When Mayor De Blasio announced Carl Weisbrod as New York City’s new planning commission chair, the mayor talked about the need for planning to focus on revitalization and affordable housing. According to an editorial by David Bragdon, the new mayor also implied key distinctions between Weisbrod’s mission and the approach of the previous planning commission chair, Amanda Burden.
Bragdon’s article challenges the notion that De Blasio’s approach can achieve the intended effects, starting with a more positive appraisal of Burden’s work: “[Burden] rezoned areas of the city for more housing and championed greater public spaces for all. Most of the districts she rezoned were chosen because of their good existing transit access, while rezoning of the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront was conditioned on the provision of new transit, ferries.”
The problems with De Blasio’s expectations, according to Bragdon, are those of causality: “Zoning and regulation – the main tools the planner has – create the physical setting for economic success and social justice, but can’t directly create those outputs. The zoning code can allow the theoretical capacity for more affordable apartments to be built, but it takes investment to actually build them.”
Here’s the rub, according to Bragdon: “Given these limitations, a worrisome portent in assigning the Department of City Planning the job of ‘addressing inequality’ is that such a mission could encourage random interventions in the hyper-specific development review process, rather than strategic action in the planning process.”