Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ten Grand To "Build A Better Burb"

Long Island Index Offers "Reward" For A New (or Improved) Suburbia

Okay. So we've been offering up -- and asking for -- ideas to reinvent suburbia here at The Community Alliance going on the better part of a decade now. Maybe we haven't been giving folks enough of an incentive!

Well, here come our friends at the Long Island Index -- the people who, year in and year out, study the stuff that makes Long Island what it is, misery factor and all -- with a $10,000 prize ($2500 for a student) in the offing.

Have an idea for revitalizing "downtown?" A new beginning for America's oldest suburb? A plan whose time has come? [Certainly, we can't rely upon county or town government to come up with anything fresh and enticing, let alone innovative, now can we?]

Then you -- and perhaps your fellow Long Islanders -- may already be winners. ["Teams" are welcome to compete for the prize, as well. Come on, civic and community groups. There may be something in this for you!]

How about forming The Community Alliance team? Why not? Share the wealth. [If interested in leading our team and spearheading this project, e-mail us at]

Go to to find out more, access resources (coming soon, of course), and to register.

Not many (if any) Long Islanders on the judging panel, we see. Then again, we seem to have a knack on Long Island for exporting talent, along with our children.

The Regional Plan Association is in on this gig. You know. P-L-A-N. As in that dirty little four-letter word we've come to hear so much about in these parts, with so very little to actually show for it.

Anyway, it's a novel approach. Pay people to think and suggest for a better, brighter Long Island. [Hey, wait a minute. Isn't that what we've been doing with our elected officials since the day Levitt first broke ground on the Hempstead Plain? Hmmm.]

And, when you do come up with that wonderful idea (a plan, no doubt, that would stand Charlie Wang on his head), no worries about zoning restrictions or budget constraints. [Oh no. The town will take care of zoning, and money, since no one has any, is no object!]

Our intial recommendation to the panel of judges at Long Island Index would be to read our blog, beginning to end. Then read it again, out loud, with gusto. Next, offer that $10,000 "reward" for an idea that not only reads great on paper or sounds wonderful in theory, but actually comes to fruition. Otherwise, like "Cool Downtowns" and light rail, you end up with little more than an academic exercise, with more good money being thrown after bad.

Surely, there's a viable, workable, creative and expressive idea -- or hundreds  -- worthy of exploration, if not ten thousand enchiladas. [And half -- or was that twice? -- as many that have been quashed by local government or naysayed by NIMYism!]

As for the rest of you, get crackin'. Put those thinking caps on. Go for the gold.

And remember, when that light bulb, dim as it may be, does go off over your swollen head, send us your ideas for publication here at The Community Alliance blog. You can e-mail us at We welcome all suggestions.

We may not have ten grand to put in your pocket, but guaranteed, the recognition (not to mention the glory) will be priceless.

After all, Long Island 2020 is just around the next brownfield.
- - -
Index seeks a better ‘burb

by Michael H. Samuels

Long Island Index wants you to build a better suburb.

The Index, piggybacking on its 2010 report which detailed Long Island’s acres of “underperforming asphalt,” is holding an ideas competition, “Build a Better Burb,” in order to crown the best way to improve the area’s downtowns.

Along with the Regional Plan Association, the Index in its report identified 8,300 acres of property in Long Island downtowns that have the potential for development. The land, usually surface parking or empty lots, are ripe for improvement. The Index simply wants some ideas of how it should be developed.

“We do not want to get away from the suburban lifestyle,” Index Director Ann Golob said. “All we’re trying to say is that change is coming to Long Island. How are we going to manage it?”

The competition, which runs until June 21, is free to enter and open to the public. The winner will receive $10,000 and the jury will hand out another $12,500 in prize money.

In addition, the public will be invited to vote for The Long Island Index People’s Choice winner and $2,500 will go to the top project submitted by a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program.

The finalists will be selected on June 28, and posted on the Web site on June 29. The winners will be announced in mid-September, Golob said.

Details can be found on the Web site,

“We have no intention and no ability to take the designs and take them to fruition,” Golob said. “We’re not builders. We do not have land. But, if we could get some really exciting, creative ideas, that will help people get their heads around why this could work.”

To judge the competition, the Index has enlisted 10 jurors from the design and development arenas.

The jury includes Allison Arieff, design journalist, contributor to the New York Times “Opinionator” blog and GOOD Magazine; Teddy Cruz, principal of Estudio Teddy Cruz, San Diego; Daniel D’Oca, partner at Interboro, New York, and assistant professor, Maryland College of Art; Walter Hood, professor of landscape architecture, UC Berkeley, and principal of Hood Design; Rob Lane, director of the Design Program at the Regional Plan Association; Paul Lukez, principal of Paul Lukez Architecture, Boston, and author of Suburban Transformations; Lee Sobel, real estate development and finance analyst, U.S. EPA: Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation; Galina Tahchieva, partner at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Miami, author of the forthcoming Sprawl Repair Manual; Georgeen Theodore, partner at Interboro, New York, and associate director of the infrastructure planning program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

It will be led by June Williamson, an associate professor of architecture at the City College of New York/CUNY, and co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, who said she’s looking for new, innovative ideas that will create debate. She said she’s expecting to find submissions based on designs and development throughout the world that are not being attempted on Long Island – yet.

The only criteria is that the idea has to use an area in a Long Island downtown. Don’t worry about the zoning, but whether the proposal will work in that location.

“This is a format that’s not beholden to a client or a specific budget,” Williamson said. “They have the freedom to be creative and expressive, exploratory and innovative.”

Williamson said she wishes to see teams of architects, urban designers, landscape designers and artists all working together to present their ideas. Golob added that she hoped the professionals would team up with area schools to develop ideas.

“Anyone from around the world can submit a design,” Golob said. “We want to be opening up people’s eyes to what might be possible, to break down the barriers and get people thinking differently.”

For information, visit
A Project of The Community Alliance
A New Era for America's First Suburb


  1. I'm quite honestly tired of seeing more "studies" on downtown revitalization. The basic concept of any downtown revitalization is to build mixed-use buildings in and around locations where mass transit is available. At this point, we've seen so many artists' renderings and have read enough reports.

    The biggest factor inhibiting the revitalization of our downtowns is an antiquated zoning code. If I were the Long Island Index, I would give the award to the municipality which does the best job of revising their zoning code to reflect modern smart growth principles. This would be far more effective in actually revitalizing our downtowns than looking at another set of artists' renderings or reading reports that regurgitate what we already know.

    When are our municipalities going to actually begin the job of transforming our old and tired zoning code?

  2. Better yet, they could give the $10,000 to Kate Murray, in lieu of her next raise!