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Questions on Smart Growth

May 10, 2010

One of the great hopes for the Spitzer administration was that it could implement “Smart Growth” policies in New York. Spitzer spoke out on the need to do this during the 2006 campaign and later formed a Smart Growth cabinet in his administration. But when Spitzer crashed, so did hopes for a host of related policy initiatives — mass transit improvements, local open space preservation, enhanced historic preservation, etc.   

Such policies – widely employed in European cities – have not been embraced in New York.

Smart growth proponents have not given up. They are fighting for attention in this election cycle. See the Albany Times Union for an article by Peter B. Fleischer on the phenomenon of sprawl without growth in upstate communities.  See also www.EmpireStateFuture.org

Smart growth is an issue that should have a champion. But people shouldn’t hold their breath for Andrew Cuomo, who is likely to have a narrowly focused policy agenda.

The Republicans are looking for new allies. They can be forward-looking when it comes to economic and tax policy, but usually not urban policy. Perhaps there is a nexus with the Republicans if Smart Growth proponents focus on the benefits in the suburbs?

The Democrats should be natural allies. Alas, it’s hard to figure out what New York Dems stand for. This is the party that killed congestion pricing and squandered its unprecedented opportunity for reform. Now the Dems seem paralyzed by the fear of doing anything. Is there any issue they can agree upon?

What breaks the impasse in New York? How does the state get back into the business of promoting progressive policy? What gives this worthy initiative some momentum?

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