Is There a Point to Public Participation?

After some underwhelming proposals have come in for a project at New York's Hudson Yards, this editorial asks whether the public participation is even necessary for a project that will most likely evolve with little public interaction and oversight.

2 minute read

January 3, 2008, 9:00 AM PST

By Nate Berg


"Anyone who has watched this ritual real-estate dance in New York before knows what to expect: After the display and the discussion and a tortuous path of Catch-22 obstacles and Machiavellian deal-making, we will get a lot of very, very big buildings that will make someone very, very rich. There will be a great many of these very large buildings because the site is enormous. The 28 acres that span the rail yards from 30th to 33rd streets and 10th Avenue to the Hudson River, dwarfing Ground Zero's 16 acres, have already been rezoned in part for the biggest buildings possible."

"The only other thing we can count on is that whatever is eventually built there will bear very little resemblance to what we are being shown now. For which we should be tremendously thankful. Because it is hard to believe that teams with this much financial heft and assembled star power could come up with something so awesomely bad. Only two of them appear to have thought about it beyond the standard investment model blown up to gargantuan scale."

"Once the bids and presentations are in and the show is over, the real negotiating will get under way. So why the charade--the expensively executed and seductively lit models, the earnest presentations by the architects, the request for public reactions? Why do we discuss the proposals at all?"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008 in The Wall Street Journal

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