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September 5, 2007

In Seattle, Neighbor Power; in New York, too much neighbor rancor

Atlantic Yards Report

NeighborPower.jpgNorman Oder's latest book report leads him to wonder if neighborhood empowerment could work in NYC — according to planning organizations, the idea isn't that farfetched:

Given the contentiousness around development in New York, especially Brooklyn, it's refreshing to read Neighbor Power, by Jim Diers, who in 1988, was appointed by Seattle Mayor Charles Royer to head the city's new Office of Neighborhoods. That's right--an office concerned with neighborhoods. Diers was reappointed by the subsequent mayors and, after his 14-year tenure, the four-person office had grown into a Department of Neighborhoods with 100 staff.

Some constrasts
The question is: how might that translate in New York City? Not directly, given that the average neighborhood in Seattle has 5000 residents. (That would make Atlantic Yards, if built as planned, nearly three neighborhoods.)

The concepts have value. Seattle, which learned from St. Paul, MN, and Portland, OR, has seen its examples emulated: neighborhood matching fund programs in Houston, Detroit, Cleveland, and neighborhood service centers in Baltimore and San Diego.

There's a big caveat; this doesn't mean that neighborhoods are ensured a role in development plans, the hot issue in New York, but it implies that neighborhoods are worth listening to. "Government must learn to see neighborhoods not only as places with great needs, but as communities with tremendous resources," Diers writes.


Posted by lumi at September 5, 2007 8:19 AM