The Meadowlands: A National Climate Park

2019 Faculty Research Award

Award Period: 2019-2021

Mario Gandelsonas, the Class of 1913 Lecturer in Architecture and professor of architecture and PEI associated faculty, will lead an environmental study and assessment of the New Jersey Meadowlands as the site of a national “climate park” that would mitigate the effects of climate change for the New York City area. Located just west of Manhattan, the Meadowlands is one of the Northeast’s largest remaining contiguous tracts of urban open space and a crucial natural barrier against rising sea levels and storm surges, as well as a critical refuge for local wildlife and biodiversity.

The team will outline the areas where trails, boardwalks and birdwatching sites can be safely developed given existing and future conditions, as well as examine how the park could be integrated with the surrounding urban infrastructure. They also will identify strategies for mitigating industrial pollution in the Meadowlands to prevent the spread of toxins by sea-level rise. Another focus is inviting community engagement through public programs on the park’s design and the history of the Meadowlands, as well as through identifying how the park can be used to provide employment for surrounding communities. Finally, the team will identify sources of financial support and policy changes necessary for establishing the park.

New Jersey Meadowlands (Photo by Morgan Kelly, PEI)

Educational Impact

The groundwork for his project was carried out by Princeton students in Gandelsonas’ spring 2019 design seminar, “Topics in the Formal Analysis of the Urban Structure: Environmental Challenges of Urban Sprawl,” and in project collaborator Zachary Lamb’s seminar, “Design and Planning for Climate Equity: Urban Vulnerability and Adaptation.” Research and community engagement for this project will be integrated with classwork in the School of Architecture, undergraduate summer internships and with independent research for students’ junior papers and senior theses.

Participating Departments

Collaborating Institutions


Class of 1913 Lecturer in Architecture and Professor of Architecture

Additional Researchers

  • Robert Freudenberg, Vice President, Energy and Environment, Regional Plan Association
  • Zachary Lamb, Princeton-Mellon Fellow in Urbanism and the Environment, Princeton School of Architecture
  • Meredith TenHoor, Associate Professor of Architecture, Pratt Institute; Princeton-Mellon Fellow, Princeton School of Architecture

Graduate Students

  • Matthew Maldonado, ARC