By Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
Attending a training seminar in December at the relocated and remodeled Department of City Planning (DCP) offices at 120 Broadway, the infamous Equitable Insurance Building, one gets a sense of history and how the city has changed over the years.
The DCP is the source for much information about the city. There are ten categories: 1. General Trends; 2. Housing; 3. Land Use; 4. Transportation; 5. Parks and Open Space; 6. Public Facilities; 7. Public Safety; 8. Water, Sewage and Sanitation; 9. Economic Development; 10. Resiliency and Sustainability.
The DCP website (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/
New York City Population FactFinder (NYCPFF), at https://popfactfinder.
Along with count statistics (like total Spanish-speaking population), NYCPFF users are provided with percent values (like percent of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher), arithmetic means (like mean travel time to get to work), rates (like rental housing vacancy rate), and medians (like median household income). Advanced mapping functions are also available, allowing you to overlay features so you can now map things like the subway network over population density, or the location of a particular school in relation to community district boundaries. Once a study area has been defined and a profile selected, users can share and save links to their research. Population FactFinder was built using free and open source software by NYC Planning Labs.
These new tools help put power into the hands of citizens. Since the stated DCP Urban Design Principles for planning New York City are Place, Equity, Detail, and Comfort, we can encourage what makes this city great.
Place refers to the principle of incorporating and celebrating a neighborhood’s history, identity, culture, and natural systems that underlie and surround it. Iconic buildings, vibrant spaces, and natural resources can generate a unique sense of place.
Equity in the city is applied by using policy and zoning tools to improve access to affordable housing, fresh healthy food, open space, and other essential neighborhood services. For instance, reconsideration of the priority of cars over pedestrians and bicyclists could improve access to quality open spaces.
Detail attention must be paid to multiple scales during the planning and design process. Good urban design is more effective when existing resources are explored for improvements with paving types, benches, planters, shade trees, signage and color—all proceeding from big picture policies and large-scale plans.
Comfort must be considered to make people feel good about their city. Just as the 1916 zoning laws were passed to ensure universal access to light and air, today’s planners address public health, sunshine and shadows, and vital street life by promoting diverse and active ground floor uses. A successful space must promote a sense of security and inclusivity within the context of our diverse ways of living in our city.
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP, is an architectural consultant in private practice, serves on Community Board 2 in Manhattan, is co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is WestViewNews.org Architectural Editor.