The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) has launched an interactive urban design website for New York citizens to provide their input on updating the Principles of Good Urban Design. These principles are meant to “create a sense of civic pride and foster the enjoyment of the city for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.”
“The Principles were originally crafted in 2017,” said Erick Gregory, the Director of Urban Design at the Department of City Planning. “And they were a way for us to share with the public, with the broader applicant teams we work with and with other city agencies the things that we value whenever we interact with a project or study.”
On the new website, New Yorkers are encouraged to share their ideas on urban design to improve life in the city. The website explains any technical concepts and provides guidance for how the public can get involved in city planning. From now until November, 2021, New Yorkers can provide feedback on how their neighborhoods look and feel, and what improvements they would like to see.
Commercial real estate, of course, plays a large role in New York City’s urban design. Joe Marvilli, Deputy Press Secretary in the Department of City Planning, said, “We welcome input and ideas to ensure that we reflect the needs of the commercial real estate constituency.”
“Commercial developments, buildings and projects play a huge role in our city,” Gregory added. “They’re economic generators. They bring jobs, they bring services, but they also have a role in shaping the city.”
Gregory said the urban design team looks at commercial buildings to understand how they interact with the street, with other skyscrapers and with the city as a whole. The team takes into consideration how loading is handled in a commercial building, how a retail property might interact with the community and the streetscape, whether the property has enough walking space for pedestrians, how sustainable the commercial space is and more.
More specifically, Marvilli noted, with commercial developments, the city likes to “think critically about how the ground floors of buildings will connect to the sidewalk (entries, uses, landscaping etc.), how the lower floors or base of the building relates to and is informed by adjacent context, and how the upper portions meet the sky and contribute to the skyline.”
Eugenia Di Girolamo, Deputy Director of Urban Design at the Department of City Planning, added, “Not only do we look at commercial buildings and commercial real estate, but we also think of the worker’s population.”
The urban design team wants to not only improve the city, but also improve life for the workers of commercial buildings, ensuring these buildings have “a space where people can go to lunch … or run their errands,” Di Girolamo said. For instance, are there enough pharmacies around? If not, then the urban design team would want to ensure enough commercial space for those pharmacies to exist.
When it comes to the new website, suggestions from the public will be taken into account in future design and funding decisions.
“The Principles … help us shape the way we create policy at the Department of City Planning, [and] also how we evaluate projects throughout the city at any scale,” Di Girolamo said.
With the new website, the goal is to engage with New Yorkers, Gregory said, adding, “Our commercial partners are important … And it’s also helpful for those that are bringing forward commercial projects to think about how they’re going to interact with those principles.”
The timing of this new website came about due to the pandemic, Di Girolamo said, which prompted the team to look more closely at how public space in New York was being used.
Gregory and Di Girolamo encourage commercial property owners and workers alike to share their thoughts on city buildings on the new website. The site includes three activities for New Yorkers to complete:
- A photo board where New Yorkers can describe how their neighborhood looks and feels, with suggestions for improvements.
- A survey for New Yorkers to share their opinions on the Principles.
- A discussion forum for the Principles.
If workers, investors and property owners want to see change when it comes to commercial real estate buildings in New York, then this website is the best way to do so.