Rediscovering City Planning and Community Development, Together


The places we live sort our life-chances in profound ways – through education, housing, transportation, job networks, and health. Over the past few decades, city-dwellers have seen the transformative possibilities of more livable communities, with more walkable streets, better parks and open spaces, and new forms of public transportation. These aren’t luxury goods. Cities around the world have shown that it is possible to integrate comprehensive smart-growth planning with attention to making all communities more livable. However, truly rediscovering city planning and community development, together, is not a simple task.

The next mayor should pursue a harder path, one that requires a leap of imagination in the possibilities of comprehensive planning and community development, real attention to neighborhoods, a stronger insistence on equality, and efforts to unleash civic energy for a more dynamic and better-stewarded public realm.  This path is more challenging, but offers the rewards of a more sustainable, inclusive, vibrant, livable city. Neighborhood policy cannot, of course, eliminate inequality. Nonetheless, planning for more equal neighborhoods has the power to create opportunities for people in low-income neighborhoods to thrive. Rather than organizing municipal investments like parks and transit primarily in places that will drive market-led growth, New York City should organize its investments with goals of increasing opportunities, reducing costs, improving health, and strengthening social capital across the city, with a focus on places that need that it most.  If we genuinely care about offering more equal opportunity, it must run through more equitable attention to the city’s neighborhoods.