Lower Manhattan: Five Decades of the Future

Tue, Oct 22, 200218:30:00

The Skyscraper Museum sponsored a symposium on the future of Lower Manhattan that brought together, for the first time, seven past Chairs of the New York City Planning Commission and the current Chair, Amanda M. Burden, to discuss how downtown was envisioned by the NYC Department of City Planning under five mayoral administrations, from Lindsay to Bloomberg.

In addition to Ms. Burden the panel included all the heads of the Commission since 1966: Donald H. Elliott (1966-1973); John Zuccotti (1973-1975); Victor Marerro (1976-1977); Herb Sturz (1980-1986); Sylvia Deutsch (1987-1989); Richard L. Schaffer (1990-1993); and Joseph B. Rose (1994-2002). (The missing years, 1978-1980, represent the term of Robert F. Wagner, Jr., deceased.]

Spanning five decades, the plans and policies of these administrations addressed the changing problems and fortunes of Lower Manhattan through several cycles of boom and recession, significant shifts in technology, and new social and sectoral trends that changed downtown’s mix of businesses, workers, and residents. These issues arise today in new ways.

Carol Willis, Director of the Skyscraper Museum introduced the panel. Ms. Willis is the editor of the reprint of The Lower Manhattan Plan: The 1966 Vision for Downtown New York (Princeton Architectural Press). This month marks the reprint of this rare, and once again relevant planning document that is in part the inspiration for the evening’s discussion.

“Linking the past and future of New York City is central to the mission of The Skyscraper Museum and is essential to the identity of Lower Manhattan in the post-9/11 world,” notes Willis. Downtown is the birthplace of New York, and it has been reinvented continuously for more than three hundred years. Most of the change was driven by competitive capitalism, but equally significant from the mid-twentieth century, has been the role of planning and public policy. The panel reflected on those tensions and conflicts from their considerable experience.

Speakers

Amanda M. Burden is an urban planner and civic activist. She is Chair of the New York City Planning Commission and Director of the Department of City Planning.

Sylvia Deutsch served as Chair of the New York City Planning Commission from 1987 to 1989.

Donald H. Elliott is a former Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission, 1966-1973; currently, Hollyer, Brady, Smith & Hines, LLP.

Victor Marerro served as Chair of the New York City Planning Commission from 1976 to 1977.

Joseph B. Rose served as Chair of the New York City Planning Commission from 1994 to 2002.

Richard L. Schaffer served as Chair of the New York City Planning Commission from 1990 to 1993.

John Zuccotti served as Chair of the New York City Planning Commission from 1973 to 1975.

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