A New Approach: Heritage Conservation in Brownsville

How can we take a more inclusive approach to conserving a community’s heritage?

Published in Issues in Preservation Policy: Preservation and Social Inclusion (Columbia University Press, 2020), Emma Osore’s essay, Blackspaces: Brownsville Codesigning Black Neighborhood Heritage Conservation, outlines a collaborative and equitable approach to recording and conserving heritage in a Black neighborhood with a storied history.

On March 30, OHNY Executive Director Pamela Puchalski joined Blackspace Urbanist Collective Co-Managing Director Emma Osore and Brownsville Heritage House Executive Director Miriam Robertson at the Brownsville Heritage House for a vital conversation about their work and the ways that preservation can create a more equitable New York. Erica Avrami, editor of Issues in Preservation Policy, contributed to the discussion as a special guest.

Purchase Issues in Preservation Policy: Preservation and Social Inclusion here.


Erica Avrami is the James Marston Fitch Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Avrami’s work interrogates the intentions, processes, and outcomes of preservation in relation to social justice and the climate crisis, and seeks to transition heritage tools and preservation policies toward equity, resilience, and decarbonization. Avrami joined GSAPP as full-time faculty in 2014, having formerly served as the Director of Research and Education for World Monuments Fund and a Project Specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute.

Emma Osore is a participatory designer with an interest in community building to create more just public systems. She is a founding member and Co-Managing Director of BlackSpace Urbanist Collective, where she leads creative strategy and operations for its national platform for civic designers and public projects that center the black experience. Previously, she was the Director of Community at the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s creative business incubator, NEW INC.

Miriam Robertson is the Executive Director of Brownsville Heritage House. As a curator, she continues the legacy of Rosetta “Mother” Gaston, who founded the Brownsville Heritage House in 1969. Ms. Miriam was born and raised in Brownsville and has dedicated her career to community service. She has received a number of awards for her work, including a Congressional award from Congressman Edolphus Towns, and the Anderson and Bert Cade Fulton Foundation 2019 Award for Excellence in Artistic Program Curation and Management. 


Open House New York’s newest Urban Systems series, Building Capital: The Value of Place, is a multiyear program exploring how the drivers of capital—particularly financial, community and cultural assets—impact quality of place and quality of life in New York City. The series aims to equip communities and organizations working towards reversing historical disinvestment and persistent, systemic racism with resources, networks, and other essential tools.

 OHNY Stacks is a series of book talks exploring the unknown, the unseen, and the unnoticed. Join us on Thursday evenings with authors of highly acclaimed books critical to understanding the past, present, and future of New York—as well as national trends or global issues that influence the shape, structure, and experience of cities and urban life today.

Brownsville Heritage House
at Brooklyn Public Library - Stone Avenue Branch
581 Mother Gaston Boulevard
Brooklyn, NY 11212