RPA Centennial 4 C Alexander Severin

Oct 2022

The Constant Future

A Century of the Regional Plan

This free exhibition brought a new way of seeing the New York metro region—and understanding its rise to greatness—to Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal in October 2022.
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Creating the Plan: 1922–1929

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First Regional Plan: 1929-1931

Video by Nate Dorr

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Inspired by the First Regional Plan

Just Imagine (1930): An excerpt from Just Imagine, a 1930 science-fiction musical feature starring Maureen O’Sullivan and John Garrick and directed by David Butler, set in an imagined New York of 1980—an enormous city miniature whose concepts and designs drew heavily on the 1929 Regional Plan’s vision of the future of New York, published the year before. Courtesy Fox Films.

Toward New Horizons (1940): Excerpts of a film produced by General Motors to promote its Futurama” exhibit at the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair. Created by the industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, the Futurama exhibit—a vast scale-model landscape around which visitors traveled in moving chairs—culminated in a vision of a major American city in 1960, whose design and layout were strongly influenced by the 1929 Regional Plan.

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Building Out The Plan 1929-1945

Wartime Planning

America’s unprecedented mobilization during World War II—requiring a nationwide coordination of industry and transportation—inevitably raised the profile of planners. The Regional Plan Association hailed the efforts of companies like the Singer Manufacturing Company to establish in-house planning groups—such as the group of young men and women shown in a 1943 photograph—to address transport and housing issues for its growing ranks of wartime workers. It expressed the hope—and expectation—that the emergency measures brought on by war would continue to guide growth in the postwar world.

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Arteries of New York City (1940)

An excerpt from an educational film, produced in 1940, on the transportation networks of New York City and its surroundings. Focusing on the new parkway system under construction in the city and its suburbs, the film includes footage of the Regional Plan Association’s offices and its planners and cartographers at work during that period.

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Building Out The Plan 1945-1966

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Opening day of the Empire State Building, May 1931

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Second Regional Plan: 1966–1969

Video by Nate Dorr

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Death and Life: 1960s-1970s

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Listening to the Region

Excerpts from Choices for 76 films — part of a mass media campaign produced by RPA to engage residents and spark conversation on issues of concern to the New York Metropolitan Region.

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Third Regional Plan: 1996

Video by Nate Dorr

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21st Century Region: 1996–2017

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Fourth Regional Plan: 2017

Video by Nate Dorr

The threat of climate change—still abstract for many New Yorkers—became horrifyingly real on the night of October 29, 2012, when Superstorm Sandy, a weather event of unprecedented scale and ferocity, slammed into the region, destroying or damaging shoreline communities from Atlantic City to Montauk (including this 150-year-old house in Union Beach, New Jersey). The storm flooded major parts of Brooklyn and Queens, inundating the eastern edge of Manhattan as far north as 34th Street, and, for the first time in history, shutting down the subway and leaving half of Manhattan in the dark. Just as Sandy’s impact transcended local boundaries, the Fourth Regional Plan pointed out, so would solutions need to emerge at a regional level.

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Originally proposed by the Regional Plan Association in 1936 and completed by Robert Moses in the 1950s, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway fulfilled its primary purpose as an important trucking link between the two boroughs’ industrial districts. But it also sliced in two a swath of working-class neighborhoods and inflicted a barrage of health and environmental problems on local residents. A proposal included in the Fourth Regional Plan called BQ Green, designed by Susannah Drake of DLAND Studio (now part of the New York office of Sasaki) in consultation with the community, would begin to address those issues by decking over the depressed expressway to create a 3.5-acre landscaped park, helping to improve social equity by bringing open space and recreation to an underserved part of the city, and allowing two long-isolated districts to again be connected as continuous urban fabric.

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The Constant Future

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Our Thanks

Extra space RPA100 Logo
Constant Future Sponsors
Paterson Civic Center George B Ford
For 100 years, RPA has worked to create a more equitable, healthy, prosperous, and sustainable region.
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Acknowledgements

Exhibition Credits

Exhibition sponsored by Regional Plan Association:
Scott Rechler, Chairman
Tom Wright, President & CEO
Produced and Designed by James Sanders Studio:
James Sanders, FAIA
Camille Czerkowicz
Alice Lin
Cooper Lippert
Linnea Soli
Graphic Design by Pure+Applied
Paul Carlos
Urshula Barbour
Ciara Mitchell
Website Design by RPA
Dave Zackin
Production Management by The Event Production Network
Steve Grober
Structural Engineering by Robert Silman Associates
Gretchen Bank
Dan Cuoco
Special Thanks
This exhibit was a collaborative effort of the entire RPA staff, with special contributions from Eleanor Auchincloss, Vanessa Barrios, Jim Finch, Brian Fritsch, Chris Jones, Christina Kata, Mark McNulty, Kimberly O’Keeffe, Lacey Rzeszowski, Kate Slevin, Tanzania Thomas, Julie Truax, and Dave Zackin
Special thanks to former and current RPA Board Members who participated in the planning for this exhibit: Rohit Aggarwala, Robert Billingsley, Sarah Fitts, Peter Herman, Matthew Kissner, Hope Knight, Lynne Sagalyn, Tokumbo Shobowale, Anthony Shorris, H. Claude Shostal and Travis Terry
Special thanks to all those who helped bring this exhibition to reality: David Florio and Kim Trevisan at MetroNorth; Dorit Feith Phinizy and Kiara Morgan at Jones Lang LaSalle; Mark Friedman and Alban Sardzinski at See Factor; Steve Solomon at Upstage Right; Lizanne Catalina, Scott Martin and Mark ‘Zeke’ Zlatkowski at Event Central; and Kevin O’Connor at Enhance a Colour Graphics

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