Out of control

On 3 november 2015, in duurzaamheid, participatie, planningtheorie, by Zef Hemel

Heard in Boston City Hall on 22 October 2015:

Image The Boston Harbor Association

Leaving Penn Station early in the morning, I took de Amtrack train from New York City to Boston, Massachusetts. There I would meet some people at City Hall, to discuss the planning of the city-region. Boston – a city of some 640.000 inhabitants – is preparing its first new comprehensive plan for its city-wide future after fifty years. Citizens are invited to ‘Imagine Boston 2030’, when the city will celebrate its 400-th anniversary. In May this year Mayor Marty Walsh launched a two year public engagement process, saying it would be a more dynamic process of civic engagement than has been done with planning efforts in the past. So that’s why I took the train to Boston and meet the planners, Gerald Autler, director of Boston Redevelopment Authority, in the first place. To discuss with him and his staff some new approaches of open planning.

How’s Boston doing? Quite well in economic terms, I would say, surely for an east coast city. It’s a thriving, innovative city in the Bos-Wash megaregion, just north of New York. However, climate change is a real threat, because its position on the Atlantic coast makes the urban area extremely vulnerable. Especially the redeveloped southern waterfront with the new convention center near South Station is in danger, as is all the land that has been developed on the waterfront in the 19nth and 20th century. In the Boston Globe I read: "Over the past century, temperatures in northeastern states have risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and if heat-trapping gases increase at current rates, warming could spike as much as ten degrees by the 2080s, prolonging bouts of extreme heat, taxing electrical systems, and disrupting ecosystems." What is to be done? There is a Boston Climate Action Plan, sure, but is it adequate? Could ‘Imagine Boston 2030’ bring solutions? A radical open approach might give birth to miracles, but no one knows the outcome from the outset. Open planning means: being out of control. Will the leaders accept uncertainty? I hope they will not only take action, but listen to the people first.

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