Sneak Preview of Bloomberg’s 21st Century Urban Vision

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As reported in today’s Observer a team working under Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has, for the last year or so, been secretly developing a sweeping, new urban planning vision for New York City. In its scope and ambition, the Observer compares the plan to the 1811 layout of Manhattan’s street grid system and the 1929 Regional Plan that gave us many of today’s highways and parks.

A significant piece of the plan was developed by Alex Garvin & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in the planning and development of the urban public realm. Garvin is best known to many New Yorkers as the lead planner for the NYC 2012 Olympics bid.

The aim of the Garvin Report, as it is referred to by some insiders, is to provide strategies and opportunities for increasing New York City’s housing supply in a way that improves, rather than degrades, New York City’s quality of life. Expecting the city’s population to increase by as much as one million by 2030, the Report says, "The city must invest in its public realm to prevent unplanned growth from undermining its competitive advantage."

Towards this end, the Garvin Report presents specific opportunities to build up to 325,000 new housing units with virtually no "residential displacement." All of this housing would be constructed on platforms built over railyards and highways, on underused waterfronts, and by investing in surface transit "to stimulate development in areas without nearby subway service."

The Garvin Report, published May 26, 2006, also recommends a set of strategies for improving New York City’s public spaces and surface transit systems. As described in the executive summary:

The city’s streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas can become a "mixed-use" public realm that balances pedestrians and cyclists with motor vehicles and mass transit. Greening boulevards, protected bike lanes, Sunday closings, and pedestrian reclamations are four strategies to create this balance on streets throughout all five boroughs.

The Garvin Report takes care to note that it is not "city policy." Rather it is an "Opportunity Analysis" suggesting the "most physically, financially and politically feasible" ways for New York City to manage growth and maintain its competitive edge in the coming decades. As of yet, it is not known whether the Garvin Report has influenced any city policy. It may just be yet another study gathering dust on a shelf in City Hall.

Streetsblog was given a copy of the Garvin Report by a City Hall insider in June. Not wanting to jeopardize the potential for this innovative plan to move forward, we held off on writing about it. But with the Mayor’s long-awaited speech on land use and transportation four months late and postponed indefinitely, with transportation and public space issues nowhere near the top of the Bloomberg Administration’s second term agenda, and with the story out in today’s Observer, there doesn’t seem to be any point in continuing to hold this.

As such, we are releasing Garvin & Associates’ Visions for New York City: Housing and the Public Realm in its entirety via Streetsblog. Below, you can download the document as a PDF file:

Full Report (6.45 MB)

Or download the report piece by piece:

Introduction (0.6 MB)

Part I: Increasing the Housing Supply

Ch.1: Platform Opportunities (1.0 MB)

Ch. 2: Waterfront Opportunities (1.1 MB)

Ch. 3: Transit-Oriented Development Opportunities (1.4 MB)

Part II: Improving the Public Realm

Ch. 4: Public Realm Opportunities (2.1 MB)

Next Steps (0.4 MB)

Note: These PDF files were made by scanning a photocopied paper document, so the image quality is poor.

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