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Government and Politics in Public Planning

When thinking about development cities and towns, the legal ramifications such things might not even seem like relevant ones. As people, we do not really see the process of planning behind the scenes, and as a result are not subjected to the restrictions and limitations in place. Surprisingly to some, urban planning takes much of it’s own roots in the Constitution of the United States. Not explicitly, but the fact that the Constitution does not contain references to substate units of government caused these units in reality to derive powers from the state itself. Through this, it is interesting to see what these municipalities actually were capable of within their own realm of responsibility.

For the most part, the municipalities are seen simply as entities of the state that function within the limits defined by the state itself. It would also be self-evident that at the federal level of government, there is influence from nationally imposed laws on development. What I find interesting about this is how interconnected all the levels of government actually are in helping to create the process of urban planning. This can be seen in the text for example with the flow of money progressing downwards into smaller levels of government and legislature.

Additionally, it is interesting to note the level of personal influence and opinion that involves public planning. While it would not make sense for planning to be purely factual and devoid of creative subjectivity, it is also somewhat surprising how much emotionality goes into the process. Ideally the people have a rather substantial say in the project, at least in terms of how they feel about it and how it benefits them. For example, it would be reasonable to assume that people could be passionate about the design and location of a new park in the city of New Brunswick seeing as it impacts their living area directly. They may strongly oppose, favor, or stand somewhere in between but either way the people have an emotional influence in the process.

I also found it interesting that planners themselves can have very little power directly in instituting new developments, and may purely act as say, a public servant. Sometimes it appears the planner will function as an advisor to the people in their own proceedings when lobbying for something. This makes sense however, as public opinion and influence would most likely have the most valid line of reasoning for wanting something, such as an additional bridge across the Raritan river along NJ Route 18 to allow for easier access for cars. Of course, a planner can take many more forms, as their priority is to create solutions and reason between the people and what is technically feasible.

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Planning and Politics

When thinking about the planning of a city, many only see the big picture.  It can seem as though the possibilities are endless, but what many fail to think of are the politics involved.  The planning of a new town or city is not as simple as drawing up a design and implementing it.  There are many factors that need to be accounted for in this political environment.

One large matter to take into account is the emotional state of the citizens in the area that is being developed.  The people want to be heard and give their views on the changes being made.  With this comes some difficulty.  The planner will never be able to please everyone.  It is nearly impossible to accommodate the wants of all the people in a city.  Therefore, the emotional stakes of the citizens is a major issue in the planning of cities.

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Another factor to think about is just exactly how big of a role politics plays in planning.  Planning is a whole political process in which there is voting and many discussions.  The community and the government all voice their opinions and exchange ideas.  In addition to this, the government is who gives the planners their funding.  Therefore, politics have to get involved for projects to even happen.  These decisions also affect property owners and property tax rates.  In order to accomplish all these projects, the planner needs to discuss finances with the government.

Politics plays a major role in planning.  Without it, many of the projects we have seen accomplished today would have not been possible.  Thus, planning, no matter where, takes place in an environment that is very political.

 

 

The Importance of Urban Design

As mentioned in Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy, Cities will develop regardless if they’re designed or not. In many cases, the most beautiful cities weren’t built with a design but by plain growth. For example, New York City wasn’t built in the same way that cities such as Paris or Washington DC were built. Until recently, New York never had “Squares” or “Plazas” with open space. Places like Times Square and Union Square existed, but weren’t pedestrian friendly and even dangerous. In contrast, Paris and Washington both were developed with design and planning laws.

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Pictured above is Les Champs Elysees, a major avenue in Paris. As we can see there are Tree-lined streets and wide piazza style sidewalks for pedestrians to enjoy. Not only does everything look much more beautiful, safety is also a major benefit of a well planned/designed city. With a design like this, pedestrians are protected by a barrier of trees. As a result of this street design, many Parisians take siestas at night and take time to enjoy their lives, rather than just rushing to get home and stay locked indoors.

A well designed city pushes the limits of what city life can be. One of the major benefits of living in a city is having access to so many things without having to travel far. However for many cities, this means having to deal with densely packed neighborhoods, poorly lit streets, and nothing but concrete to look at. These are great situations in which design will definitely help bring beauty to cities. It’s one thing to live in a densely populated area with nothing but residential neighborhoods and an occasional park thrown in, and it’s a whole different story living in a well designed, beautifully taken care of neighborhood with nearby parks, piazzas, fountains and other public monuments.

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A prime example of this is Battery Park City in New York City. Unlike the rest of the city, Battery Park City was constructed quite recently and doesn’t follow “The Grid”. In fact, it was built on a landfill on Lower Manhattan’s west side. As is shown in the picture above, BPC follows a Le Corbusier “Park-like Setting”and also contains a riverfront promenade, for pedestrians and cyclists. All in all, it’s very important not to overlook Urban Design for our cities and towns in the future. We need to ensure that with proper planning, many of today’s inner city problems can be solved.

Solving NJ’s Growing Transportation Problems

New Jersey is sandwiched between New York and Philadelphia, and as a result we don’t really have a “Big City”. Due to this, many people in NJ commute out of state for work every day. A large portion of these commuters have long, strenuous commutes and some even commute 2 hours to get to work from far out counties such as Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, and Ocean.

As certain issues such as transportation over the Hudson are becoming more and more difficult and expensive as time goes on, one thing we can do to help ourselves is revitalizing what we already have. Bringing jobs back to our currently blighted cities will help many people not only have an easier commute but it will also put much less strain on our transportation network. Newark and Jersey City both have the space and transportation to support a large work force. In fact, Newark used to be one of the largest cities in America due to it being a major industrial city. With its own Airport, Seaport and its original Penn Station. Newark has the infrastructure for a city 10 times its size, which gives it potential to get back to its heyday. In addition to great infrastructure, many companies already have headquarters in Newark.

From a logistical standpoint, bringing jobs back to New Jersey would make a lot of sense. If Newark and Jersey City became bigger job centers it would work out much better for commuters riding trains to work. People commuting to Lower Manhattan or Jersey City could live along NJ Transit Hoboken Division lines, while people commuting to Newark or Midtown Manhattan could live along Newark Division lines. Moreover, organizing our job centers would eliminate the amount of people transferring at Secaucus Junction; and more importantly, bringing jobs back to NJ would reduce the number of people we’d need to transport over the Hudson every day.

Unfortunately for us, much of our infrastructure is old and densely packed between neighborhoods as opposed to the rest of the United States. Therefore, we need to work twice as hard to improve the way our citizens get to and from work. In order to make this happen i think that New Jersey needs a Transportation Study similar to the CATS mentioned in Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy. While it may be costly for us now, it will be of better interest for NJ in the future rather than spending billions and billions on projects every few years.

 

 

Planning another Mall

During the 19th Century, when unsanitary and unregulated conditions of the cities caused several residents to flee the urban lifestyle in exchange for a quiet slow-paced rural one. In doing so, more families began to feel the need to live in a big house with a massive front and back yard, lots of space from the next house, a garage, and a number of privately owned cars. These privately owned cars were and still are seen as essential in order to get from the rural home to the grocery store, the nearest school, the nearest hospital, and jobs as well. Aside from the increasing level of carbon footprints being left behind and the skyrocketing amount of gasoline being used up, many states and their department of transportation have continuously been assisting this new lifestyle. As a result, strip malls were born, cul-de-sacs expanded over much of the land, and walking less of an option. New Jersey is no exception. Today in 2016, the New Jersey Department of Transportation continues to fund economic developments that satisfy the automobile driven lifestyle.

One of the most recent economic developments in which Governor Chris Christie has even promised a one billion dollar government tax incentives for the construction of the three million square foot American Dream Meadowlands mega mall which would be located in East Rutherford, adjacent to a number of other massive developments like the Izod Center, Meadowlands Sports Complex and Route 120. The proposal for this building was first introduced by the Mills Corporation back in 2003. However, since then the Project has been stalled, as the Mills Corporation and Colony Capital have both failed to complete the project. Now the area has become idealized with the image of cranes and a symbol of New Jersey’s “waste and failure” as WNYC, NJ Spotlight, and Bloomberg Businessweek mentioned it as.

As of late a third developer from Canada, known as Triple Five, have decided to take over the effort to change the sprawl like community into a massive billion dollar that will attract visitors from New York and New Jersey. As Governor Chris Christie has already proposed to give a one billion dollar government tax incentive and as Triple Five creates a 2.65 billion dollar plan, several doubts have already been raised as to whether such a development will be economically viable. In fact, it has already been noted that Triple Five was late in meeting its own Early Submission Deadline in November for the 2.65 billion dollar plan, not to mention its 1.15 billion dollar bond sale. Although Triple Five has already begun construction of this project, the outcome continues to worry many residents. The most troublesome fact is that it was estimated that if the project is built successfully with an annual net benefit for New Jersey being 36 million dollars, many of the jobs that the development would make would pay only 20,000 dollars a year in a community where the residents have an average annual salary of 80,000 dollars.

As John M Levy mentioned in “Contemporary Urban Planning”, as long as a project promises some sort of economic benefit to the state or municipality then the government will be willing to spend as much revenue as possible in order to complete the mission. In this case, Triple Five and Governor Chris Christie have both expressed that the development will bring an influx of jobs into the market along with plenty of revenue. However, much of the public remains skeptical that this is the best decision that the state has made because it is not a sustainable development. Despite having a bus stop next to the location, the development will still begin to further encourage private ownership of vehicles due to the major highway in which the development is adjacent to. Instead of taking the risk of building a massive mall, the state should put funding toward investing into revitalizing their own cities, such as Newark, Camden ,Atlantic City and even New Brunswick. The work of redeveloping a city is never over because there always be deterioration and buildings/ areas that require attention, along with issues that need to be addressed.

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“Planning.” American Dream: Is There a Future for Stalled Mall on the NJ Meadowlands? – NJ Spotlight. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.<http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/12/11/american-dream-is-there-any-future-for-the-stalled-mall-on-the-nj-meadowlands/&gt;.

Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003. Print.

 

Harvey Cedars, A Street Smart Community

In class a few weeks ago we talked about the Street Smart Program. Street Smart “is a collaborative effort among public, private and nonprofit organizations that aims to change pedestrian and motorist behaviors through education and enforcement.” The program was launched in 2013 in only five locations throughout New Jersey, but now has expanded to include more than 20 communities. One of the towns that implemented the program last year was Harvey Cedars, NJ.

Harvey Cedars is located on Long Beach Island, a small beach town with a year round population of less than 10,000 residents. But in the summer months the town is a prominent vacation spot on the Jersey Shore. From 2009 to 2012, thirteen pedestrians were struck on the Long Beach Boulevard, the main road that runs the length of the island. According to Harvey Cedars Police Chief Robert Burnaford, “Pedestrian safety is a top priority, especially during the summer months when thousands of daily visitors come to enjoy the beaches at Harvey Cedars and all along Long Beach Island.” The Street Smart Program focuses on “non-complaint behavior” such as speeding, jaywalking, failing to stop for pedestrians, talking/texting on cell phones, and failure to obey traffic signals. The program combines law enforcement and education.

During the kickoff event handouts were given to pedestrians to inform them about safety. Officers were told to focus on “motorists who speed and fail to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, pedestrians who cross unlawfully, and distracted drivers and pedestrians.” In addition all throughout Harvey Cedars signs line the boulevard stating, “Check your vital signs.” Since the program has been enacted, I have seen police enforcing the speed limit much more than in the past, especially during the summer months. I expect the program to be a great success for the community and believe that if people know police are actively looking for violators of the law on both the pedestrian and driver side.f-harvey-cedars-street-smart

Stadiums and Urban Planning

Stadiums and arenas are of the biggest projects that a city can make. While there can be many reasons why a city would decide to approve the construction and many times primarily fund new stadiums, one reason is an attempt to spark economic development. While most people believe that the economic development of cities is only the goals and responsibilities of economists and politicians. However, urban planners also play an important role. When planning a stadium, there are many factors that are necessary for planners. One important factor that goes into stadium planning is zoning. Without proper zoning, it is impossible for a stadium to be built in a city. The location decision always incorporates zoning, and if the desired location is not properly zoned for a stadium or arena, then the zoning ordinances and ultimately the master plan must be adjusted. Another important factor that planners must account for is the city’s transportation network. It is known that stadium activity causes a large increase in traffic congestion. To try and limit the amount of traffic caused by the large influx of people into a city, often, an effective plan is to have a strong public transportation network. However, this is not a simple task to do. Many cities do not have intricate public transportation systems and it is often quite complicated to adjust it. Another thing to consider is the phenomenon and culture that is tailgating. Since the tailgating culture is so prominent in the United States, many people do not want to utilize public transportation even if it is an efficient method to get to a stadium. These are all important issues that planners need to consider.

With regards to economic development, a current trend in stadium planning is to not only plan and design the stadium, but also to design the surrounding area in order to revitalize the city and add to the experience and marketing of a sports franchise. I find this aspect very interesting, because it can have such an impactful effect on the surrounding community. It has the potential to affect fields such as businesses and housing costs. It can help to bring success to a community or it can have detrimental effects. Overall, when it comes to stadium planning, planners have an important role. However, in my opinion the most important decision that is made when planning a stadium or arena is the deal that is made with the city. The negotiations made between the teams and the city can essentially make or break a successful stadium. In the past, there have been successful and unsuccessful stadiums and I believe that it is mainly determined by the deal that was made between the two parties.

Likes and dislikes about my neighborhood

Currently, I live in the T3 zoning- the general urban- and I like living here a lot. I get some privacy, yet I can still reach the retailer stores- Costco, Walmart, Target, Menlo Park Mall -and others- parks,  library, train station university, hospital- within 15 minutes drive. My family and I go out to eat a few times a week; therefore, we need diners and restaurants that are near us, which there is a lot near my neighborhood. This is very hard to find in other towns. Overall, I would say my neighborhood is a very convenient place to live for middle-class family, but it is not pretty and it is hard for people who do not have a car to go places. Most of the houses, the roads, and sidewalks lack style. New Jersey is called The Garden State, but I just do not see it in my neighborhood since there are not many street trees. Cars are parked on the sides of streets, which makes roads narrow and very hard for the cars to pass. The exteriors of the houses are so plain and lack of characters. The messy electricity poles totally destroy the view. The only attraction in my neighborhood is the water fountain.  It is understandable that my neighborhood is not as pretty as it should be because most of my neighbors are working class. We do not stay home often, so perhaps we do not care much of how it looks.

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The Veterans Memorial Park on Route 27 is the only attraction in my neighborhood. It is very nice to have, but too many electric poles and other signs block the view.

 

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the houses are built in the 70’s. They do not look as attractive as it today. there are not many street trees. the size of the house is much smaller compare to the one in 2010’s.

 

The neighborhood in which I live fits most of the goals of the comprehensive planning, which brings out a problem for the comprehensive planning. John Levy, the author of the Contemporary Urban Planning, mentioned that there is a total of 8 goals of comprehensive planning – health, public safety, circulation, provision of services and facilities, fiscal health, economic goals, environmental protection, and redistributive goals from mentioned in. However, it does not have a goal for overall appearance, like having a visual character for the neighborhood and the town.  It seems like “[a]t the present it is much more an art than a science,” and I do not see any art in my neighborhood.  This is a place without a character. Perhaps I ask too much for a normal town and neighborhood. Also, it is not worth it to upgrade the neighborhood just for the appearance currently since no one wants higher tax and this old neighborhood is well-developed. If I want to have a nice appearing neighborhood, I would have to find a newer developed neighborhood because newer developed neighborhood cares about appearance more than the old ones.

 

 

 

 

 

Drones and Urban Planning

When you think about Urban Planning, drones are not normally one of the first things to come to mind. Interestingly enough, unmanned aerial vehicles are beginning to be used to get images of cities from a bird’s eye view. Because drones are able to obtain high-resolution aerial images very quickly for a reasonable price, they are becoming especially useful in poor third world countries where satellite images are very expensive or are not of sufficient quality.

Piotr Sasin, the country director at People In Need (PIN), believes that drone technology is a starting point to improving Cambodia’s urban planning issues. Cambodia currently has a weak planning department, and although the local authorities have prepared a master plan they do not have local land use plans. Construction in some of the cities in Cambodia is not regulated and is developer-driven, who rarely consider environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive designs. PIN is attempting to use drones to prepare detailed flood risk maps and map informal settlements. These maps will be used to prepare local upgrading and mitigation plan and to review the current land use. PIN expects that mapping is the first step to upgrade the settlements and provide for improved living conditions as they assess people’s land rights.

Unfortunately, local authorities don’t trust drones, and the term has come to have negative associations with spying. Additionally, drone battery performance is relatively low, only lasting around forty-five minutes before needing to come back and swap out the battery to return to the point it left off to keep mapping. Jan Gehl, a Danish architect and urban planner said, “first life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works.” This means that although drones are a technology that can be helpful in urban planning, it will never replace a process that needs to be put in place to develop good urban plans and keep the needs of the people first.

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In urban planning, aerial imaging is one of the most important aspects of any project. Photographs are used to show the planning board what the site currently looks like, what is around the site, and potentially what the site will look like after the project is completed. Photos from above help give the planning board an idea of how well the project will fit in with the characteristics of the surrounding area. Drones are great tools for taking aerial pictures, but currently there are many regulations and permits that are needed if you are going to be taking photos especially in major cities in the United States. Nevertheless, drones are great tools and will definitely be making their way into the urban planning world soon enough.

Widening Route 18

Beginning in the 1900’s , the United States has seen both a positive and negative impact from the increase in the number of privately owned automobiles. The negative being the rapid growth of suburban communities along with the increasing levels of traffic congestion and air pollution. The positive aspect being the convenience of the auto mobiles to allow people to get from their homes, to their jobs, and to a variety of other places in only a matter of minutes. With the increasing number of automobiles and traffic congestion, new roads needed to be built and old roads needed to be extended in order to accommodate the vehicles. However, John M Levy mentioned this action often reshapes the land use and often invokes much emotional and political controversy. Although the building of highways and other road extensions seems like a solution, it is only a temporary one. There are several examples of the consequences noticeable throughout the United States, some of them being in the city of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

To begin with, the city of New Brunswick has a major highway running through the city known as Route 18. This highway accommodates thousands of automobiles, public transportation, school buses, and other vehicles, in entering the city of New Brunswick. As of late, Route 18 can be classified as having massive traffic congestion especially during rush hours. In fact, the traffic congestion worsened to the point that New Jersey’s Department of Transportation passed two reconstruction projects for the area. The first project was undergone by Conti Enterprises who after receiving the contract in March of 2005 estimated the project to take about 4 years and cost about 200 million dollars. However, the planning for this project took place over a decade before. The main purpose for this project was safety and mobility for pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists by improving upon traffic operations, changing certain roadway features, and allowing for easier access to and from New Brunswick. The features that were incorporated within the plan were: new outer roadways with walking paths along the south and northbound that lead to 4 new bridges along George Street, Commercial Ave, New Street, and Albany Street that would enter into the city of New Brunswick. New traffic lights were incorporated in order to improve safety along Paulus Boulevard, George Street, and Commercial Ave. The Pedestrian bridges of New Street, Carpenter Road, and Richmond Street were improved upon. Then from the new bridge at Commercial Ave, a ramp promenade was connected that would lead to an entrance way into Boyd Park, which gained a new amphitheater along with an extension to the former city docks with additional parking spaces. In addition, new sidewalks, lighting, and a noise wall were made to accommodate the residential areas. Finally, much of the utilities within the area were buried underground, and the new Albany tunnel and Richmond Street bridge were built with sensitivity to the area. In a few years, beginning in July of 2014, the Department of Transportation once again embarked on the mission to attempt to alleviate traffic congestion. The construction of this project ended the Fall of 2016 which included the widening of the Route 18 northbound structure by one lane to include a deceleration/ acceleration ramp. The project also included reconstruction of the ramp that leads route 18 northbound into route 1 southbound, new lighting and sign structures, new drainage facilities, guide rail, and intelligent transportation systems. Finally, there was an installation of four retaining walls.route-18

Despite the efforts to accommodate Pedestrians, the widening of the Route 18 has done little to improve the traffic congestion, not to mention that Boyd Park and the Raritan River continue to remain isolated from the rest of New Brunswick. As John M Levy mentions throughout the chapter on Transportation Planning, the extension of highways and the creation of new roads often reshapes the land use of the area. From these two projects, the city of New Brunswick needs to find a new way to alleviate traffic because the extension of Route 18 has had little to no success. In fact, in many cases it has dissatisfied the residential areas of New Brunswick, who have one less fewer parks accessible to them. Which is because the crossing from the residential areas through Route 18 into Boyd Park is not a pleasant one.

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Above is an aerial image of the Commercial Ave Bridge.

Sources

Unit, NJDOT Web Development. ” .” Route 18 Bridge over Route 1, Overview, Construction Updates, Commuter Information. Department of Transportation, 31 Oct. 2016. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.

<http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/roads/route18bridge/>.

Unit, NJDOT Web Development. “Route 18 Reconstruction Overview, Construction Updates, Commuter Information.” Route 18 Reconstruction Overview, Construction Updates, Commuter Information. Department of Transportation, 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.

<http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/roads/route18/&gt;.