Q&A with Carl Weisbrod, CEE Summit Keynote Speaker

Carl Weisbrod, Director of the New York City Department of City Planning and Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission, discusses his philosophy on urban development.  Weisbrod will be a keynote speaker at the 2016 CEE Summit.

Do you have a guiding principle when it comes to urban development?

Dynamic urban development requires a multifaceted approach, including strategies that ensure a diverse economy. Attracting people of talent to a city requires creating an environment and quality of life that people of talent might find appealing. Provision of high-quality cultural amenities, open spaces and streetscapes, and opportunities to live close to work (and/or conveniently accessible by public transit) are important elements for supporting economic growth and urban development.

What is your proudest professional achievement and why?

My proudest professional achievement was overseeing the City’s effort to develop Times Square into a global hub for tourism and entertainment. Its transformation from the symbol of urban decay into a magnet for people from all over the world is the essence of urban revitalisation.

Are there any similarities between urban development in the U.S. and in Central and Eastern Europe?

To some extent, it is difficult to broadly compare urban development in the U.S. and CEE, because urban development varies considerably across U.S. cities. U.S. urban development can vary due to something as simple as the city’s age, or as a result of more complex factors such as land use regulation and development oversight by municipal entities.  I expect this is the case in Central and Eastern Europe as well, where regulations vary from country to country and each city is at a different stage of growth.

Can the lessons you have learned in New York be applied in any city or urban environment?  Are there any strategies that are particularly well suited to Central and Eastern Europe?

An important lesson learned throughout my career in urban planning is to uphold an inclusive planning process that recognizes neighbourhood culture and diversity. New York is a city of neighbourhoods, and it is critical to our planning process to thoughtfully consider the perspectives of a range of community stakeholders – residents, non-profit organisations, elected officials, and the private sector – when making decisions that influence the urban environment.  This lesson can be applied to cities in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in light of the recent influx of refugees into the region.