When Will New York Mayor de Blasio Finally Appoint a Director of City Planning?

East, Shft+Alt+Del
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio rwalks toward New York City Hall. (Rob Bennett / Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio)

Mayor Bill de Blasio walks toward New York City Hall. (Rob Bennett / Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio)

With important, large planning projects—like the Domino Sugar redevelopment in Brooklyn—still awaiting approvals from the agency, and with heads of the Department of Design and Construction and Landmarks Preservation gone or on the way out, New York City desperately needs leadership from these city departments. But, when will New York’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio finally appoint a director of city planning?

While we’ve patiently awaited word about a new planning commissioner, there have been rumors that the mayor might look to Washington, D.C. and name the city’s current planning director Harriet Tregoning; or stay closer to home and pick Anna Hayes Levin, a member of the City Planning Commission; or former member Karen Phillips; or just hand the job to his transition co-director Carl Weisbord from HR&A and Trinity Real Estate. With so many names in play, who knows?

It is clear that de Blasio has made affordable housing a key component of his mayoralty, but this initiative and other brick-and-mortar projects desperately need competent people who understand how to merge new projects into the existing urban fabric.

Finally, should we take this slowness to pick directors as a sign that de Blasio is not interested in the physical city, or that he doesn’t understand the importance of architecture in moving the metropolis forward? For all his emphasis on helping the more privileged parts of the city—at the expense of the struggling poorer fringes—Former Mayor Bloomberg left a legacy of built projects and public spaces that changed the city for the better more than any time since that of Robert Moses and the WPA.

Let’s hope Mayor de Blasio will not let the creative energy of building begun under Bloomberg languish, but will take it to the poorer fringes of the city that he wants to help.

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