Group, and with Professor Terry Huang in the Center for Systems and Community Design at CUNY SPH. Both professors were also co-authors on the new paper.

According to Otero Peña, this kind of collaboration is an important part of putting together a successful study.

“Do not hesitate to reach out to others who can contribute to the paper and make it more solid,” he advised. “I would not have been able to publish this paper on my own.” Graduate students should not fear rejection by journals, either, or take it personally Otero Peña said, as there are many reasons a publication might not want a certain study.

“Push through!” Otero Peña said. “Your first paper does not have to be perfect. This is not the apex of your career: just the beginning.” ”

Javier Otero Peña is a PhD candidate in Environmental Psychology from Caracas, Venezuela. Javier is the Student Advisor for the M.S. in Data Analysis and Visualization at The Graduate Center, CUNY. He is also a research associate at the Public Space Research Group, and a research assistant for the PARCS study in the CUNY School for Public Health. His dissertation looks at park use, park renovations and place attachment in New York City.

Year End Event

All are invited to our Environmental Psychology Year End Event

May 14th at 10 AM EDT

Presentations include:

Melissa Checker on The Sustainability Myth

Fernanda Blanco Vidal and Erin Lilli on Teaching EP Critically

Chris Hoffman on TESANDA

Irina Shirobokova and Shokraan Rahiminezhad on Being There without Being There

An Open Call for Updates and Shares from the EP Community

And a Toast to David Chapin and Susan Saegert

Click Here for more information!

Congrats to EP Faculty Susan Opotow for her APA Presidential Citation



Environmental Psychology Faculty Member Susan Opotow, PhD, was awarded a Presidential Citation for her commitment to the identification and elimination of all forms of social injustice.

Susan Opotow’s research focuses on injustice and investigates the socio-political/ psychological contexts in which the scope of justice — the extent of our justice concerns for others — widens or narrows. Dr. Opotow’s theoretical work on injustice is based on my empirical studies utilizing quantitative, qualitative, and historical methods to examine how, when, and why injustice directed at marginalized groups is rendered ‘normal.’ Dr. Opotow also studies the complementary, inclusionary process, when justice concerns, rights, and resources are extended more broadly within a society to widen the scope of justice. Dr. Opotow has situated this scholarship within several productive contexts that include environmental conflict, public schooling, post-war (i.e., USA Civil War, World War II) change, and museum exhibitions on historical injustice.

Opotow’s service to APA includes membership on the Committee on International Relations in Psychology, membership on and chair of the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest, and membership on the Board for Educational Affairs. She served as president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and is a long-standing member of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. She was an editor of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology. Furthermore, she served on the editorial boards of Social Justice ResearchJournal of Social and Political PsychologyQuantitative Psychology, and Human Ecology Review.

As the award makes clear, Opotow has made “Outstanding contributions as a scholar, teacher, and mentor. Her research has inspired conflict resolution scholars and practitioners around the world.”

Click here to read more! 


EP and CSP Students Share Transnational Research

“Transnational Inquiries and Solidarities” was a panel of five graduate students who discussed their work on at the Graduate Center CUNY’s Psychology Research Day. The panel shared their original work on the  critical edges and affects of working around refugee crisis in Germany, critical/liberatory psychology across national borders in interviews with US and Salvadoran therapists, the delicacies of decolonizing/documenting the praxis of women activists in Africa, the vision of creating the transnational network, and “radical dreams” for transnational psychological inquiry.

EP student Chris Hoffman shared his work with EP faculty member Michelle Fine and other scholars on establishing a network of transnational scholars. Click here to learn more about TESANDA.

Congrats to Ruth Wilson Gilmore for Joining American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The Graduate Center of The City University of New York celebrates the election of Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest and most prestigious honorary societies in the United States.  Ruth Wilson Gilmore is an affiliated professor with Environmental Psychology.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore is Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and American Studies, and the Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. she also serves on the Executive Committee of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean. Co-founder of many grassroots organizations including the  California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network, Gilmore is author of the prize-winning Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (UC Press). Recent publications include “Beyond Bratton” (Policing the Planet, Camp and Heatherton, eds., Verso); “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence” (Futures of Black Radicalism, Lubin and Johnson, eds., Verso); a foreword to Bobby M. Wilson’s Birmingham classic America’s Johannesburg (U Georgia Press); and a foreword to Cedric J. Robinson on Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism, and Cultures of Resistance (HLT Quan, ed., Pluto). Forthcoming projects include Change Everything: Racial Capitalism and the Case for Abolition (Haymarket); Abolition Geography (Verso); plus a collection of Stuart Hall’s writing on race and difference (co-edited with Paul Gilroy, Duke UP). Gilmore has lectured in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. In April 2019  Rachel Kushner profiled her in The New York Times Magazine. Honors include the American Studies Association Angela Y. Davis Award for Public Scholarship (2012); the Association of American Geographers Harold Rose Award for Anti-Racist Research and Practice (2014); the SUNY-Purchase College Eugene V. Grant Distinguished Scholar Prize for Social and Environmental Justice (2015-16); the American Studies Association Richard A Yarborough Mentorship Award (2017); The Association of American Geographers Lifetime Achievement Award (2020); and most recently (along with Angela Y. Davis and Mike Davis) she was named winner of 2020 Lannan Foundation Lifetime Cultural Freedom Prize.
Research Interests: Structural Adjustment & New Alignments: Revolution and Reform; Race, Space, and Place: Environments and Movements; Infrastructure; Prison; The Movement of Capital and Labor: Urban-Rural Continuities; The African Diaspora.

Unparalleled Prospect: the crises of public health and social injustice and the expansion of public space, presented by Vikas Mehta, PhD

Please join us for our upcoming PSRG Network Event, Unparalleled Prospect: the crises of public health and social injustice and the expansion of public space, presented by Vikas Mehta, PhD


COVID-19 has forced an adaptation of urban space. This public health crises with all the disparities and inequities, has also brought a remarkable change — limited access to formal spaces has driven people to claim agency to appropriate space, particularly in neighborhoods. This is an unparalleled prospect, an unusual opportunity to rethink the making of public space.


Vikas Mehta, PhD, is a Professor of Urbanism, the Fruth/Gemini chair and Ohio Eminent Scholar of urban/environmental design at the University of Cincinnati.



Event information

May 7, 2021 / 12:00ET / On the Web


Zoom registration Link

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://gc-cuny-edu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvd-6rpzIrH9NYHk4xM7jnMTHMQXefWt4p [gc-cuny-edu.zoom.us]

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

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 Supported by the CUNY Doctoral Students Council.