Replacing Politics with Democracy: A Proposal for Community Planning in New York City and Beyond
72 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2011 Last revised: 4 Feb 2020
Date Written: 2002
Once an active port providing jobs for many New Yorkers, Brooklyn's waterfront fell into disuse during the second half of the twentieth century as the city's economy came to rely more heavily on roads for shipping. Miles of shoreline fell into neglect, leaving disrepair and environmental hazards. Revitalization of the waterfront entered the city's agenda in the 1990s, but the resulting plans lacked vision and varied widely from one neighborhood to another. Some of the largest swaths of waterfront were completely left out of the revitalization process by city leaders and private developers who lacked political and financial incentive to work with certain local communities. This selective approach to revitalization placed an unequal burden on those communities and denied them a voice in important decisions regarding the delicate balance of environmental clean-up, cultivation of green space and protection of active industry and jobs. This article tells two stories of community planning in Brooklyn to illustrate possible reasons for the divergent development of the waterfront and suggests ways in which local communities can be involved. It offers public participation as a solution to disparate treatment and examines whether the comprehensive planning process lives up to its ideal as a method of public participation.
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