By David Briggs
In this past Sunday's New York Times Real Estate section there was an article titled Everybody Inhale describing the challenges that our city faces with the expected surge in population over the next couple of decades. However, it is a rich irony that planners sit over beers in a Brooklyn bar contemplating how Manhattan should grow larger and taller with nary a mention of the city's other four boroughs. This sadly supports a long held cultural view that New York City is solely defined by Manhattan. Last summer the poster for the BMW Guggenheim Lab's "RETHINK NYC" exhibit reinforced this stereotype by depicting an updated version of Eric Sanderson's Mannahatta as the city of our dreams. If we want to plan a better city that accommodates more people, we must encourage nodes of commerce distributed throughout the city that are knit together by an extensive and reliable public transportation system. This will require considerable investment, but reflects a more democratic dispersal of funds as opposed to the cost of landfilling between the southern tip of Manhattan and Governor's Island to create a new upper class neighborhood and business district.
Fortunately, the city has been looking across the East River at neighborhoods presently underutilized, including the Gowanus Canal. After a rush to rezone the area around the canal, a neighborhood with many brownfields and a combined sewer system that dumps directly into the waterway, the city was set back when the EPA came in and declared it a Superfund site in 2010. Similar industrial areas are on the city's radar to clean up and rezone for the one million people that are estimated to move here by 2030. Change is necessary, but the planning process is further complicated by the slow and yet inevitable impact of climate change, particularly in areas of risk along Jamaica Bay and Lower Manhattan. Intelligent, sustainable design for viable, diverse communities throughout New York City (the five borough one) is required so that all of our city's citizens can enjoy a healthy and rich urban existence.