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CitiYouth Maps the Five Boroughs

citi youth classroom planning

On Saturday April 5th, 2008, CITI Youth interns Tiffany Williams, Latoya Herndon, Eric Kenny, and Peejay Howard joined over 100 students from across North America at the 2008 PLANet Youth Conference. This inaugural conference, organized by the Young Planners Network, held at the Brooklyn Academy of Urban Planning in Bushwick, marked the start of “… an international movement to empower young people, educate adults, influence planning trends, and exchange best practices.” The conference featured sessions led by young people from various cities, covering topics ranging from gentrification to rebuilding New Orleans.

CITI Youth interns led their own workshop — entitled “Mapping the Five Boroughs” — discussing and providing examples of how maps can be beneficial to community decision-making. The CITI Youth Program, a project of the Municipal Art Society Planning Center, introduces local high school students to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology and how it can be used as a tool for community decision-making.

Students who participate in the program earn paid internships at their local community boards, where they provide assistance at community board meetings by creating live land use maps to facilitate discussion and decision-making. Using the website www.myciti.org, students create maps that help community board members make decisions about items ranging from liquor licenses to bike lanes.

Latoya Herndon, an intern at Bronx Community Board 5 (Morris Heights), described her experience assisting the community board during its 197-a planning process. While working with the board to identify vacant lots in the district, Latoya recognized the need for more recreation space for young people. As a result, Latoya created her own presentation addressing the recreational needs of young people in her community and will present it before the board.

In addition to discussing map-making and the importance of the community boards, the students also discussed the importance of young people’s involvement in planning for their neighborhoods. Peejay Howard, an intern at Brooklyn Community Board 3 (Bedford Stuyvesant), discussed how regularly attending his community board meetings has helped him learn to be proactive about neighborhood issues instead of reactive. In addition, having access to the data on the myciti website helps him and his board make decisions based on facts instead of assumptions. He believes young people in particular should be more aware of what is happening in their communities because “…if you know what is happening in your neighborhood in advance, you can make a bigger impact.”

The writer is Senior Planner at the MAS Planning Center.