How can the next mayor support excellent design of public infrastructure and buildings in every neighborhood?
Thriving neighborhoods have beautiful parks, well-maintained plazas, lively high streets, and welcoming public buildings that encourage New Yorkers to gather and interact, regardless of age, race, class, or ability. In New York City, wealthy neighborhoods steward open spaces and commercial streets through well-heeled conservancies and smartly-run business improvement districts. By comparison, infrastructure and public amenities in many underinvested communities of color suffer without access to the same institutions, nor the technical resources and funding to thrive. Further, when public funding, public realm improvements, and new projects are promised in neighborhoods with higher need, the public construction process can be complex and delayed.
Ensure that every neighborhood has the right to an excellent and vibrant public realm.
Challenge: Access to parks and open spaces is severely limited and unequal in communities of color, averaging 7.9 acres of parks in predominantly Black neighborhoods compared to the average 29.8 acres in predominantly white neighborhoods.
Improve maintenance of the public realm in neighborhoods lacking Business Improvement Districts or conservancies.
Consolidate leadership of city agencies that oversee work in the public realm.
Invest in long-term community engagement infrastructure for every neighborhood, not just those navigating rezonings.
Case StudyLondon – Public Practice
Embrace design expertise at every stage of planning to deliver excellent public projects.
Challenge: New York City needs to repair aging infrastructure like the subway system, highway network, and public housing, and consider new building typologies like climate-conscious development.
Appoint a committee of Design Advocates to act as the mayor’s brain trust for major citywide design and development initiatives.
Create a culture of paid competitions to invite new and untested ideas.
Accelerate the design and construction process by fixing burdensome oversight.
Case StudyGermany – International Building Exhibitions
Empower minority- and women-owned businesses to build a greater share of our city.
Challenge: Challenged by the city’s complex procurement process, M/WBE firms receive less than 5% of the contracting dollars, largely due to the inability to compete with larger and white-owned design firms that have greater resources and time.
Minimize barriers of entry to encourage new projects from diverse actors.
Justin Garrett Moore
AICP, NOMA, Program Officer, Humanities in Place, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
These recommendations are authored by Urban Design Forum. We thank our advisors who provided helpful insights, suggestions, and guidance throughout the working group process.