On Friday I attended a talk on Community Engagement in Rebuild By Design. For the record, I have the greatest respect for the BIG team working on The Big U because of the amount of engagement they have had with the locals living in the lower east side throughout the design process thus far. But of course at any seminar/ discussion with local representatives, this honorable action is often overlooked or totally sidelined. For a completely architecture-centric firm to be pushed straight into the deep end of community organizing and engagement is, to say the least, a great leap for the practice. So, thank you for paving the way in New York for other huge architecture studios to choose the right way to design.
Then the discussion took a turn from community engagement to 'affordable housing'. The most painful two words you will ever encounter as a planner because as civil servants, we are supposed to serve the community and help the people live healthy and safe lives and yet our decisions are greatly affected by economics and power. The LES representative on the panel expressed the locals' fears of gentrification and eminent domain of public housing in the area. And even though it literally hurt to think about the number of people who will be displaced by land speculation and development after The Big U, the truth is it will happen. The question was, when?
I guess my biggest question leaving the room was "Can we work land use regulations and laws to our advantage and save the local communities from having their homes taken away?"
Ron manages to lighten the mood with words of encouragement of course.