One Council Member's View
From the New York Post:
ENDING NY’S DEVELOPMENT DIVISIONS
By DANIEL R. GARODNICK
June 8, 2007 — NEW Yorkers know what they want when it comes to development in their neighborhoods. From Morningside Heights to the Brooklyn waterfront City residents are constantly debating development plans and rezoning proposals. Unfortunately the result is often bitterness and antagonism.
Community members typically feel marginalized, shut out of a process that will determine the character of their neighborhoods and lives. Meanwhile, developers grow frustrated with what they perceive as meddling in their vision and work. Disputes on proposals intensify because Communities don’t have a chance to share their vision until it’s too late. On the Columbia University redevelopment, for one, the local Community Board Chair recently said: “On a scale of 1 to 10, Columbia is a minus 5 in terms of trust.”
Disputes and distrust waste time and resources and significantly decrease the chances of arriving at an outcome that satisfies both the developer and the community. Envision, however, an approach that would allow the community to have greater control of its destiny. One model is shaping up on Manhattan’s East Side, which is undergoing major redevelopment on the site of the former Con Edison Waterside Plant. Local residents have invited leading landscape architects to participate in a freewheeling, collaborative design session, known as a charrette, to envision ways to maximize open space and public waterfront access. This is an exciting departure from the typical planning procedure because it involves residents, the developer of the site and the various City and State entities in an initial exchange of ideas and designs for future use of the space. Leaders in the field of landscape architecture – the Municipal Art Society as well as designers of MoMA’s roof garden, the High Line project and Brooklyn Bridge Park – will spend this weekend sketching and revising a new vision for open space in an area of the city that is starved for it – based on the input of everyone involved. Because all project stakeholders are included in the charrette, they’re all invested in its outcome. The architects are independent, and their designs will be shown to the developer and the Community at the same time. Each party contributes its expertise in the hopes of creating a realistic but visionary final plan.
The East Side charrette represents an unprecedented brand of civic engagement – assertive but sensible – that could change the way neighborhoods are reconfigured. With Communities in the lead development’s future could be one of collaboration not recrimination.
Daniel Garodnick represents the East Side of Manhattan on the New York City Council.