Timeline of Last 50 Posts


Architecture Plus!BronxNY
ASSISTSalt Lake CityUT
Ball State UniversityMuncieIN
Ball State UniversityIndianapolisIN
Brooklyn Chamber of CommerceBrooklynNY
Brooklyn Children’s MuseumBrooklynNY
Brooklyn Economic Development CorporationBrooklynNY
Butler + AssociatesBrooklynNY
Center for ArchitectureNew YorkNY
Chilton Realty InternationalDouglastonNY
City College Architectural CenterNew YorkNY
Community Board 12MNew YorkNY
Dorgan Architecture & PlanningStorrsCT
East Williamsburg (EWVIDCO)BrooklynNY
Enterprise Community Parters, Inc.New YorkNY
FxFowle Architects, PCNew YorkNY
Goodwill IndustriesAstoriaNY
Granite Partners, LLCNew YorkNY
Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI)New YorkNY
Institute for Urban DesignNew YorkNY
Kitchen for Hire, Inc.BrooklynNY
Medgar Evers CollegeBrooklynNY
Michael King ArchitectBrooklynNY
New York City Department of City PlanningNew YorkNY
New York City Housing Authority Resident ServicesBrooklynNY
New York Community Trust, TheNew YorkNY
NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & DevelopmentNew YorkNY
Open Society InstituteNew YorkNY
Pratt Area Community CouncilBrooklynNY
Princeton University School of ArchitectureNew HavenCT
Pyatok AssociatesOaklandCA
Regional Planning AssociationNew YorkNY
Rochester Regional Community Design CenterRochesterNY
Society for the Preservation of WeeksvilleBrooklynNY
St. Nicholas Housing & Preservation CorporationBrooklynNY
Sustainable South BronxBronxNY
The Urban Homesteading Assistance BoardNew YorkNY
University of Detroit/Mercy (DCDC)DetroitMI
University of ManitobaWinnipegManitoba
University of MinnesotaMinneapolisMN
West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT)New YorkNY

Public Place/Public Process

Course of Action

If criticism is a method that gets to the truth, then so be it. But, when it does not, then what? The Urban Design Discussion group put together a “Public Place Public Process” to get started on engagement methods.  After all, criticism begins and ends with a public that is by many accounts in a coma.  This link opens up a 40 page summary of submissions to an Urban Design Committee. It is a PowerPoint (2.4M pdf): San Antonio Presentation.

The Urban Design discussion combines the thinking of planners, designers, and architects to accomplish one thing – to move social and environmental equity forward on the nation’s list of priorities.  The solution to the global challenge is urban.

In 2006, fifty projects identified by New York Magazine (NYM) offered a start by scrunching some of the world’s best architects into a group to stimulate the mind’s eye.

The signatures are clear in the image pictured left. There is coherence as individuality but could an advanced public process improve it as a statement ” of a larger community?”

The lack of reciprocity between the tightly defined images of the developer’s market image research and the experience of the public.

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New York Magazine

The following examples (1-5 or more) will require ongoing review.  As Brooklyn’s northwest coast begins to develop, we expect it to reveal a new public realm in a receding industrial waterfront.

Community pressure produced a demand for inclusionary housing bonuses to exact 20% to 30% of the units as affordable in Brooklyn and opened the gate for the first expansion of the General Exclusion Area, formally known as the Manhattan Exclusion Zone.  (Note: all maps are by Jason Lee for New York Magazine)

  1. The Edge: Stephen B. Jacobs; master plan by FXFOWLE and TEN Arquitectos, September 2008  (view NYC Construction Top Projects pdf: here) Scaled back from 1.5 million to 1….  what else?
  2. Palmer’s Dock: FXFOWLE, phase one, 2008; phase two, 2009  (Impact of tax credits on design discussion in Journal of Tax Credits pdf article: here
  3. North 8: Greenberg Farrow Architecture, spring 2007
  4. Domino Sugar Site: Rafael Vinoly Architects, no completion date.  The story at this link must be a hoax: Hoax?
  5. Schaefer Landing:  Karl Fischer Architects, 2006

SEE: Sites 6 – 17: Lower Manhattan


Urban Design Project Logo
Public Process for Public Space

In November of 2004, a reconstituted APA Urban Design Committee tackled the question of the intersection of Planning and Urban Design, acknowledging the artificial split that exists between the architectural design of public open space – which focuses on form – and planning of public open spaces – which focuses on policy and participation in development. I developed this project with Robert Lowe, Urban Designer for the RPA.

To get started, we sought submissions to demonstrate lessons learned and products created that link public participation and urban design on behalf of the New York Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) Urban Design Committee.

Thirty Projects were submitted by planning and architectural firms, public agencies, university-based programs, community development corporations, and civic associations in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island. The program encouraged sharing of successes and frustrations over the last decade to the present. For more detail:
See San Antonio PowerPoint Presentation (pdf) San Antonio Workshop.

The committee wanted to ensure that a planning framework for discussion would differentiate how APA would view the urban design from the AIA. In this era of a star-architecture culture and so-called signature-buildings, the tendency to celebrate bold new urban design visions has a side effect. The haunting sense that additional forms of community input were missing, and without it, a deeper understanding of the underlying political, economic, environmental, and/or technical concerns would not emerge. This lack of depth contributed to the failure of some high-profile projects in the New York Region, such as building a new Jets Stadium on the west side of Manhattan and the delay in rebuilding the World Trade Center Site. Consequently, the committee sought to recognize urban design projects in the planning realm that were sensitive to these underlying planning concerns. In addition, the task force sought to distinguish New York metro urban design initiatives from a regional perspective.

Unlike most of the country, the New York metropolitan region has a two-hundred-year physical development heritage. The redevelopment, renewal, and preservation of existing communities is the primary challenge rather than planning new development projects on expansive green fields. As a result, the literature currently describing nationally celebrated urban design projects has little relevance to the issues and concerns of communities within the New York Metro Area. The committee understood that the most exciting planning and urban design projects in the nation are taking place in the New York City-Westchester-Long Island metro area. This is a geographic area that captures an incredibly diverse range of urban and suburban landscapes. Nowhere is there as rich a tradition of civic involvement in community planning and design as here, nor as much creative professional talent. And yet, each community rarely understands what even their most proximate neighbors have accomplished, let alone the value this work would have to a national audience.

The Public Place Public Process sought answers to questions about how well the planning and design community engages the community to build a public space. The Committee’s 2005 call for submissions garnered 23 submissions. In March 2006. a full-day workshop at the Regional Plan Association’s (RPA) offices yielded unique insight into the impact of civic engagement practices on the products of planning and design. This paper reflects on these events at the close of 2006 with a summary of findings to date and an outline of plans for a workshop about launching the Committee’s next steps.

At the start of the April 2006 presentation of our findings at the APA conference, we brought a quote from the legendary New York Yankee Baseball Manager and Urban Planner, Yogi Berra, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.” This is not only an amusing turn of phrase; it is a timely thought for New Yorkers. Our review, comment, criticism, and contribution to the growing list of major planning and construction events in New York City are daunting. As a result, examining the quality of the public processes in defining the public space in all dimensions remains a significant interest of the APA Planning and Urban Design Committee. To date, it continues to be a viable mechanism for defining the central question. Is it possible for us to acquire some assurances in the conduct of these events that we are building better communities?

Best Practices

Community revitalization, smart growth, legacy, brownfields

The committee called for best practice case studies from around the region. Metro APA and AIA mailing/ e-mail lists and several other organizations were used for outreach efforts. The call for submissions stressed The APA is especially interested in projects that demonstrate a strong connection between a robust public process and a physical plan or design. As illustrated in plans, renderings, and models, these are projects where a specific design solution was arrived at through a public process. Submissions were composed of design presentations to communicate the consequences of the goals and policies that the stakeholders adopted to the public.

1. community revitalization
The community has a comprehensive strategy for revitalizing a neighborhood, or perhaps the commercial or cultural center of the neighborhood. For example, the design studies may illustrate how new housing is designed to reinforce existing neighborhoods, how a commercial corridor is revitalized through a streetscape or façade restoration initiative, or how a new public space is landscaped and programmed.

2. brownfields or greyfield redevelopment
The community has reclaimed a strategic property that was abandoned or underutilized, perhaps a former industrial site. The design studies illustrate how environmental restoration is accomplished in finding a new use for the property.

3. smart growth initiative
The community has found a way to capture development that would otherwise have sprawled out to some undeveloped area. The design studies illustrate how new context-appropriate development completes the existing neighborhoods or town centers or how new development is oriented towards transit such as a subway or commuter rail station.

4. legacy project
The community has created a plan that celebrates the history or cultural heritage of the community. The design studies illustrate how historic buildings have been re-used or how new spaces are created around buildings, monuments, or parks that have significance for the neighborhood.

While impressed by the quality of responses, we felt compelled to put the idea of ‘best’ aside to focus on practice. Our interest in the ongoing potential of this project held higher ground, so we began to mine all of the submissions for insights regarding the meaning of the term public process as described in each submission. Participants presented the interplay between public processes and design very differently. It was used as a tool to protect, defend and inform the public, as well as a means to discover and affirm community values and culture.

We express our gratitude to the Peer Review Committee (organizations listed for affiliation only) for all of these thoughts. Thank you.

Bruce Rosen, New York City Department of City Planning
Charlie Zucker, Consultant in Urban Design
Lance Brown, City College of New York, School of Architecture
Peg Seip, Consultant Community Planning and Development
Susan Meiklejohn, Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning
Tamara Greenfield, New York City Department of Parks
Terrence O’Neal, New York State Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Tom Lunke, Harlem Community Development Corporation
Wayne Benjamin, Harlem Community Development Corporation


Cutting through the data maze….

Useful Demography

Demography describes the social characteristics and vital statistics of people, families, and households within a geographic boundary. A variety of secondary sources provide free or low-cost online access to useful data. Developing an in-house, ” fast and easy” demographic resource is an important step in selecting the social conditions and the economic variables such as the cost of housing or access to employment that would be of greatest use to your organization or company.

Evaluate the depth of need for goods and services both public and private on a per capita basis. The research includes an improved understanding of the changing quality of economic demand on local businesses in terms of market size. Our Demographic Reports review options and help select the information deemed most useful to the client’s immediate needs.

Market complexity…
Whether for-profit businesses or nonprofit community organizations corporations the tools for managing changes in market conditions are best understood when regional data is compared to local knowledge. A well-known tactic for evaluating these changes is advanced demographic research on the dollars and cents of local markets.

  Preliminary Market Analysis Services


A key asset of every community is its uniqueness, including the ability to act on an issue quickly. Acquiring an advanced Demographic Market Report on local commercial districts will reveal local small businesses’ capacity to capture local spending and if local nonprofits can get down to business with businesses.

Also known as a “drill down” method, the process helps community groups to launch a competitive response to large corporate retailers in business-to-business and business-to-community dealings. The policy has encouraged local nonprofit organizations with a public service mission to consider “running a business” to “fill in the retail gaps.” This has been wrong-headed.

In most urban communities today, the spending of as few as 25% of the households represents 75% of local retail spending. Still, local business or community advocates only see 75% of lower-income households whose spending power is only 25% of the market. Changing the business model to make the powerful 25% happy would be competitively good for everyone.

If you are a community-based nonprofit organization dealing with the concentrations of poverty, consider “transshipment” controls. This effort changes the means of delivery in the journey to free people trapped in self-destructive and community-destructive cycles.

Organizational Development

What are your organization’s key performance indicators?

Community organizations and private businesses create change in response to the values and beliefs of a community. Testing for these values is a particular strength of nonprofit community service organizations, but small businesses also perform well in this area.  Small companies and charitable nonprofits advance the opportunity for growth by adapting well to change.  Here are three examples:

  • Risk Management – How does your organization define and manage risk?
  • Timely Evaluations – What steps are taken to preserve capital and leverage public confidence?
  • Conduct an Effort to Outcome Analysis – Do you use client management software?

The Organizational Development Report often precedes a Strategic Plan.  OD creates levels of goal assurance. Efforts are evaluated as individual tasks combine knowledge with interpersonal behavior.  New sources of capacity occur with acknowledgments that confront impediments. 

Strategic Planning is a tool to advance an organizations development with an external environmental scan. The scan examines competitive and cooperative relationships that are possible among the full range of civic, business, and public agencies. The SP Report produces a road map for the executive staff that improves operations, and interpersonal communication with flexible, scalable, and reasonable procedures.

Knowledge Capital Assessment 

In the United States, an entire generation has been fundamentally untouched by global war, disease, or famine.  This group is rapidly becoming “fifty-something,” and that is reasonably good news because human resource managers and executive directors face the dual challenge of retaining key people in their organizations. Most jobs are knowledge-based, and older workers, in increasingly large numbers, can fill these challenges into their 60s and beyond.  Along this line of thinking, is your organization prepared to address the following set of questions?


Organizational Development (OD) reports suggest the following quality of thinking:

  1. As an employer, you cannot guarantee your future, so how can you secure the careers of your employees?
  2. Are employees encouraged to be responsible for their own careers and life planning?
  3. Will new ways to offer career options such as flexible time encourage your most experienced staff to explore fewer hours, with less stress and less pay?
  4. Will older workers help or hinder in developing the careers of younger workers?
  5. What the differences in how older vs. younger workers seek advancement?
  6. Have you developed succession plans for employees eligible to retire over the next five to eight years?
  7. Have you measured the gap between the talent you need in five years in comparison to the ability currently available?
  8. Are you training products on your list of investments to ensure employees of all ages can achieve ‘sustainable’ employability within your organization or elsewhere?
  9. Has the question, ‘Is there a retirement ‘life plan’ been asked of the older staff? Is a plan in place to assure this occurs at least five years before retirement date?


The United States produced 99 million jobs in 1980, with 107 million workers in the labor force looking for jobs. By 2010 a reversal is expected. There will be 168 million jobs but just 158 million workers,  a shortfall of 10 million that includes recession impacts.

By 2010, about 64 million people(40%) in the labor force today (2007)  will reach retirement age. This will be the healthiest, longest-living, and the best-educated group of retirees in American history.

Mark Freedman, in Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life,  examine the national implications of the old/young staff and anticipates many questions about keeping this resource affordable. (See Questions)

These and many other issues face organizations of all sizes and missions.  We will be pleased to explore the OD report option with your organization.

For more information on this particular question, we recommend the Urban Institute’s Retirement Project website for its research briefs.  The economic influence caused by a higher percentage of the older people in the population we love to call the boomers will be with your organization for some time.  Try these brief papers:

  1. Will Retiring Boomers Form a New Army of Volunteers? (8 pages, PDF)
  2. Retaining Older Volunteers Is Key to Meeting Future Volunteer Needs (6 pages, PDF)
  3. Are We Taking Full Advantage of Older Adults’ Potential? (8 pages, PDF)

Get Strategic

Is this a Club of Rome Graphic?
I still do strategic planning. Mostly for fun or get even.

Planning .:.
Select objectives that measure the accomplishment of goals.

  • define policies that govern resource acquisition, use, and disposal
  • find resources to acquire objectives
  • adjust to changes in these objectives

Networking .:.
Key services and components for strategic action:

  • Scan the environment
  • Selection of “key” issues
  • State vision/mission statements
  • Conduct an external and internal analyses
  • Develop goals, objectives and strategies
  • Implementation actions selected
  • Monitor, update, and re-scan

Model Selection .:.
The strategic model is one that:

  • Emerges from a mutually beneficial partnership
  • Allows for meaningful participation throughout the planning and design process
  • Results in tactical implementation for a self-renewing design and planning solutions
  • Provides opportunities for innovation in the use of materials and methods
  • Promotes a “many-disciplines” discourse for collaborations to generate creative ideas
  • Fit appropriately in physical, social, economic and cultural context
  • Responds to concerns about environmental, operational and economic sustainability
  • Allows participants to build/own the project
  • Responds to concerns effectively and quickly


Additional information about publications with access to Adobe PDF documents where noted.

Good, Deeds, Good Design
Princeton Architectural Press, New York (2003)

Over the last twenty years, Rex Curry has taught a variety of urban planning seminars and studios in Pratt’s School of Architecture, the Graduate Program for Planning and the Environment, and in the Pratt Institute Center for Community Development.  As the former president of the national Association for Community Design, Inc. (ACD), he has furthered the development of this national organization by representing a combination of for profit and nonprofit planning and architectural practices in the United States.

One mainstay of community service through architecture is the community design center, some of which have existed for over twenty-five years and contributed a unique body of knowledge and great depth of experience.  CDCs have come to represent great potential for a new form of professional practice.  Read Article (pdf 365K)


In July 2000, a news headline described conditions in Chinatown in the following manner: “Boom times are the worst thing ever to have hit New York’s Chinatown.”  In January 2001, members of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) invested in the development of a “working papers” project and a survey of public opinion.  Over a period of six months, beginning in March 2001, research and interviews identified the facts, defined issues and encouraged mutual action in areas of shared interest.  On September 11, 2001 everything changed. The papers became a resource for recovery.    Read Executive Summary (556 .pdf)

Community Design
as a Standard of Practice

While at Pratt Institute, I sponsored a Fulbright Scholar interested in design, community participation and development.  When I received a call from the editor of Time Savers seeking contributions to their first publication of Urban Design Standards, I asked our resident scholar Dr. Sheri Blake if she would be interested in the project. The article link is below. 

When trapped in the matrix of metrics, Blake points out that change does not occur without persuasion.  In this sense, when the facts do nothing but paralyze a community, other methods are needed to develop the courage to change and grow with uncertainty.  Read Article (pdf 366K)

Gowanus Research Leads to Zoning Changes in 2007-2008

The freight moving capacity of the Gowanus Canal defined Brooklyn’s economic growth for a century.  The material the canal delivered are the homes that surround it.  Today, it there is less a robust but steady investment in environmental protection and lack of decline in some businesses that hint at its new potential.  This combination of economic inputs implies significant changes to the adjacent “upland” residential communities such as Boerum Hill, Columbia Heights, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and many others.

The choices outlined in the 1987 Gowanus Canal Development Study (GCDS) examine the potential for a sequence of land use changes into the future.  Data for local business and local nonprofit corporations provided measures of changing economic conditions.  A series of “sites” in the report offered probable development locations.  Several fragmented urban blocks over total area of 1.7 square miles, almost 467 acres define these locations.  The primary investment remains a public responsibility.  Making right a long series of past environmental wrongs has proven to take two decades vs. the 4 to 5 years originally estimated.  A subsequent analysis undertaken in 2000 identified the causal issues, but once again attempted to define and market development locations.

During the initial 4-5 year period the Canal’s ancient flushing mechanism was re-engineered using the same technology –  a pump to bring clean water into the Gowanus Canal to achieve “fishing and boating status” (level 7).  The next high level of need is the administration of environmental services to continue the process of land restoration and monitoring for intentional dumping and spills in the area.  This is where clean up efforts have stopped “dead in its tracks”.  Dumping is part of the Canal’s legacy, just putting clean water into it does not mean that CSO dumping has been reduced or the that the need for indemnification of past land owners by the public can proceed given the current status of the land and environmental protection reform. 

The 2000 report (a few of the pages are inserted below) included a detailed review of zoning history examining the last fifteen years of public land use decision making.  An argument promotes the “re-invention” of local business opportunities using a special district approach with financial incentives.  The vision is a revitalized canal business and industry center drawing on the substantial resource of design professionals in the area.  The challenge is it argued, is the revitalization of this part of Brooklyn’s waterfront landscape is through unifying the demand for employment with new affordable housing based on industrial product design and research. 

The community base of demand for “doing something” came from a visionay, a resident business man, and the unofficial Mayor of Carrol Gardens. Buddy S. Scotto’s saw a little bit of Venice, young entrepreneurs, and above all an end of its pollution. The central lesson here should be persistence. Any developer taking a modest look would require a fearlessness sense of risk. Since 1987, when I first started to take a serious look, I realize that position will hold through 2050 with a strong new group of advocates.

Survey of Outreach Programs 

This survey examined the relationship between graduate urban design programs and university-based community outreach programs.  The survey reports urban design programs in schools that included community outreach organizations.  In addition to those covered, six others, without graduate programs in urban design do have undergraduate programs:  Arizona State University, Tulane, University of Maryland, University of Tennessee, University of Oregon, and Yale.  To open and download the table (pdf 280k) Click Here