Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Planning Laughter

Tom Angotti over at Gotham Gazette does an excellent job at analyzing and critiquing the vaunted PlaNYC2030 at year 3: "Earth Day -- April 22 -- will mark the third anniversary of PlaNYC2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's self-proclaimed "long-term sustainability plan." While the city has taken many steps toward the plan's goal of "a greener greater New York," particularly in energy conservation, one gaping hole remains in the plan. PlaNYC2030 left out any role for the city's hundreds of neighborhoods, 59 community boards, and the countless civic, community and environmental groups that care about the future of the city. It was a top-down plan, conceived at City Hall with minimal input, and it was never approved as an official plan. In the long term this will only undermine the ability to sustain the plan itself, and both implement and improve it."

He left out the hypocrisy, however-the fact that the mayor always puts the development horse before the sustainability cart. Still, Angotti is on to something, and captures just how top down-and therefore typically Bloomberg-this whole venture really is: "The mayor's consultants, who completed the plan in record time, never went through any of the steps, outlined in the City Charter, the city’s constitution, that plans must take in order to be approved...Since PlaNYC was never officially approved, it remains an initiative of the mayor, owned and operated by City Hall."

But, as the professor point out, this approach leaves out the neighborhood folks: "New Yorkers are most familiar with the neighborhoods where they live and work. In this sense they are specialists, and neighborhood leaders and activists are usually a great source of knowledge. Surely they can be parochial and narrow-minded, but so too can people in government agencies. PlaNYC did not look at the city from the perspective of its hundreds of neighborhoods or incorporate the vast experiences and histories of its neighborhoods. Only after the giant spreadsheet was made were the citywide programs and projects broken down, but mostly for reporting purposes."

All of this underscores the endemic weaknesses of how the Bloombergistas plan-and why some of their efforts, like those at the Kingsbridge Armory, the West Side Stadium (and hopefully Willets Point), run aground. It can be summed up in the phrase, "father knows best." Which is, as readers of this blog are sure to understand, pretty fatuous given the limited world view and ability of the city's richest citizen.

But Angotti, is like spring-and hope springs eternal as we all know: "This is a unique and important time. A fresh approach to long-term sustainability planning at the top could lead to a true partnership between neighborhoods and City Hall. The New York City Charter already provides the framework, and that can be strengthened to insure that all planning is open, transparent and accessible to all, and that the plan belongs to everyone."

Perhaps this will happen-but not until we have a new mayor (actually) occupying Gracie Mansion. Democratic input is just not a Bloomberg forte.