This strikes me as tone-deaf, SOM.
Cole Kennedy

Hi Cole,

Thanks for your comment. We totally agree. Many of the designers in our office actually live in Brooklyn or Queens and have seen first-hand the scale and pace of investment in both boroughs. Brooklyn alone has more people than Houston — and almost as many as Chicago. Housing prices there match and sometimes exceed those in Manhattan. It’s really quite astounding.

Perhaps we should have been more precise with the words we chose to describe the outer boroughs. The issue is not that they lack investment or are somehow underdeveloped. In our minds, the issue is that city and state policy and priorities have not caught up to reality. This is a major missing piece that is holding many New York neighborhoods from reaching their full potential.

For example, if districts like Downtown Brooklyn or Long Island City were in any other city, entire infrastructure networks would be designed around them. We would be extending Metro North to Brooklyn for single-seat access from Westchester County and the Connecticut suburbs. We would be investing in new subway lines like the TriboroRX, new connections to Manhattan, and others. But instead we see a new streetcar line connecting Brooklyn and Queens (definitely still a win), while major regional infrastructure projects — East Side Access, WTC/Fulton Street Transit Center, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Empire Station, Amtrak’s Gateway Tunnel, etc. — continue to focus almost exclusively on Manhattan.

This is why we think that the idea of a “downtown for every borough” is meaningful. Just defining it as such will start to shape the way our leaders consider projects and policies — from city investment to zoning — that impact these neighborhoods. In our opinion, a New York with another half million people really needs that kind of thinking.

Daniel O’Shaughnessy, SOM City Design Practice

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