NYC Transformed: City Planning Practice at a Time of Crisis
Panel Discussion with Brooke Wieczorek, AICP, Assistant Vice President, Land Use, New York City Economic Development Corporation; Neil Gagliardi, Director of Urban Design, NYC Department of Transportation; Calvin T. Brown, PhD, Assistant Commissioner of Neighborhood Development, NYC Department of Small Business Services; and Erick Gregory, Deputy Director of the Urban Design Office, NYC Department of City Planning.
Local government is not immune to crisis—and last year was replete with them. Planning practice in New York City was profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuing economic chaos, and a long overdue reckoning on race and police brutality. Local government officials were called on to mediate and manage these crises—while simultaneously dealing with new frictions in the internal functioning of their agencies. Yet, despite this, planning work continued to be done.
This panel considered planning practice during a time of uncertainty. Public-sector practitioners from diverse agencies discussed their work in 2020: how they managed to advance projects and how they were forced to adapt. The panel also considered the future of New York City, as it confronts a fiscal crisis, a new mayoralty, and the residual effects of the pandemic. Prospects for planning practice given these looming changes were also discussed—with implications for would-be New York City practitioners, both in and out of government.
Calvin T. Brown is a planning professional with nearly 20 years of experience working in urban planning. He previously worked at the Department of City Planning (DCP) as a senior planner, where he supervised project managers working in Upper Manhattan. As the senior planner, he supervised the East Harlem Neighborhood Rezoning Team and worked closely with other divisions within City Planning, other city agencies, elected officials and community stakeholders.
In addition to a Master’s in Urban Planning (MUP), Calvin T. Brown also has a PhD in Urban and Public Policy. His research focused on the neighborhood effect of poverty over time on neighborhood conditions and whether there were identifiable thresholds where changes in poverty begin to significantly affect key neighborhood variables and access.
Dr. Brown is currently the Assistant Commissioner for Neighborhood Development at the Department of Small Business Services. In this role, he manages three program areas – Neighborhood Planning, Capacity Building and Business Improvement Districts - that are aimed at assisting in the creation and support of community-based development organizations (CBDOs) advancing the growth of commercial districts across the five boroughs.
Neil Gagliardi is the Director of Urban Design at the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) where he offers more than 30 years of interdisciplinary design and planning experience. During his eleven-year tenure at DOT, Mr. Gagliardi has spearheaded design initiatives that foster pedestrian-friendly, visually-appealing and sustainable streetscapes, public spaces, infrastructure and transportation corridors citywide. Prior to joining DOT, Mr. Gagliardi served in various capacities as a city planner and urban designer at the NYC Department of City Planning; his private practice spanned firms headquartered in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic states and California. Mr. Gagliardi’s international achievements and versatile project portfolio range from comprehensive neighborhood zoning and streetscape design plans to a transformative, art-in-action, redevelopment project in a favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Master degrees in landscape architecture and urban planning form the foundation of his professional career.
Erick Gregory is an interdisciplinary designer and serves as the Deputy Director of the Urban Design Office at the Department of City Planning (DCP) where he plays a key role in public realm planning, policy, and design for the City of New York. The Urban Design Office helps shape the built environment of New York City through citywide and neighborhood studies, design review and research, and creatively engaging with communities. DCP strives to continually improve the livability of New York City’s neighborhoods, the quality of the urban design that shapes them and ensure that our public realm is open, safe, and enjoyable for all.
Erick holds a Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oklahoma. He is a Robert Bosch Fellow, LEED accredited professional and member of the Urban design Forum.
Brooke Wieczorek AICP is an Assistant Vice President in the Planning Division at NYCEDC. She leads interdisciplinary and interagency project teams through public approvals and environmental review on behalf of the agency. Her work ranges from affordable housing development to resiliency and infrastructure planning, and most recently, has been leading regulatory workstreams as part of the LMCR Masterplan and recently released Sunnyside Yard Masterplan. Prior to joining NYCEDC, Brooke was a planner and project manager in the Real Estate Development Department at the New York City Housing Authority. At NYCHA, she managed preconstruction activities on multiple senior affordable housing developments in the South Bronx and worked to achieve the housing goals laid out in Mayor Deblasio’s Housing New York Plan. She received her Masters Degree in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania and Bachelors Degree from the University of Pittsburgh. What keeps Brooke up at night? Climate change, expanding access to and equity within the planning field, and sometimes youtube binges of Bon Appétite videos. Although Brooklyn is her home, she was born and raised in Delco, PA, and is absolutely obsessed with all things Pennsylvania.