Ha Thanh Pham
Ha Thanh Pham

Urban Environment


Work Position
Teaching Assistant

Date passed dissertation proposal defense
April 24, 2013


Ha Pham received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the National University of Civil Engineering in Hanoi, Vietnam.  As a student, he won a number of awards from competitions in the field of architecture research, including second place in a biannual national competition for architecture students in Vietnam in 1999. He also joined the urban research program in Hanoi, coordinated with Laval University, Quebec, and the traditional architecture preservation research project that was coordinated with Tokyo University, Japan. After graduation, he worked as a project architect in Vietnam. From 2002 to 2005, he was the Architect/Project Manager for the Hanoi Information Technology Transaction Center, developing a 17-story tower in the center of Hanoi. In 2003, he was ranked number one in the architecture’s national entrance exam for graduate study in Vietnam and was offered a full scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in architecture abroad.

Ha received a Master of Architecture and Master of Infrastructure Planning from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2007. In 2005, while attending NJIT, he won the third position in the annual design competition for architecture students in North America, which was organized by the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture and sponsored by the American Institution of Steel Construction. From 2006 to 2009, he worked as a designer for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in New York and contributed to many projects including the Training Facility and Headquarters for the Jets football team; Syracuse Basketball Center for Syracuse University; the Indoor Training Facility for the United States Air Force Academy; and many other urban planning and architecture projects in the United States and abroad. Coming to the PhD program in Urban Systems in 2009, with architectural and urban planning background and with practical experience, he hopes to use his professional experience on a broader scale and to collaborate with other fields of social research to contribute to the development of society.

Title of the Dissertation

Negotiating Public Access to Urban Waterfronts: the Case of Hudson River Waterfront Walkway

Dissertation Proposal Abstract

Since the 1980s, redeveloping formerly industrial urban waterfronts for residential, commercial, and recreational purposes has been a dominant trend in urban development and a catalyst for urban revitalization. With rising real-estate value and increasing public interest in water’s edges, redeveloped urban waterfronts become important topics in urban politics, planning, design, social change, and economic development. Despite the Public Trust Doctrine,  a historical law dating back to the Roman times that protects the public’s right  to access open water, most recent research has yet to fully examine the dynamics in negotiating public access to waterfronts, especially those that are privately owned and redeveloped.

As an outcome of the Public Trust Doctrine being adopted in New Jersey’s Coastal Zone Management Rules in 1980, the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway in New Jersey was planned largely on private lands and was to be financed primarily by private funds. Once completed, it would stretch eighteen miles from the George Washington Bridge to the Bayonne Bridge to connect nine municipalities in two counties. The negotiations required to build and grant public access to this walkway, which crosses different geographic, demographic, economic, and political territories while also being constrained by private management and ownership, are necessarily complex.  The negotiations involves multiple stakeholders including the state, county, and municipal legislatures; private developers; property owners; architects and planners; community organizers; and waterfront advocacy groups. Apparently, thirty year after 1984 when the state’s Hudson River Waterfront Walkway: Plan and Design Guideline for regulating planning and design for public access came into effect, the walkway is still incomplete and many sections remain inaccessible.

To understand the negotiations that have shaped public accessibility (an inaccessibility) to this urban waterfront, this dissertation research focuses on the development of five large segments of the walkway adjacent to Independence Harbor, former Ford Factory in Edgewater; Port Imperial, former Penn Central railroad passenger and freight terminals in West New York and Weehawken; New Port financial district, former Penn Central Railroad freight terminal in Jersey City; Goldman Sachs, former Colgate Factory in Jersey City; and Liberty Terrace, Clermont Cove, and Sugar House along the remain of Morris Canal in Jersey City. Based on site analyses, interviews with people involved in the development process, and a review of archival sources, this study will provide a narrative of how public access is negotiated and how the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway has taken its shape.


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