May 3, 2023
NYC Planning Agency Adds New Division for Community Engagement
First new division since 2016, putting communities at forefront of planning conversations about the future of their neighborhoods
NEW YORK – Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick today announced the creation of a seven-member Community Planning and Engagement (CPE) division – the agency’s first new division since 2016 – that will transform the way the agency works with communities and ensure that their voices are at the center of all planning work.
“Community engagement is critical to our planning efforts and I am thrilled the Department of City Planning is taking bold steps to ensure we get it right in building the housing and services that New Yorkers need the most,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Deputy Mayor for Economic & Workforce Development.
“The work of City Planning is built with local communities – and that means from the ground-up. We created this new division to make sure New Yorkers’ voices are front and center on our work. As a former Council Member, I understand how important it is to make this connection with our neighbors. We are serious about our collaboration with community residents, workers, advocates, and elected officials, as we tackle our city’s biggest challenges,” said Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick.
“This is a great next step in making sure New Yorkers are involved in our planning work from day one. By expanding how we think about community engagement, we can make sure that good planning policy is crafted hand-in-hand with members of the public, leading to better results and a better future for all,” said Lara Mérida, Senior Director of Community Planning and Engagement.
“Inclusive community participation in neighborhood planning and development are critical to our city’s success in building more housing,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “This is why expanding input from diverse stakeholders to balance local needs with long-term citywide goals is one of the core pillars of my Planning and Land Use Toolkit. This new Community Planning and Engagement Division is an exciting addition to the Department of City Planning that has already taken important steps to engage young people as new voices in planning conversations. It is essential that these efforts are expanded to residents facing some of the greatest barriers to housing and economic opportunity, who aren’t always heard to the same degree as others in the community input process. Elevating more intentionally inclusive engagement of residents who traditionally lack influence can empower more New Yorkers and help us confront our city’s greatest housing and economic challenges.”
“New Yorkers deserve a say over the future of the neighborhoods they love and call home,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m glad that DCP has made it a priority to better engage residents in the planning process through the launch of their new Community Planning and Engagement Division. I am hopeful that this is the start of a new chapter that puts community voices first, and I look forward to working together toward true community partnership.”
“To be successful, any efforts at city planning must take the needs, interests, and concerns of all of a city’s residents into account,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “That’s why I am thrilled the Department of City Planning is showing its commitment to acting on New Yorkers’ needs, interests, and concerns by launching its Community Planning and Engagement Division. This new division will get more residents involved in the city planning process and lead us to a better and more equitable New York City.”
The CPE will support all policy and neighborhood planning proposals, as well as discussions on the city's civic infrastructure – to increase and diversify participation in decisions about the future of neighborhoods and the city at large.
The new division will build on recent successes, such as a youth engagement program that supports young people in becoming civic leaders and advocates in their communities, and the Equitable Development Data Explorer, an interactive website designed to facilitate public engagement around issues of housing affordability, racial equity, and community displacement.
“Hallelujah! Planners, policy-makers, and New Yorkers who love their neighborhoods have long waited for this day to come. As an urban planner myself, I'm thrilled to imagine that the days of top-down planning – of planning for communities instead of with communities – will soon be a distant memory," said Betsy MacLean, Chief Engagement Officer. “The creation of the Community Planning and Engagement Unit is a big step in the direction of equity and justice and builds on the efforts of dedicated community members and intrepid community planners across City agencies, at community-based organizations, Community Boards, and urban planning schools across the city. Huge congratulations to DCP Director & CPC Chair Garodnick, Lara Mérida, Elizabeth Hamby, and the rest of the CPE crew for making this community engagement imperative a reality.”
“The new Community Planning and Engagement division at the Department of City Planning will incorporate community input into all aspects of the agency’s work, including discussions around the affordable housing we build. By better understanding community needs, we are better equipped to meet citywide goals and community-specific aspirations,” said Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr.
“We’re excited that the work of the Civic Engagement Studio is being expanded in this newly formed division,” said NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa. “We look forward to working more closely with the newly formed Community Planning and Engagement Unit as we continue our efforts to put planning data at the public’s fingertips.”
“To center equity in our work, we must ensure that not just the loudest voices are heard during the planning process. DCP’s new Community Planning and Engagement Division is an innovative approach to bring more New Yorkers together to build a better future for their neighborhoods,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “We’re proud to support our sister agency’s work and applaud Commissioner Garodnick for advancing this important effort.”
First Brand-New Division since 2016
CPE is the first brand-new division at the agency since the creation of the Regional Planning division in 2016. Led by Senior Director Lara Mérida, CPE builds on the work of the Civic Engagement Studio, which was officially established in 2021.
The Studio serves as an incubator for innovative projects, including DCP’s youth engagement curriculum.
“Our collaboration with DCP’s Community Planning and Engagement division meant so much to our seniors last year. They worked on real world projects with experts from DCP who came to their classes regularly and showed that they believed in them and their ideas. This turned the power dynamic upside down, with those in positions of power listening while high school seniors shared their solutions to community challenges. For students who often feel marginalized and not taken seriously, this was a powerful moment, and one I do not think they will ever forget,” said Emily Haines, U.S. Government Teacher at the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology.
“MAS believes effective community engagement leads to effective city planning. Demystifying land use processes and providing accessible tools goes a long way towards building public trust and fostering participation. I am happy that NYC’s Department of City Planning will now have a division devoted to that critical work,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of The Municipal Art Society. “At MAS, we have collaborated with DCP to make planning processes, tools, and data – including the Equitable Development Data Explorer – more accessible to New Yorkers. We look forward to deepening that partnership with the new Community Planning and Engagement team.”
“We at Regional Plan Association have long believed that community input and engagement are critical to the success of neighborhood planning projects and we wholeheartedly support the creation of the Community Planning and Engagement Division, which does just that,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of Regional Plan Association. “We are particularly eager to see the work of the Civic Engagement Studio, and to see how this new division will involve young New Yorkers in community planning, helping them become decision makers and leaders in their own communities. We look forward to working with the team at DCP as they roll out this new division and continue working towards Mayor Adams’ City of Yes goals.”
Focus on Community Planning & Engagement
DCP has heard from New Yorkers on the need for there to be more community planning in all the agency’s work, not just rezonings. CPE is charged with transforming the way New York City government plans with communities across all different types of policies and projects, including for affordable housing, job development, investments in infrastructure and community-supporting services, and coordinating funding to address service-related issues, like clogged drains and park maintenance.
This new division will work internally and externally with DCP’s sister agencies to enable active community engagement, holistic neighborhood planning, and participatory policy development readily available for New Yorkers to access, and continually improve DCP’s online tools to put planning data at the public’s fingertips, and more.
City of Yes and Neighborhood Plans
DCP will lean on this division in support of Mayor Eric Adams’ City of Yes, three citywide text amendments to make New York City greener, more prosperous, and more equitable, as well as current and future neighborhood plans, such as Bronx Metro-North and the Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan. For DCP’s initial public info sessions on these initiatives, the CPE division took the lead in these meetings to make City of Yes as clear as possible and maximize opportunities for questions from the public.
Department of City PlanningThe Department of City Planning (DCP) plans for the strategic growth and development of the City through ground-up planning with communities, the development of land use policies and zoning regulations applicable citywide, and its contribution to the preparation of the City’s 10-year Capital Strategy. DCP promotes housing production and affordability, fosters economic development and coordinated investments in infrastructure and services, and supports resilient, sustainable communities across the five boroughs for a more equitable New York City.
In addition, DCP supports the City Planning Commission in its annual review of approximately 450 land use applications for a variety of discretionary approvals. The Department also assists both government agencies and the public by advising on strategic and capital planning and providing policy analysis, technical assistance and data relating to housing, transportation, community facilities, demography, zoning, urban design, waterfront areas and public open space.