The process for developing the Fourth Regional Plan began in 2013.

During the subsequent four years, RPA staff analyzed gigabytes of data, read hundreds of strategic plans and policy reports, held working sessions with more than a thousand partners, hosted dozens of community meetings with thousands of local leaders, residents and business owners, and collaborated with five talented design teams. RPA created hundreds of maps, charts, and interactive features, and released a dozen reports.

RPA reviewed extensive comments and creative ideas, which staff integrated into a cohesive plan that is ambitious but practical, and presents both a long-range view of the region and recommendations that can be implemented right away.

Supporting these recommendations are substantive white papers, infographics, charts, and tables to make our data easily understandable, along with images to better visualize the challenges and opportunities.

RPA has written three previous regional plans—in the 1920s, 1960s, and mid-1990s. Each was a product of its time, in both content and process. There are certainly some aspects of today’s planning process that RPA planners a half-century ago would recognize. The Fourth Plan was based on rigorous analysis of data and trends, poring over spreadsheets and creating maps, just as the last three plans were decades ago.

Yet today, the availability of fine-grain data, and the computing power to analyze and visualize it, meant staff could delve much deeper into housing and travel patterns, economic trends, and environmental impacts.

For example, staff used data from a dozen different sources, at a half-mile-square level, to document the region’s built form, quantify past population and employment trends, and with that information extrapolate future growth.

RPA’s transportation team used that data to estimate future travel demand, and then determine which transportation investments would most improve access to jobs and a higher standard of living.

RPA’s environment and energy group tracked where rising sea levels were likely to have the greatest impact, and where the region has invested the most in terms of infrastructure, housing, and jobs in order to identify a range of resilience solutions tailored to particular places.

RPA’s community planning experts estimated the region’s current and future housing shortage, and documented which communities were most at risk of of displacement, in order to understand how to increase the number of homes and protect residents from rapid change.

But RPA staff didn’t just sit in front of a computer for the past four years. RPA also spoke with thousands of people across the region: industry experts, agency leaders, community organizers, elected officials, civic partners, business owners, and neighborhood groups. Each person we spoke with generously shared their knowledge and advice, and RPA is deeply grateful for their time and the trust they placed in the process.

We chose to intentionally infuse the important values of heath and equity, not only throughout the plan, but also into who we are as an organization. In some ways, this wasn’t new. Thomas Adams, who led the development of RPA’s first plan, called health the “first object” of regional planning. And equity was one of the three primary goals of RPA’s third plan in the 1990s. But in developing the fourth plan, we established internal processes focuses on these themes.

If there is one thing that sets the Fourth Plan apart from previous RPA plans it’s the effort we made to reach deep into communities, particularly those that have been excluded for so long from the planning process. Thanks to organizations like Make the Road New York, Make the Road Connecticut, Community Voices Heard, Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey, Partnership for Strong Communities, Right to the City Alliance, and others, RPA staff were able to hear a wide range of perspectives on affordability, jobs, transportation, and environmental justice—and tailor our research accordingly. These groups have helped us stay connected at the grassroots level—no easy task in a region of 23 million residents—and their contributions helped shape the plan’s recommendations to benefit everyone.

The Committee on the Fourth Regional Plan and its associated working groups, as well as RPA’s board and committees, were also instrumental advisors, sharing their insights, deepening our understanding of the work they were doing, and most pragmatically, reviewing drafts of the report.

The committee began with three co-chairs: Rit Aggarwala, Tony Shorris, and Paul Francis. Along the way, two had to step down for happy reasons. Tony Shorris was tapped by Mayor Bill de Blasio to be his first deputy mayor, and Paul Francis was tapped by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to become New York State’s deputy secretary for Health and Human Services. Rit Aggarwala, a veteran of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration remained throughout. We were honored to have such a thoughtful and experienced team of people leading this process, and are especially grateful to Rit for spending countless hours guiding us with his rigorous analytical approach and creative ideas.

Major milestones: 

  • April 2013: Launch of the Fourth Regional Plan 
  • April 2014: Release of Fragile Success, summarizing the region’s most critical challenges 
  • 2014-16: Scenario planning and visioning process; initial exploration of recommendations 
  • June 2016: Release of Charting a New Course, summarizing our vision for the future 
  • 2016-2017: Fine-tuning of recommendations 
  • Winter 2017: Release of “State of the Region’s Health,” “Pushed Out,” and “Under Water”—three reports providing more detailed analysis of the region’s challenges 
  • Summer-fall 2017: Release of “Crossing the Hudson,” “Accessing Nature,” “New Mobility,” “Coastal Adaptation,” and “Untapped Potential”—reports outlining initial recommendations of the Fourth Regional Plan 
  • November 2017: Release of the Fourth Regional Plan