David Bragdon at the 2008 National Bike Summit. Photo: BikePortland via Flickr.
Back in August, Mayor Bloomberg appointed David Bragdon to succeed Rohit Aggarwala as head of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. At the time, Bragdon was the elected leader of Portland’s regional government, Metro, and an influential decision maker in that region’s famously progressive planning. Sustainable transportation advocates on both coasts said New York was lucky to get him.
Tops on Bragdon’s agenda these days is next year’s update of PlaNYC. The first version of PlaNYC, released in 2007, included bold transportation and planning initiatives to reduce traffic, fund transit, and give priority to bikes, buses, and pedestrians on our streets. On Earth Day 2011, a new version of the city’s sustainability plan is set to be released, and Bragdon’s staff have been busy holding public meetings around the city gathering ideas for the update.
We sat down with Bragdon to learn more about what to expect from PlaNYC 2.0, what lessons New York can draw from Portland, and what still has to be done to follow through on un-finished business from the first version of PlaNYC. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Noah Kazis: The first thing that I wanted to ask was what you’ve been hearing from the community conversations. I was at the one in the Bronx, but the others?
David Bragdon: The one in the Bronx was really oriented towards younger people and that’s who showed up, that was great to see. There’s a lot on natural area restoration in the Bronx. The equity of access to nature, that was sort of the dominant theme at that particular one, which – I’ve a strong affinity for that personally.
Each of them has been a little bit different, and it partly depends on who shows up. I would say the one in lower Manhattan, we heard more there about renewable energy, and I think there was a strong theme of local food at the one in Manhattan.
NK: Any patterns emerging?
DB: I think also in the replies over the web, there have been a few that have come up strongly. More recycling opportunities has been a strong theme in all those different media, transportation choices obviously has been a big one. I think food and farmers markets have also been strong across the board.
NK: Early this year we wrote a story about how Portland Metro was working with the private sector, both developers and banks, to get them comfortable with pushing transit-oriented development a step further. Does that need to happen in New York?
I’ve personally already, just in the time I’ve been here, had developers tell me the current codes required them to build more parking than the market would require.
DB: I think there’s actually a very strong constituency within the architecture and engineering industries here, there’s a very strong chapter of the US Green Building Council here. New York’s always been a center for architectural excellence, but this niche of it probably doesn’t get as much public notice as it deserves given the talent that is here, and the buildings that have been built here. You know, 1 Bryant Square, the new Times Building, there’s a wide variety of examples.
NK: One of the specific things those developers in Portland needed help with was the idea of having less parking for their project. In the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of projects go up here in New York that have significantly higher amounts of parking than the older building stock. Is that something that’s coming from the private sector?