December 17, 2009

Progress and People: Redevelopment in Easton

A multidisciplinary student-faculty team is evaluating the impact of redevelopment on residents and neighbors of a public housing neighborhood. Lauren Buisson ’10 writes

Lauren Buisson ’10 is a member of a multidisciplinary student-faculty team that is working with the City of Easton to assess the personal and economic impact on residents who have been displaced as Easton’s aging Delaware Terrace public housing neighborhood is redeveloped to create a new mixed-income community.

The College’s Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government has been engaged by the Easton Housing Authority to evaluate the execution and impact of the redevelopment project, which is funded by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOPE VI revitalization grant.

“Our evaluation centers on the impact on the displaced and neighboring residents of Delaware Terrace,” explains John Kincaid, Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service and director of the Meyner Center. A third focus area is the social services the Housing Authority provides to new residents of Delaware Terrace.

The team of faculty evaluators represents disciplines necessary for an effective evaluation. Jamila Bookwala, associate professor of psychology, is focusing on the project’s psychological impact on displaced elderly residents. Mark Crain, Simon Professor of Political Economy, and David Shulman, associate professor of anthropology and sociology, are evaluating the residents’ economic and social well-being.

Buisson, a psychology major from Moraga, Calif., plans to attend graduate school in speech and language pathology. She writes:

Since Fall 2008, I have been assisting Professor Bookwala and working with Emily Esteve ’10 and Kelly Sendelsky ’10 and Lafayette faculty members on a research project that is examining the impact of redevelopment in a local community.

For the past year, we administered telephone interviews that emphasized the psychological, economic, and social ramifications of the Delaware Terrace relocation process; assisted with focus groups; reviewed archival data; and ran statistical analyses assessing over 200 variables. In addition, I maintained and analyzed confidential records that were required for a baseline and initial report to the Housing Authority of the City of Easton on relocation feedback.

Currently, I am designing the second-round telephone survey to gather additional feedback for the second annual report, which will be written in the spring.  We are also hoping to present our findings at a regional symposium or conference.

Professor Bookwala has not only been a supportive and readily available adviser on this project, but also an influential mentor who encourages me to explore and to appreciate analysis of very rich and complex data. Through this EXCEL project, I have been learning the important value of assisting the community through interpersonal psychological science.

Not only has the research greatly increased my exposure to statistics, which will be useful in many academic settings, I also have learned the significance of maintaining the confidentiality of the community members and the importance of just listening to each participant’s unique, often troublesome, experience of relocation. I value this special opportunity to engage in the hands-on experience of creating and administering a survey and using the results to give back to the Easton community.

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