Is PLACES going places?

    Tom Angotti defines planning as “ a conscious human activity that envisions and may ultimately determine the urban future” (7). And by planning, Angotti is referring to the multitudes of different approaches urban planners have with the way they approach solving the political and personal divide present in residential problems. He stresses that progressive planning, urban planning that addresses communal efforts as legitimate and resourceful, is the best and less hostile variation. Most planners have some agenda, and that of progressive planners is to advocate for equality in local residential environments and to approach planning in a holistic manner. Angotti stresses three elements of strategic progressive planning: community land, the processes of conflict, contradiction, and complexity, and eliminating environmental injustice and gentrification in a cohesive manner. Community land should be approached by progressive planners in a way that asks who controls it and how can that be changed. Unfortunately, many community planners approach land use in a rash method that disregards prioritizing longevity and effectivity over solving their immediate problems. As a community, planners must form a discussion around access to land and how to ensure that there is equality in its accessibility. Angotti’s second element, understanding conflict within the process is about the contradictory structures of community, real estate, and finance, and how they must be planned around. He stresses the goal of ultimate democracy in the current system; consensus systems are not effective in that they completely disregard the losing idea and give power to the people whose idea “won.” His third element discusses the fear of displacement that comes with wanting to improve your community’s environment, and solving this must be an objective of community planners (Angotti 31). 

   Angotti perfectly lays out what he believes progressive community planners should prioritize. I wanted to see what the government thinks of community planners, as despite how ideal these plans sound, politics have been greatly hindering progress for the sake of their own agendas. In the New York City Planning website, there is a tab titled “Community” that discusses PLACES, a program set forth by Mayor De Blasio’s current Housing New York Plan. This PLACES (Planning for Livability, Affordability, Community, Economic Opportunity and Sustainability) is a government approach that is more “people-centered planning” in which government officials work with communities, stakeholders, and elected officials to better neighborhoods. Their plan has a focus to: Listen + Learn → Vision → Generate Plan → Public Review + Implementation. Each step promises to look to the community for advice and approval. One of the places PLACES is working with is Bushwick. In their website, the Bushwick Community Plan states that it was created from their community board asking councilmembers if they could create a plan for the community, and a year later, their two councilmen initiated a community-planning process that is guided by a steering committee consisting of numerous representatives from Bushwick’s community-based organizations and local residents and Community Board members. Through this guidance, members are working hard, in their subcommittees, to propose plans that ensure that Bushwick maintains its character as a community despite development and other obstructions. This is an example of a community-based planning group that has formed with government support. Despite not having any specifications in their website and thus not being able to compare their ideas to those explained by Angotti as ideal, it seems that the government is attempting to break the barrier that is present between community and politics. Looking at their recent notes, however, this community planning group still has a certain distrust amongst them in that many residents do not know exactly what is going on behind the scenes. Again, lack of transparency seems to be a prevalent issue in government-public relationships. And while this group has existed for a few years, the new relationships formed between these contrasting institutions are still being explored, and so progress in terms of Angotti’s list of priorities may be possible but only after roles can be distributed.

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