Leigh Graham

Leigh Graham

Assistant Professor
Phone number: 
Room number: 
Room 53338-T


PhD, Urban Studies & Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MBA, New York University

BA, Sociology, Brandeis University


Leigh T. Graham, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and in Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center.  Her research focuses on the contentious politics of urban redevelopment, especially after disasters and in periods of crisis.  Most recently, Leigh has been conducting qualitative research on neighborhood reconstruction in Rockaway, Queens after Superstorm Sandy.  This work is part of a comparative analysis of community resilience between the Lower East Side and Rockaway, published summer 2016 in Global Environmental Change.  Her work on community economic redevelopment in Lower Manhattan after September 11, 2001 is featured in Economic Development Quarterly.  Her analysis of the struggle to preserve public housing in post-Katrina New Orleans is published in the Journal of the American Planning Association and Housing Policy Debate.  Leigh has also served as a consultant to foundations, non-profits and the public sector on urban economic development and affordable housing, most recently to MassDevelopment, the real estate and finance agency of Massachusetts.  She was the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation in Boston, MA, prior to joining CUNY.

At John Jay, Leigh coordinates the Urban Affairs specialization for MPA students and is the Faculty Director of the Tow Policy Advocacy Fellowship, housed at the Prisoner Reentry Institute and supported by The Tow Foundation.  She also sits on the Faculty Senate and College Council.


Nguyen, M.T., Evans-Cowley, J., Graham, L., Tighe, R., Solitaire, L., and Van Zandt, S.* (In press). “When a joke represents so much more: The end of PLANET and the rise of Planners 2040.” Planning Theory & Practice.  *Authors alphabetical after first author. 

Graham, L., Debucquoy, W. & Anguelovski, I. (2016.) “The influence of urban development dynamics on community resilience practice in New York City after Superstorm Sandy: Experiences from the Lower East Side and the Rockaways.” Global Environmental Change.  See recent press here

Graham, L. (2015.) Legitimizing and resisting neoliberalism in U.S. community development: The influential role of community development intermediaries.  In S.N. Haymes, M. Vidal de Haymes, and R.J. Miller (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook on Poverty in the United States (pp. 512-21). New York: Routledge.

Graham, L. (2012.) Razing Lafitte: Defending public housing from a hostile state.  Journal of the American Planning Association, 78(4), 466-480.

Graham, L. (2012.) Advancing the human right to housing in post-Katrina New Orleans: Discursive opportunity structures in housing and community development.  Housing Policy Debate, 22(1), 5-27.

Loh, P., Eng, P., Graham, L. and Hogg, A. (2010). Two Kentucky towns envision a future beyond coal. Solutions, 1(4). Retrieved from http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/709 on Sept. 27, 2010.

Graham, L. (2007). Permanently failing organizations? Small business recovery after September 11, 2001.  Economic Development Quarterly, 21(4), 299-314.

Murray, F. and Graham, L. (2007). Buying science & selling science: Gender differences in the market for commercial science. Industrial & Corporate Change, 16(4), 657–689.

See my Google Scholar profile here.


I study the contentious politics of urban development policymaking and planning.  I examine the cultural and strategic conflicts in building and governing resilient cities, particularly after disasters, given extreme events’ ability to shine a light on societal inequalities and urban change phenomena. I am especially interested in the role of the state and its non-profit partners in shaping and constraining the participation and power of disadvantaged groups, often in surprising or under-explored ways.  This intellectual project has two important sub-themes:

1) state influence on community resilience practice and meaning, which builds on my past work on how the state’s changing role as partner or adversary influences the political opportunity structures for community development practitioners charged with carrying out affordable housing and anti-poverty programs.

2) public housing and the state, especially the rights and opportunities of public housing residents to participate in planning and policymaking during neighborhood change, and the structural and cultural impediments to their participation. 



My expertise is in urban politics, policy, and planning.  I am committed to public engagement in NYC and wherever my research and practice can foster urban equity and resilience.  Specific areas of expertise, and examples of public engagement, include:

The politics of NYC development, especially The Bloomberg years, including:

  • September 11 and Lower Manhattan redevelopment
  • Superstorm Sandy recovery (See my appearance on CUNY-TV's Independent Sources discussing NYC's Build it Back program.)


Urban resilience, including:

  • Superstorm Sandy recovery (Past speaker in Rockaway Waterfront Alliance's Resiliency Speaker Series)
  • Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans recovery


The politics of urban development, including:

  • Community economic development
  • Urban public housing
  • Race, class, and urban inequality


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