by Lance Jay Brown
It is my pleasure to send you the following report on our recent visit to Washington, DC, for the annual Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference.
The AIA New York Chapter delegation included Lance Jay Brown, FAIA; Abby Suckle, FAIA; Illya Azaroff, AIA; Jessica Sheridan, AIA; Venesa Alicea, AIA; Rick Bell, FAIA; and Emma Pattiz. Additional AIANY members involved in legislative efforts at the conference included Susan Chin, FAIA, and Anthony P. Schirripa, FAIA. We were also joined by AIA New York State President Raymond L. Beeler, AIA, and Burton L. Roslyn, FAIA, 2012-2015 Regional Director, among others.
Our delegation met with all the offices below and we were joined by the AIA Brooklyn and AIA Queens delegations for our visit with Lisette Morton at Congressman Jerrold L. Nadler’s office.
In addition to the visits on the Hill, we attended selected programs on board organization, leadership, and the construction of and relationships between 501(C) 3 and 501(C) 6 non-profit organizations. We also took part in a Regional Recovery Working Group meeting and heard from representatives of AIA New Hampshire and AIA New Jersey about what their members have been doing to advance recovery and resiliency efforts in their states. We learned from our peers and strategized about what we can do together as a region.
The following meeting notes were prepared by AIANY Policy Coordinator Emma Pattiz:
We convened for three days to empower our collective voice, speak with those in the halls of Congress, and share our vision of what America can be – through design.
This year’s AIA National legislative agenda consisted of three primary concerns:
1. Extend Important Tax Incentives for Design
To encourage new construction and renovation and support small businesses that do this work, Congress should extend and make modest improvements to the Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction (179D).
2. Improve Government Procurement to Help the Economy
Sharp cuts to design and construction budgets make it more important than ever that procurement laws ensure design firms have fair access to the federal marketplace. We ask our Representatives to support the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act (HR 2750).
3. Invest in the Next Generation of Leaders
Architecture students are willing and able to contribute their design abilities to help their communities in exchange for student loan assistance, but need Congress’s help to make it happen. We ask our Representatives to support the National Design Services Act (HR 4205), to extend to architecture graduates student debt relief in exchange for work in underserved communities.
This year, our delegation had scheduled meetings with the offices of Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Congressman Jerrold L. Nadler, and Congressman Gregory W. Meeks. Because Congress was not in session, we had the opportunity to have in-depth meetings with key staff members involved in developing legislation and policy. Following is a summary of each meeting.
Congressman Rangel – Carl H. Nicholas, Brookings Institute Legislative Fellow
Our conversation with Nicholas largely focused on local issues, specifically resilient buildings and infrastructure in New York City. We discussed our Post-Sandy Initiative and Report as well as a bill Rangel and his staff have been working on that would require rebuilding old infrastructure in the city, a high priority after the gas explosion in Harlem in March.
We also discussed education and school design in the city. Nicholas recognized the importance of design in New York City public schools. The way the system is set up now, often with multiple schools in a single building, could be significantly enhanced with good design. Rangel has not yet made a statement about his opinion on charter schools.
Nicholas told us that the Congressman supports HR 4205, the National Design Services Act, and Reba Raffaelli, Rangel’s policy director, is currently working on it. We offered to provide testimony and support on this and any other issue related to our work that may come up.
Congressman Nadler – Lisette Morton, Legislative Director
We were joined by members from AIA Queens and AIA Brooklyn, including AIA Queens President-Elect William Zambrano, AIA, and AIA Brooklyn President Ida Galea, AIA, for this discussion with an office that represents all of our boroughs. Our group has met with Lisette Morton before, so it was great to have a chance to follow up and maintain our relationship with Congressman Nadler. Morton was excited about HR 4205, the National Design Services Act, because it will help with Sandy recovery. She also informed us that it will be an easy bill for Nadler to co-sponsor because it is not partisan.
The office is also focused on long-term transportation issues. She informed us that Amtrak has a plan for high-speed rail that would better connect the northeast corridor; however, a lot of money is needed to make this happen and the mood in Congress has done little more than keep Amtrak rolling.
Congresswoman Velázquez – Eminence Northcutt, Procurement Counsel
Our group has met with Eminence Northcutt before. She has been involved with procurement issues, so she is familiar with HR 2750, Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act. Unfortunately, the Oversight Committee received the bill instead of Congresswoman Velázquez’s committee, the Small Businesses Committee, but Velázquez’s office has been in touch with AIA National about this issue for a while. AIANY has worked with the NYC Department of Small Business Services to make procurement opportunities more fair in New York City, so we hope to expand our conversation to the federal level. Northcutt was enthusiastic to hear from us because we can provide a local perspective, and we offered to continue to do so moving forward.
Northcutt also expressed support for HR 4205, the National Design Services Act, which led into a discussion about resilient design. We emphasized that if a natural or man-made disaster causes mass destruction in the northeast corridor, there is a lot at risk, including GDP.
Congressman Meeks – Jordan Morris, Staff Assistant/Legislative Correspondent
Congressman Meeks is one of the lead sponsors on HR 4205, the National Design Services Act, and Jordan Morris was well aware of its advantages to both the profession and recovery efforts after disasters, especially in his Queens district. The office is interested in long-term planning as well as post-Sandy recovery efforts, including the ongoing work to raise houses in his district that were damaged during Sandy.
We also mentioned to Morris that we are willing to give testimony on anything coming up because we have local expertise.
Congresswoman Maloney – Elizabeth Darnall, Legislative Director
We had a fruitful conversation with Elizabeth Darnall about HR 4205, the National Design Services Act. She told us that it is most likely something that Congresswoman Maloney can support. There is not a system already in place for implementation, but she was interested and excited.
Maloney’s office is also focusing on transportation and infrastructure – both locally and regionally. The Second Avenue subway project is in the Congresswoman’s district, and we talked about ways to help ensure its completion despite administration changes, possibly highlighting smaller milestones along the way. Darnall was supportive. Maloney is also working on the northeast corridor rail issue.
Darnall also expressed interest in architecture of education and good design for New York City schools.
In closing, we thank all those who took time out from their busy schedules to make time for this important gathering. We were joined by many Presidents, Presidents-Elect, Executive Directors, and staff from components around the country, and made connections that will see us through the decade and beyond. This is a critical event that allows us to engage our counterparts around the country and take the pulse of the AIA as we move into the 21st century. Presentations provided insights into new initiatives that will greatly enhance the service rendered by the organization.