Theses Doctoral

An Analysis of the Community Participation Process in New York City - Focusing on its Effectiveness, Representativeness, and Inclusiveness

Bae, Hyun Hye

Since the second half of the 20th century, public participation in local governance has been widely recognized and promoted by planning theorists and practitioners. Nevertheless, in practice, public participation has faced multiple criticisms, such as a disconnect between process and outcome, low levels of substantive representation for participating community groups, and rigidity in participatory methods. These three criticisms raise the question as to how effective public participatory programs are for multicultural cities, such as New York City, with their increasing numbers of ethnic residents.

The goal of this three-article dissertation is to evaluate the current official participatory process in New York City while focusing on effectiveness, representativeness, and inclusiveness, that is, the three aspects of the process receiving the most criticism. Using path analysis, the first article compares and contrasts the effects of Community Board recommendations with those of the recommendations and reviews of other key representatives during the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure and neighborhood characteristics. The results indicate that, although Community Board recommendations have greater direct and indirect effects than those of the borough president, the second model, which incorporates neighborhood variables, reveals that increases in the socio-economic factor and decreases in the immigrant concentration factor are positively associated with changes in decisions within the procedure.

Moreover, the second article observed the level of substantive representation in terms of Community Boards using the annual Statement of Needs and survey of residents. The research finds that, Community Board opinions exhibit a high correspondence with the opinions of residents on the need of affordable housing but that the opinions of residents and Community Boards diverged in other topics. Comparatively, Community Boards tend to choose topics that are related to developmental policies as the most pressing issues, while residents find topics relevant to redistributive policies as problematic. The research also reveals that the opinions of ethnic residents are represented less well than those of their non-ethnic neighbors.

Lastly, the third article searches for the equity necessary to bring forth inclusive planning processes using interviews with leaders of Community Boards and community-based organizations. The research observes the choices that planners make and finds practical limitations, including legitimacy challenges, linguistic barriers, and definitions of culture. In conclusion, the article proposes that equity comes in multiple forms, including structured collaboration and communication among relevant participants and stakeholders, diverse participation methods for multiple cultures and publics, support from the City, and assistance from planning scholars. Although all three articles point out existing ethnic disparities, the dissertation concludes that an effective, representative, and inclusive participatory process is required for both ethnic and non-ethnic residents in multiethnic, multicultural New York City.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 22, 2020