Building the City We Need

Building the City We Need


A Conference sponsored by the Committee for New York

26 January 1990


The new mayoral administration in New York City and major revisions to the City Charter signal a widespread desire for reform in city governance. An urban vision for our own time requires a critical balance: on the one hand, we must respect, and even empower, a diversity of separate groups; on the other, we must enhance the larger public domain of the City, responding to complex shared problems, and utilizing the City's multiple resources. With these ambitious goals in mind, the Committee for New York has convened a two-part conference entitled "Building the City We Need"


This is not the first time New Yorkers have contemplated fundamental changes for the City. Some effort have been grandiose and market driven, defined by experts to embrace the City in its entirety; others have been small and community oriented, at times parochial, at times affirming neighborhood bonds. Appraising these precedents will help us evaluate the reforms now being considered.


This initial section of the conference will take place on Wednesday, January 24, 1990 from 5-7 p.m., at the Urban Center, 457 Madison Avenue. A panel of historians will discuss the precepts, techniques and priorities which defined each of the previous major plans for New York, from the Commissioner's Plan of 1811 to the 1961 Rezoning Plan. Each speaker will also consider certain smaller community-based reform efforts. Architectural historian Gwendolyn Wright and historian Thomas Bender will comment on the legacies of this history.


This section of the conference is co-sponsored by Columbia University's Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, and is funded in part by the New York Council for the Humanities.




Elizabeth Blackmar, Columbia University, on: The 1811 Plan and Artisans' Housing Organizations of that Epoch


David Scobey, University of Michigan, on: Olmsted's Parks and Parkways Plan and "workers urbanism" of the Epoch


Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia University, on: The Regional Plan of New York and Harlem in the 1920's


John Mollenkopf, CUNY, on: The 1961 Rezoning Plan and Decentralization


Thomas Bender, NYU, Overview