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Bright Spot: The Fourth Regional Plan for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Metropolitan Area

Connie M. Razza

Since Donald Trump took office, people who care about equity, opportunity, and infrastructure have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. The rough outlines of plans from the administration and its advisors have suggested that Trump’s approach to infrastructure would be to conduct a massive sell-off and give-away of public assets to wealthy corporations; invest in dirty energy and other money-making schemes that corporations are pursuing despite public—and in some cases, regulatory—resistance to the projects; and make long-term investments that would exacerbate, rather than address, current inequalities. So far, thankfully, the administration has not put forward a plan.

On Thursday, November 30, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) unveiled its fourth plan for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Metropolitan Area, which sets 20-year goals for the area’s growth and infrastructure and quality-of-life investments, and is grounded in 4 key values: Equity, Prosperity, Health, and Sustainability. These values deeply inform the plan’s recommendations, which include an aggressive approach to climate change, encompassing comprehensive pricing of greenhouse gases, strategic investment in climate resiliency infrastructure, traffic reduction measures matched with the expansion of public transit and regional rails, and the creation of a green energy grid; prioritization of affordable housing in all communities throughout the region, with well-paying job opportunities nearby; and the democratization of planning and development processes to make them “more inclusive, predictable, and efficient.”

In fact, 158 regional organizations—including a range of groups that work for social justice, equitable infrastructure, responsible economic development, affordable housing, and environmental justice—have joined with RPA to call on the implementers of the plan to  meet the plan’s potential “to promote a more just and equitable region.” Pointing to the policy decisions that have led to inequality in the region, the groups call on elected officials and agency staff to (in their words):

  • Affirmatively further fair housing by both strengthening disadvantaged communities and opening up exclusionary places;
  • Make decisions more inclusively;
  • Reduce inequality by expanding economic opportunity and eliminating racial, ethnic, gender, and disability wealth and income gaps;
  • Create new relationships between communities, industry and nature to provide dignified, productive and ecologically sustainable livelihoods; and
  • Invest in transportation to link all to more opportunities and lower costs for those with the lowest ability to pay.

The RPA worked with core equity advocacy partners in formulating the plan, and then with a broader group of stakeholders to issue this additional call to the elected officials and staff who will implement the plan through 2040. This suggests a model for developing inclusive infrastructure investment plans that will be more likely to promote equitable outcomes than anything the Trump administration can be expected to propose.