The Planning Game: What Great Cities Can Teach Us

Daniella Greenbaum |
Encore: July 16, 2013

MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman speaks with author Alexander Garvin about his book, “The Planning Game: Lessons From Great Cities.”

In a new book emphasizing the crucial role of the public in successful city planning, Alexander Garvin focuses on the architecture and planning of four major cities –Paris, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Projects that fail are “the projects that are stopped by the public,” Garvin said.

Garvin, a Yale University professor and former New York City Planning Commissioner, talked about his chapter dedicated to New York and its key planning game player, Robert Moses. Long known as New York’s master builder, Moses had a significant influence on the shape of the city’s urban landscape. According to biographer Robert Caro, Moses constructed over $27 billion of public works, including parks, bridges, housing and playgrounds. Garvin told Pi Roman, “When Moses became the parks commissioner there was one mile of public beach. When he left, there were eighteen miles of public beach.”

Garvin and Pi Roman also discussed another player in New York City’s own planning game, Mayor Bloomberg, who has taken to calling the five boroughs’ more than 500 miles of shore land “The Sixth Borough.” Garvin cited Hudson River Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park as examples of Mayor Bloomberg’s ongoing effort to reclaim the city’s waterfront.

According to Garvin, anyone and everyone can become a planner. He concludes his introduction to “The Planning Game” by explaining that he hopes “that these pages will inspire readers to enter the planning game themselves, to adapt its observations to their own time, political context and place; and to become the heroes of future editions of The Planning Game.”

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