Without Community Input, is PlaNYC in Trouble?

plaNYC-04-2008.jpg
It’s “Sustainable Watch” week over at Gotham Gazette, which means the publication has several articles about what the future holds for the Bloomberg administration’s PlaNYC, the city’s vision for 2030 that’s supposed to make New York greener and help prepare for an influx of (a projected) 1 million more residents over the next couple decades. One piece locates a “fundamental flaw in the mayor’s approach to long-term planning” in the wake of congestion pricing’s defeat: The fact that PlaNYC’s approach largely sidesteps input from communities, making it “a one-way, top-down process…As a result, grassroots support for the plan, and congestion pricing, was limited to passive assent and a more enthusiastic core of environmental groups.” In other words, no matter how good individual facets of PlaNYC are, it’s quite possible that many may never come to fruition, doomed by a lack of community support for their implementation and the mayor’s term limits:

PlaNYC’s methodology is linear, dealing with simple cause-effect relations that may have little to do with complex neighborhood-based visions. For example, planting a million trees would reduce greenhouse gases by a quantifiable amount. Congestion pricing would reduce car trips by a predictable percentage. But as the congestion pricing debate proved, it is simply not enough to make one isolated change a city priority when its local impacts are not clear. This kind of “results-oriented” thinking ignores the complexity of life in the city and is especially unsuited to a multicultural city where many, perhaps even a majority of residents, find this approach to be alien.

The question now, perhaps, is whether it’s too late to give community-based planning a significant voice in what should be a discussion—not a monologue—about New York’s future.
Is the Long-term Sustainability Plan Sustainable? [Gotham Gazette]
Legislation To Boost Community-Based Planning [Brownstoner]
Photo by jennifer easton.

0 Comment

  • THe bigger problem, as I see it, is that Bloomberg’s entering into the Lame Duck phase of his term. It’s going to be harder and harder for him to strong-arm his way.

  • Thinking of GreenWood Heights I am thinking of Bo. How could such a clown be included into any discussion. He wants to put everybody not following his meme into jail first.

  • i still can believe that congestion pricing got killed

  • Including community input, while that may sound like the politically correct thing to do, will just about doom any ambitious plans because people are always going to fight any changes to their own neighborhoods whether those changes are for the greater good of the city and environment or not.

  • I disagree with the Gotham Gazette opinion that grassroots is not involved. Many people went to Community Board meetings to speak either in favor or against congestion pricing. The city council actually voted 30-20 in favor of the congestion pricing. It was good old shite politics in Albany which killed the project.

    It seems odd that Bloomberg had 8 years and only decided to try to push a hard traffic beating initiative in one year, as he is almost stepping out of office. But at least he tried.

    Shame on all those Albany so called representatives who don’t have the vision that is required of leaders.

  • Yes, “results-oriented” decision making is what’s wrong with this city. We’re so much better off when orient ourselves toward avoiding results.

  • Apparently,the Gotham Gazzette was not paying attention last year. Bloomberg’s administration held many meetings around the boroughs all through last year. These meetings were forums, where citizens sat in round table discussions and discussed solutions for NYC traffic, public space, urban planning problems and challenges. These were then presented by a table speaker to the city government staff. If that is not democratic, I don’t know what is. I attended a couple because I had a few things to say myself.

    There is no excuse for citizens who are not concerned with society, the air they breathe, or other important decisions being made about the way they live their life. There is also no excuse for people who only complain.

  • Apparently,the Gotham Gazzette was not paying attention last year. Bloomberg’s administration held many meetings around the boroughs all through last year. These meetings were forums, where citizens sat in round table discussions and discussed solutions for NYC traffic, public space, urban planning problems and challenges. These were then presented by a table speaker to the city government staff. If that is not democratic, I don’t know what is. I attended a couple because I had a few things to say myself.

    There is no excuse for citizens who are not concerned with society, the air they breathe, or other important decisions being made about the way they live their lives. There is also no excuse for people who only complain.

  • Absolutely agree, 11:32. I got a planning degree from Pratt a couple of years ago (change of career) and decided that planning is pretty much an oxymoron in the US. Whether you like it or not, places get designed as a result of a larger vision than the me-first needs of most community-based groups.

    Not that the community groups should not have a say, in fact, methods like charettes, where all kinds of non-professionals brainstorm to find new ideas are excellent for what they can achieve. And some kind of accountability is a must. But eventually, there has to be an over-arching master plan (and, planner,) who has the big vision.

    Bloomberg may not be that person and PlanNYC may not be that vision, but it is a damned good start. But as the failure of congestion pricing shows, our political system cannot accomodate this type of planning. Look at London; the mayor (who, in fairness, could be a bit of an autocrat,) decides to implement congestion pricing (at $16/car and threatening to go up to $48! for SUVs!) and, bingo, it’s done. Wait for the next mayor to make a change, if necessary.

    So we are doomed to repeat the AY syndrome, where the pretense of public candor and openness conceals the reality of backroom deals where the Ratners walk away with billions. Not the least because “community groups” (like Acorn) signed away their (real-estate) souls because they were promised their own little piece of the pie. But won’t get it.

  • Wow – a John McCain ad on Brownstoner! (look to the right, folks…)

    Notice that McCain has a problem spending 3 million for bear research (porkbarrel spending!) but no problem spending 400 million a day in Iraq. (Lemme guess – Because freedom isn’t free.)

  • Can’t quite believe that the gg got it so right, but this sums this administration up to a t: incredibly well intentioned, and ability to think big and broad and into the future, but all top down brilliant Mckinsey charts, and not quite trusting of john/jose Q citizen.

    And this is where they go bust and un able to execute the big: the stadium-west side-olympic plan, the flaming (out) AY, and congestion pricing. one day we woke up and read that all of this was good for us and that it would happen.

    The stuff that you just decree and are able to enforce through your n-ypd (and is also good for us) did come to pass: the no smoke thing, the midtown no turn thing, and TBD Schools.

    They dont want to hear it–(shhhh, elitists have no ears).

  • Yea! Design by committee! Hooray! More freedom towers! Huzah! Nimbys rejoice!

    The day 8 million people can effectively implement a plan “from the bottom up” is the day all things good die.