About the Agenda
- Inspire our city’s future leadership to transform the way we plan and design our city.
- Imagine a planning process that centers racial equity, economic democracy, and climate action.
Who We Are
For nearly 40 years, the Urban Design Forum has shaped the conversation on the future of cities around the world. We are an independent membership organization that believes the design and development communities must address enduring injustices in New York City. Our Fellows are architects, landscape architects, planners, developers, public officials, scholars, activists, lawyers and journalists committed to building dynamic, equitable, and resilient cities.
How We Worked
We know that shaping the next New York will need brilliant minds, a powerful plan and transformational ideas. We have convened nearly 50 Urban Design Forum Fellows to advise on 21 Visions for 2021, a collection of ideas for New York City’s next leaders. A multi-racial, multi-generational group of professionals – ranging in ages, industries, and backgrounds – mapped the current, systemic, and future challenges in New York City’s built environment. Fellows reviewed national and international case studies, debated popular policy responses, and found points of agreement on paths forward.
Why Planning and Design Matter
The most critical challenges facing our city today are expressed in the built environment. Central neighborhoods have benefited from New York City’s prosperity and its diversifying economy, world-class parks, and rebuilt streetscapes, while others, especially in communities of color, suffer from precarious housing, displacement, declining infrastructure, and poor public health. Our city’s recent approach to planning and development has failed to end homelessness, create enough quality jobs, fix public transit, or protect coastlines across the five boroughs. Although the de Blasio administration led with a progressive vision to counteract the rise in income inequality of the past few decades, we have struggled to define how exactly to achieve equity in every neighborhood. We believe that equity means every New Yorker has a safe and healthy home, a dignified workplace connected by frequent public transit, as well as access to well-built and well-maintained libraries, schools, parks and senior centers. We believe that equity means that a child born in the South Bronx, Harlem, Flushing, or Bed-Stuy sees the same educational, economic, and public health outcomes as a child born on the Upper East Side. As the Tale of Two Cities persists, the political polarization around our city’s growth intensifies. The City’s urban planning, design and development process has become more of a battleground than a tool to achieve a fair and just city. Without a proper vision of what good growth could mean, New York City will fall into a never ending cycle of conflict and inequity.
What We Learned from COVID
The spatial injustice magnified during the pandemic has shown that economic and public health disparities are often linked to your zip code and race. Racist planning policies throughout our city’s history, from urban renewal to redlining, have shaped many of our neighborhoods to be ill-equipped to handle the crisis. In neighborhoods like Jackson Heights and Corona, we see how a history of overcrowding and a limited supply of affordable homes accelerated the transmission of COVID-19. In Brownsville, we witnessed how poor access to parks makes it more challenging to find respite and keep socially distanced. Across the city, we continue to hear the news of historic small business closures leaving commercial corridors increasingly vacant. The fear of permanent job loss and community wealth signals a massive tide of homelessness on the horizon.
Call to Action
Planning is one of the most important functions of government, and we believe it is time to redesign the way we shape our city. We welcome the next mayor and City Council to ground their vision in three guiding principles. First, acknowledge and confront the race-based planning policies that have segregated communities by income and race. Second, consider the ways in which design and development can build and support economic opportunity for Black and minority communities. Finally, demand immediate climate action from every corner of city government since we have no time to waste. On this website, our Fellows share dozens of ideas for our city’s next leadership to confront the defining challenges tied to the built environment. They include visionary recommendations across seven defining issues to repair our planning process and produce permanent and truly affordable housing, a quality and inclusive public realm, good jobs, climate justice, and democratic representation in the planning process. The 2021 election is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to define a new plan for our city and give every New Yorker a voice in its future. Let's fight to get New Yorkers a healthy home, a dignified workplace, a safe commute, and a beautiful neighborhood.
Thank you to our Board Members who helped to define our goals and our process with this platform. We are grateful for your leadership and stewardship over the last two years.
Shape Shift Program Committee
Thank you to all the 45 Urban Design Forum Fellows that provided helpful insights, case studies, and recommendations as we developed this platform.
Climate Strategy Working Group
Community Engagement Working Group
Design Excellence Working Group
Justin Garrett Moore
Good Growth Working Group
Complete Neighborhoods Working Group
Right to Housing Working Group
Eva Neubauer Alligood