Planning Boards = Index

In each part, there are observations that seek to improve the relationship between the powerful and influential money makers and about seven and a half million ordinary working-class people, small business owners, retired people, first responders, and so on.

Part I GOS-3P-RE™

This is an open set of planning questions about the LTCP as if it was a law.  It seems unlikely, except, for the one thing.  Some members of the Council are just as mad at DCP as you are. 

Part II Rolling the Dice

Carl Weisbrod’s presentation is first, speaking as Chair of the thirteen-member City Planning Commissioner in 2016. The second is by Marisa Lago speaking as Director of the Department of City Planning. It looks at this as if it is an honest power grab by term-limited council members, and they are rolling the dice on the next Mayor of NY.

Part III Inclusionary Energy

Seeing the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) as a compounding displacement factor of the LTCP. A long-term comprehensive plan will be looking at a pile of houses on stilts thanks to the compromises in: City Planning Commission Approves Citywide Coastal Zoning Rules

Part IV Megadevelopment

Imagines the law as a bait and switch 5-year confidence game.

Part V Flushing – A Wicked Problem

Looking for197a  alternative process that invests in the community district power

Part VI Doublespeak+

Ranked choice and pocket books

Part VII Summary of 2.23.21 Hearing

I don’t really know. I’m thinking of something but not sure what yet, but I am moving toward the first shot at a City Council strategy that alters the Council.

Part VIII Getting Strategic

The only way to be sure is to go strategic. First, the discovery of weak appointments. Motivation will be second and money third.

Part VIII: Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning by a Community District Board

What if a Community Board decided they wanted to be something more than “advisory?”  If they did, it would not be stimulated by long-term comprehensive planning. It would be a calculated, tactical decision aimed at achieving an advantage in chosen situations. A strategic plan provides its users with a continuous test for internal strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) as its central function. Commonly called SWOT, that initial scan reveals opportunities and threats primarily external, but not exclusively.  Like the fighter, Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”  Doing this test leads to the first question.

Why does the Department of City Planning and its Commissioners want weakness at the community district level of change?

Weakness and Strength

That question makes it possible to list all challenges that might be attributed to this weakness. Some reasons are listed (here). In one Community District (CD-A), the issues could be listed under the headings of noise, signs, and potholes. It is an area with a higher median income than the city. Other problems in a Community District (CD-B) might cover deteriorating housing, food desert conditions, and poor education outcomes. It is an area with a median income lower than the city. The strengths/weaknesses portion of the SWOT scan is vastly different than others.

On the other hand, the opportunity (O) and threats (T) segment would be far more concerning to the city’s economic health in CD-B. The former (CD-A) would require an uncomplicated set of solutions. The CD-B would require partnerships involving an entirely different set of resource decisions. For this reason alone, strategic plans with Community Districts provide superior capability for resolving the intractable problems in the Districts that have them and rightly deserve priority treatment.  The series of images below come from searching for SWOT.  The resources available are extensive. Frankly, any small group or committee of a CD board can use them to get strategic.

Put “SWOT” in a Search Engine

Every CD has a different relationship with the central urban government authority. Once the initial scan and issues are revealed, the third part of a CD strategic plan is a specific agreement to a broad set of goals. They can be unique to each community and then linked to a citywide mission statement. Therefore, the content of the relationship between residents and Community Board Members and the central authority develops into the fourth part of the locally produced strategic plan.

In CD-A, there may not be a demand for injecting strategic planning into that relationship. If a need is expressed, recognition of it as an opportunity to build reciprocity occurs with ease. It is seen as a new learning relationship of enormous power (here). Reciprocity is underwritten by two forms of research conducted in four directions. These are internal and external assessments of “forces” identified by the parties involved in establishing their partnership. For example, these assessments could examine ways to alter the “advisory” power of a CD introduced as “the problem” in this description of strategic planning. Here, the CD and the CPD would look internally at its strengths and weaknesses. They would share concrete illustrations of the forces internal to their current ability to share power that may reveal external opportunities or mutual interest threats. (see Flushing example here). A strategic plan, in this case, would look to discover, disclose, and define divide and conquer structure in so-called “community benefits agreements.”

Initial evaluations would look to the past based on expense and capital budget decisions from one to ten-year “show me the money” periods. The process looks to the future by sharing neighborhood experiences with community development professionals. These professionals as individuals and organizations may be sourced internally from the community and externally as partners to confirm or enhance, deny, or challenge background socio-economic data.

The need for a CD and the CPD to enter a more substantial partnership-based exchange will develop with a sense of shared mutually beneficial content. The partners will recognize opportunities in their common interest and share in defense tactics against threats. The partnership with CD-A might take a day to negotiate. The resource requirements needed to build an alliance with CD-B present complex problems.  Creating joint ventures is implied here and should be recognized as one that may involve a year to negotiate and renew annually for a decade. Each implemented action is evaluated for success or failure using objective measures in a shared calendar for marking change. The heart of a strategic plan is the moment-to-moment, year-to-year sense of documented collective effort.

The current plan for democratic participation in the city’s development is well exposed for its inequity. As NYC urban planning stands today, CD-A gets stronger when CD “A” and “B” are asked to participate in the same way. In fact, CD-B gets weaker for the lack of comparative results or access to similar resources. However, community districts and their volunteer board members are responsible for supporting the democratic process. When this process is weakened or in trouble, what it needs is more democracy.

The city’s overall economic health provides the “commons.” The capacity to see differences in York City’s 59 Community Districts and resource-react differently is possible. The care and well-being of each of these hundreds of neighborhoods in each district can endure the ignorance of their wealth as well as the tragedy of their poverty with a strategic plan SWOT approach.

A Strategic Plan Outline

“Strategic Plan” in a Search Engine

Seek the term “strategic plan,” and resources become available. A small group or committee can click here and there and come up with something useful. The outline below is not a set of sequential steps. Each action description is an ongoing activity. With seven actions, seven people can develop one skill as the “go-to” person on one of them.  Constantly scanning, restating issues, mission, and goals in new ways, redefining internal vs. external objectives.  Participants will find ways to do things and redo them often and with delight. As one board member stated once, “Win or lose, succeed or fail, it is much better than wailing, and I really hate whining.”

Once the components are up and running in people, it is much like the SQ-3R method taught to students to help them realize a complex subject about which they will be tested, as are we all. The responsibility is to scan the environment, the narrative, and data (S) – prepare questions (Q) with responses and continuously read, recite, and review (3R) the content as it develops.  One other point on the answers repeated to the questions.  The answers can change.  The answer to the why are boards weak may stay – they will always be inadequate. That may not mean ineffective.

Seven Major Actions of a Strategic Plan

  1. Scan the environment.  Identify key factors and trends important to the community’s future. Determine how external forces will influence events in specific localities.
    1. Review existing planning and development activities used in the neighborhood environments. Prepare baseline bibliography of development approaches and intervention strategies currently in NYC, such as CBAs.  Include a focus on the applicability of methods implemented in other neighborhoods.
    1. The initial scan’s critical factors will involve measured trends regarding the persistence of an issue.  Examples might be poverty, housing affordability, or the quality of services tailored to meet specific community needs such as early childhood education, employment training, and adult education.
  2. Select key issues.  Based on the scan, jointly select a few problems whose successful resolution is critical.
    1. Use an integrative method to link issues most applicable to community-based development organizations with staff focused on those issues.
    1. Develop a list of community-based planning activities in NYC and seek practitioners’ experience in the field for their review and comment.
  3. Set mission statements or broad goals. Establish the direction for the strategy development process by setting general goals for routine review.
    1. The mission and goals process reveals directions specific to a Community Board schedule. If mission involved small business development and youth employment.
    1. The review and comment period establishes integrative mission concepts.
  4. Conduct external and internal analyses.  Look in depth at outside forces affecting the achievement of the goals. Identify strengths and weaknesses, along with the availability of resources.
    • A core curriculum provides tools to conduct analysis with a broad base of active practitioners’ participation in community-based development.
    • Publication of primer and training curriculum on comprehensive and strategic methods of “internal/external” analysis. Replication, adaptation, and use by others would be based on resources and identifying strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Develop goals, objectives, and strategies.  Based on the external and internal analyses, decide what can be achieved concerning each issue and how it will be achieved.
    • Conference, symposia, meetings, and workshops define series of activities implied through the development of goals implemented by applying a strategic planning method—a mission and purpose to connect businesses with youth. A strategic tactic would be to ask all fifty members to canvas five local companies with a five-question survey.
    • The day-to-day mission of community-based development corporations, regional and national analysts of trends, and related outside forces would facilitate achievable consensus regarding proposed activities with concepts for implementation.
  6. Develop an implementation plan.  Be specific about timetables, resources, and responsibilities for carrying out strategic actions guided by selecting projects led by stated priorities and policies.
    • Program timetables currently in preliminary form have been provided to isolate the resources and responsibilities of program implementation.
    • An outline timetable framework for program participants following the implementation of the major program elements will provide the strategic basis of continuity in continuing the work initiated.
  7. Monitor, update, and scan process recurs.  Ensure that strategies are carried out.  Adjust them as necessary in changing environments.  Be prepared to update the plan when significant changes occur in the background.
    • Implemented an evaluation to define local practitioners’ impact using data and planning services compared to trends other local, regional, and national analysts.
    • We control what we make recur. A methodology for providing impact data will serve as a program implementation component.

As indicated above,  there are literally hundreds of outlines available to become comfortable to strategically alter the condition in which you find yourself as a member of a Community Board.  

By Fitnr – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Map Widget

Several board members have run for a City Council office. The recognition is helpful, but the desire to do more is the motivation. Study the map below as a Board Member. Count the City Council members responsible for your district. Ordinary people can build organizational development and leadership skills. They don’t need permission.

Community Districts and City Council Districts

A strategic planning process shapes a renewable agenda for up to five years. All 2,950 Community Board Members (assuming a complete roster) are appointees of the City Council and the Borough President. The City Councilmembers’ appointments are based on the political districts they serve, including one or more community districts. Fifty members are serving two-year staggered terms. Twenty-five appointments occur each year, and the entire board can be reappointed every two years.

Goals of the Strategic Planning Process

Provide broad strategic direction for the Community Districts role and responsibilities, considering trends in NYC, its metropolitan region, and in the fields of community-based economic development.

  • Reaffirm the mission of Community Districts, their vision, values, and theory of change.
  • Routinely set goals, services, and an organizational structure capable of adapting strategic controls.
  • Identify interesting/helpful questions facing Community Districts (CD) (see below).
  • Clarify implementation priorities.
  • Establish the infrastructure, planning, evaluation, and flexibility to achieve our mission and meet our priorities for the coming years.

Sample Questions

  • What role do we see Community Districts play in the “next generation” of community development (given changes in NYC and the region)? How can we encourage the best and most progressive tendencies within the field?
  • What should the future of C.D.s advisory role over the real estate development of the community look like?  What role should a Community District Board play in development projects?  How can C.D.s become more financially robust?  Can it become a mission-accomplishing agency?
  • How can the CD build upon relationships with other institutions to bring more resources to work toward mission-based accomplishments?
  • What is our role at various geographic levels – city, region, state, U.S., global? In addition to our work in the NYC metro region, what role (if any) should we plan in broader national and international efforts for sustainable, equitable, community development?
  • What is the IT/GIS programmatic relationship between the CD and the CPD?
  • Can a CD bring high-quality technical assistance to local community organizations?
  • Can it produce a broader policy framework for equity and sustainability?
  • Do multiple City Council Members strengthen or weaken internal Board functions? In either case, what are the opportunities and the threats?

Background Chapter 8 – City Planning

Over the last thirty years, New York City has weathered national economic and health crises. While supporting unprecedented population growth and economic prosperity, it struggles to find solutions to poverty’s concentration in several Community Districts. Every one of them has a larger population and, in some cases, more jobs than every other city in the State of New York. They comprise over 350 distinct architecturally, ethnically defined neighborhoods. Over a hundred languages are spoken. The remittances that come from the families who live in New York combine to be greater than national foreign aid contributions by the State Department to some countries.

The foundation of government is the measures of responsiveness to community needs that improve opportunities. The New York City Charter renews government functions. Most of the changes are reasonable. Others are obscure enough to be intriguing.  As briefly as possible, the following examines city planning as it developed over the last century. The 1898 Charter of the City of Greater New York gave the Municipal Assembly the power and duty to number and name 22 districts for community improvement. The 1938 Charter imposed a City Council elected by boroughwide proportional representation known as the La Guardia Reform. The eventual end of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment as a power-sharing system is best reviewed in a Gotham Gazette summary (here).1 The oral argument and opinion announcement (here) is a good listen regarding the BoE.

In 1957 the “Community Planning Councils of Manhattan were extended into the outer boroughs and became known as Community Planning Boards.   The 1963 revision of the New York City Charter extended “Community Planning Councils” (1951) to the outer boroughs as “Community Planning Boards,” which are now more commonly known as “Community Boards.”2

The 1975 revision set the number of Community Districts to 59. It established the district manager position and created the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) to review land use proposals such as zoning actions, franchises, and special permits. A timeframe for the review would be added in 1989, just as the U.S. Supreme Court found the “Board of Estimate” (BoE) to be an unconstitutional government structure. The bottom line, a more representative (one person, one vote) government was required. Community Planning Boards became the ‘up from the grassroots” element for conducting dialogue on community development defined by the central authority to govern land use.1 The main question that has arisen since is repeated quite often.

Why should any community-based organization spend years on a 197-a plan and longer to get it approved? 

The evidence regarding this work is that it has no effect on future land use. The lack of city control over how and with who community benefits agreements (CBAs) are created is well criticized. CBAs are private agreements that are usually negotiated between developers and community groups connected with a community development project. However, sometimes the city or a particular elected official or community board does get involved.  Adding a thorough disclosure of all CBA negotiations is a reasonable tactic.  Full and complete disclosure of expected benefits to a locality and the city’s general fund is vital.

Over Half of the Funding Pledged for Capital Initiatives in Rezoned Neighborhoods Is Not Yet in the Budget

Read the findings from the IBO5: PDF HTML

Over $28 billion in taxes were collected from New York City property owners in 2019. That alone stimulates the need for a strategic plan initiated by this question by Sen:

What is the relation between our collective economic wealth and our individual ability to live as we would like?

Real estate taxes are among the most significant expenses for households who own homes in New York City. New York City is classified as a special assessing unit that directly ties the law to a local authority. The New York Real Property Tax Law (NYRPTL) serves as a standard for other major cities and large municipalities. Still, real property assessment and taxation in New York City exhibit grave disparities between a property’s market value and the value upon which property tax is calculated.  The NYRPTL tax system allocates the tax burden unequally and requires reform.

The unfairness is further complicated by a process for appealing and challenging assessments in New York City.  It is inaccessible to the average taxpayer, and as such, it violates the average property owners’ constitutional rights. The lack of affordable access has also led to prejudicial judgments and discrimination against taxpayers of some property classes at others’ expense.

The unfair administration of New York City’s property assessment system, the property tax appeal process, and misclassified and unequal assessment practices have become a violation of taxpayers’ substantive and procedural due process rights under New York law and the New York U.S. Constitutions.

  1. 26 Years Since the Board of Estimate’s Demise March 22, 2015, by Janos Marton
  2. A significant source of what this period was like will be found in the papers of John E. Zuccotti (here).
  3. Sen, Amartya (1999) Development as Freedom (New York: Anchor Books). Google Scholar
  4. “So Much to Do” — A Conversation with Richard Ravitch  Talk at Hunter May 2014 (here)
  5. The Gowanus may be the next rezoned neighborhood that frightens residents with the unknown of development. The Independent Budget Office has looked at a set of approved rezoning plans and examined the funding status for 87 local projects promised to neighborhoods and portrayed as community benefits. Read the findings: PDF   HTML


The Charter Revision of 1977 created community planning boards during a period in NYC when the decentralization of authority was a popular idea. It aligned with social change forces seeking civil and social justice, equality, and human rights in the United States. Concurrently, the mainly white upper-income population since the late 1950s found a small government easy to talk to in their newly built suburban enclaves. The population in New York City remained diverse and sought to build the resource of self-determination into the city’s neighborhoods. The best it became was a gesture for expanding participation but not to the power sought.


November 2018

Voters Determined

Community Board Members will serve no more than four consecutive two-year terms.

The Community Board (CB) staff is a skeleton.

It is barely able to support members and manage schedules.

Community Boards see themselves as part of the problem, and they like it.

“If all they will let is do is protest, then we will protest.’

Why is a hammer the only tool?

Why is the CB a shed for hammers? Many other skills are on offer.

The squeaky wheel powers of CBs can strongly influence some city agencies’ project development practices, but not in a good way.

Unhelpful, unhealthy “blame-the-victim” methods prevail.

Community Boards

(usually upper-income)

can successfully impede

a public or private project.

Community Boards

(usually lower-income)

sense new projects as an attack.

Efforts to gain consensus fail.

What be done?

Community boards were originally called community planning boards.

Today a Community Board is

treated as a multi-purpose

government entity.

Judgments are sought on everything, from cargo bikes to billions in private housing development.

The structure makes Community Boards appear dysfunctional.

Members can be “vision people” and have fun with that foresight to define and solve problems.

For everything else, an up or down vote is the only expression of power.

An opinion vote will not reduce the sense of political manipulation and administrative misinformation.

Doing nothing is not an option.

Put strategic planning back into local efforts in a proactive partnership that solves problems.

Number Truth

Based on viewing numbers alone and with no other consideration, it is time to pay more attention to getting more attention. Truth-telling is freedom, and so is lie telling. How long will it be before all writers and directors, artists, and organizers require an authoritarian state actor’s approval? How long? The power of the lie to change our lives is always closer than anyone believes possible. The following examples compare highly respected actors, and there are some of the cartoons. All of them focus on the truth of living in our democracy. Imagine if a hundred proven communicators could be enlisted to emphasize the trouble democracy faces in just getting a simple search for the truth underway followed by action.


Published April 30 2015
1,560,951 views as of June 30, 2019

Published February 27, 2019
933,692 Views as of June 30, 2019

Published October 2018
29,000 views June 2019
Published on Nov 3, 2016

Get the Hammer

The whole truth comes from the artist who knows it deeply and the scientist who struggles with its variables to exhaust all other possibilities. The one lesson, the simple take away from these few viewing minutes, is sometimes you need a hammer because the problem is a nail.


The working-class neighborhoods of New York do not need a long-term comprehensive plan to solve their housing problem. They need fifty-nine strategic plans focused on housing. Why? Every problem is a housing problem. There is a slight chance of sustaining existing affordable housing and building a lot more to meet the need, but not without a strategic outlook. There is one big reason, organizers must be encouraged to think and act more strategically. You are displaced if you don’t.

RLC – OCCUPY (for the fun)

Think of the purpose of castling in chess for a moment. It is a function of timing and real estate. There is not one city that does not have wealth contained in urban centers. The non-wealthy will be found in informal settlements and favelas of various sizes from these centers outward. By 2030, of the six-plus billion people on the earth, about two billion will live in informal settlements throughout the world. Several locations in the world have become the subject of studies (here). The global displacement force of real estate capital is well known to economists. It is not easily controlled, but governments can negotiate for positive effects and mitigate negative impacts. Ideas like rent control and stabilization, fair market returns, inclusion, and regular public housing are well known.  All of them imperfect, but families are saved, their children have a chance to prosper in secure neighborhoods. It is the institutionalization of these locations that should cause concern.

“The demonizing rhetoric of the various international wars on terrorism, drugs, and crime is so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondus, favelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion.” 

Mike Davis in Planet of Slums

The experience of ordinary working-class people and the most vulnerable is removal from a home or its fear.  Data on housing displacement is difficult to obtain. Tenant’s rights agencies cannot organize with long-term success while families struggle to maintain their dignity, privacy, and jobs.  In Manhattan (NYC), high rents began moving like a wave over 96th Street and are now crashing above 130th in Inwood. These areas of Manhattan have a high percentage of rent-stabilized apartments. Displacement does not “just happen.” It is a long battle, and it will not go away. The strategic investment would be in organizers to help people understand what is happening and help families protect themselves, their kids, and their neighborhood.  

One-hundred and twenty-five highly trained community organizers (planners with law degrees)  are required to directly connect every community-district with the city’s housing development policy with a primary focus on preventing displacement.  Why?  Because every problem is a housing problem.  The anti-displacement strategy would place two people in each community district and have five or six citywide coordinating staff.  The cost for this deployment of personnel is about $8 million a year for five years. 

Is there $40,000,000 million out there for a project to protect the people?  According to Forbes, there are over 100 billionaires in the Greater New York Area.  That is just $400,000 from only a hundred of them.  So, yeah, the money is there.  If this was an actual proposal with legs, the facilitating leverage in public funds would be available, as would support from CBDOs and the District Board offices. An ombudsperson proposal could happen. It will not happen because this is the following view of the housing market by people with the power to keep it this way.  Watch twice. I’m serious, twice.

OK, So Now What?

First, have a look at housing as a market that sells square feet. Getting a piece of New York City comes at different prices for a variety of places.  Here are some rough 2015 averages.  To own a bit of Manhattan, you will need to pay $3,400 per sq. ft. on Central Park South.  An 8 by 10-foot closet would cost you $300,000 (furnished, of course). In Inwood, the average cost to get some of that real estate is $430 per sq. ft.  Simple question: where would you buy low to sell dear? The same problem is in the outer boroughs with locational differences across New York City’s 325 reasonably distinct neighborhoods and 59 Community Districts. The acquisition cost ranges from $200 to $2,000 per square foot.

Remember the two main points in that video?  One of them is on the mark, create conditions to produce lots and lots of housing. The first point is you can make housing affordable by any means necessary.  But first, it must exist to do so.  The second point is a cop-out, a dodge, and a side step. The government can create a community-owned housing market, and it can control all the margins of development and operation.  It can do much more than subsidize market failures. 

The architectural design of a castle, like the chess move, is strategic.  It protects the kings on the board and their real estate.  The action literally puts a chess piece named “the castle” into a position of greater power. However, it is illustrated here for its fun, not the proof, just a worn metaphor to drop into your subconscious.

The idea that Manhattan with its (1) easily fortified entrances, (2) moat-like rivers (3) and bridges, (4) various wards and internalized parks, (5) its many towers. (6) a few prisons, perhaps a donjon, (7) various chapels, and last but not least (8) entertainment sustained in multiple museums, galleries, and theaters. In the eyes of a much older group of world civilizations, nations, and cultures, capturing a piece of Manhattan must undoubtedly have great appeal. It appears as a citadel to the world.  It holds fortunes equal to the enormity of its ever-increasing mass, a bastion fortifying cash and personhood with its many offerings.

It could be possible to see those distinct neighborhoods or community districts like little castles in the city’s landscape.  There could be a sense of boundary defined by entrances, a tower here and there, some justice adjudication centers, social wards, parks,  chapels, entertainment. It is possible to see a democratic process to support a leadership group willing to represent a place with a boundary.

A lot of bad things happen in the world.  One of the worst of them is when the king fails to protect the people.  Manhattan is not the enemy, nor is it an enemy of the people. Nevertheless, the working people of New York have every right to fight the global real estate force it represents. They have a right to do so with everything they can think of to protect themselves. People also want the many protections of a fortress. Being cast into the wilderness is one thing to fight. If the city does not serve this protection function, perhaps seeing a neighborhood more like a castle is the strategy required.  

Build Your Castle

The citywide examples of defense against displacement are not doing well. The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law that requires a percentage of all new housing units will be maintained as permanently affordable is reasonable. Still, hey, “The Rent is Too Damn High.” Why? The private market-rate housing market drives the process. The process requires big, tall buildings that seem to pop up wherever there used to be regular working-class jobs.  It now represents a failure in distributing income from work to in-kind-redistribution systems such as means-tested vouchers. These are failures. The government could be a competitive producer of housing.

The law uses NYC’s zoning power to trade additional square feet for a few affordable apartments at rents many neighborhood residents consider extortion.  When the City Council passed the law (2016), the members were euphoric. However, when introduced to the 59 Community Boards who function as advisors to the Department of City Planning, fifty-two disapproved. It was called a massive giveaway to real estate developers bypassing local zoning rules. Leadership acquiesced with statements like, “only game in town,” but too few said a “bad bargain is worse than no bargain.” Far fewer stepped forward to build the progressive coalition of labor and CBDOs needed. The reasons for this are many. 

First, the inclusion program occurs because the national government is weak on housing for people in cities. The lack of a federal role in resolving the national housing issue was solidified in one persuasive economist viewpoint. There is plenty of affordable housing in the United States. It just happens that it is in the wrong place.

Second, the “wrong places” happen to be dense urban cities.  The economist’s equilibrium argument (forced displacement for many) is that people will find it eventually. The lack of reinvestment in federally financed public housing has led to disrepair. It is used to thwart discussion of a new national public housing program.   What else could be used to create a stronghold neighborhood?


Type the word exaction into the search engine NYU Furman Center to reveal just one 2010 research paper with the following tags: Employment; Affordable & Subsidized HousingLand UseZoningNeighborhood ConditionsEconomic Development

The report is entitled, Community Benefits Agreements: A New Local Government Tool or Another Variation on the Exactions Theme? (PDF: 164 KB) The basics are all here in the CBA paper. I recommend reading and questioning the content. One other resource is the larger world of economic argument in the nation. Here: The Economic Implications of Housing Supply by Ed Glaeser and Joe Gyourko Zell/Lurie z Working Paper#802 craft of January 4, 2017. It has more recent data. There is no doubt regarding the accuracy of these examinations. They describe the trouble we are in and remain bereft of little more than Woulda Coulda Shoulda (psych). Why? They are the explainers, not strategists for the pawns displaced. Read them for the language, use that narrative to find actions on the street to support their philosophy. It might work. The style needed for successful strategic resistance to the status quo to establish leverage for exactions, not reasons for “a benefit.”

Strategic Exactions

An exaction is a concept in US real property law well-known to New York housing advocates.  A set of conditions for development is imposed by the city’s power to zone and its regulatory agencies to scrutinize and evaluate.  Examples are its departments of buildings, finance, and environment.  Other conditions include knowing the effect of a specific development project on citywide or local needs.

The purpose of itemizing existing conditions in a community is to determine what to provide during periods of relatively rapid change periods.  What specific material goods and services are needed to alleviate anticipated impacts. This can range from fear to employment assistance and public education on rights and needs. The community’s rights could be protected with legal services help (evictions, capital improvement investigations, health, and welfare safety nets). The community’s needs can be identified and defined in planning partnerships.  Each partnership would be established to meet those needs with a combination of resources drawn from the proposed development conditions and all those that continue to remain unmet in specific, measurable terms.   

What should be expected in the strategically organized community?  It is a highly accurate evaluation of what and who we are and how to change what needs to be changed.  These are rightfully organized as long-term issues. To make them precise, well defined, and renewable, they must be dealt with daily, annually, and carefully measured. There are many practical examples.  Groups of young people by age can become the number kept thriving and healthy. The number who enter higher education with dreams or just good pay trade can be known.  Failures are confirmed, success is celebrated.  Interventions to act on goals are implemented and tested, but not by some abstract agency.  Community-based organizations know it is not about the rent. It is about the work.  They are paid to develop responsible action for their community. They are willing to be accountable for results, no matter what they are, and without blame for one primary reason.  It is incredibly complicated.

The rationale for imposing the exaction in the short term is to offset the costs, defined broadly in economic terms, of the neighborhood’s development.  However, exactions can also be established as long-term impact fees.  Direct payments to local governments can also be paid for negotiated periods and included with the stated development conditions. 

Planning Together: Part VII

One Take…Subcommittee on Capital Budget  and Committee on Land Use 

The underlying theme in the February 23, 2021 hearing on the proposed legislation examined one point.  Where and how can long-term planning fit into the city’s policies regarding the budget, land use, and zoning? Best comment heard… if the city could fix the digital divide first, you might get your ducks in a row to cross that pond.

The Department of City Planning’s (DCP) special districts and zoning customizations have developed into a finely honed contractual practice that resists the legislative exercise.  The 2019 Charter Revision produced a symptom of this problem but not a cure for its cause. There is a legislative desire to do more.

The 2019 Charter was asked to incorporate long-term planning but would not take it up, the DCP did not want to do it, and so the City Council facing all the heat from their constituents, decided to develop a concept that would give them something to work with at the grassroots.

Councilmembers are always responding to or looking for capital investment opportunities. Much of it occurs outside of the zoning process, and rightfully so.  The difficulty of attracting investors’ confidence from within the community is a fundamental problem further exacerbated when a rezoning is announced at the behest of what appears to be (and in many cases are) major outside investors.

The city’s capital and expense budget will not support an expansive community engagement process designed to sustain the community-based power only to be politically advisory.  Politically the city will not go any further than to accept the community’s counseling. The Mayor’s negotiating control of the budget as approved through 2021 suggests the opportunity for balance in the short term, but it has produced a long list of serious fiscal challenges through 2025, (overview from IBO is here and from the CBC here).

The Takeaway

  1. The cash and justice question with the capital budget has the code name “equity.” As a nation, we have failed, but we have not fallen. The DCP has developed many relationships with the city’s agencies such as HPD and Health and citywide nonprofits with data to define issues and develop consensus where it is achieved. The DCP points to specific citywide topics.
    • The implementation of “Where We Live”  under the heading of a plan for “fair housing” is the example to follow.  Districts cannot speak with one voice, but on issues, a plan can get consensus accomplished.
    • DCP’s contribution to the Food Metrics Reporting (pdf here) as an issue affecting the city’s quality of life with a focus on food security since 2009 is another example to follow.
  2. The writers of the legislation did not reach out or conduct any pre-plan planning.
    •  If they had, they would have realized a strong sense of need, but not the social infrastructure or skilled resources required to succeed.  The legislation is top-down by default.
    • Expense budget cuts to Community Boards do not recognize the LTCP as a priority, and all agencies are affected “across the board” through FY 2024/5
  3. City Councilmembers do the official budget “ask” in response to community capital budget needs. Many entered politics as leaders on Community Boards but,
    • They feel separated from the process, but are they? They see poor agency coordination in their districts and CBs, and want back in to help with that and be more responsive to their constituents.
    • The Ten-Year Capital Strategy has goals and strategies in the front of “the book” and per agency funding in the back, and the connections between them are weak.  The budget office says it will release a new strategy in April that may look better.
  4. NYC  has a robust report production regime. 
    1. Legislation by the City Council should determine which of them add value and when that value is achieved and discard the function if no value occurs. That is the legislation needed.
    1. The implication is there is no reason to read or seriously work through the reports. For example, the fair housing plan has a laundry list of accomplishments, but they are not measured against something as simple as defining the problem.  For example, 1,000 homeless families in permanent housing (yea!), but measured against what and when?  Such terms should all be measured annually by FY and by place.

Other Observations

Complex information such as injecting racial equity into the process cannot be presented in a complicated way. A citywide education campaign helpful to all parties on this generational question is needed, what we all need to do about it from year-to-year, decade-to-decade. The “where we live” plan is a document full of facts that may be accurate. Nevertheless, a mechanism is not presented for understanding if any progress is being made against the problems the city is facing in housing affordability.

The word piecemeal was used a lot, and it can mean “step by step,” which is how DCP sees it or “in pieces” as the way Councilmembers and residents feel it.  Tooth and nail, lot-by-lot, 197a plans have value, and they are educational for writers, researchers, and participants.  Apparently, the DCP cannot meet residents halfway or at all. No one seems to be getting at the why other than it will cost too much.  The slipperiness of 59 cities with budgets to enforce co-terminality and resist change appears to DCP like disorderly and unpredictable fragmentation, a true Balkanization.  

There are CBs that are far stronger than the lower-income districts.  The (SoHo/NoHo) report is an example. — it is transit-rich and needs a push into affordability and fair-housing, job retention, and so on. Communities do not speak with one voice, but you can get them to focus on single issues and agree to terms project-by-project in places such as SoHo/NoHo.

The ULURP process has only turned down one application in Brooklyn.  What was that one, and why? Was it the Brooklyn Heights Association and a bevy of lawyers? The community can be at the center of the process, and the LTCP as an idea could help, but not this legislation if the testimony is the measure. It offers little hope of balanced growth citywide, notwithstanding that capitalism still runs NYC. It requires imbalances to function. 

The LTCP suggests a GEIS for the city would suffice, but DCP sees the city as far too complex to be stuffed into it with too many litigation opportunities. The DCPs own the manual sees comprehensive plans as a good candidate for a GEIS on projects such as the Hudson Yards, but not the entire city.   

The government knows what to do. It is the how that is difficult.  It is challenging to build new and preserved affordable rental housing and prevent displacement in private markets. It is hard to sustain long-term investments that eliminate the concentration of poverty, expand rental assistance, and establish permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable.

I am predicting this legislation will get twenty-six votes just because that is how pissed some Councilmembers sound. It will pass with amendments that require more resources for district residents, local nonprofits, and Community Boards. Section 20 of the New York City Charter will be given a chance at a life with a creep-along budget.  Amendments could set the clock back to 2024, perhaps 2025. 


Step Three — Amendments

In this space and the hundreds of other blogs that might be read on this issue. What are they talking about, and how do they stand on this issue.

The proof that communication has been successful when aimed at anyone is if there has been a persuasion to act. I was persuaded to write up my impressions. Corrections with added perceptions are requested, cross-linked, from ANHD, CHPC, MAS. the OBP, PN member of the university elite in planning and the Grizzly in the room, the REBNY regarding changes to the law.

Strategic Plans

I have already invested in a few strategies that might offer the quality of change in community based development.

Planning Together – Part VI

Political people, perhaps more than many others, live in a dichotomous world.  They run for office, care about issues, and have a political ideology. They are required to express instinctive and emotional thoughts. Still, when it comes to making decisions, we expect them to be more deliberative and logical. They are ordinary people, and we are all subject to these two needs of behavior. The objective is to define the dichotomy. Do we trust in their emotion and their science?  Is there a gap between them or a chasm?  Remember this exercise on the Flushing zoning change is using the Long Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) to see how it might work. The implementation schedule is roughly the same period. Flushing zoning will get changed, but will it be in a good way or a bad way?



Are the announcements made in the Planning Together legislation deliberately understated? Somewhat ambiguous language is used to describe an administrative mess. The descriptions of the problems may not fit the complete definition of doublespeak, but it is close. One aspect remains. It implies but avoids saying the confusion is the fault of Department City Planning and the City Planning Commission’s decisions. Enter the New York City Council’s one and only hearing on February 23, 2021

“I reminded [the soldiers] and their families that the war in Iraq is really about peace.”

President George W. Bush, April 2003 classic doublespeak

The Department of City Planning and “the community” relationship has never been worse and continues to deteriorate. The two parties, “the community” and the DCP, have severe communication vs. actions-taken gap. The question is who is available and what skills are needed to define its size and seriousness? 

The community, especially residents with a high percentage of low- and moderate-income, is fully immersed in averting loss of a home, income to rent, or just the quality of their neighborhood experience. Here, the judgment is quick and decisive.  On the other hand, the Department of City Planning is framing what they see can be produced based on the tools and options available for action. That description fits in the nutshell that everyone can hold as true, at least somewhat.

The recruitment of a few influential social scientists, psychologists, and cultural anthropologists is needed to help in this situation. (know any – seven degrees?) Urban planners recognize severe gaps but need recommendations on how to close them in a language that ordinary people, organizations, and agencies can use. Psychologists can prove a loss is more significant than the equivalent or probabilistic offer of benefit. What planners need to know now and with some urgency is whether implementing a long-term comprehensive plan in a ten-year process in February 2022 will provide relief or make things worse?

New York City is a place stuffed with progressive community planners and professionals who routinely challenge the megaplans of big developers and global investors. The appropriate response has been to outline demands for exactions, benefits agreement, and related considerations.  Confirmation bias is a good thing in many ways. Critical conditions in the City’s development improve for some but worsen for many. It does not look good. The remedies are weak, transparency is flawed if not opaque. The old cries of “the people united….” “hell no,” and my favorite “BOHICA” for bend over here it comes again have not been enough. Two old things are needed in a new way.

The Legislation

The proposed law is a multidisciplinary approach to research and decision-making. It fails to build in the resources for that approach. There is a need to get a communications psychology of the law obvious reduction of participation into the token Sherry Arnstein described in 1969 (here)

A look at the quality of the law’s inception is needed from the original idea to the legislation’s flawed structure.  There are twenty-five changes to the City Charter in one bill. Does that seem like a lot, so how many changes would it take to trigger a Charter Commission hearing? Is there a law?  So you get the drift. Halfway up the ladder is failing us all.

All of that is null now. The real first step is where this analysis began. There is the dichotomous nature of the elected officials involved. I do not believe anyone can get emotional about a 10-year planning cycle, which means the technical, deliberative question is important.

“Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

So who wants to dig into the following and get into the “what-ups,” “who’s whos,” and where votes are for “out of committee and on to passage?” If it does get out of committee in its current disagreeable form, where might the rest of the City Council be on the issue? The list of City Council decision-makers that may or may not like to amend or mess with the LTCP and commit to a significant upgrade in the funding for the OLTOS is below.

Step One: Get on a Constituents List

If you do not already know, use the City Council’s Map Widget and pick your geography as a constituent. Organizations can make positions known. It is equally important to make one personally in the district of your residence (or work). New races and the rush for campaign matching dollars have begun. Communication supporting an organization as well as a personal statement of a constituent is appropriate.

The Committee on Government etc. is the other hearing participant. I don’t know why the Finance Committee list (below) was made here. Did they bow out? I think Finance was part of it initially; maybe they don’t want to answer, “how much is going to cost? I’m working on it, but with absolutely zero interest in tracking down the relevant/nonrelevant City Council politics. Still, if a political scientist out there can take a Machiavellian look, it would be advantageous.  Because why?

Reason One: Two-Year Terms!

Council members are elected every four years, except for two consecutive two-year terms every twenty years, to redistrict between the terms. This is due to the national census (starting in 2021 and 2023 for the 2020 Census)

Reason Two: Ranked Choice

The primaries will use ranked-choice voting for the first time as approved by a ballot question in 2019. Whoever wins gets two years, twice if re-elected. Four-year terms will resume in the 2025 election.  Wow, so if the person in the second spot can remain relevant in Flushing, it could significantly impact the re-election try.  Here is the ‘why’ for that “wow.”

Scenario One: Pocket Books

Sandra Ung will win (promising jobs), and John Choe will lose (promising justice).  A pocketbook win on the coattails of the post-pandemic recovery is a good bet.  Suppose the capital for developing the project has not evaporated post BOA. In that case, a ULURP app will show up during her first term (or sooner) because they will be projecting a second term and four years in 2025, essentially to the end of the decade. Bang, the people have spoken. Developers have leverage.

Scenario Two: The Benjamins

John Choe could win (promising jobs with justice) Sandra Ung could lose (proven corrupt while promising jobs). Not knowing either person, it becomes an identity politics race, friendliest face, smile, and all-around charisma. Proof of corruption by association is a tough one, unlikely from a progressive candidate, and Ung’s endorsements (here) are the type that brings the votes to the booth.

Accepting Scenario One is prudent. Therefore, activate a plan that argues for an equitable solution to the project’s callous greed and avarice. And, it works with a Scenario Two miracle.  Also, six other people have filed, so a wild-card is added to the thrill of ranked-choice voting.  

The ULURP and the LTCP

The image below is a lesson in rapid change and the vast amount of global capital seeking refuge in a democracy while driving a Lexus to sit under an olive tree and argue with zombies. (Sorry, that was uncalled for and rude, well so is the image, I guess, but I would say ULURP is the Owl and LTCP is the seasick pussycat.

I call your attention to the Zoning Application Portal. The data provided is solely for informational purposes. The City makes no representation regarding the accuracy of the information or its suitability for any purpose. But, you have to love our democracy. First, for the reasonable evidence of ongoing capital development throughout NYC, but it gets better.  Second, the public is asked to help DCP be aware of data errors using the “Report Data Issue” button on each project page.

The LTCP changes to the Charter alter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Every change is oddly obscure, but all of it is aimed at a new agency. Section 20 of the New York Cty Charter establishes The Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. This office’s role and responsibility are extensive and do not at this time have more than two staff members. It replaces PLAN2030.

Committee on Land Use

The Committee on Land Use has jurisdiction over New York City’s land use and landmarks review process and the City Planning Commission, Department of City Planning, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions reviews and makes recommendations on New York City’s designations of property as landmarks or historic districts, as well as decisions to site public facilities and decisions regarding the use of maritime facilities such as piers.

  1. Kevin Riley (Chair)
  2. Peter Koo 20
  3. I. Daneek Miller
  4. Inez Barron
  5. Mark Treyger

Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises reviews and makes recommendations on modifications to New York City zoning regulations, changes in zoning districts, applications for sidewalk cafes, and resolutions authorizing the City to make franchise agreements.

  1. Francisco Moya (Chair)
  2. Carlina Rivera
  3. Diana Ayala
  4. Barry Grodenchik
  5. Stephen T. Levin
  6. Antonio Reynoso
  7. Joseph C. Borelli

Committee on Finance

The Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over New York City’s Banking Commission, Department of Design and Construction, Department of Finance, Independent Budget Office, and Office of the Comptroller and reviewing and modifying the City Budget and municipal fiscal policy revenue from any additional sources.

Subcommittee on Capital Budget / Finance

Step Two — February 23 Hearing

In this space and the hundreds of other blogs that might be read on this issue. What are they, where are they.

The proof that communication has been successful when aimed at anyone is if there has been a persuasion to act. I was persuaded to write up my impressions at the link above. Corrections with added perceptions are requested, cross-linked on any insight possible regarding the lame-duck City Council

Planning Together: Part V

The Wicked Problem Plan

Financial crises, health care, hunger, income disparity, obesity, poverty, terrorism, and sustainability are examples of wicked problems further complicated by climate change, biodiversity loss, persistent poverty, and food insecurity.  The difficulty is knowing how everything happens all at once and why everything is connected to everything else.  Wicked, right?  Maybe not, with a wicked problem plan for knowing how and why all you need a where. I pick Flushing.


Flushing, Queens

The planning process for dealing with wicked problems would simultaneously initiate three interdisciplinary actions. Evaluate community business visions, examine technical capabilities, and conduct a comprehensive assessment of community/user needs. If there is a match, you have a plan.

If the geographic units for a constant data flow are clearly established (even as a sketch), it may be possible to fully understand the interdependencies and relationships that reasonably account for billions of interactions. It begins by getting everything to the East of College Point Blvd. to focus on everything west of it with a vested interest. It provides the grist of a plan. The interest could range from open space access to job retention to affordable housing. It is easy to get resistance to change. In this case, the fight is to get a piece of the action. Beware of the work to produce a CBA. Unregulated agreements between local, influential actors and developers are at the core of the problem.

The Flushing Creek environment as it stands now has astounding contradictions. The UHaul is readily available to move displaced families while the Assi Food and Households Goods Market is closed. The vitality of the UHaul appears to stay, while the market is to be replaced with housing and the unpromised possibility of retention within a new complex.

Permissible data points and technology sets the restraints for the capture and distribution of all the business interests. Gathering these interests determines the full effect of the standing Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) as it attempts to alter the current zoning envelope.  These points can also be drawn out for data on a building-by-building basis on a vast set of variables. Of them all, what are the most relevant (see map below).

Another Brief but Interesting Digression

One other vital element too often forgotten is technology demands a continuous ability for experimental thinking. In other words, the process needs art. (See: Galileo). For example, if given an unchanged boundary and the prospect of extensive high-density locations, is it possible for a city’s total floor area to be unlimited and still retain a viable open space ratio? If the answer is an essential no or yes, would a rising sea matter?

Back to the Wicked Problem Plan

Extending access to information beyond a library or a laboratory to enrich life requires confidence in integrative disciplines. The tools needed to accomplish robust interdisciplinary methods must first discover the knowledge in people. In this case, the people of Flushing. The meaning of data can be found in a person. Small specialized groups can deal with the world’s wicked problems at the local scale. They are strengthened further with rapid communication systems. Where are they? Who are they? Do not ask. They support a wealth of joint actions and, most notably, a shared understanding of the effort involved. The grist for a plan becomes known, the people is a “less so” and a “it depends.”

Urban forms are intentional operations that entangle all life. Human responsibility has moved from its single-center (the human in nature) to the duality of multiple centers numbering in billions of known interactions. The new centers are the ones from which gigantic numbers of small groups move toward and away simultaneously.  These two forces circle indefinite urbanized structures and their constructions. One force moves to a center (a dot on a map, for example), and another is accelerating outward and away – from wilderness to farm to lanai garden. This human force never recognizes the species made extinct to produce a sweet pear for consumption on a high-rise balcony. The centers are unfixed, always incomplete, yet capable of continuously producing observable results of continuous replacement.

OK, OK, put it this way, the data set has been prepared. It awaits your use. The dots (centroids for GIS nerds) on this map represent place-based data. It can be enriched enormously for the empowerment of the people of Flushing. The data is tabla rasa, and it awaits purpose. Who will use it? Who knows how to use it? Find them, and you have a plan. Is there an MYSQL and ArcGIS person available?

Observation of a meaningless or harmless intervention is now impossible.  Everything changes once an event is observed.  The big difference today is everything in urban development is intentional.  For example, we experience design most often in various symbolic and visual communications.  One of the more relevant communication documents relevant to this examination is the Generic Environmental Impact Statement that reviews many aspects of state and local EIS processes. (see pdf here). The context of a document such as this stands available for comparisons and critiques of impact.

Any course of action involving the manipulation and management of natural resources may result in altered conditions. The Flushing waterway, from natural estuary a half millennia in the past to the use of waterways for industrial use a century ago, to the attempt at naturalization in the future, can be construed as having adverse effects.

All action agendas have conflicting results. Thus, the mitigation argument demands an accommodation to what planners and developers know about the stewardship of natural resources that includes human life quality. There is no bounded rationale insurance.

We are surrounded by material objects that are products of a design process. We engage work and life through various activities expected by a long list of organized services designed to respond to people with complex systems and environments for living in a city made for play, work, and learning. The question for a planner serving a community that feels senses a threat what is the best way to get really close to it, smell, and taste the air it breaths?

A Wicked Plan is Better than a Comprehensive Plan

What is required is a double repositioning of the design problems associated with wicked problem planning in gaining participants within an interdisciplinary forum. The comprehensive plan idea pretends to mash them together, but it does not. The first presumption of planners and participants is that people will move into action based on information.  The opposite tends to be true far more often. People will likely engage in a recent analytical report based on their independent actions, leading to the empirical knowledge they can explain to others. Activity helps make additional information more absorbable, used, and understood as applicable to a current situation. In the day you are in now. The required steps are to move from the familiar and expected to new experiences leading to new data acceptance.  The data is always there, always waiting for reasons that will bring it to use. Once established, reciprocity is formed in the learning experience between residents and agents of change.

Part VI – Planning Together (Is it Doublespeak?)


Galileo knew that most people would predict that a heavy body (H) would fall faster than a lighter body (L). 

But, his eyes were fixed on our solar system, and these bodies were not falling, so he conducted a thought experiment to prove another possible prediction.  Science and art are wonderfully connected by experimental thinking. Here is Galileo’s well-known thought experiment:

  1. Suppose we connect the two bodies by a string, thereby making the compound object H+L.
  2. One could predict that H+L should fall faster than H by itself because of the compound weight: H+L > H.
  3. However, it’s also possible to use the same logic to claim that the compound body should fall slower than H because of L’s drag so that H+L < H.
  4. This yields a contradiction. It means that logical consequence is absurd or reductio ad absurdum because H = L = H+L.

On the Moon, Neil Armstrong showed the whole world that Galileo was right a half-century later. He let go of a hammer and a feather in the absence of atmospheric friction while standing on the Moon, and, sure enough, they hit the Moon’s surface at the same time. This is the predictive power of thought experiments.

Planning Together: Part IV


A Story of Megadevelopment Impact

Zoning is used to protect people. Today it exists to help residents oppose change. Something is wrong. It is a metaphor for our times. Here is a story from way back in the olden days– say the 1940s and 50s. Change for the worse has begun.

Council legislation seeks “long-term” planning. Neighborhoods need strategic planning

A decade before WWII, an immigrant family came to the city and turned a small business idea into a large successful business within two generations. Family investors acquired equity in a few land purchases and expanded business locations.  The effort ensued with hardship and sacrifice, but investors continued to over the decades to build a community. Then big outside investors began to see the community as safe for investment, and ready for displacement.

Small family groups like this began in places such as the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It continues in neighborhoods such as Flushing in Queens today. The same dreams continue to live — acquire capital and invest in expanding local businesses. A bakery factory is envisioned. A storage warehouse and a site for the assembly of human-power-assist vehicles are planned.  The vehicles will be designed by brilliant industrial design engineers who are the grandchildren of veterans in the Flushing family who served in the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. These plans are done quietly and without much fanfare in the ordinary course of business growth and investment located in an area west of College Point Blvd.

Unknown to this community, investors associated with the New York Real Estate Board meet with the Director of the Department of City Planning (DCP). They present several projects coming onto the table for negotiation, and they provide an advisory on pre-planning projects coming off the shelf. The total investment is estimated in 2017 dollars is $250 to $400 billion.  The Director is pleased. As sensitive property acquisitions are ongoing, independent calls to the affected community’s business groups and political officials were not advised. At that moment, the dreams and traditions of small local investors are attacked. While considering billions in financial concessions, The DCP, the agency responsible for the city’s land use and community development, became a contributor to durable inequality policies in New York City. 

Why does zoning exist to help residents oppose change?  Huge residential investors (REITs) can legally combine with large, but ordinary local real estate investment groups. They can hire planners and architects to look for opportunities in older, mostly industrial urban areas. In many ways, they appear on the scene like marvels of certainty. In other ways, it is a valid symbol of a tragic time when the availability of overwhelming capital can quietly blame residents for opportunity hoarding, referring to those who had been quietly investing in the community since WWII.  (See story on another angle of the subject (here).

Zoning has become the battleground of sides. It offers a binary choice of capital in vast amounts or the perception of comparative nothing. It threatens decades of ordinary neighborhood transformation. It produces well-known t-shirts such as “Blight Me” and “Develop, Don’t Destroy.” Although most development occurs within a set of existing (albeit complex) as of right rules, zoning is now used for various reasons, and perhaps too many. From the basics of land use planning to forecast municipal finance or its use to help with preservation, it has a history of racially motivated exclusion, and more recently funding affordable housing inclusion.   (see Manhattanville) In other words, it is not pro-growth vs. anti-small growth. The zoning situation has become New York City’s wicked problem (wiki).

A Brief Digression

This view of problems has a fascinating history and following. When Richard Buchanan (Case Western) connected design thinking to wicked problems, the impact created a substantial change in problem-solving from definition-to-solution into a condition-change assessment. Read his paper (a pdf is here). The questions surrounding community design draw from planning, architecture, and engineering as creators of a physical realm. However, changes in community conditions occur in the overlap of these professions with the psychology of a place.

In today’s community development practice, we see two separate forces that believe they are correct. Both are at odds on how and why investment functions. It is wicked because the two parties are unaware of the other; thereby, they are without data: their values, outlook, economics, and culture conflict. Points of intervention are possible but difficult to imagine. The uncertainty poses the creativity possible in ambiguity, but the ships have already passed in the night. Finally, the forces of resistance often lead to their repression. Whether imposed or internalized, the impact of repression alters mental health conditions. It is far too easily ignored, but the results of stress, anxiety, and depression have proven harmful to the individual and have a community impact.   

The Carbon Neutral Strategy

Calculating carbon footprints is still in its infancy. Still, the standard calculation today is based on an estimate of $400 per ton of emissions.  If you are Bill Gates, you more than double it just to make another point.  He recognizes the Green Premium cost and is quite willing to say he can easily afford to pay it. He is not so sure about the rest of us, so he suggests we ask and decide what we can do as individuals. 

Policymakers can take on only so many problems at once. Getting on that “only so many” list will require concerted political action. A regional support strategy will help local organizers get on that list. It could alter or stop an environmentally suspect development project in Flushing Queens.  Drawing encouragement from regional to citywide to neighborhood organizations willing to focus resources on one example can be used to push climate change to the top of that list. 

Political leaders need to sense concerted political action from their constituents.   Climate change and the Flushing Meadow project can be encouraged for use as an example of a grave error that must not be allowed anywhere in the region.  Digging into the specifics of these errors will help every participating organization.  Some examples are:

  • The Flushing Development is not paying the Green Premium. The project needs to tell the energy systems companies, services, and utilities what it will pay to address climate change.
  • The Flushing Developers, architects, and engineers have no idea what a zero-sum, carbon-neutral project would look like. 
  • The developer is only complaining about its profit margin. Simultaneously, the project’s failure and its cost will fall on the city and the state when the community is flooded and stays flooded.
  • The list of households most likely to be displaced by climate change (flooding/storm surge) is about 4,000 today.  The Flushing project could double that figure and quadruple the cost.

A focus on getting a more aggressive regional and citywide partnership on this project is needed.  The attention can help produce a carbon-neutral development or stop one that isn’t.  Either way, it is an important market signal. The political action statement is straightforward. Not paying attention to the carbon footprint issue today could put your grandchildren on the endangered species list tomorrow.  It is that serious. The science of this argument and proof of this project’s failure to recognize the problem is the work that lies ahead.

Big question: Is the idea of a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan capable of adjudication? Can it confirm or refute any of the fears of the people? Can it alter the inexorable facts of climate change and its impact on Flushing. As a BOA site will the developers provide services and funding covering lifetime health related illness from work or living on the proposed site. You get the drift.

A Muddling Strategy

Zoning is well-established police power, yet it is officially opposed and challenged, questioned, and denied—a political pawn of progress. Consider the possibility of an impeccable elimination of racism, classism, sexism, and the all-around favorite “placism” in the zoning text and resolution as policy. \Is there a way to bring its original health and safety purpose more explicitly focused on the pace of neighborhood change? Deliberate but incremental negotiations could help charge ordinary people’s expectations with a new interest in community investing. Plans for a mutually determined and purposeful quality of change can be absorbed gradually. This helps alter the lock on the status quo and governmental privilege systems into more of an emollient for progress.

Rusty Toaster Pill

The New York Metropolitan Region is a megacity, yet zoning (or changes to it) only considers a few blocks at a time. Given mobility throughout this region, its people can live in places where they can become most productive.  The missing resource is the lack of information, innovation, and opportunities to meet and optimize these choices. The “transit-rich” locations in the city are sold for minor capital improvements. These are deals between a failing private corporation (MTA) and the responsible agencies local, state, and federal governments. The inevitable common-sense conclusion could be zoning is failing communities that are not transit-rich by establishing transportation dependency in all others. A rapidly advancing capacity for equitable movement would be to make everything in the region within reach of everything else within an hour or less. 

One excellent example is Downtown Brooklyn, NY that is the most transit-rich region of New York City. The fight over Atlantic Yards an expansive uncovered rail yard serving the Long Island] Railway. New York City partnered with a developer, Bruce Ratner, to develop the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. (contention) The construction of an arena, the Barclay’s Center was first to develop, to yield the headline.  How to Build a Sports Complex by Promoting 2,000 units of Housing.  The proposal engendered legal and political battles for a decade.  The use of eminent domain, how the project would be bid, even the vision the developer offered was challenged in the courts.140  A musical theater troupe the Civilians produced a popular musical farce detailing indignation only to prognosticate the ephemeral promise of affordable housing.

Meanwhile Back in Flushing

In 2010, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation received a grant under the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program.  It was used to develop plans to replace vacant and underutilized properties and revitalize Flushing’s waterfront area. If approved, the development would serve as an extension of Downtown Flushing.  The Special Flushing Waterfront District was established by a vote of 40 to 4 margin on 12/10/2020. This brings the process to the final ULURP process. We have not seen the application.

Impressive Eye Candy

Flushing is For Sale

The Hill West Architecture firm has an impressive portfolio of projects (here) with a few waterfront locations.  However, the Flushing development concept has yet to make it to their list or map all projects (here) real and digital hopes. The proposal’s renderings available now are useless preliminary sketches projecting the total floor area allowed in a set of unchallenged zoning approvals. New York Yimby seems to have the best set of illustrations (here).  But let’s pretend the following is real and will be built, and the architecture might look like this project in Brooklyn.

On the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn

The proposed 1,725 units proposed are criticized for including a minimal amount of affordable housing and 879 hotel units.  As housing advocates know, hotel rooms are used to house displaced families as an alternative to warehoused children in shelters.  Is there an “off-table” agreement here to provide such units as needed, and if so, how might it be included in the city’s incentive package without been seen?

Office space and community facilities, and retail space are estimated at about 700,000 sq. ft. Parking & BOH: involves 440,500 square feet and the waterfront public space may have about 160,000 square feet. Is that closed Assi market sized into this structure? Would the rent be fair?  Will there be competitors?

Part V – Wicked Problem Planning

Women’s Liberation Groups

National Organization of Women

Equal Rights Advocates

National Women’s Law Center

National Partnership for Women and Families

Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR)

MS. Foundation for Women

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Girls Inc.

Equality Now

Other Important Organizations

National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education

Legal Momentum

Feminist Majority

New York Colleges and Universities

There are nearly one-half-million students of higher education and over 1.1 million students in the NYC public education system. A resource of enormous power given 1) affordability and 2) focus on priorities of the city through scholarships and education incentives. These institutions have an enormous stake in the health, housing, and general welfare of New York City people.

2,5732014Barnard College
18,0902014Baruch College
3,7722010Berkeley College Midtown NYC Campus
11,1572010Bronx Community College
17,4102015Brooklyn College
1,2702016Columbia Business School
1,2442020Columbia Law School
31,4552020Columbia University
8,8462017Fashion Institute of Technology
15,2862015Fordham University
7,0782011Hostos Community College
23,0182013Hunter College
15,0002014John Jay College of Criminal Justice
15,9682016Kingsborough Community College
17,5692010LaGuardia Community College
12,0002019Lehman College (CUNY)
3,8832013Manhattan College
12,0632019Manhattan Community College
5,5192020Medgar Evers College
17,2822016New York City College of Technology
51,1232018New York University
6792010NYU Grossman School of Medicine
1,3952015NYU School of Law
12,8432015Pace University
5,8542015Parsons School of Design | The New School
4,5562014Pratt Institute
19,5202016Queens College, City University of New York
15,4932015Queensborough Community College
4,2012017School of Visual Arts
20,4482014St John’s University Queens Campus
5,8372011St. Joseph’s College New York
1,8912010SUNY Maritime College
16,1612012The City College of New York
8762015The Cooper Union
9392016The Juilliard School
10,2542014The New School
6,3482014Yeshiva University
8,5112015York College

Help in finding the faculty that combine housing, climate and social justice would be helpful here.

Thanks for the contributions to date: OCCUPY

Planning Together: Part III

carbon dioxide equivalent in metric tons per square foot, per year

Two forces are at work in the continuing creation of NYC.  First-force is energy aimed toward “centers.” Second-force moves outward and away from its centers.  Implementing the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) is an interesting example using a comprehensive urban planning perspective of both. The centers are locations where there are buildings with more than 25,000 square feet in NYC.  The force is generated by a global condition demanding a reduction in GHGs. The focus is on large urban centers within large metropolitan cities.



The CMA requires building owners to contribute to meeting the 80/50 goal.

By 2050 NYC will reduce GHG’s to 80% of current levels.


If the legislation passes, the first milestone in the ten-year LTCP will be the City Report’s Conditions (COC). The narrative will draw on the ongoing objective, measurable data that City agencies generate every year over the last five years and punch it into the COC. The COC focus on long-term issues as embedded in the data concerning long-term planning and sustainability will have to face the Climate Mobilization Act’s impact.

Suddenly the Climate Mobilization Act marches into the room from 2021 to 2024 with compliance requirements through 2029. If there were anything like a 1,300-pound Grizzly in community planning, it would be every building owner in the community with square footage over 25,000 square feet yelling, “the investment in energy efficiency, for the reduction of GHGs, will cost the community jobs and displace residents.”

The law says tenants will be protected, but we are in a buyer beware world. The following was set from “deepdive

“When the act originally passed last year, owners of buildings where rent-regulated units make up less than 35% of the total were given an alternate path to compliance due to what officials called “outdated” rent laws in New York State. That path allowed landlords to pass the cost of building upgrades to tenants by charging for major capital improvements through higher rents.”

“Then in July, the state-level Housing Stability and Tenant Protections Act of 2019 altered how such improvements can be imposed by only allowing rent increases for rent-stabilized units if they make up 35% or more of the units in a building. While this adjustment saves tenants from having the costs of capital improvements and retrofits passed on to them, some councilmembers worried about landlords’ ability to absorb those costs themselves.”

Elected officials said while more established landlords can likely take on the costs for improvements like HVAC and lighting upgrades. Still, those who manage smaller buildings may not be able to, especially as the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has affected their rental incomes.”

Residential building owners will see it as a perfect opportunity to displace tenants through major capital improvements with added harassment efforts. Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and careless rule enforcement allow building owners to raise rents on the unsuspecting. Documented abuses in monthly MCI rent hikes over $800 per apartment are well-known and feared.

Is it possible to imagine that the plan that eliminates jobs doesn’t matter because the people who have them will be displaced anyway? A counter-measure is available if the focus on the green economy is on jobs. The data is available in jobs from the production of a net-zero supply-chain to the production of well-educated people in the universities NYC has to offer. (See list)

Whether that ridiculous scenario occurs or is more likely in some neighborhoods than others, the Climate Change crisis is that Grizzly in the long term. It has the capacity to push aside all the other issues, education, transportation, public health, arts and culture, economic development, zoning, and land use.

Set by climate policy, the Climate Mobilization Act’s implementation priority will focus on projects that involve about 50,000 buildings in this category, about 2,500 have a million square feet or more. NYC’s Open Data portal has an example Building Footprints to illustrate that the city can be super-square-foot smart on a building by building basis.

The GHG reduction goal is a force applied from the outside toward these locations. The impact on sales and acquisitions in real estate markets for all land uses old, new, and proposed will be significant. The buildings are known and mapped. This is where defining the second-force comes into play.

An old example of a first-force, “center-inward,” and a second-force “center-outward” impact was global thermal nuclear war and auto-technology.  The policy was to spread out urban life, leaving energy-efficient public transit systems behind and in decay. The priority was to produce the massive growth promised in an auto-driven economy.  Hey, it looked great for a long time, but now hundreds of articles available from the GBC and elsewhere talk about the lack of balance in this policy.


The building owners and communities involved and informed by the Climate Mobilization Act will be encouraged to understand its requirements. These reactions to a problem will occur outwardly from the lawmakers who know stuff to ordinary people who haven’t been told and may never know.

The conduct required involves analyzing existing energy use, building condition, and capacity for financing implementation. Depending on the community, facility projects will either fail or comply with their carbon emissions reduction to 26% by 2024 – 2029.  The Green Building Council (GBC) here provides details.  The structures involved are organized by space classification, and fines and penalties for non-compliance may not be significant.  A good example is the Empire State Building will have to pay $1.25 million as a fine for failure.  See story, The New York Times


Poorly defined second-forces can include the displacement of low- and moderate-income households in rapidly complying and gentrifying NYC neighborhoods due to the well-known impact of “major capital improvements.”. A well-funded outreach and community planning process is needed to get beyond the dubious effect of fines. Assured compliance with Social, Economic, and Environmental Design (SEED) and the LEED nod to this issue is essential. The SEED Evaluator and certification framework establishes social, economic, and environmental goals for building projects to measure success. Buildings are the major contributor to global warming. Still, the people of dense cities such as NYC are the low per capita energy users.  The people in the buildings (residents and workers) should have a higher value than the buildings.

The lessons of displacement are throughout the United States.
I urge you to hear Colette Pichon Battle. What she knows now, we need to know.

The Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy and Colette Pichon Battle’s work raises awareness on equitable disaster recovery, migration, economic development, climate justice, and energy democracy. Climate change is not the problem. It is a symptom of a more significant system problem the American people must address. TED presentation (here).

The NYC Zoning Resolution is now open for business as a negotiating tool.  Mandated inclusion to subsidize rental housing is the most recent example.  A mandated subsidy drawn from the energy savings produced could be used to prevent displacement and sustain affordability.  A therm saved is one earned. The thing is, there is no negotiation with a rising ocean, only the duty to protect all people from all the forms of displacement it will cause.

Exposure to all the wiggle room (cash savings for wealth owners) could help line up social justice and equity goals with needed compliance. For example, Local Law 84  mandates benchmarking and disclosure of energy use.  However, it exempts buildings with 10%+ (really, seriously) floor space devoted to data centers, trading floors, or broadcast studios.  No Energy Star score is required because disclosing a terrible energy use intensity (EUI) is awful PR. Example abound in this arena of the wiggle.


Carbon offsets are allowed. Purchasing unlimited renewable energy credits (RECs), also known, can reduce reported emissions for electricity.  A citywide emissions trading scheme (ETS) focused on greenhouse gas emissions will come up in 2021 and so on.  Every dime should turn into an anti-displacement dollar for one reason — the law outlines “guidelines” most of the specifics have yet to be reconciled. And, in addition to Local Law 97, the Climate Mobilization Act includes other laws:

Local Laws 92 & 94 – Green Roofs & Solar PV: Requiring green roofs solar PV systems on specific new construction and renovation projects.

Local Law 95 – Building Labeling: Adjusting metrics used for letter grades assessing building energy performance.

Local Law 96 – PACE: Establishing clean energy financing tools for building owners

Local Law 98 – Wind Energy: Obliging the Department of Buildings to include wind energy generation in its toolbox of renewable energy technologies.

Thankfully, there are resources to help building owners navigate this evolving regulatory landscape. The NYC Retrofit Accelerator supports building owners’ efforts to improve their buildings’ energy efficiency. (calculator) At the state level, NYSERDA has several programs geared towards putting buildings on the path to energy efficiency.

Voluntary nonprofits are gaining traction to assist institutions with the measurement tasks for a price. A good example is CRIS — The Climate Registry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, reporting, and verification platform, accessible at This tool is used by The Climate Registry (TCR) reporting members, TCR-recognized Verification Bodies, and the general public to measure and/or communicate the carbon impacts of organizations of all sizes across all sectors.

Planning Together – Part II

Thanks for the comments and edits and recommendation for III — no one is as smart as all of us!

Roll the dice? The following rant is about a bad plan to do big planning.


The one thing we learn from our history is that we don’t, and therefore remember negatively. New York has a sizeable group of relevant organizations to fight what we all know is about to happen. Political leaders will be asking for austerity and sacrifice for the common good. The so-called “v” shaped recovery is real, it will occur, but the rich/poor separation accelerates into pain. Cuts to basic social services: schools, healthcare, housing will occur if current New York State budget plans go forward without federal relief. The IBO has an economic forecast and analysis of the Mayor’s 2022 Preliminary Budget and Financial Plan through 2025. It also discusses some of the positive and negative. See it here.  You can also jump to Planning Together Part III that opens a dialogue on the Climate Mobilization Act. (here)

We also know the austerity will not aim at those who fight in the courts and attack with lobbyists. We know massive contributions to identity scrubbing PACs will continue. We know a thousand other tips and tricks of the political elite, such as primary threats, misleading information, and outright lies are more likely than not. What are the ordinary people of the city to do?

How about trusting a citywide movement led by term-limited political leaders. How about a Comprehensive Long-Term Plan? 

To introduce the subtle elements for a ten-year comprehensive plan in the city of New York, spend a few minutes with two professionals responsible for producing plans in our city. Carl Weisbrod’s presentation is first, speaking as Chair of the thirteen-member City Planning Commissioner in 2016. The second is by Marisa Lago speaking as Director of the Department of City Planning and less so in her role as Chair of the City Planning Commission. Combined they provide a sense of how these professionals are likely to respond to the City Council’s big comprehensive plan idea. Get an adult refreshment, it takes about an hour. It is well worth the time if you weren’t there or have not seen them.

Please reflect on these presentations (text). What caught your attention? Comment.

Trust in Planners

The meat of the legislation establishing the Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) reveals the current system’s timelines and some new content. All of us have a desire to see positive change from the grassroots up. Advancing this point boosts democracy, yet the first step is a standard one with a topping of community charrettes. Language is important —  community development professionals equate charrettes with interactive brainstorming sessions. In the context of a “needs” discussion, the charrette has the potential to be a magnificently dysfunctional practice. If this goes bad, will community planners ever be trusted again?

I am led to conclude that there are aspects of the old, end-of-the-project charrette as a design process that remain relevant and valuable. These kinder, gentler charrettes, held early in the design or programming stages of a project, place the client and other stakeholders and all or most professional disciplines that will contribute to the project in the same room for, usually, one to three days.

Daniel Willis (here).

Long term goals are not products of an evening’s chat. Two or three whole days could be sufficient outreach resources to the Community Boards and Council Districts. The implied goal (or the one sought) is of a unified movement for equitable change. Remember Weisbrod saying close to half of the households in NYC are too close to distress and one crisis away from poverty. Lago nods to the fact as well. Before that real problem can be defined well, there is another one to examine.

Still, we hear two very different sounds from the top of the profession (rah, rah) and from the neighborhoods (oh, no, oh, no) Longfellow says it best in Tales of a Wayside Inn.

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, 
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; 
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, 
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ships in the Night

Given this condition as reasonably accurate, the streamlined cycle (right) demands a focus on one thing at a time, even though we know everything happens all at once in the current system (left).

A deadline system is in both processes. The fourteen event deadlines described by law on the left could be found within one of the eight “focusing octagons” on the right. In examining the calendar below, we see the deadline clocks extended. It isn’t obvious, but there is a hint of the logic involved. The hope is that each stop within the clockwise pattern prescribed in the octagons can co-occur.  That as we get to know each octagon, some fog is lifted by the long view. Small study groups in your circle of change agents know that running through a cycle such as this one at speed (from a few minutes to a week) can enrich the experience.

The salary of a Community District Manager (Civil Service Title Code #56086) will range from 75K to $90K, and the office can have up to four paid staff members. The staff’s responsibilities are maintaining a meeting space and agendas for politically appointed volunteer District residents regarding many community issues. The Independent Budget Office provides a funding history (here). The average budget is $315,000 and 2.3 employees per district (2020), with sizeable differences in OTPS across boroughs. A deeper analysis would help the public to understand why the promise of community-based planning authorized by the New York City Charter (197-a) has not enjoyed top-down support. The Department of City Planning has not invested in staff professionalization or physical facilities that would be beneficial. This is a huge failure in management behavior, as a fundamental rule is that decisions are best made by those closest to the information.

One Way Ticket

The CPD Director’s view of Community Boards is limited. They can contribute to the city’s budgeting process, not planning. In this regard, the department has invested in digital tools for a Community District to advocate for their needs. See screenshots below.

Using short cycles of general knowledge enrichment and reflection help to bring consensus to final commitment points.  The plan’s development is a sacrifice of action limited to rhetoric and narrative (reports and legislation); however, the gift of reflection through these cycles will be activism. Or, at least, it should be expected. A better source for what should be expected is from the Furman Center (here). NYU Furman Center’s Neighborhood Data Profiles are an in-depth look at the demographic, housing market, land use, and neighborhood services indicators for the city’s 59 community districts. Dive into the numbers in the neighborhood where you live, or test your New York City knowledge. Get the answer in our State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods report, powered by

The letters of hope approach remain one way. The end product sought is a narrative report for use at the top. On the other hand, spending some time thinking about what your community is not getting, even though repeatedly requested, leads to activism combined with despair. Why should a process for a comprehensive community development effort do it backward?

The economics and social demography of New York City say the odds are fifty-fifty right now on hopelessness and desperation. Whether “v” shaped recovery will be sufficient, the coming pandemic-caused austerity crisis remains with the most vulnerable. A shift in those odds in the wrong direction is easily triggered with insurgency behaviors.

The Climate Crisis is long term re-direct problem. What if the energy savings were captured as an inclusionary social equity issue? Finally, a long-term plan is ineffective unless something, a big or tiny bit of fruit, can be seen routinely. Throwing the dice looking for a seven is, at best, a thirteen-percent roll.

Here is a brief example of a long term approach.

The Cycle in 215 Words

Priority Needs

City Condition

City Wide Goals

Preferred Land Use Statements

Long Term Plan Submitted

Capital Strategy



One Community Board’s priority need is for new and rehabilitated housing affordable to the district’s median income for rent and ownership. The “city conditions” report from OLTPS now (MOR) states a citywide demand for X00,000 new and rehabilitated affordable housing units but uses the AMI to establish eligible cohorts. The citywide goal statement on the affordable housing gap concurs, “The City of New York will close the median income gap in affordability.” It offers a set of objectives for measuring success in this effort. One long-term example among hundreds available might be — Objective: The percentage of households paying over 50% of income for shelter will be reduced by 10%. This district’s preferred land use seeks new four-story buildings (R4 to 5) and very low-cost loans for rehabs and accepts R6 to R10 in the “transit-rich” sections, including mixed-use services. The long-term plan codifies these as advisory desires. It then turns to the city’s ten-year capital strategy in search of the financing available to serve this one district and all 58 others. That takes us to the final focusing octagon in the cycle that seeks alignment. It is a cards-on-the-table analysis of all standing applications. About 80% of the ULURP application are “as of right.” Also, new offers for housing development are encouraged that “effectuate the plan.

Fast Cycle/Slow Cycle

It took about twenty minutes to run through a streamlined cycle above using a housing invention and the imagination. It is a useful thought experiment. In the end, priority needs in the district may be met or not. In this sketch, setting a goal to close the gap may not succeed. Ignoring that it is “the gap” that is on everyone’s mind isn’t helpful either. The process may heighten expectations, but adding resources for adjustments using fast/slow cycles appropriate to the district’s condition can strengthen the body as a whole. The cycle concludes with a look at resource implications and “alignment,” A better or perhaps more accurate word is reconciliation.

The process does not have to be super formalized. It can be fun. It can allow a community’s “gut” to be trusted. If some people (like city officials) are presumed to have more power, if given the time to conduct “good listening,” they too discover ways they can be trusted.

Whether in short or long-term iterations, drawing in new data to the cycle can occur as it becomes available. The plan should release itself from an “arrow-of-time” approach and forgettable, years-apart milestones. From a strategic point of view, faster is better when driven by the data available. It is vital to recognize an accelerated flow of data with increased accuracy. Just one hitch, though, the data, the technology for use, and local experience with it are very underrepresented in distressed communities. The plan is long term, but in this sense, it is getting ahead of itself. The work is still that of the agencies of the city. Getting another watcher, perhaps just a lookout spectator, cannot be helpful without a reconciliation process.

Reconciliation describes federal law (Budget Act 1974) that allows expedited consideration of specific tax, spending, and debt limits with advantages for passing a controversial budget or a tax measure. Obstruction is not permitted, and amendments are limited.  See CBPP article (here). Research on the interest in NYS or NYC regarding this point would be helpful. Still, if the proposed planning process is to be successful and for “the good,” it will need some people as smart as Elizabeth MacDonough on reconciliation powers, government role, and some serious philanthropic interest.

Following is a first look at the Charter’s changes designed to empower the role of a comprehensive long-term plan (LTCP). This is a quick (probably too fast) run of changes. It will need corrections and clarifications. All are welcome. What does all this seems to do is add a layer. Contact

Alterations to the City Charter

Section 5 Annual statement to council. of the LTCP effective as of 12/31/2022

Section 17 Strategic Policy Statement  from the cycle of 4 years to five and alignment with sec 20 provisions and substantial additions under the new heading “Citywide Goals Statement.”

Section 20 Office of long-term planning and sustainability the greatest number of additions are made to this section of the charter —  goals to reduce and eliminate disparities in quantitative citywide targets and policy goals, some about the waterfront, with such targets established by the long-term planning steering committee, other quantitative community district level targets for each community board within each category enumerated  equitable distribution of resources

Population project requirement was repealed

  1. Section 82 (subdivision 14) Powers and Duties of Borough Presidents Five-year cycles instead of four
  2. Section 197-c. Uniform land use review procedure. a statement of alignment describing how the application aligns, conflicts, or does not apply to the comprehensive long-term plan prepared according to subdivision d of section 20  rules to determine whether such applications align with the comprehensive long-term plan subdivision d of section 20, including notice of conflicts with the LTCP
  3. Section 197-d. Council Review.  notice of conflicts with the LTCPand a land-use scenario found in paragraph 7 of subdivision d of section 20
  4. Section 205 Comprehensive waterfront plan. REPEALED until….?
  5. Section 215 Ten year Capital Strategy detailing the cost to maintain existing city infrastructure and how to align with each goal or citywide budget priority in the LTCP align with each goal or citywide budget priority outlined in the LTCP
  6. Section 219   Project initiation; commitment plan. Projected capital projects not previously anticipated
  7. Section 228 Draft ten-year capital strategy.  Five-year cycles instead of every other one
  8. Section 230 Community board budget priorities. Needs not previously stated is have to be pointed out, and a new interface is implied as a responsibility of the Mayor’s office
  9. Section 234 City planning commission hearing and statement on the draft ten-year capital strategy.  Every five years
  10. Section 248. Ten-year capital strategy. Every five years
  11. Section 668 Variances and special permits. A grant or denial of the board must respond to recommendations included in the comprehensive long-term plan required by subdivision d of section 20
  12. Section 1110-a. Capital plant inventory and maintenance estimates. Ending in 2022 and restarting in 10/2023 with an online machine-readable format and hooked up to subdivision i of Section 20 and according to paragraph 1 of subdivision b of section 215.
  13. Section 2800 Community boards.  Annual statement of needs now every two years (6)   Render an annual report to the mayor, the council and the borough board within three months of the end of each year and such other reports to the mayor or the borough board as they shall require (such reports or summaries thereof to be published in the City Record)


Calendar of the LTCP (rough draft)

The Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability and its powers are defined in Section 20 of the New York Charter. This office’s role is substantially amended in its relationship to City Planning, the Mayor’s Office, The City Council, and others.

New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS) was created as part of the Mayor’s Office by local law in 2006. The Office coordinates with all other City agencies to develop, implement, and track the progress of PlaNYC and other issues of infrastructure and the environment, which cut across multiple City departments.

Released in 2007 and updated in 2011, PlaNYC is an unprecedented effort undertaken by Mayor Bloomberg to prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen our economy, enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers deal with climate change. In addition to producing PlaNYC, the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability promotes the integration of sustainability goals and practices into City agencies’ work and all residents’ and visitors’ lives.

The following timetable is a rough approximation of the plan. It will be useful for comparison with actual events with a clearer indication of the resources allocated in the ongoing flow of Charter mandated events as they are drawn into the LTCP,

Section 2800 Community boards 

Annual statement of needs every two years. No mention of the Community Affairs Unit CAU or the Civic Engagement Commission 

Annually, the most frequently mentioned issue is “affordable housing,” with 30 of 59 boards nominating it as their top need. The trend remains upward.

Repair and Replace
Conditions of the City


February 1, 2022             

Convene a 13 Member Steering Committee with expertise in planning, transportation, sustainability, resilience, housing, public utilities, social services,  and economic development.

section 6 of this local law shall take effect for long-term planning steering committee and borough steering committees.

September 1, 2022

Convene Borough Steering Committees to prepare and provide a strategic policy statement for the borough see obligations under paragraph 2 of this subdivision.

sections 10 and 19 of this local law shall take effect;

September 15, 2022                               

a statement of community district needs, and every two years after that

section 24 of this local law shall take effect to a standardized survey for Community Boards

October 1, 2022

mayor provides estimates of costs by agency and project type and, within project type, by personal services and other-than-personal services (OTPS), necessary to maintain all significant portions of the capital ending in 2022, see Oct. 2023

December 31, 2022

Report on the city’s long-term planning and sustainability efforts

section 5 of this local law shall take effect to acquire annual reports on long-term planning and sustainability


January 31, 2023             

issue a report to the mayor and speaker of the city council that describes each committee’s meeting and any other activities undertaken by the committee for the immediately preceding year.

February 7, 2023                                         

Submit Conditions of the City report. Detailing conditions for comprehensive long-term planning

Sections 3, 8, 9, 15, 16, and 17 of this local law shall take effect 3 repeals population projections

March 1, 2023                                               

Steering Committeeestablishes  the citywide targets described by section 17 by majority vote, and no later than July 1 of the corresponding years

April 15, 2023                                           

the director of the office of long-term planning shall submit a preliminary citywide goal statement           

sections 1 and 26 of this local law shall take effect

July 1, 2023

the director of long-term planning shall submit a final citywide goals [strategic policy] statement

October 1, 2023

the mayor shall transmit to the council an updated repair, replace or maintain recommendation of each capital asset contained in the ten-year capital strategy

under paragraph 1 of subdivision b of section 215.

section 23 of this local shall take effect


January 31, 2024

issue a report to the mayor and speaker of the city council that describes each committee’s meeting and any other activities undertaken by the committee for the immediately preceding year.

February 1, 2024

adopt the community district level targets for any category within the previously adopted citywide targets, no later than and every tenth February 1, 2024 after that

April 15, 2024

submit a draft comprehensive long-term plan. No later than 150 days after the submission, present a recommended preferred land-use scenario for each applicable community district, and may adopt suggested amendments to the corresponding community district level targets

sections 2, 12, and 20 of this local law shall take effect immediately; sections 4 and 7 of this local law shall take effect

November 1, 2024          

Draft ten-year capital strategy. Every five years after, the director of management a draft ten-year capital strategy prepared according to section two hundred fifteen provisions.

section 18 of this local law shall take effect


January 16, 2025

the city planning commission shall submit a report containing its comments on the draft ten-year capital strategy submitted per section two hundred twenty-eight of this chapter every five years after that,

section 22 of this local law shall take effect

January 31, 2025             

issue a report to the mayor and speaker of the city council that describes each committee’s meeting and any other activities undertaken by the committee for the immediately preceding year.

Planning Together: Part III (here)

Planning Together: Part I

New York City is not the center of the universe. Recognizing that it contains the most complex issues facing any community in the nation should put it there. Notwithstanding this desire, a conservative and narrow view toward solutions prevails. There are progressive answers to injustice, and for many, they are well known, yet this knowledge alone fails to lead us toward resolving the difficulties of implementation. Another form of action is required. Is this something that might be available in the four-year implementation plan outlined in the “New Comprehensive Planning Framework?” It is time to take a patient look at the possibilities of accountability.



The New York City Council launched an idea called “Planning Together” in December 2020. So far, we offer a two–maybe a three-part examination of the concept. The first part uses the GOS-3P-RE™ format to develop a review that accepts the statement of “the problem” as well defined. That is, NYC does not have a comprehensive plan, and it needs one to fix the current chaos and a boatload of new problems just over the horizon that need a long-term view. Call it the “first agreement.”

The second part will critique the bias and questions developed in part one, and the assumptions built into the problem. This analysis will offer suggestions and decide whether our natural period of skepticism can become the leverage required to support the work outlined in the New Comprehensive Planning Framework (NCPF) Report and the authorizing legislation requiring a comprehensive long-term plan (here). Again, here is the Full Report a link to the Legislation, and here is a link to a pdf-plain language summary.

The legislation represents one final public decision – a comprehensive long-term plan is needed. Imagine the law has passed, the plan will be launched and an LTCP will be sent to the Council for approval in about three years. As the saying goes if it is authorized, how well will it be allotted?

The small group of people who were involved in this idea are like those Margaret Mead described. You remember, something like small groups can change the world, and it is the only way it happens. There is no reason to believe all such efforts are for good. Therefore, it is sensible to review the plan’s inherent goals, objectives, and strategy. Examine the policies and list of programs or projects for a sense of priority. Finally, the resource demands and implications of the work itself require an evaluation.


All of 2021 is available to examine the implications of that decision before the official launch in February 2022. The first group of the “accountable” will be 13 people on a steering committee. The first major product is working and underway by City Planning — as the legislation calls for a report from the director about the city’s “long-term planning and sustainability efforts” on December 31, 2022. (ongoing initiatives found here).

The current versions of data and needs statements for all 59 Districts (here) for review. The needs statement sections are available in portable document format (pdf), as shown in the lower right corner of the image below

Start with District Needs (Statements and Data)

The first chart (below) covers a four-year implementation for continuing public participation. The second chart covers the proposed ten-year cycle that begins September 15, 2022, with the Needs Statements containing declarations of continuing support for existing programs and capital projects, a limited number of needs given high priority, plus the specific rationale for new or reprioritized necessities in the each District. The current versions for all 59 Districts are (here) for review.

Please take a moment to review the charts.

Steering committees are advisory bodies composed of experts with experience on issues, such as budgets, new projects, policy, strategies, and project management concerns. The thirteen chosen to work with the Speaker, the Director, the Agencies, and the Mayor will be the first indicator of “seriousness.”


The introduction of a New Comprehensive Planning Framework (NCPF) tells us it may not be concrete or technical. Therefore, it is a political one. The origin in the New York City Council of the NCPF indicates with its emphasis on “needs” and “goals.” I do not see this as a poor step, just one that can get very slippery, especially in the last few weeks among a bevy of term-limited Council members or when a major capital investment group frightens the residents in a member’s district. Still, that crunchy ethical detail will be saved for Part II.

Comprehensive planning is hugely complicated yet easily simplified into electoral goal setting. Such plans have only two uses, to outline our faults in a positive way and be elusive of commitment.  So it all fits. Goals are vital, but only if they can be widely shared. Take a couple of examples regarding the importance of demanding the future perfect tense to set goals.

By the end of each fiscal year, the City will provide proof of:

  • strong support for modern and sustainable public hospitals in an expanded health system
  • innovative financial mechanisms, and support for a growing supply of affordable housing

The use of “the City” would accompany the agencies authorized as accountable. Many similar goal statements can quickly achieve a substantial base of consensus.  When objective measures are set to define the public health system fully, we see it as writhing in debt.  In NYC, this system continues to represent billions in baseline losses in the system.  By 2024  the debt will double to $2 billion/year, and that was pre-pandemic. Or what if the massive increase in the direct cost of homelessness became a priority measure.  DHS expenditures have grown since 1994 from $500M to $2.4B in 2020.  These goals have a public policy lineage lasting decades, yet we stand today in this condition.  Why? They still stand because they are without accountability to progress.


There you have two hot-button examples of how a plan’s purposes easily disconnect from the available resources without a specific prescription for a solution.  As described above, goals may fail to be achieved. Still, the promise of every “new plan,” in this case initiated by political representatives, should be capable of such acknowledgments. Making events happen differently, as if there was never a plan, is not new. It is tiddling. 

In other words, a goal is only as good as it is concrete. It can be a good plan by transforming itself the way New York City often does — with self-confidence and occasional aplomb.  A plan needs to be agile, its proponents willing to hang together (vs. separately) yet unafraid of the fearful truth. Still, if it does not remain accountable, it isn’t a plan. 

Measures of the cost of services do not define complexity well, but dollars do provide a follow-up path.  Unlike previous decades, substantial increases in information flow to measure success and failure provide benefits.  The process of evidence-based, outcome-driven and measurable performance practice is well understood in public and private planning offices. One of the most important discoveries of expanded data management capacity is traditional problem discovery, defining, and solving processes no longer work very well.  It is now much more useful with data crunching techniques to examine precise changes in system conditions.  The framework condition “A” becomes condition “B” using appropriate time intervals.  

The benefit of this new sensitivity to system conditions changes facilitates a relatively rapid regulatory solution. The “City Conditions” should reflect the investments required and deployed. When objectives are met quickly, the tasks involved are more easily mandated by law to achieve a timely response. These activities will become subservient to ongoing system evaluations as the pace of new stable measures are set, and objectives are met. All of this is coming, and it is well on the way.


A good strategy follows from concrete objectives.  It is one that provides accurate comparisons with what is different and why.  Plans can do well on this point of period-to-period comparison.  However, the planning studies that express specific interests such as preservation, open space, and the waterfront establish an automatic constituency.  In these cases, the place matters, vested interests are exposed right alongside the people most directly affected by the anticipated change.

A cyclical ten-year planning cycle is promised.  It encourages integration and efficiency. However, a path to equitable and sustainable growth is not promised. Perhaps it’s a little too scary. Therefore, the test will be how meaningfully City Planning powers connect to the City’s budget process in annual cycles. The purpose of planning is not to make things work in the abstract. Its purpose is to define how well or poorly it meets needs in its overall spatial effect.  

Inequity has latitude and longitude.  The city planning power can deal with discrimination, injustice, and inequality in its capacity to manage and govern new land-use choices.  It should not allow these superpowers to negotiate floor area mechanics for fungible cash arrangements.  A New Comprehensive Planning Framework’s promise must outline its goals and objectives with strategies that see all families’ needs at the end of each day.   Priorities, projects, and policies should focus on the most vulnerable as a simple matter of honor, knowing and deciding who we are. However, the City also enters an era of “climate change roulette,” coupled with viral infections.  External forces like these can destroy life at any time and everywhere; thus, every action must prove hope is alive for all.

Policy, Projects, and Priority

The use of the term streamlining suggests a reorganization of the planning and budget-related actions required by law.  What is driving the demand to improve coordination across City agencies for this new outcome? Statements of proof for demand from agencies are needed. What is the evidence of benefits from reorganization?  Who will activate the performance measures? A typical product offered is a reduction in time and direct costs. If these efficiencies are proven, how and with whom are savings shared to balance inequities over the prescribed 10-years?

Community-based planning at the neighborhood level is stated as a resource for establishing a shared vision a goal that cannot a waltz-in-waltz-out, three charrettes effort among the 59 districts. The term charrette is not found in the legislation. How is the concept of “shared vision” measured? The plan’s approval is limited to adoption by the City Council.  In the context of proving a broader consensus, it would be presented to the City’s people by Community District using District Need Statements. Are the presenters and charrette facilitators representing Council Districts? The budget will be examined in Part II.

Here is a fun test. What strikes you as “comprehensive” in the following list of some of the significant work conducted by City Planning over the last half-century.   Please, take a moment. 

  1. Plan for New York City. A proposal (1969) (Critical Issues)
  2. Neighborhood Preservation in New York City (1973)
  3. The New York City Waterfront. (1974)
  4. New York City Waterfront Revitalization Program (1982)
  5. Waterfront Public Access in New York City (1986)
  6. New York City’s Waterfront: A Plan for Development (1988)
  7. Open Space and the Future of New York (1988)
  8. New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (1992)
  9. Plan for the Manhattan Waterfront (1993)
  10. Shaping the City’s Future (1993)
  11. A Greenway Plan for New York City (1993)
  12. Shaping the City’s Future: NYC Planning and Zoning (discussion report) (1993)
  13. New York: The City’s Land Uses (1995)
  14. Comprehensive Manhattan Waterfront Plan (1997)
  15. Recreation and Open Space in New York (1997)
  16. The New Waterfront Revitalization Program (1999)
  17. PlaNYC Greener Greater New York (2007)
  18. New York City: A City of Neighborhoods (2009)
  19. Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan (2009)
  20. Vision 2020. New York Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (2011)
  21. Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) 2013
  22. The New Housing Marketplace Plan (w/HPD) (from 2003 — 2014)
  23. Housing New York 2.0. (2014) and all of the Consolidated Plans
  24. OneNYC(2014)
  25. One New York. The Plan for a Strong and Just City (2015)

That is correct; of the twenty-five significant planning efforts listed, the word “waterfront” is ten titles. In seven of the other studies, it is powerfully connected to plans for greenways, bikeways, and integrated open space networks supporting recreation and people’s health.  Finally, there are plans for resiliency and hazard mitigation to see if these improvements can be kept. That is the “water coming” knock on the door?  Did you hear it?

In contrast, “housing” gets two titles in the nod that led to mandatory inclusion as a housing subsidy tool. On March 22, 2016, the City Council approved the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning text amendment. It produced a vehicle for permanent affordability from new construction. Some would call these small victories with modifications sufficient to glaze over an ordinary resident’s eyes regarding what is affordable. Most are unaware of the affordable housing roller coaster of this policy. It would look like this in the last CPD “snapshot.”

Resource Evaluation

The last part in the preparation of a plan is to examine the costs. I have yet to see “the budget” that implements the New Comprehensive Planning Framework, but there is a lesson learned from Number One on the list of major plans. The first comprehensive plan didn’t make it. It took too long. Time passed it by in the ashes and politics of a rapidly changing city for one reason. It was in crisis. Whole neighborhoods were dropping dead.

It is still a topic of conversation among planners. It still is a beautiful and reasonable “snapshot” of the city’s neighborhoods. The descent “Critical Issues” by Commissioner Beverly Moss Spatt (pdf oral history) is one of the best parts of that work. It even gets a quote in this new City Council version. The 1969 plan professed to be based on an interventionist role of government claiming the role of coordinator.  It would treat the physical, social and economic development of the City as a unified whole. So that never happened.  But when one door closes, another one tends to open.

Walk into that room. Enter the New York City Council’s acquisition of land use powers in 1989 to comply with a successful lawsuit demanding a constitutionally reorganized government. Twenty years later, you will find Planning Commissioners known to openly ridicule the community voice while buttering their morning toast and responding to texts about tweaks in the city’s behemoth zoning resolution. 

Notwithstanding the three years of Mayor David Dinkins, the Planning Commission became dominated by two Republican Mayors (Giuliani and Bloomberg) through 2013. Both men were quite willing to support system conditions that allowed the city to conduct uninhibited negotiations with “market forces” in shaping the city’s development. This remains the game in town today.


The resource implications of this initiative’s implementation are unclear. With a bit more wiggle room in the De Blasio administration, members of the City Council have responded to the comprehensive plan idea. It is a good idea to take a big picture look at New York City.

A change in the power relationship is outlined in the Office of Strategic Initiatives publication. Developing the opportunity for that change was put to Louis Cholden-Brown, the Deputy Director, and Annie Levers, Assistant Deputy Director. The office itself is not listed in the city’s Agencies and Administrative Officials Listing (here)

Without a doubt, this is Brad “Spanky” Lander’s effort. Some insight into his work as a councilmember is (here). He is term-limited out of the City Council, and he has a Master’s Degree in City Planning. Levers was his Budget and Policy Director, and a few years before that, she served as a Policy Fellow in his office. Credit for contributions to this initiative also goes to the Land Use and Finance Divisions of the Council. The two major committees and three-subcommittees share four members—more on who, when, where, why, and how much in Part II.

One of the 1969 City Plan products became the lasting addition of Community Districts to the political landscape. There was an interest in creating conterminal boundaries with all other service providing agencies. The groundwork for an expansion of democratic practices in neighborhood government was envisioned. All of it was conceived as a place where a neighborhood could self-study with agency professionals and define and solve their problems without the necessity of marching into City Hall. As goals, they remain there, functional shadows in the fog of the city’s culture war. Although, the city now appears to be less unwilling to look at its systemic racism in the face.

The Department of City Planning has the police power to regulate and a responsibility to be responsive.  The question is, who is it sharing that power with, and how responsive is this agency? Is there a balance? If a new citywide planning comprehensive process were earnest,  the map of community-based planning would have more than nine ongoing efforts.

If charged with launching a significant four-year initiative across a highly populated and diverse region, the agency would have a larger pre-engaged constituency to help get the ball rolling.  Before launch, a director would have sought commitments (MOUs) for multiple agency support for at least thirty community-district locations on local issues of concern. (The legislation does speak to this point.)

I would have sought and secured time from community-based nonprofit organization staff to cover all 55 sub-borough areas for a baseline data approach to housing issues in partnership with the Furman Center and others. I would have reached out to the Chairs of every City and Regional Planning Graduate and Undergraduate program in the region to talk about the possibilities of participation.  I would have conducted interviews with community board members, staff, and managers current and retired regarding their opinion of the planning process, impacts, and outcomes of initiatives by the Department of City Planning and other agencies as the conversations dictated. (A long-standing criticism is the appointees of the Community Boards do not represent the community well.) These outreach efforts can reveal two crucial things: the emotional and the factual basis for supporting a new comprehensive planning effort. These and other actions may claim to be engaged, but the resources deployed appear anemic at this time.

Outreach is vital to getting a broad basis for content built on participation. By definition, these steps involve a short term two-way community education process.  In the long term, the viability of content will depend on two components.  The plan would acquire a commitment to setting goals using words well-heard and understood in every community.  Second, evaluating the resource implications implied by the programs inferred would be recognized as the essential constraint to not getting everything everyone wants.

Planning Together – Part II

I took a plan-to-network point of view to the City Council’s initiative. If you were one of my students, you might recall. The exercise is designed to expose personal goals first. I asked what problems do you want out of the next fifteen weeks? I would write GOS-3P-RE on newsprint.

The headings in this narrative follow that structure and, consequently, exposes team biases and a planning approach to evaluating the NCPF. If it develops, the network component seeks to manage the development of “the plan” to examine the plan with others sharing a common interest or desire for knowledge. It was fun then, and it is fun now.

Part II will take a more detailed look in late February or March.

You know what to do if you are interested in this particular rabbit hole (contact). Read: Part IIthink Part III

Part II starts with a bold assumption. Am I looking at apples and oranges? Perhaps. We have always known NYC planning exhibits the exquisite practice of disjointed incrementalism, also known as zoning. That description was coined here, and we rarely pretend it to be otherwise. That would be the big apple on the left. That would make that precise looking gameboard on the right the orange. The use of the octagon traditionally expresses renewal, rebirth, and transition. Do you see the dice rolling across it? All the stuff on the left remains in play. It has been reasonably well resourced. Now, is this initiative trying to stuff that apple into the orange or simply trying to make them both sweeter. That will be our next task.

Go to Part II (here)

Critical Politics

The analysis of public response to the Great Recession of 2008 reveals those errors compounded in the Pandemic of 2020.  The failure to produce a system change from the private and public realm regarding these two instances is evident and a little frightening—the time has arrived for writers to demand improvements in critical thinking from every mountain top.  

Financial service companies, insurance agencies, and families went underwater on bad loans and poor judgment. Thousands of people have become sick and face financial disaster. A high percentage of the most vulnerable to infections have died. Fire, flood, drought, and a rising sea is encircling cities all over the world. Ending what is beginning to look like tragic cycles of change requires a summary of the public response to correcting the “money” problem. Money, faith in trade, and its use for the oblivious accumulation of goods is the root cause of this trouble. The use of it dominates the argument and the conversation. It is real but a distraction to the purpose of consequence. More plainly, my super wealthy grandparents just said, you cannot take it with you, and we (all of us) should only get a leg-up on confidence with a dose of tenacity.

In 2008, the American business community won the case – use federal funds and reestablish aggregate demand, sustain liquidity for global trade, keep employment up, but income marginal in a high percentage of households. Attack tax rates, government interference, and expose public incompetence. Continue to reduce and weaken mechanisms for public oversight into private financial practices. These are highly persuasive claims and strategic practices from the business community. They draw values such as individual freedom and independence that took over two centuries to establish a Republic built on a foundation of slavery.

The struggle for freedom of all people remains unexamined. Civil rights, social justice, equity, and a basic “leg-up” is falsely claimed as a strain and a distraction. Despite the depth of the 2008 and 2020 global economic tragedies, several questions go unaddressed under the heading of disproportionality.  Why wasn’t it disproportionate when eight percent of the households in a Georgia county were slaves? You will hear that isn’t the issue today, but I have comparable questions. Why does the world function as if the acquisition of equity is the only means of power? Where are their attempts to succeed with alternatives? Where are the dividing lines that tell us what separates the ability to meet human needs in the private marketplace from those essential to the validity of a public realm?

The difficulty of challenging and changing the last two hundred years of the American communication experience requires new leadership.  Only one modern American hero has a national day of remembrance for the courage it took to lead that kind of challenge. His agony became ours, and his name was Martin Luther King. He was murdered in 1968 by something much bigger and more heinous than the racism of his era.

King’s anguish for justice held the U.S. Constitution to account first, but this did not extinguish his view on economics. He believed the solution was not in a “thesis of communism or an antithesis of capitalism.”  His demand was for synthesis based on two facts. An economic system built on slavery and imprisonment will not change the rules. Change must, therefore, come from changing the system.

“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income…”

Where do We Go from Here? 1967

The economic crisis of 2008 and the health and financial crisis of 2020 has one word that tends to stop any discussion of system change dead in its tracks.  That word is “debt.”  Less understood is the concept of equity in our minds.  An accountant will tell you that “equity” is a combination of your assets and liabilities. One of the first pre-eminent sources of it in the United States is homeownership. With the help of government mortgage guarantees, it is the prime asset held by most Americans. Still, confidence and trust in each household is the one thing that makes the liability expressed by a mortgage possible. 

Recently the idea of retaining that trust and confidence was expressed by none other than the American Enterprise Institute in a map of the United States they tweeted to the world. The map illustrated the relative GDP of individual American States with other countries globally so that people would be more confident – to trust the system.  I would call your attention to Wisconsin before you read the next paragraph.

In response to the pandemic, Europe understands the “system change” relationship between public and private equity.  I have one example of why Wisconsin should have no difficulty changing the system if they were like Denmark.  The Denmark government stepped forward to continue paying wages even when they are not working.  People kept their jobs with their employers.  Denmark retained some business and most family income and stopped the virus from spreading efficiently. The policy maintained the cultural status quo of the nation steady t anticipation of ending the crisis. The system allows business activity and production to restart with as little cost and disruption as possible.    

System Change

I have a request in closing this bit of critical thinking about the need to produce a system change first with the idea that this would allow the rules to change. The first is to ask you to conduct a brief exercise, followed by taking the concept outlined above further in some way and sharing it with this blog – a link would do.

The habits of the mind that contribute to critical thinking involve the following types of thought.  The first one should be on the word critical. In health, the word describes a “short term” condition. Here is a quick exercise.  Run through the following ten words in ten seconds, asking.  

What is?

  1. contextual perspective
  2. confidence
  3. imagination
  4. elasticity
  5. inquisitiveness
  1. intellectual integrity
  2. intuition
  3. open-mindedness
  4. perseverance
  5. reflection

If you had a rapid response to each one of them, know three things 1) you have some or all the skills listed below and 2) if it took even a bit longer than ten seconds, you need more work on them when “critical” thinking is essential and 3) they are just words — you can pick your own ten if you choose.

  1. analyzing
    1. break the whole into parts to discover practical relationships
    2. list the parts piece by piece
    3. sort the things into things
  2. applying criteria
    1. judge using well-known rules
    2. apply personal, professional, and social standards
    3. compare and assess the means
  3. discriminating
    1. recognize differences and similarities
    2. rank things together or separate in groups
    3. differentiate categories or decern status
  4. information seeking
    1. evidence
    2. facts
    3. sources
  5. logical reasoning
    1. inference stated
    2. conclusions made
    3. basis of evidence
  6. predicting if that then this
    1. envision events
    2. plan futures
    3. determine possible consequences
  7. transforming knowledge
    1. changing conditions
    2. converting function
    3. alter concepts

Pick Your Own

Critical thinking can be brief, momentary, temporary, short-lived, impermanent, cursory, fleeting, passing, fugitive, flying, and like lightning.  It can also be transitory, transient, temporary, brief, fading, quick, and meteoric. Not being curious enough is a problem — inquisitiveness exercises human intuition. It helps a person run inference, seek integrity, and demand contextual change.  Therefore, differentiating the language to become more demanding, improves hearing. To solve problems adequately, or ask more satisfying questions.  I use the following chart to create a system change.

Just after the election of POTUS45, one message kept getting repeated about the need to produce change at the level of the local law that moved to the city, county, and state governments.  Only then would a system change have a chance for federal legislation or be recognized as a new cultural norm. The example given most often was the demand to make laws governing marriage far more inclusive.  The changes began locally but rapidly across the United States.  The rules change issues regarding women’s rights and a voting rights act. All noted here because none of them go unchallenged, and all of them require leadership demanding a civil discourse and faith in the law. The following table or chart is one of the easiest to read summaries of the process.


Fighting for America

Wait to discover what the new Democratic members in the House have in common. There are three unelected leaders working 24/7/365 to get more Democrats and Independents in the House and Senate. They are Nina Turner, the new president of Our Revolution, Maurice Mitchell, the new national director of the Working Families Party, and Yvette Simpson, the new chief officer of Democracy for America. They share concerns for the dignity of the American worker and family, and they represent a unique political triumvirate. If they can protect one another, build an agenda for 2020 and start winning the future for the people left behind or pushed away it will be about more than politics. Whether conservative or progressive, that is all that matters.

The depth of their shared experience as dynamic African-American leaders will be measured by how well they inject the people’s intellect into movements for change, but one other thing they have in common is a little scary. They seem woefully inadequate to the task and appear slightly ineffectual in the scraps of video available. Perhaps, it is the lack the money essential for digging into the demography and mysteries of votes and power. This kind of analysis can be replaced by the analytical skills of a grassroots organizational structure but, do they have it? Some of the poor impression is theirs to own, but the main problem is with us. What do they need to prove? They can lift their organizations into positions of great power, but when will we know? Winning elections is no longer sufficient.  What will be? What must we do?

Most of the poor and struggling families around the world are in the outlying urban areas both near and far from the dense core of economic forces that push and pull people from the land.  Homelessness is a production function cities. The vast ability of dense urban areas cities to create demand also cause a maze of economic disruptions that displace and break families. In much of the world, the human byproduct of this displacement is evident in large informal settlements. The housing market is failing to provide housing to one-third of the world’s urban population. Why do they get pushed? Do they know? No, and no one is telling them, even in America.

“There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”
J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

One person knows a lot about the economics of this is Bruce Katz, Director of the Center on Urban Metropolitan Policy at Brookings, a century old, centrist purveyor of fact. There are five short presentations and one long video by Katz (HERE). It will take about 30 minutes to watch this selection. He may sound libertarian, but he is just the messenger. I recommend listening to him before reading further. If you’d rather not, here is the super short version and why a triumvirate, such as the three imagined here is essential.

Our metropolitan centers are by far, the vital economic engines of America, and as such will continue to produce unrelenting displacement pressure on low-and-moderate-income households. They are the engines of learning, full of universities, colleges, advocacy organizations and training centers fully capable of creating a next-generation citizen fully capable of breaking down and eliminating gender, racial and ethnic barriers.  Details are here.

Skilled civic engagement in regional growth is a cultural phenomenon with specific strategies. First, retain the residence of threatened populations in the core. Second, draw down every opportunity to inject the reality of displacement pressure into the political heart of leaders. Third, this is a “no news is good” issue. Capable leadership will flee, equity holders will cash out, take their young and move far too soon into lower-cost environments (south and southwest). You need them. Encourage them to stay and fight.

Lastly, the 535 people at the federal level of representative leadership are ignorant of this fact, or at least behave that way by deferring to state powers. The triumvirate(s) suggested here is a stateless organization, they are capable of creating policies, projects, and priorities that strengthen multi-state regions and agencies. The U.S. more than its 50 states; it’s a network of 363 economically integrated metropolitan areas (click map above). Regional development policies are thousands of times more relevant to the future economic and social health of working-class America than the set of lines drawn by cartographers to establish the Republic a couple of centuries ago.

The boundaries of the states were formed using an imaginary grid that stretches across the earth. The intent of this coordinate scheme is to locate or identify precise geographic positions. The idea dates to 190–120 BC, it was used to draw uniform boundaries of the American states, and today your phone knows where you are to within a meter. The states are arbitrary constructs of uniformity and similar size, the metro-regions are synonymous with the health of the nation and in a metaphorical sense they are “circles.”  The circle looks inward. It is an object that shows its boundary to the world, the grid does not.  This is the organizing principle upon which triumvirates will develop their power. The voters of these regions are majority blue, Democrats and Independents. The organizational realignment toward multi-state economic regions will take a while, in the meantime, several strategic components require special attention.

Multi-Cultural/Racial Politics

Is a “rainbow coalition” possible? The presumption that it exists is wrong; it does not exist. All the appetizers, entrees and fixings are laid out in the kitchen, but supper has yet to find the dining table, even the one that is in the kitchen. The foundation for celebrating this high quality of change within the American diversity spectrum is barely recognized or touched let alone stirred with any fondness. We have no language, no string of words for it and it dates to 1984.

Building a foundation for American diversity is developing in two places, universities with civic engagement policies for incorporation across their curriculum from STEM programs to the more traditional centers.  The leaders are in law and political science who carry the strongest interest in a sustained discourse on democracy and its institutions. The second place occurs in the city where the language of diversity is improving followed by state and federal elections that exhibit serious divisions and therein lies the dark side of the social justice coin.

Counting over several years and multiple election cycles, the U.S ranks 27th out of 35 economically developed countries in voter turnout. Volunteerism in community service ranks low at 20 to 25% of households, and it is top heavy in the higher income ranges. More recently, threats to the well-being of working families have increased civic engagement activities, especially in urban areas. These facts were so widely apparent that it led to the creation of the American Democracy Project (ADP). It started with colleges and universities in 2003 and remains a nonpartisan initiative of AASCU in partnership with The New York Times. The knowledge resources on this subject are online and free for digital distribution (HERE). An author’s presentation on the 2017 edition is (HERE). As these efforts are failing, a viewpoint on why is outlined (HERE) for comment. American civic engagement practices for dealing with problems is the problem. The plug has yet to slip into the outlet, the power is there but the switch is missing and there appears to be no endurance limit on our knowledge of this fact of self-oppression.

Problems: Ships in the Night & The Lost Soul of the 60s

We have the radar for the existence of other ships in the Democracy, thousands of them but that is about all. Here is one example. To Kill a Mocking Bird (1960) is one of the most read books in America and widely assigned in schools. White people think the attorney Atticus Finch was a hero but to the African-American, he is a stone looser, yet Aaron Sorkin is willing to use his exquisite use of language and force that point into the debate of how we must “all rise,” the last two words in the play.  The demand is to get to a better American place (read a PBS interview (here). Where is the language that makes it possible to call out or openly condemn people that tacitly support a culture of hate and malice? The American psyche is far too easily driven into little camps and throwing a “big tent” over it remains as unpalatable as always.

When thousands of people like the Mayor of Jackson Mississippi (first 5 min. only – on video here – 170K pop. 80%Black and a third Asian) enter your world the tent can get more interesting.  Getting past platitudes and on to education and housing in Jackson will be his issue. New leadership like this will be watched and if possible assisted to see through the clouds that new leaders attract. After the 2016 election, many groups pulled big national lists together for study but they not useful. As the digital revolution began in the 1970s, the ability to study, think, act, and respond together became the more useful MOOC. The isolation remains and groups still struggle to form beyond encouraging references to Margaret Mead and her opinion on the subject.

Americans need an intervention regarding addictions to racial ignorance. Where is the tough-love slap in the face that makes everything right and gives us back our senses? This intervention is possible. It will be done with superb care on the ground yet to be found for a foundation unlaid and a building we can barely envision. It will be done as if all the oppressed, unlucky or struggling rainbow of people in this nation could stand all at once and scream NO to pandering leaders, and yell in one sweet sound, “we are the change we seek, we are the change we seek!”

Brokenhearted Fatalism

Nina Turner (Our Revolution) puts it this way.  When “the hunter,” writes the story, there is no story of the lion. Political movements are similar. It can use filters that leave people out who think they are in. Like the term “hunter,” labels such as “neoliberal” or “self-reliant” simultaneously attracts people to power they cannot acquire. In tracking the lion, the hunter knows what the lion is willing to submit to and uses it to the exact amount needed to achieve the injustice of its death. The hunter’s brand is visible, control the narrative of bravery and therefore secure its benefits and power. The lion’s story is direct; death is food. Death is the gift of her pride’s survival.

If we are the lion, our revolution is underway but barely notice unless there are videos of a shooting. Being African-American and politically progressive should be a natural fit, “if” there is a family history of engagement in fights against social and economic systems that insist on a second-class citizenry defined by gender, income, color in the rainbow, one at a time or all at once. We do not forget the people who died in resistance to this condition. They are the builders; they own the long history of this change in the nation. We hold them as gifts and if we can, we will add chapters.

We do not speak of the blood horror, hopelessness and fear it took to get those moments that made the change. A great joy rests with its victories, each of them rings triumphantly in our nation’s history. Today we watch scrapings from historic speeches, we read books, listen to songs and examine pictures about the cost of resisting oppression. Today, over a half-century later it appears to many that there are those who take a black life are becoming unpunishable and at worst made legal actors in a much broader attack on all people facing the pain of a soft oppression, a sense that something was taken, an addiction and the threats of despair that each cause.  of us have had “the talk” with the young about protests, lawful police orders, and standing ground. The hunter would have you fear the lion and drain you of compassion for her pride, yet all the while to the lion; death is a gift.

America’s history of death and pain rings painfully for each loss and because each bell we ring for them, tolls for us all and it is here and now. The bell rings if we resist the “lawful orders” of a cop, it rings loudest in friendly fire, and it rings until we cannot hear at all. Following difficult times, it is in our nature to bring out the good in ourselves and find reasons to celebrate our sacrifice but the movement today is very different. There are more ways to assure the story of the lion than I can count, and there are now thousands who can damn the old hunter’s lies. Is this not enough, what needs to be new, what needs to be different?  Skip the ad and listen here for it from a collection called “Outskirts of the Deep City.”

Change Politics

The average, everyday person will talk about issues and events but often lack the will to act. Modern political analysts understand the events leading to changes that improve lives. Actions do not come easily without the experience of working for the prospects that succeed. Change politics can fool you. it will ask you to stare at the beak of the Eagle on America’s Seal and love your country. The new politics of change will put you in the grasp of her talons; make you the builder of her nest of arrows and hold you in her branches of peace and victory. What needs to be in the new politics?

A voice of unification for the working family that restates American values of fairness with justice.  Better education for your kid? A wage scale that keeps up with costs? How about better protection from ill health, big pharma, and corporate greed? When we face threats to our well-being, who will be there? Look left, look right and say I will be there for you, I will be there. What needs to be different? We are the change we seek.

At this time in history, most Democrats and Republicans (save a few) can only equivocate and obstruct. If 2020 is going to be an opportunity, the “be there” time is now. Maurice Mitchel is now the National Director of the Working Families Party. (WFP). He is one of those “go” leaders with extensive experience in movements beyond, in front of and behind elections. He will continue to expand our understanding of what a democracy can do. He can see the irony when both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump say, “the system is rigged,” and it says one thing to him and me. We need very new politics.

What is exposed here? If we are to remain a democracy, we are challenged to do big things. First, increase the number of voters by 1,000%, crush all forms of voter suppression and stop playing short can-kicking games. There needs to be an ass where there is a can. Watch his mildly nervous presentation at is here. All the right words are all in a row, but he needs the kind of heart that beats in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to get the sound we need. He has the words, now give him the sound. Words are important, but how they sound is even more so.

There is a better sound in Maurice here as he defends the Working Family Party (WFP) from an attack by the three-term Governor of New York State because of WFP support for Cynthia Nixon in a primary. Challenging the governor happened for one important reason, it is time to say “No” to the oligarchs and those who say yes to them. At the heart of it, Maurice defines what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party in the nation as it is in NYS. Maurice would not be taking anything away from Alexandria if he repeated her reminder that New York leaders of the past had led the progressive movement with great courage. The entire WFP requires voices that do not speak of defenses against attacks to define injustice. The math is easy, the foolishness of the peacemakers exposes their failure as change makers. If you hear, “Five-hundred or so American billionaires are not the cause of America’s problems.” It is time to share everything, every strategy, and tactic. It is time to offend with relish and know all the actors who are firm in their purpose and who might face death in the anarchy we all detest.

After Yvette Simpson lost her bid for Mayor of Cincinnati, she acquired a new position as Chief Executive of Democracy Now (January 2019) as described in a news story interview (Here). Yvette Simpson’s membership of the Democratic establishment represents the party’s better self because individuals from diverse backgrounds who seek public service expect to be Democrats. The record is improving slowly, but the proof is the problem. The majority of every Congressmember’s senior staff is not diverse. This was not widely circulated news until the membership became more diverse.

Can a Democracy care for all people and meet unique needs without sowing division and discord? What I learned from Yvette was the calculus of a representative government requires a variety of navigation skills throughout a campaign without end. She knows no one on the progressive side of the equation is better at grassroots engagement. She notes that if you run you cannot knock on doors, you must walk the race. Winning is face to face, not face to the screen. She believes in the power of “we.” Her experience proved to her that the road made by walking is formed best with a bold and unapologetic agenda aimed at making changes that people want in their lives. It was once summed up as rights, first to the pursuit of life, second to liberty and third happiness. Winning a primary but losing a run for Mayor gave her insight into the challenges of 2020 hopefully aimed at the Senate as a priority.  Will the triumvirate be up to speed and ready to respond?


The growing economic success of central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan is also the story of large, diverse cities in multi-state regions that hold with a significant share of the state population. For decades disinvestment in the infrastructure of dense urban regions presents hidden dangers. Not spending where spending is needed exposes failures of transit services to and from these centers. Auto congestion where and when it is hated the most. A rising cost of housing, including deteriorating conditions in the suburbs, the displacement of low- and moderate income people into suburban neighborhoods, and sporadic increases in urban homelessness. The more significant sources of stress are evident in the protests of working poor teachers in decaying schools alongside troubled police and fire services and other first responders racing into a long list of preventable social and environmental problems of life-threatening severity. Pick-up a copy  International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection and all of this is documented.

Death, Taxes and Social Justice

Putting added reduced tax cash flow into the hands of wealthy people and corporations are not coming to the resolution of any of these problems. They are without accountability; the board members of the super large foundations are out of touch with the broad national dialogue needed to keep our democracy responsive, instead of their wallets. Yes, new partnerships are there, but the old lines of privilege remain unchallenged and taxing them is failing because loop-hole land will never go away without reinventing America. If the horrible truth is super high tax revenues collected by the government don’t work, what needs to change?

We live in a society where the most important things go unsaid. For example, the question on the table in a substantial foundation’s boardroom is “Are we failing in our quest for social stability?”. What is known but never said aloud is, “Well, if large groups of the society get upset and start causing trouble with disruptions of the economy and endangering their own lives and the lives of others, we have fully equipped our police forces with enough riot gear and other tools that could conquer a country.” Can you hear that lungful exhalation flow across that confident conference table? Look again out of the conference room’s vast windows overlooking a landscape of terror that could be unleashed, then turn to the doorway as it opens. Meet your new master, the authoritarian who can only keep this crowd at bay with your foundation’s loyalty. Impossible you say? Not according to world history.

It’s Their Fault

If you hear, “Several hundred multi-billionaires are not America’s problem.” An economist in a rabbit hole is baiting you. Don’t go there. Of course, high taxes don’t work, government (city, state, federal) have never been able to get much above 20% of America’s GDP from the very beginning of this measure. Using the 20% rubric, the GDP in 2018 will top $21 trillion to yield on average $6 trillion in annual revenue. The interest paid on the national debt is $364 billion. (10/1/18, through 9/30/19). The total public debt is around $17 trillion. Individuals, businesses, and foreign central banks are its owners with 90 percent of it in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. (Details here.)

America’s “good faith and credit” is highly respected, 30-year “treasuries” sell with ease. Credit is another word for trust so, the bottom line, the money is there to do what we want. Therefore. We must ask, what does work instead of taxes? The answer, spending on the right stuff, followed by the right questions that get asked but never answered. What is the right stuff? Where you put your political brain requires you to find out.

In 2012, Jim Sorenson put $13 million into a business school in Utah and created the Sorenson Impact Foundation where they quietly work on a long list of projects that would make every candidate for sainthood happy. Other things like program-related investments (PRIs) vetted by the business school, “select and develop business models for high-impact, early-stage social enterprises capable of reaching underserved populations.” I love mouthfuls like that, but what is wrong with it, what is missing in philanthropy? According to Forbes, not a thing (Here).

If you read that Forbes article, then you know the objective of all foundations is to “go to scale,” and that means two things, the more obvious is to spread money all over the globe with a goodwill website to prove it. The other is to make wise social impact business investments and get universities to establish a methodology for measurements and publish the results. Highly respected multi-billionaires like Jim Sorenson and all the other billionaires in his moral class think they know what the right stuff is or needs to be, so he like many others create these hopeful puppy dog foundations. I can look up all the billionaires and foundation staff; I can know where they live, play and work nationally and internationally. They are the wealthy residents of a tiny planet.

Bottom line, what is wrong, what is missing? The hundreds of multi-billionaires are missing in the vapor of their wealth. A wrong-headed street-intellect assumption is they have formed an oligarchy and now vie to rule the world, distracting us with their wonderfulness. The truth is far dire; they have tucked themselves away in their boardrooms happily overlooking their private empires of goodness, adapting and maneuvering to sustain themselves among one another, while all the while the world is burning, slowly almost imperceptibly into ash and dust.  So, bottom line, yes, it is their fault, and this is important, except for a few they didn’t mean it.

What is missing, I want you to join in this practice. Below is what I have so far. You can give advice or list wrongs, make rights, just click here.

  • Pay close attention to the big picture, I hear a staffer saying “It’s just so impolite to be alarmist,” They are wrong, rude is important right now.
  • Step on another charity’s toes, stop being so nice. One word, “Unjust.”
  • Spending fortunes on accountants, tax attorneys, and lobbyist only assure private capital will sustain the line that reads “goodwill,” on income statements and balance sheets. Think again, good will is insufficient.
  • Contributing to all 535 members of the legislative government (retirees and agency staff) enough to keep their campaigns afloat (or not) or to point them in other directions is thr nest way to control citizens, not unite them.
  • Not paying any damn attention to the small picture. Take a long walk through your community, and then to a place designated as underserved and in need of charity. Ask why? Get back to me.
  • Realize that despite amassing of billions of dollars in a personal fortune, no one person on this fragile earth could be that productive in any sense other than god-like.

I have no interest in tracking them down, although there is a project aimed at doing so. (here). Our charity must believe they will find the “right stuff,” otherwise they face incurable insanity. Our job is to be persuasive regarding the need to make course corrections essential to the survival of next generations. I know about the hideaways in the mountains and the means to get there. I do not know who is worse off, those without sanctuary or those forced to say, “Mine is full, you are not selected?” Want to add to the list? Click here.

Eponymous Politicians

The USA is not the America Tonight Show. The adjective (above) describes giving your name to something. It is also called identity politics, so you get people who are Trump Republicans. Identity is much bigger than a person, a color, religion, political philosophy or favorite late-nite TV show host. A claim of leadership in the name of dignity for all life produces a replaceable leader. Arguments are won (or should be) on the facts of the day, week, year and decade, not charismatic leadership, bullies or the learned helplessness of their constituents. For example, we win the war of words when we describe the death of young minds and the heart lost in persons beaten low by hate. We win when we force all to hear the frightened whispers from the mouth of hunger. We win when we describe the violence embedded in climate change or assault rifles and how randomly either can take anyone’s home or life at any time or place, one of them used to be in God’s hands, today, both in are ours. We win if all these voices are unified not by fear but in a single call to defend the dignity of the human person. Stand on this path and you will know methods that move all of us forward and away from the confusion that divides us.

The Triumvirate

The three organizations and leaders briefly mentioned here know these methods. In listening to them I know this is Our Revolution, we are the Working Families of this nation, and the demand for Democracy for America is now. We win when our unity is theirs and theirs ours. Calling for an accord does not create unity. The phrase, “the people united will never be defeated” begs the question. What is causing our downfall, our defeat? To keep our democracy, we must be the change we seek and to begin, form triads.  Triangles form the strongest structures, tripartite coalitions are a step forward.  So if our revolution is to be composed of working families working to assure our democracy remains useful nationally, these three among many others need to find and build local triads.

The voting record from any combination of election districts for offices in cities, states, and Congress by voter and candidate reveal a set of cultural signifiers useful to the practice of removing identity politics toward a healthier method of governance. If the triumvirate’s network is true, if the depth is there, it can conduct this analysis across state lines and recognize the issues of working people step across all the other lines used to divide Americans.

The traditional roots of the old identity way are made sustainable by the quiet assurance of a 98% retention rate among incumbent candidates all the way up and down the political spectrum. So, I am not talking about politics.  This is about change. Being conservative or progressive comes naturally to people from low to high income for two reasons. Households are “conservative” because every change tends to be loudest when it is for the worse, and progressive because it is a way to seek out useful and if not, virtuous change that will protect the family. One of the more complex examples of change follows:

The retention of wealth by the wealthy began in 2016, it was legislated in 2017 and became law on January 1, 2018. The expectation of tax reductions for corporations an increase in wages, they have not. The bet is that a few extra dollars in the working families tax return suffice. That it is billions among the super wealthy remains an abstraction. The national revenue is increasing, but the federal budget is still ripping holes in the safety net that helps a growing number of households protect family health, old age, and their financial security. Why? Uncontrolled congressional spending.

The subtle implementations of the attack on so-called entitlements is unclear, but the lion’s strategy, in this case, is easy to spot, go for the slow and weak ones in the herd. The human problem with this kind of attack is the lack of fairness in compliance and the complicity of the herd.  In these transactions, this failure should not be lost. Nevertheless, do not allow the debate to move away from the cap held by the hunter regarding issues. Taxes are not paid for social security from incomes over $138,000.  Where is the security in that equation? If the answer remains, the revenue is still insufficient.  What is missing?

Roots, Roots and More Roots

In my small part of the world, I have organized a tool to implement one of our best methods. I have one or more persons in every election district able to build or join a canvas team and be on the ground for a candidate. You can see an early version here. Security is a growing issue. Sign up here if you are in the district. Instructions follow.

This canvas method is easy to implement, more so in a blue majority city and state and it grows exponentially through a natural network of friends and family. It reveals the enormous power of democracy with personal decisions to work for a specific candidate (city, state or federal) on a routine basis for a limited period every two, four and six years. If tools like these are deployed in the metro-regions, with a clear understanding of the unique economies of each, the ability to produce change people need and want. If not, the answer is clear, try again, and again, and again because we are the change we seek.

The deep concerns of people are not articulated well by most current leaders, especially those who are dependent on identity politics and tenure in office. We should ask why but do not.  Leaders acknowledge our concerns but we still allow them to remain fuzzy about accountability to benchmarks or criteria from year to year. There are no triggers or penalties in exclusive political alliances based on religion, race or social background. This tendency allows leaders who see a lack of basic employment with a living wage only pushing a few into desperation. The lack of health insurance protection bankrupts “only a few” families. Our safety in the community, the affordability of our housing, and the failure to educate our young, only hurts “a few families.”


The promise to sustain the two largest safety nets American’s ever fought to acquire serves everyone even but even the vast “we” of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is under attack. The subtlety of the attack, even the logic of it will read to divide not unite. I want to be able to say it all began in 2018. This is when just enough people realized the rise of opposition politics and the resistance found ways to diagnose all the reasons for a lack of movement on working family concerns and the honest needs of ordinary people. The first pronouncement is to put a number on “only a few.”  We are now that few, there of millions of us and we vote. The second is to learn how not turn against “the other” in this movement, fight for scraps or fail to fight for the few. Those of us who can create moments and events, year after year will rip the mantle off the shoulders of the tenured leaders if needed. It all began in 2018. As it goes for the few, so it goes for us all.

At a political rally, I overheard a leader say, “We need more facts to make that decision.” It was the response that got my attention. “You’re a damn fool, we don’t need any more damn facts, just walk out that door and look around. There are your damn facts. We have got to get to work and it starts now. Do you hear me? If you walk out that door you can smell it. Tsunami’s don’t come with a warning until it’s too late.” The third benchmark for the growth of a progressive movement is swift decision making. Do not wait another day, rush to the defense of neighbors and all those struck down, stand in the light of MLK and seek his justice.

Reflections on Success and Failure

Some professionals study organizational development in such depth they have become almost impossible to understand. But I did come across one article in the reasonably accessible Harvard Business Review that gives me hope. Jack Zenger and  Joseph Folkman use of massive amounts of business data. On the question of diversity, they compared leaders’ self-ratings with their ratings by bosses, peers, and subordinates. These ratings reveal leaders assume they are better at valuing diversity than they are. Take that to heart, the social change movement is never doing as good a job as its leaders want, and there are good reasons to be aware. Defending the movement demands your failures.

To understand the cause of poor decision making, Zinger and Folkman used data on leaders and compared the behavior of those who were perceived as making poor decisions with those perceived as making very good decisions. Whether leading a major international corporation or a scrappy nonprofit organizing committee, pressing for these traits tend to hold true. Here is a description of the common paths that led to poor decision making from the most to least significant. Laziness tops the list, some of the signs are not checking facts or confirming assumptions. Next, not anticipating negative events reduces the ability to defend. When a leader is indecisive it tends to be costly to an organization due to missed opportunities. Leaders that remain locked in the past will make decisions with assumptions that are no longer true. Lesson: Always look forward.

Among the lesser causes of poor decisions are in failures to align “dots” in an organization’s membership. The overall strategy of the organization often referred to as a lack of strategic alignment deals with the leader’s isolation breaking down important interpersonal relationships and dependencies. Similarly, over-dependence on one person who is waiting for another, who in turn is waiting for someone else leads to poor decisions. A leader’s lack of technical depth will reduce the use of high-level expertise within an organization, and if it is there, people need to know. It’s always the coverup. Statistically, the least named cause of poor decisions was found to be a failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions. I wish Nina, Maurice, and Yvette all the success in the world as they head into 2020 with the capacity to produce swift and effective decisions for their organizations.

Next, I think it will be fun to have a good look at those that have shattered glass ceilings in their hometowns. They are inside the beltway for the next two years. Ordinary observers can find out what they have in common other than the obvious and if they can lay the ground and build the foundation for a significant change in the culture by the means necessary.

Social Impact Measures

The following three paragraphs are lecture-like. Nevertheless, they represent the standard by which I believe our glass breaking, culture changing, the newest members of Congress should be evaluated. I’m open to other ways, but I will fight for the following as I share in the spirit by which you now hold office.

  1. The purpose of leadership is assurance that change is manageable.

You have entered Congress with a personal theory of change. We all use it to adapt to our environment according to need and want, as well as, evaluation of performance. Results are measures to indicate the quality of adaptation in one of three ways, positive, neutral or negative. Change through experiments reinforce the positive and reduce the negative. We are cognizant of the trial and error world in which we and our family, friends and coworkers’ function. From child play to professional practice we learn that we control what we can make recur. I can get Sally to laugh and Bill to chase me every time, and that’s as a grown up. I also know the reverse of that is impossible. The information gathered through experience is routine and enough. You can work through personal skill sets on this question by recalling past actions in getting (or not) a date with a person of interest back in your school days or a “contract” more recently. Knowing how to lead yourself is the prerequisite for leadership of others.

  1. A business or a government agency must measure complex social impacts

The number of people and dollars involved in business and government require confidence to take action. There are consequences at every step. Seeking to alter a in negative society or to improve a positive one requires careful thought and experimentation. In this setting, dialogue gets to the capacity of individuals in business or government to collect reliable information, review methods of data acquisition, analyze and predict results. Confirmation of concrete benefits from people with these skill sets leads to investment decisions as mere possibilities. At this point, choice and timeliness come into play involving the number of options made available.

  1. Confidence in research and planning allows trials and testing to proceed

The changes sought are thereby proven to the satisfaction of the decision makers and it becomes their legacy all the way through implementation. Comparison with alternative trials within or in opposition will minimize risk or advance the position of competitors. Given the period of work, in weeks or decades, the institutional response is to claim an impact and advocate for its continuation with confidence.

To reduce the abstractions of these three components, two recent events will illustrate the human problem inherent to the science of this practice. Science obscures additional motives by building silos. As 2018 ended, the incarceration practices of the federal government were reformed. In practical street intellect, this meant the 30+ year enforcement of harsh drug laws that achieved the re-enslavement (imprisonment) of African-Americans (mostly men) for nonviolent crimes would end (Watch 13th again).

The public investment in a huge federal prison system has consequences, however, accountability for this practice as a racial strategy is practically nil. Creating a big door through which cops and prosecutors could quietly push young men into federal prison (and still do in city/states) was easy to ignore due to a tacit agreement on both sides of the issue. Here it is in one sentence over the procession of two ounces of Marijuana. “We have 15 to 25 mandatory years on you that can go to seven maybe five with the name/location of your boss.” A generation of lives lost and for what, “El Chapo?”

The second event involves the language code that embeds a similar level of bigotry and racism. As the close of 2018, the word was “wall.” Create a wall to protect our borders from the demons to the south. Street-intellect reads that as keep out the Spanish speakers, the Mexicans, Hondurans and everyone else. The super short-term political trend exhibited here reveals consequences without the accountability to reason and practical solutions. An orderly process for dealing with immigration is consumed by the rhetoric of violence and a symbol upon which the 45th president can lean.

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

“Let America Be America” Langston Hughes

Make a Difference

When reforms and laws are passed to ensure that armed agents of the state cannot kill people of color without the consequence of a transparent indictment and trial, reform will occur. Do not add “all” people to that thought; it only means you do not understand.

The numbers do not lie. Spend some time with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (here). The problem presented is clear. Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men in the United States. Over the life course, about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police. Define this issue completely, and America could be on the path to inalienable, universal rights for all people, but we have a lot of work to do. 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

"Let America Be America"  Langston Hughes

Police killings are the most exposed cause of untimely death. The risk of being killed by police use of force by age, race-ethnicity, and sex is described (here). There are hundreds of other causes and America has tried to ignore the roots of it for far too long. Inalienable, universal rights reform will not happen efficiently unless every American recognizes the impact of slavery in our history.  The problem is not whether all of the events since 1619 are racist or not. The question is this: “How much racism was at work?

The lack of any positive measure of equity formation defines African-American life for four centuries. With the end of enslavement, an entire people with barely a penny found freedom without restitution.  When equity was established, it was ripped away by acts of terrorism. The battle for the cultural and economic assurance of fundamental human rights is long, and the bend toward justice only began as an act of government in President Lynden Johnson’s War on Poverty. He recognized the strategic problems when he said,  

“Negro poverty is not white poverty. … These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a constant reminder of oppression. For the white, they are a constant reminder of guilt. But they must be faced, and they must be dealt with, and they must be overcome; if we are ever to reach the time when the only difference between Negroes and whites is the color of their skin.”

1965 Commencement: Howard University supporting Voting Rights Act

A project began in August 2019, marking the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. In 2020, Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for The 1619 Project.  It traces black American enslavement as the central enabler of America’s vast material success and, through their efforts for freedom, assured our democracy.  The United States may have a long history. Still, it was not a democracy until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act ensured all people’s voices could be heard in a fully representative government.  In a June 2020 article. “What is Owed?” Hannah-Jones expects America to know in its heart how false definitions of race as “the other” and be turned easily into hatred.  Her struggle leads to equality for us all.  Most Americans really want to feel different about race and all the impacts of enslavement. They want to expel it from themselves and the lives of their children. That leaves one step left for all people, by skin color, positions of privilege, and wealth.  The action required is to be different, every day, openly and freely. 

The quality of speech and journalism continues to improve white America’s understanding of racism as a cultural disease and bigotry as a heinous character failure.  When combined, these flaws lead to insidious political behavior far too easily disguised. The use of public policies from Jim Crow to Sundown Town or from Police Militarization to Mass Incarceration persists as a live-wire fear in America.  The path to inalienable, universal rights for all people can be cleared of this rubble.

It will be in this decade, in a century of enormous challenges that all public actions allowing these character flaws to sustain a systemic racism culture will no longer occur without consequence. Perhaps the most important of them will be a continuous, broadly read, watched, and taught American story about freedom. It will reveal an unrelenting effort to achieve social and economic justice for enslaved people.  It is a story that would change all of history for all people all over the world. Another take on this issue is (here).

Being Different

It will be difficult to become different.

I have been writing this as Congressional Representatives debated the second impeachment of POTUS45 when one of them referred to a Supreme Court case that was compelled to allow hate speech (here) as a justification for the President’s misguided attempt to retain power with lies. I recommend listening to the oral argument below of the case the Representative used to defend the President. It will take you back to 1969. The case involved a conviction of Clarence Brandenburg, an organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in Ohio. If you are in a hurry pick it up at around the 29th minute. When one of the people’s representatives can stand before us and use this case, of all cases on the First Amendment it exposes the true horror of our time.


The Court’s Per Curiam opinion held that the Ohio law violated Brandenburg’s right to free speech. The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: (1) speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and (2) it is “likely to incite or produce such action.”

The court ruled that Ohio’s Criminal Syndicalism Act made illegal the advocacy and teaching of doctrines while ignoring whether or not that advocacy and teaching would actually incite imminent lawless action. The failure to make this distinction rendered the law overly broad and in violation of the Constitution.

The two tiers of the Brandenburg Test have become the standard for determining criminal advocacy. As a nation that respects the law, the courts and the legislature could also seek to judge speech as producing the test of a clear and present danger or as a test of direct incitement.

Storm Politics

Storm Systems

The progressive movement’s political struggles involve much more than the loss of Sanders as a Presidential candidate. He has laid a new foundation, but there is much more to learn by defining the malfunctions of twenty-first-century center-left political thinking. From the day of his bid for the presidency in April 2015, he leaned gracefully away from the Democratic Party’s failures, leading directly to Joe Biden’s nomination and ultimate success. He effectively repositioned where a Democratic Socialist can stand on the American political spectrum in just five years. That is a strong indication of an expanding political organization.

The thirty to forty percent of voters who accept the historic social ideals of the Democratic Party have a new problem. The need to find about a thousand new Bernie Sanders, or an average of one hundred per State. Ideologically we are not challenging to find. Identifying those like Bernie is the question. How many will have the skills to become a national leader, run for President, and keep the burn real? Many are in office but placed into the oddly shaped, swayable, gerrymander-purple of districts where despair is easily defined as the failure of those who have it. Today seven households can be pushed into despair by a storm for every 3 capable of weathering any threat. The odds are moving toward eight to one against, and the world is entering a century of storms. This indicates a need for the expansion of political leadership organizations.

Storm Metaphors

You Know the Ad

The malfunction includes the inability to describe this shift in odds as a political policy product, not destiny, and not jargon like “globalization.” Real? Yes, but falsely used to blame others amid divide and conquer economics. Sanders succeeded in teaching every American the words “billionaire class.” He failed to help Americans understand what that “class “has done to the Democratic Party’s leadership and social justice politics generally. The American people are still looking across a chasm of fog and clouds filled with inadequate descriptions. For instance, “the one percent 98 percent of the wealth.”

The average American’s eyes glaze over when the percent of what questions regarding wealth categories are all described as fungible.  The progressive movement’s ideological malfunction remains. It is the inability to illustrate the widening gap between working people and those earning $5,000 per week and up.

When the power to influence is set by corporate “identity scrubbing,” negatively influence the lower seventy percent, you get lists of storm makers such as the following (here). Alt-Right index Dark Right index) These lists need to be thoroughly understood far more thoroughly than the ordinary person can do alone. Who should tell the story and share it well enough for it to be believed without question,

Some traction has been added to the storm metaphor. Beyond the useful but battered ones, there is a new disorder. Call it climate change roulette. No matter who you are, your number is on that wheel. In this century, the impact predictability of storms beyond a few days or minutes creates the opportunity for catalytic cooperation as a strategy for avoiding catastrophic resolution.

The 2020-2021 pandemic is a storm-lesson people can understand as a catalyst demanding collaboration. Resolutions to big problems like this are led far more adequately by science than politics. We fail as a nation by quietly allowing political science to displace the message of medical science. We missed the opportunity to teach some hard science from the top down.

Storm Mitigations

America’s social democracy ideals will be exhibited in Biden’s platform more strongly, given success in Georgia, but with not much credit to Sanders.  Still, both men are embedded in this predicament of honest speech in a society so willing to accept lies.  The race for the Senate in Georgia became an economically overheated representative of a winner-takes-all system. Why are so many people screaming fire in a crowded theater? Why are the stakes so elevated, why are the shares in the American economy sought with such desperation?

One answer comes in four words from one of America’s billionaires, capable of being progressive. He said, “Never bet against America.” Warren Buffet’s words speak of pure confidence. They have a dramatically calming effect. Frightened people in a wealthy nation can clearly understand that message. Even so, public policy has got to start proving it. Think of the conversation that might occur using a few reasonably precise talking points. 

  • We are a diverse nation that cherishes liberty and freedom from fear.
  • We are a nation that lifts people up and away from the horrors of despair
  • We select multiple opinion and influence leaders with different perspectives
  • We can name the sources of news and information we use daily.
  • If the quality of life is reduced, you are not its origin. It is a product of public policy.
  • What has been taken from you? Who took it? How? Why? When and Where?

One other corporate position needs to be added. They are best heard from a speech by Betsy Bernard on “rules” delivered just before the election of POTUS45.  In a few memorable minutes, she will give you seven reasons why POTUS45 was a one-term, dishonest President (here). I also learned how quality leadership could produce trusted responses and strengthen American values in challenging times.

Progressives and Democratic Socialists can find doors to open that could expand social justice organizations toward success in challenging times. The work before them will require far greater effort. First, to find those best to knock on, and second on how lightly or firmly. In rugby, it is forward in the direction of the dead-ball line. In economics, it is when a return becomes unlikely, if not impossible.

Storm Forecasts

There is no doubt. The dangerous world became more so as a product of the 45th President. America’s 2021 geopolitical position may take years to resurrect. In the previous four years, systemic racism and violent, outright bigotry in America is benignly accepted by this rude President’s raw manners.

On January 6, 2021, the President’s demand for mob insurrection has led to a call to use the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  These and other remedies are compelling, as would a second impeachment, but it was all too late.  And we all knew better.

What will matter most is that on January 20, 2021, the nation’s heart can be set on a new path, and its head will turn in a new direction. A journey demanded by the U.S. Constitution and put deeply into its foundation as – e Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. That will always be the goal of America.

The two projections touched on here points to reform how political representation is established from precinct to State. At the center of a healthy representative government is how the voting structure for a free and fair election system is sustained as transparent. The second issue describes the need to analyze political influence structures and corporate identity scrubbing in funding political organizations and campaigns. The media-spheres of the 21st c. present a complex issue that travels all the way to the Supreme Court U.S. and the U.S. Constitution.

These two problems tell me of one pressing need.  We need to find new alliances and allies. We need to them not just from the streets and neighborhoods of America, but from the vast storehouse of wealth, these streets and neighborhoods have produced. That wealth now rests in an extended new class of investor-owned businesses. Our representatives have done their bidding, a massive accumulation of wealth has occurred. The time to ask with a strong sense of urgency – has this policy worked?

Storm Politics

The Democratic Party is best known for its past in job creation, fight for equal pay, and quality education and health care for all.  It sees the future of clean, renewable energy as the best way to meet every other goal. The Democratic Party is reasonably aligned with the Working Families Party (WFP). This progressive political organization now sponsors candidates in nearly twenty states, and it is growing in popularity.  The WFP fights to make every voice matter, first in the sanctity of the vote, and second as grounded in free speech principles. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. It is a  U.S. affiliate of Socialist International.  Like the WFP, it believes working people can democratically manage the economy and build a diverse society that reduces profiteering and still invests in the future.  A federation of state Green Parties committed to ecology, non-violence, social justice, and grassroots organizing established the Green Party of the United States.

The two other major players in the American conversation of social democratic principles are the Labor Party and the Socialist Party USA.  The labor party stands for a democratic social revolution from the grassroots up in opposition to a single political party’s violent seizure of power. The Socialist Party USA is recently founded.  In June 1996, delegates from several hundred local and international unions and individual activists came together to identify new ways to advocate for working people.

Spend some time with the websites and confirm for me the following idea.  Thanks in advance to all.

All six of these organizations recognize in varying degrees the need for a more radical democracy. There is a need for a government that will fight against and exposes racist, fascist, communist-style state control. These organizations can help assure primary government institutions, from the small town fire and police departments to the U.S. Department of Defense, serve the people well.  These political parties believe in a diverse society. They know they can end racism. They are confident in building a new American understanding of a shared egalitarian future.  Can these organizations lead people to a socialist society that values cooperation, work, home, and community? If not them who, and if not now, when?

For a summary of responses and contributions use the link below

Planners Network

My interest in the Planners Network ADPSR. ACD, SFI/Design Corps, and OAC in a brief who am I introduction with a plan of action seeking coordination with others on strategy.

Most of my city planning experience was about creating new land uses and changing the rules if needed. I helped to design and build many vest-pocket parks when Lindsay was mayor. (Yes, that old.) The city was littered with demolished building sites. Mostly, I remember the lawsuits paved with that good intention.

I also sustained old land uses. My favorite was writing the first historic structures report that contributed to the Weeksville Society’s preservation of three historic structures and constructing a multi-million dollar cultural center. Over the years, and with CDBG funding, I learned a great deal and wound up teaching a Historic Preservation Planning studio with former Landmarks Commissioner, Gene Norman.

The Brooklyn Sports Study resulted in the Cyclone minor league baseball stadium and significant new investment in Coney Island, a good place to play. It also left one of the sites I identified wide open for the rusty toaster, aka the Barclay Arena.

From major league sports to neighborhood commercial centers, the small business world contributes a source of community leadership that is naturally conservative and a source for gaining important perceptions. I enjoyed my predictive analysis of Myrtle Avenue’s future hugely as most of it came true. My last market analysis project on Malcolm X Avenue in Bed-Stuy is still dead because CPC’s zoning work ignored the miracle occurring on Throop. Access to more of my general BS is here

Resistance to change from communities is one of NYC’s most creative forces, perhaps the world. It helps create a basis for negotiations. A good example is when homes were taken in Brooklyn’s Northside for the “promise of” jobs, the fight was about replacing the homes lost. Replacing non-conforming but continuous use structures was a difficult argument. The mixed-use zoning law solution that came of it made Coney Island Mixed-Use District easy. Resistance in one community can contribute to many others’ success, but the jobs-housing ratio issue is the major lesson. The homes leveraged in Northside are still there, the jobs promised have come and gone, but new jobs are there, and the nondisplaced remain with equity to take them with a history of the power of resistance.

Network Regionally

I want to enjoy some added national and regional reflection on housing with Planners’ Network, ADPSR, ACD, and SFI because they are national membership organizations with a long history. The transformation of AFH into an Open Architecture Collaborative to sustain its global “open license” environment is another important institutional membership lesson. Social change movements see success when system change principles sharpen them. The measure for success was written best in the Port Heron Manifesto a half-century ago. It is a statement about the values and principles of participatory democracy (my take is here).

All these groups can do a much better job of communicating on common ground issues. I think a strong focus on the jobs/housing contract by region is the way to get that ball rolling. It is either that or a sad response to the only higher priority — food and water.

This is because of one thing Conor Dougherty said. His book Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, where the housing shortage is dire makes a great point that stuck with me — “Every problem is a housing problem.” I understand why this mild exaggeration makes a great point. Even though his stories are about the Bay Area Renter’s Foundation (BARF) he describes a national problem. We need local, state, and federal initiatives to create lots and lots of housing, with a strategy for affordability and in that order. You can’t make the fight for an affordable apartment/condo until it exists and it will not exist until there are lots at a market rate documented (here) in the German study. This ain’t the USA, but new housing supply developers there, lower rents throughout the rent distribution, shortly after the new units are completed. After that, and everyone should know this, it only about the cost of money.

I connected this to the “insights” outlined in the Geography of Jobs by the CPC metro office (here), to his jobs per housing unit observations in San Francisco at four to one. View and download the Geography of Jobs data (here). Sample charts below.

Every problem is a housing problem

The tri-state metropolitan region is covered in layers of governance. The region’s 3E growth problems have divided the management of shared natural resources and infrastructure into political chunks. Not good. The regional planning environment needs new and aggressive leadership to search for a more equitable metropolitan, multi-state future by untangling these layers and borders.

  1. Planners Network is Regional
    1. City Planning Metro Office
    2. Furman Center on Regional Displacement
    3. Community Land Trusts (here)
  2. Zoning GHG/NYC Energy Conservation Code
    1. Green Zone PDF (here)
    1. Ten years since the council approved
    2. Find reports measure progress
  3. Biden’s $640 billion housing plan was dropped in February – why?
    1. It is well-established community development legislation.
    2. Provides for financial assistance to buy or rent w/down payment assistance
    3. It had refundable and advanceable tax credits & full funding of federal rental assistance

The above is how I would write the PN four-year action plan (Biden and NYC) tuned regionally to the job/unit relationship. I am not in the position to do that, and I will have to wait to see if one. I will also do the same for the other membership organizations with a social justice agenda. The assumption is I will find common ground and that I will be able to compare things like mission statements and multiple year goal/action plans that reflect their memberships. I could be wrong, but wtf – won’t know until I look.

ADPSR continues to succeed on moral issues with the national AIA and it is growing in membership. ACD has its roots in a 1968 national conference of the AIA and has now become an empowerment vehicle for women-owned architecture firms with an interest in public service. Structures for Inclusion, Design Corps, SEED exhibit the power of networks in Public Interest Architecture training and accountability to social, environmental and economic change. One could say Sambo Mockbee’s Auburn University Rural Studio program in Hale County, Alabama is why it all came to be. Great design comes from a large heart, not a big bank account.

The final group of some interest (Architecture for Humanity) is a study in the pain involved in the attempt to produce a nonprofit architecture program. Health professionals have them, lawyers do, but engineers and architects remain closed to the idea of a national progressive movement in place making. Desipie basic mistakes in fund management Humanity became the Open Architecture Collaborative and continue to develop educational programming for designers and architects.

The placemaking idea by planners, designers and architects remains strong in the desire to inspire ownership and civic engagement by providing design leadership to traditionally marginalized communities as well as the 98% of the population that are held at arms length in the shaping of the places where they will live and work. It seems to a growing number of professionals that there is something wrong in sustaining a system that encourages place-ignorance.

Vote Splitting

There are so many political scientists around lately that I asked a friend if they ever manage to amass a small fortune. He said, “Well, you have to start with a large one and know when to stop. That said, if you ever must get rid of one at your door, just pay for the pizza.” Still, I have decided to command everyone near and far to do one thing despite all this silliness. STOP SPLITTING YOUR VOTE! If you need persuasion, I suggest reading:

  1. Why Americans Split Their Tickets, Barry C. Burden and David C. Kimbal and
  2. No Middle Ground How, Seth E. Masket


Political scientists determined to address election problems afflicting Americans give three points of view. First, the preference of Americans for a divided government is no longer a mandate for compromise. Second, the modern-media age falsely sharpens or intentionally blurs party differences to sustain the incumbency advantage. Third, this leaves one and only one thing of concern — the Benjamins for the next election. You can already sense the good and bad of these conditions concerning lections. However, it is time for one party to rise or fall on the vote, and that option alone. The “split tickets” book referenced above is about California. One about New York would be interesting – their methods are transparent. “No Middle” is scary.

Of course, other factors are in a vote for democracy. The main one is how partisanship is thrust on political leaders by actors outside the government to manipulate elections, especially primaries. The number of informal party-based organizations also contribute to polarized legislatures. I believe political leaders would prefer pragmatism to partisanship if voters had a way to give them that opportunity – ranked-choice voting is one. Maybe it solves the “split” problem in every election. Similar sophistication is needed to re-establish the vote as a device that reduces conflict. The interest now seems to create conflict. I am all ears on adding ideas there. See voting reform story (here) from City & State New York

Of course, the ideological positions of candidates still matter in American elections. Political parties have gained strength in state and national governments. Still, due to the false premise of compromise, the harmful effects remain among the three equal branches in local, state, and federal governments. It is time to say, “I solemnly affirm to pick one party, and only one party, so help me, God.” This leaves one central question.

I would leave a final judgment to historians. Yet, when this control occurs across the three-branch system, I see a thriving belief in Democracy because things can get done and evaluated. I offer the following modern examples:

  • 1927-1933, Republicans controlled all three branches of the government when Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the White House.
  • 1937-1945, Democrats controlled all three government branches during the administrations of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
  • 1953-1955, Republicans held all three branches during the presidency of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, nine senators died, and one resigned. These changes shifted the balance of power in the Senate with each new replacement, according to the U.S. Senate website.
  • 1961-1969, Democrats controlled all three branches during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Then it gets politically complicated, and not in a good way. During the last half-century, wealth has flowed exponentially to the top, leading to a growing sense of irresponsibility, if not outright confusion in their use of that power. The last time one party held all the chambers.

  • 2001-2007, Republicans held all three with interruptions. From 2001-2003 the Senate flipped to Democrats as one senator switched party affiliation, and one senator died. The 2002 midterm elections shifted control of the upper chamber to Republicans.

My taxi drove by the U.S. Congress in D.C. and I said, “I wonder how many people work there?” The driver said, “I’d say, less than half.” It was fun to laugh because it reflected a truth about recent political behavior that erodes American belief in its basic institutions. That will be the next post, researching the positions, opinions, and actions.

This post was stimulated by a recent ask of people on the “Indivisible” Map in BK and SI to exchange a few words.

  • Liat Olenick & Lisa Raymond-Tolan – Indivisible Nation BK (Indivisible)
  • Mustafa – Staten Island Women Who March (Facebook)
  • Nidhi Kanna – Staten Island 4 Change (Young Democrats)
  • Adelle McElveen – Indivisible Brooklyn (
  • Janet Cardone – Indivisible North Brooklyn (Facebook)
  • Sally McMahon – Fight Back Bay Bridge (Facebook)
  • Reid Curry – New York Congressional Delegation (Facebook)
  • Saul Austerlitz – Brooklyn Resisters (Get Well Saul)
  • Celeste Wright – Indivisible Brooklyn Do or Die (Facebook)

Supreme Dark Money

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) gets into the impact of “dark money” on the Supreme Court. His introduction on 13 October is here or below, and important to see before you watch his 14 October follow-up here or below. Attention to the facts is why I am a Democrat.

13 October 2020

14 October 2020

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham scheduled a committee vote for 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, the morning of the last day of hearings.

Barrett’s nomination is expected to be brought up for a vote at that meeting and then delayed for a week, per committee rules to 22 October 2020.

Vote Early

Like any clear-headed voter, I was in shock following the “what happened” 2016 election. I turned to Jane Jacobs for help and went straight for Dark Days Ahead” in my library and came to this in the first chapter:

“…the death or the stagnated moribundity of formerly unassailable and vigorous cultures is caused not by an assault from outside but by an assault from within, that is, by internal rot in the form of fatal cultural turnings not recognized as wrong turnings when they occur or soon enough afterward to be correctable. The time during which corrections can be made runs out because of cultural forgetfulness.”

Jane Jocobs

There is still time. In this election, will we forget the assault on the dignity of women carried out by a candidate for the Presidency of the United States? Will we forget the self-serving lies? As a candidate, he is that unrecognized “rot” in the cultural turning of a national election. Take hope in knowing it is not “fatal.” There is a time to correct. Vote early. To find where your early site is located go here. If you want to go the absentee route get the application here.


The terms of office in the U.S. Constitution assure the observance of character sufficient to support or deny renewal. Terms are kernels of political time, and like seeds, they carry stories of leadership. Some champion the highest of human ideals and guide us with the opportunity for growth with every kind of crucial nutrient. The message of the seed is not to grieve, but to find the nutrients to grow. The rot we have now will provide if left to decay.

I cannot think of a better time to build a massive effort to vote as JFK said, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. The cities are skeptical and easily angered, but on balance, unafraid of change because they are diverse and highly skilled in the experience of it. Today, it may seem difficult to get to the truth and I can tell you exactly where you will find it.

Walk to a street outside your home and accept this idea. Out there the worried search for nutrients and fear of change is strong. Many will be tempted to choose the false promises of a liar. Know that justice can be ripped from our hearts, but not without cost. To succeed in this task, one dark force in the world requires exposure and the “vote” is not all we have, but it is all we need to renew and begin again.

Vote early. To find where your early site is located go here. If you want to go the absentee route get the application here.

Vote damn it!

James Baldwin

I have no idea if Aeon Video is a good source to use, but these few minutes of James Baldwin are vitally important to recall as words spoken a half-century ago. Even more instructive is the obsequious British joy in gaining Balwin’s participation in their instruction and then of the insight of Buckley who became an apologist for racism while defending American values as he has learned of them.

Nowhere else can one see more clearly how the knowledge and experience of hypocrisy carried by Baldwin contrast with a white male intellectual who sees his world as one designed specifically to conduct “a win” at the expense of all others. The community’s authentic voice is diverse, and it is this built-in strangeness that every agency or agent for change struggles to understand.

Do you know how a disaster (flood, fire) in a city will strengthen resolve while drought will have people at each other’s throat? I do. We are in that drought, and the political premise is correct — we do overvalue consensus because people want it to exist.  A bit of core knowledge in the people of the color world is that change tends to be for the worse, exceptions prove the rule, and there is a pedagogy of the oppressed. These core perceptions are poorly understood and that when “the white world of capital investment” comes knocking at the door and says we are here to x, y, and z you all. It becomes incredibly disappointing. The things to which you, we, or they can agree to “at least somewhat” do not built well on contradictory and unevaluated value systems. Not once in my long life has a developer entered the room saying we are racist. We represent a racist system. What is said is you have a role to play. If you move outside of that role (caste) and exact a price on the change we propose, we will label your efforts extortion. Not once have they ever said we accept full responsibility as system representatives. We commit ourselves to finance a way for you, for all of us to being that way starting now and forever.

Eye on the Mountain Top

snow covered mountains
Photo by Patrick Doyle on

Review the Rules


In all of our worlds (social, political, economic, biometric) we search for things considered necessary. We see closed doors, glass ceilings, and tables with no invitations. The good news is we have a set of new rules that could make change more positive.

Nikola Tesla

A way to develop answers to questions about change rest with the combination of several very new organizations such as the World Wide Web Foundation and some old scientists such as Nikola Tesla pictured (left). Both are excellent examples of learning and unlearning everything to begin every day differently than the day before. Pioneering access to information has always been available at the speed of light thanks to your hippocampus, but now it is a many-brain experience. We need new skills.

The first rule of knowledge is that it expands through the experience of frequency. The second is you control what you make recur. The third rule is books do not hold truth or meaning. Meaning is in people, and the truth is just outside your front door. Take a long looking walk every day.

These three rules draw a vital connection to the immensity of comparative change. Here is an example. It is a comparison of Nikola Tesla and Tim Berners-Lee. Here we find two people who looked just outside their door but managed to see the whole world. Just under a century ago, Nikola Tesla explored every aspect of energy he could imagine. Just a few decades ago (1989-1991) Tim Berners-Lee and others created the URL and HTML as a fast method for sharing and editing documents on a worldwide basis. There is a connection.


I came across an examination of Tesla’s writings and interviews on the subject of the future at The Smithsonian. In Tesla’s vision, leaning to control the energy of everything will establish the recurrence of all things good. A movement to elect scientists instead of lawyers to leadership positions in the legislative branches of government has begun. In a 1935 Liberty Magazine article, Tesla was among those saw science the parent of law and writes,

Today the most civilized countries of the world spend a maximum of their income on war and a minimum on education. The twenty-first century will reverse this order. It will be more glorious to fight against ignorance than to die on the field of battle. The discovery of new scientific truth will be more important than the squabbles of diplomats. Even the newspapers of our own day are beginning to treat scientific discoveries and the creation of fresh philosophical concepts as news. The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere ” stick ” in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis.

Something Is Wrong

A century later, for every $100 paid in U.S. federal income tax, well over half of it still goes to the military in the 21st century. Something is wrong.

Tesla saw the ability of science to improve people in the same way law sought to protect. Called eugenics at the time, these discredited and immoral practices present a view of the world based on the distorted views of privileged white males and this has yet to change in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, the debate continues in a broad spectrum by manipulating DNA in thousands of lifeforms. CRISPR will continue to press for the inclusion of the human genome. It must be watched, something isn’t right.

Tesla recognized the lack of control over the waste machines create as he was a builder of them. He envisioned a national agency with the mission to prevent pollution (waste nothing) and regulate the discarded materials of production for the specific purpose of protecting the land, air, and water. The EPA did not form until 1970. President Nixon was in office. Something isn’t right, waste continues beyond reason and it includes human beings.

Tesla’s outlook on the energy requirements of the human diet eschewed all stimulants except alcohol. Perhaps he was like Mark Twain who said that “too much of anything is bad, but too much Scotch is rarely enough,” but he knew it was possible to provide “…enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire world.” and he criticized the industrialization of animals for protein. He was a contemporary of Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Tesla recognized energy drawn from the burning of fossil fuels as wasteful and dangerous. The identification of global warming gases began in the 19th century. He saw clean energy, from sources such as water-power and the scientific preservation of natural resources would end the agonies of drought, forest fires, floods, and viral infestation. Federal Disaster Declarations have doubled and tripled since 1955. Something isn’t right.

Science proves Right

Tesla’s favorite work is in the invention of remotely controlled machines designed to automate production. He understood communication as wireless. In 1935, he said, “At this very moment scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a thinking machine. In all of our worlds, for right or wrong, the only proof of communication is persuasion. Can a “thinking machine” isolate the wrong of a lie?

Image result for tim berners-lee
Tim Berners-Lee

In 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), formed as an international community devoted to developing open web standards. Tim Berners-Lee is the Director of W3C (2017). The question is direct. How well can this resource advance the frequencies of useful change that Tesla envisioned? In 2009, Berners-Lee formed The World Wide Web Foundation and began operations as an independent, international organization fighting for digital equality. It envisions the continuing implementation of an open web as a public good and a basic right. Its mission is to help build a world where everyone can access the web and use it to improve their lives. The internet community produced the following revolutionary ideas.

The Rules are Under Attack

In August 2020, the United States under the Trump Administration began to attack the idea of internet sovereignty in favor of an authoritarian view that would redefine the idea of free expression. The following principles of an open and free internet are therefore under attack.

  • Decentralization: No permission from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node, and so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch”! This also implies freedom from indiscriminate censorship and surveillance.
  • Non-discrimination: If I pay to connect to the internet with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. This principle of equity is Net Neutrality.
  • Bubble-up design: Code is in full view of everyone (Ctrl/Shift/I) to encourage maximum participation and experimentation. All you have to do is right-click and select inspect.
  • Universality: For anyone to be able to publish anything on the web, all the computers involved have to speak the same languages to each other, no matter what different hardware people are using; where they live; or what cultural and political beliefs they have. In this way, the web breaks down silos while allowing diversity to flourish.
  • Consensus: For universal standards to work, everyone had to agree to use them. The achievement of consensus occurs by giving everyone a say in creating the standards, through a transparent, participatory process at W3C. The consensus to agree with everything, at least “somewhat” and a known degree.


Two immediate suppositions are evident when comparing Tesla’s ideas (turn of the 20th) about the world’s future with what the World Wide Web now offers (turn of the 21st). The first insight reveals a public education policy at risk and the second is one big assumption. The risk is that a probable series of severe social, economic, and environmental events will increase and continue to occur as “chaos costs.” The assumption is the threat of these costs will lead to repression as if the cause/effect in this situation is a certainty. It is not.

A third observation is less reactionary. The documentation and implementation of two resilience strategies that will serve as benchmarks. For example, putting a global price on GHGs and focus that resource on investments in new energy solutions are arguments that can be won toward action in less than a decade. The reasonable deadline appears to be 2050 by most observers to achieve net-zero. It could be sooner.

If initial benchmarks establish firm roots, a path will become apparent on ways to improve our global selves with the aid of super useful “thinking machines” focused on facts and knowledge instead of death and war.

Envision a world where trust is about truth and not about machine ownership. Something is wrong. The internet is not a machine.

A responsive market approach can succeed. The value system accepts disruption in parts of the physical and emotional community, but not the spirit of people in the wake of that change. The infusion of world wide web values now offers decentralization, non-discrimination, a bottom-up design, super universality, and consensus. This is a compelling alternative to authoritarian rule. The rules are clear for building pathways to new physical realities. The implementation of one hellish set of trusted, tried and true algorithms remains along with the desire to go outside. Have a good, long look at the world. (Knowledge share link here).

CD Choice

Examine Choices

It has never been more important.

On June 26, 2018, the residents of the Ninth Congressional District had an opportunity to test leadership in Congress on criteria established by voters. Clarke won by a slim margin. Challenged again in 2020 she won again big time. Adem Bunkedekko was the closest rival, capturing 17% of the vote among four other bird-dogging candidates – all democrats.

Political leadership has gone to hell. New York leaders are useful when they respond to an urgent condition on a single issue. There is no outright fear for democracy, because better than most, they know it is practically gone. None of that is occurring. The only live-die-repeat is incumbency and the dead ones are the challengers.

Step One

Have a good long look at the candidates and their “watchers.” (See examples: Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball.) Ballotpedia’s fine details are here. Money equals victory. A national watch group, Open Secrets has the data to prove it, including the outliers that illustrate exceptions. The deep end of the data pool is with reports at the New York State Board of Elections.

Leaders with skills in critical thinking, creativity, responsiveness, and obedience will do well. Proof of unselfish giving is through service that includes a record of judgments publicly specified with grace and dignity. After reviewing the public expressions of our federal leaders, are challenges within the party positive and optimistic? Does the officeholder or the challenger have a bias toward getting results? Finally, good leaders know how the practice of listening to be heard gets their constituents to help themselves do the hard stuff.

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Adem and Yvette

Adem Bunkeddeko Lost in the first race by a slim margin, and he machine tanked him in the second

He got more votes the second time, yet adding votes from the three additional not really serious, probably “bird-dog” candidates, he would have still lost. The third time is the charm, I said. Off years are best. I hope he will write a review of the loss. Meantime, he now works as an Executive Director for CORO. He has been cultivating young leaders who seek to make a difference in our city and tackles the complex issues affecting New Yorkers. Please drop him a line at and if you want to know more before you do that, visit Adem’s Website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. He also has Instagram and Snapchat if you must.  If snail mail is your thing, you can write them to this mailing address: Friends of Adem, P.O. Box 130-427, Brooklyn, NY 11213.

Yvette Clarke
Drop the candidate a line on the federal website. She has Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. To write via snail mail the local address, 222 Lenox Road, Suites 1 & 2 Brooklyn, NY 11226, and a D.C. address, 2351 Rayburn HOB, Washington D.C. 20515. I would be amazed if you get an answer beyond stat and pat. She is a guaranteed tow-the-line Democrat, so there is that, I suppose.

Step Two

The national Campaign Finance Institute confirms the long-term success of this legislation in its testimony to the NYC Campaign Finance Board in 2017. (The Act). After thirty years, the NYC CFB has protected voters. Perhaps the best example is NYC representatives sustain the “F” rating from the NRA in their demand for stringent legislation regarding the use and purchase of weapons for war. That is where the feds (your representatives in Congres) come into the picture to confront and confirm national policy.

In NYC, the Campaign Finance Act has kept the local government on the side of working New Yorkers for the last three decades. A $6-to-$1 match of small donations turns a $100 donation into $700. The law has strict contribution limits and an outright ban on all corporate money, and an excellent enforcement record.

Political Action Committees

The Political Action Committees (PAC) come into the picture today as a permanent part of federal election campaigns. They represent almost 40 percent of an elected candidate’s campaign funding. A challenger is far less likely to be supported by a PAC.  The PAC phenomenon began in the 1950s, but since then, their corrosive influences over Congressional Representatives reflect the concentration of wealth in the U.S. and the rule that corporations have a right to political speech as people and that money is speech.

Unlike people, wealthy corporations can live forever. Corporate outfits such as the NRA and the Koch brothers have a large bag of political tricks designed by well-paid political operatives to protect specific interests, not including the bot/troll issues that confuse voters further. It was a sign of real trouble when New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer asked his constituents to help fight against Koch Brother attack ads against a fellow Senator, Joe Donnelly (D) from Indiana with a help him Keep His Seat! Email blast.

Representative Government, Election Waves, and Money
Three Republican Congressmembers (Faso, Tenney, Katco) in NYS may have “toss-up” elections in 2018. To keep things in perspective Faso’s 2016 spending was: $2,904,089, Tenney’s was $885,895, and Katco’s was $2,384,152. These races could contribute to a wave-election referendum on the chaos in the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives and shift as many as 25 seats to Democrats. (See NY Mag summary here). The 2018 mid-term election might have a single issue.

Peter King, a member of the Republican Party, is completing his 14th term in Congress, having served since 1993, and he quit. Clarke has been there twelve years and barely serves and runs on “good attendance” and perks from PACs.

Federal Committees of NY Senators

By way of Ballotpedia

Chuck Schumer is a Member of:
Joint Committee on the Library
Joint Committee on Printing
Committee on Intelligence (Select)
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Kirsten Gillibrand is a Member of:
Committee on Aging (Special)
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry
Committee on Armed Services
Committee on Environment & Public Works


Participants were able to produce a slim margin in 2020,



The playground was made of 12×12 inch pressure treated Douglas Fir in lengths from three to eighteen feet. The photos will say everything. There still is a park there today. The timber is gone, there is a Head Start Center, a fire station/rescue, and new housing has replaced the tenements that Hilton described as burning.

Google Map Image

I was the one on the steps with new beginning thoughts. He was the one demanding to know why I was there, doing “stupid shit”, and I said it was to finish the playground and a place for community theater or shows, pointing to the trellis. The genius of rage came right up into my face at that moment. All he said was I was a lame, white motherfucker, it’s too late, too fuck’n late, and walked up the steps passed me.

The Genius of Rage

In his closing, Hilton read a portion of Homecoming essay saying, “and now it is happening to you,” and that is when that whole experience of Brownsville came rushing back into my life. I have both of their thoughts in my mind now, Hilton’s and the guy with the knife. It is still happening and it is too late.

This post is motivated by another place-based examination of community development. It is an experiment of mine in looking back at the history of Lincoln Square/Center as an attempt to compare it to the recent five-year build of City Center (here). I’m guessing, but I think the thread of it might be displacement as the transitional function of institutional racism, a cycle of recurrence that must be stopped.

Club Democrats

Take a look at all of the “political clubs” in Brooklyn.  Rarely are these outfits exposed as viable components of local leadership, merely those who have a detailed understanding of the inner workings, tips, and tricks of a Board of Elections system that needs to be Repealed and Replaced.

Congress Member for Life

Why did the founders make representatives every two years if we get them for life. I have a “legacy” representative in Congress with a “D” rating. So I supported an alternative candidate (Adem). I liked his candidacy for two congressional election cycles. He almost won the first time, got the “club” attention, and he got crushed the second time by an odd general consensus. An incumbent representative is the best option, or “hey, I might have a shot at this office”, leading to a primary election that is chock full of candidates. Either way, it is the ambiguity that assures the status quo.

There are nineteen political clubs in Brooklyn that attempt to decide what issues candidates can speak to with credibility. For the candidate, they will examine records of accomplishment of their opponent and coach on the hot buttons of the day (i.e., health care costs, immigration, DACA). The political clubs and their candidates are the up-from-the-grassroots owners of a process that makes the top-down discussion of congress members, senators, and judges come alive as constitutional actors. It is in these settings where ordinary people determine who runs and how. The analysis continues by district and office from local to federal that allows participants to compare incumbents to a challenger. But why are incumbents 98% successful in defeating possible challengers. Why is AOC the outlier? The answer is made obvious below. Review with the knowledge that there are over 300,000 registered voters in this CD9!

Why Does the Democratic Party Sustain Incumbency as a Priority? Is the System Broken?
JUNE 23 Primary 2020 – In Brooklyn, a Primary Win is a Win in November.

Four Candidates Assures IncumbencyVOTESPERCENT
Yvette Clarke (Incumbent)37,10662.3%
Adem Bunkeddeko10,64717.9%
Chaim Deutsch5,6229.4%
Isiah James5,5769.4%
100.00% of precincts reporting (532?/?532) (source)

Once the choice of candidates for a political office or a judicial appointment is complete and aimed at the next election cycle, the value of local issues in the form of votes is exposed. An incumbency win is therefore easily recognized as a big money win on the issues and far less so on the issues affecting people’s lives. What do you think about 50% of every dollar you pay in federal taxes is paid to the military people, but the medical and science people have to fight for scraps in the battle for the other half? Are the big-money interests dangerous? Are they looking out for you?

A candidate does not have to be rich to be a leader, but improving the grassroots knowledge of the problems of wealth, power and government is a starting point of high value on every question related to the quality of public life. The cash from a PAC and other significant funding sources compare directly with vote capture and the percentage of contribution from ordinary citizens and public matching remains a token.

The capacity of civic engagement to get results is being pushed toward, well-known as well as unexpected breaking points. The big paying interests only have one interest in mind — to keep the government as a predictable entity, not an honest one, or fair or even one that cares. With this level of power, it is not possible to see a difference between the availability of cake and day-old bread. That is the terror of it.

Two-Party? It is more like Six.

Republican Primary

Updated June 27, 2020

Conservative Party Primary

Updated June 27, 2020

Constantine Jean-Pierre Uncontested

Libertarian Party Primary

Updated June 27, 2020

Gary Popkin Uncontested

Serve America Movement Party Primary

Updated June 27, 2020

Joel Anabilah-Azumah Uncontested

Working Families Party Primary

Updated June 27, 2020

Judith Goldiner Uncontested