by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York
Event: Advocacy Week
Organizers: AIA National; AIANY
AIA Advocacy Week 2008 was an effort to organize hundreds of meetings nationwide with members of Congress during the congressional recess, March 24-28. Since AIA members can bring expertise in the design field to the attention of elected leaders, hopefully key issues will be brought forth on a larger platform. Nearly 800 AIA volunteer leaders and executives laid the groundwork for Advocacy Week during the annual Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, February 20-23.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and nowhere is that more clear than in NYC,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velàzquez, chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business, who believes small businesses help make the city vibrant and diverse. A high point of 2008 Advocacy Week was a meeting on March 27 with Velàzquez during which AIA leaders exchanged ideas about the three key AIA National Legislative Priorities for 2008: Public Transportation Funding, Energy Efficient Buildings, and Eliminating Federal Contract Retainage Rules on Architects and Engineers. Representatives from three NYC AIA Components, including AIA Brooklyn President Frank Lo Presto, AIA, AIA Staten Island President Marcus Marino, AIA, and AIA New York Vice President Tony Schirripa, AIA, attended the meeting.
As NYC’s senior member on the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, Velàzquez was particularly interested in AIANY’s sesquicentennial blueprint initiative, Via Verde, a community-based public-private partnership that will result in the construction of over 200 units of sustainable, affordable housing in the South Bronx, designed by Phipps Rose Dattner Grimshaw. With her district spanning three boroughs and including neighborhoods as diverse as Red Hook, Bushwick, SoHo, and the Lower East Side, Velàzquez was also interested in AIANY’s dedication to cross-cultural interaction — such as the Berlin-New York Dialogues: Building in Context exhibition, currently on view at the German Architecture Center in Berlin.
Similar discussions took place throughout Advocacy Week in the 15th Congressional District, home to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel. AIANY President James McCullar, FAIA, shared thoughts with Michelle Sherwood, Rangel’s legislative counsel, on how to best incorporate energy saving features and incentives into affordable housing, noting that his firm designed a project nearing completion on West 123rd Street in the Congressman’s district.
Other events that highlighted the AIANY’s concerns about these three issues, as well as our 24/7 “everyday advocacy,” included programs at the Center for Architecture and testimony at City Council. Laura Manville, AIANY policy coordinator, attended a council hearing on congestion pricing, submitting the Chapter’s testimony in favor of the plan. New York New Visions and the Chapter’s Planning & Urban Design and Transportation & Infrastructure Committees hosted a presentation of the MTA’s Capital Plan, and its relation to the congestion pricing proposals. Participants included the MTA’s William Wheeler, AIA, director of special project development and planning, Gregory Kullberg, director of capital program budgets, and Nina Haiman of the Office of Planning and Sustainability of NYC Department of Transportation. McCullar introduced the panel by putting transportation-based planning in the context of Advocacy Week, PlaNYC, and AIANY “Designs for Living” annual theme.
Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, AIA National’s senior director for federal relations, joined local component leaders and staff for many of the Advocacy Week events, including the Velazquez and MTA meetings, as well as the City Council hearing on Governors Island convened by Councilmember Alan Gerson as chair of the Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment.