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Photo: Sam Lahoz.
Photo: Sam Lahoz.

Congratulations to the 2021 Design Awards winners! We look forward to reopening the Center for Architecture later this year, and will be proud to exhibit the award-winning work of both the 2020 and 2021 winners. Stay tuned for details!

And while design excellence is core to our mission, so is public outreach, which is why I always remind AIA members that our organization is uniquely positioned to engage in government advocacy. Fortunately, 2021 presents a broad range of opportunities for architects and design professionals who are seeking to get politically active. Over the last few years, we’ve seen major turnovers in our elected officials at the city, state, and federal levels. This offers opportunities for architects to develop strong relationships with these newly elected officials, who themselves are seeking to better understand issues related to the development and regulation of the built environment.

To this end, AIA members from across the nation recently participated in virtual Capitol Hill visits as part of AIA’s Annual Grassroots Conference. The focus of these conversations was green infrastructure, as the Biden Administration seeks to dramatically increase spending in that sector. Members of the AIA New York Chapter joined with colleagues from across the city and state to meet with local representatives and encourage them to not only support this effort, but to ensure that concerns ranging from individual buildings to citywide infrastructure would be included.

Back in New York City, we ended 2020 with our Virtual City Hall Advocacy Day, where more than 20 AIANY members met with New York City Council members to discuss issues of concern to the design profession. These included the importance of appointing architects to community boards, ending the city’s design work stoppage, and effectively enforcing Local Law 97. Though most council members will be forced out of office due to term limits after 2021, we met with the few who can remain in office for another term or are seeking elevation to higher office. Many of these representatives have gotten to know us through our policy work over the years and, more recently, through our 2020 outreach via our project Visualize NYC 2021, which many council members have acknowledged as a great election-year resource. If you have not yet checked it out, please visit visualizenyc.net. In preparation for this turnover in our city’s government, the AIA New York Political Action Fund, which oversees the association’s political activities, has strengthened our community’s ties with our future elected officials. Through a series of events, we’ve brought in candidates for offices such as city council and mayor, providing our members with the ability to interact directly with them. To assist members with making informed voting  decisions, we’ve produced a voter guide of candidates who are most supportive of architects and architecture.

Our advocacy efforts over the last year have yielded some major wins for AIANY members. With the support of the New York Congressional Delegation, we led opposition to former President Trump’s executive order mandating classical architecture, which President Biden has now rescinded. Locally, we partnered with other organizations and elected officials to overturn the design work stoppage instituted by the city at the beginning of the pandemic. Lastly, through our work with NYC’s borough presidents, we continue to support AIANY members who apply to serve on their local community boards. Since we launched these efforts several years ago, the number of architects on community boards has soared to around 50 across the city, with many more members interested in applying.

These successes would not be possible without the support of AIANY members. Your devotion of time and resources is what allows us to have such a robust advocacy program. If you haven’t already attended an Advocacy Day to meet with elected officials or participated in one of our candidate events, I strongly encourage you to do so. As a design professional, you have unique opportunities to have your voice heard in the halls of government, and to help design and shape the future of our city and our country.

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