RPA Plan1 v2 324 View of Manhattan 600

Apr 2022

Regional Plan Association's 100-Year History in New York City

RPA explores our 100-year history in New York City through archival reports and photographs as we celebrate our Centennial.

Key RPA Contributions in New York City


1911 - 1929: From Chicago to NYC: The Creation of Regional Plan Association

Plan of Chicago by Burnham Bennett 1909 title pages copy
Norton Delano DSC5447 1930 Mc Aneny Glass Slide

From the City Hall a circle must be swung which will include the Atlantic Highlands and Princeton; the lovely Jersey hills back of Morristown and Tuxedo; the incomparable Hudson as far as Newburgh; the Westchester lakes and ridges, to Bridgeport and beyond, and all of Long Island.”

Charles Dyer Norton
1922 Meeting Ticket
Lillian Wald
1923 New York Times on the Regional Plan scan
Subway Territory Served DSC5290 NYC Population 1920 DSC5287 Proposed Rail Road System DSC5313

Precursors to the first Regional Plan

RPA Early Publication Covers00002 RPA Early Publication Covers00006 RPA Early Publication Covers00005 1927 alt Image RPA Early Publication Covers00003 RPA Early Publication Covers00001
1929 RPA Certificate of Incorporation S600
1929 RPA Plan1 Cover with BIG Border
1931 1st Plan Vol2 Title Page

The first Regional Plan in the Media

NY Times 12 1928 NY times 6 1929 NY times magazine 1929
RPA Plan1 v2 324 View of Manhattan 600
1928 General Plan of the Land Uses 1928 General Plan of the Park System 72 1928 General Plan of the Railroads 72 1928 General Plan of the Highway System 72

1930 - 1942: Implementation of the Regional Plan, and Tensions with Robert Moses

It was said that during the Great Depression, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt needed ideas for public works programs to help unemployed workers, he turned to the first Regional Plan.

1940 County Planning Chart
RPA Plan1 v1 Page 404
1949 Radburn

Plan for Radburn, NJ

Proposed Regional Park System 1928 1940
RPA Plan1 v2 395

The Second Avenue Subway, recommended in the first Regional Plan, took generations to implement.

1933 Tenement Backyard

Slum Clearance

Over several years, tenements were seized by eminent domain and residents were evicted and encouraged to move into public housing.

Illustration from the first Regional Plan

Harlem Newspaper Slums

Harlem Heights Daily Citizen, January 18, 1934

Robert Moses

Robert Moses, Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo

Battery Park Battle

Protecting Information


1942 - 1959: Post-War Explosion and Decline of RPA

The rebuilding of the Region’s central cities into communities suitable for well-rounded family life at all ranges of income has indeed become the greatest challenge lying ahead.”

George McAneny
1944 WWII Domestic Logistics

Facilitating Cooperation on the Home Front During WWII

During World War II, RPA directed its efforts toward bridging political boundaries and facilitating the cooperation of governmental agencies in the region to address housing, transportation, and civilian protection efforts. It was also noted that the region would face housing and transportation issues due to the convergence of workers on defense industry centers. In a follow up bulletin published in 1942, RPA highlighted wartime demands for passenger transportation and called for the establishment of a regional office of war transportation for the New York metro­politan area.

(W)e should aim to preserve the essential identity of the Region’s existing small towns and, through the development of new centers, avoid the continuance of urban sprawl ever deeper into the Region’s environs.”


1960 - 1965: Race for Open Space, Spread City, and the Fight for Breezy Point

1960 Race for Open Space Map

Between 1961 and 1973, 210 square miles of additional parkland were acquired, including $2 million in federal funds for acquisitions that reflected RPA proposals.

1959 Spread City
1967 RP Aas Psychiatrist
1963 Regional Rail Models RPA News chart3
MTA Logo

Traci Lawson

1972 Gateway Park RP Anews 1977

1966 - 1972: The Second Regional Plan

RPA Plan2 Spines
1969 Steps in a regional Plan
RPA Plan2 Urban Design Manhattan 030 Access Tree Diagram
1968 RPA Plan2 Jamaica Center Page Jamaica
1967 Research Reaction Results

RPA, Robert Moses, and the Lower Manhattan Expressway


1973 - 1989: CHOICES for '76 and Community Engagement Efforts

Choices For76 image
Urban Space For Pedestrians
RPA Urban Space for Pedestrians 146 cropped RPA Urban Space for Pedestrians 147 cropped
Ford To City Drop Dead
1976 subway Ridership

Abandoning the Second Avenue subway would be accepting the image of Manhattan as a declining center, rather than pressing ahead to maintain it as the most accessible place in the region, with serious consequences for future employment for New York City residents.”

RPA, quoted in the New York Times

Boris Pushkarev, RPA Vice President of Research and Planning, speaks to the media about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority during a New York City conference on public transit.

Metrotech brooklyn

Development in Downtown Brooklyn

Westway Model1

1990 - 2001: A Region at Risk and The Third Regional Plan

RPA Centers

Strengthening the Region’s Urban Core

The Centers campaign focused the next generation of growth in the region’s existing downtown employment and residential areas. The campaign recommended strengthening the region’s urban core by expanding transit access to both midtown and lower Manhattan and the Jersey City waterfront, as well as by revitalizing Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens.

RPA Plan3 Region at Risk Plate3 E Completion of the Rx System

Better Transit for the Boroughs

1995 Governors Island Aerial afrieden
1999 Andrew van Leeuwen Highline 010

Andrew van Leeuwen


2001-2010: From 9/11 to the Great Recession

Hudson Yards Real Estate Development Update April 16 2015 16992354740
Crowded Trains Animal Abuse ad

Times Square for Pedestrians


2010 - 2017: Growth and Crisis

The Need for a New Plan

NYCHA Sign Cropped

2017 - 2022: Making the Region Work for All of Us

Fourth regional plan cover
The Fourth Plan seeks to address issues including housing affordability, overburdened transportation infrastructure, and vulnerability to climate change—by addressing the underlying shortcomings in the region’s governance structures.
find out more
RPA 4 RP Community Outreach 05 ICC 05
4 RP Values

Fourth Plan Flagship Places in NYC

RPA 4 RP Render Flagship 09 Inner Sound 3 After Annotated RPA 4 RP Render Flagship 03 Jamaica 3 After Annotated RPA 4 RP Render Flagship 01 Far West Side 3 After Annotated RPA 4 RP Render Flagship 08 Triboro 3 After Annotated
RPA Airports F01 Summary Recommendations
Congestion Pricingcongestion zone map 02
HRPE Opening Symposium 1

The events of the past week are powerful reminders – which we should not have needed – that the physical fabric of a community is only as strong as the social contracts beneath it. That parks and housing and schools and jobs and transit need to be accessible and safe for everyone. And they aren’t. Not even close.”

Our Region COVID RPA Hudson History 1 RP vol2 P555 town centers IMG 5870 2

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