This plan was made by listening to people.

Five years ago, we started conducting surveys, convened focus groups and talked to a wide range of community, civic, business and public-sector leaders to better understand the needs and concerns of everyone who calls the metropolitan area home.

What emerged was a paradox.

New Yorkers love where they live, and they believe in the region’s future potential. They have seen the region face daunting challenges over the past generation and come back even stronger. This was true for everyone we spoke with: rich and poor, city dweller and suburbanite, young and old, families and single people.

But these people also said they were losing faith.

Regardless of where they lived or how much money they made, many said life was becoming too expensive, housing and jobs were too difficult to find, and the social divisions in our society were too deep.

Whether they drove a car to work, took the subway to school, or rode the bus to visit family, people were frustrated by an unreliable transportation system and congested roads. They recalled the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, and worried about the storms to come. And they expressed despair about a future in which these problems would only get worse and threaten the success of their children. 

Most distressing was the feeling that we could not solve these problems. 

Over the past five years we have spent considerable time figuring out how to address this loss of confidence. The conclusion is that the biggest challenges we face are not the result of external forces or situations beyond our control. It is the constraints we put on ourselves and our institutions.

Housing costs are too high primarily because we artificially restrict housing opportunities in the places where it makes most sense—near train stations and transportation links, close to jobs, and in neighborhoods with plenty of room to grow. 

Our transportation system is deteriorating because we failed to invest in improvements and technology, allowed costs to spiral out of control, and did not reform how these systems are governed so they function more efficiently and effectively. 

As the impact of climate change becomes a reality, we still treat each storm like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence instead of preparing for a radically and permanently changed environment that will reshape our region’s geography.

We can secure a safe and prosperous future for the next generation if we break free from those constraints. With 23 million people and a $1.8 trillion economy—nearly 10 percent of the entire country’s economy—we have the talented people, resources, entrepreneurs, creativity and leadership to move the region forward.

But first we must shake off our old habits and assumptions and commit to not settling for anything less than the best we can accomplish. And we must have a bold plan of action that considers the needs of everyone in our region.

We offer this Fourth Regional Plan as a roadmap to making the region work for all of us.

— Scott Rechler, Rohit Aggarwala, and Tom Wright