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Chinatown’s Vision: A Uniquely Diverse Approach to Community-Based Planning

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Last month, Chinatown’s neighborhood advocates placed a strong vote of confidence in the power of proactive community planning. The Chinatown Working Group — comprising over 40 community-based organizations and three community boards — has been meeting for over a year to hash out the issues that matter most to the people who live, work, and go to school in the neighborhood. The MAS Planning Center provided support to the Working Group process early on by providing area maps and timely information on community-initiated planning.

The group voted to pursue a 197-a plan—one of the City’s most comprehensive planning tools. Named for the section of the City’s Charter that enables them, 197-a plans provide a way to capture a community vision and translate that vision into policies and strategies. The Chinatown Working Group has already begun work identifying themes and principles that will guide their work over the coming year.

Chinatown’s 197-a planning effort is unique in that it reflects the involvement of multiple community boards—acknowledging that the diverse neighborhood spans administrative and political boundaries. Chinatown is under dual pressures: still recovering from the social and economic upheaval of 9/11 yet subject to development that has resulted in an erosion of affordable housing stock, neighborhood character, and protections to cultural heritage and the local economy. The initiative can capitalize on the recession-imposed lull in development to create a framework for growth and preservation that will reflect community priorities once the market bounces back.

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Helping community organizations and neighborhood advocates confront the planning, land use, and economic development issues facing their neighborhoods is a core goal of MAS. Through public forums, tools for planning, workshops, publications and one-on-one assistance, the MAS Planning Center tackles neighborhood issues at grassroots and citywide levels.

Town Hall Meeting to Review the Plan

On Monday, February 1, at 7:00 p.m., the Chinatown Working Group will host a Town Hall meeting to review its plan with the community and brainstorm ideas on how best to preserve and enhance Chinatown. The meeting will take place at PS 130 Hernando De Soto, 143 Baxter Street (between Grand and Hester Streets in Manhattan).