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The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) implemented some safety improvements over the last ten years, but there was growing widespread sentiment that they weren’t enough.Data from both the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Elmhurst Trauma Center revealed a disproportionate number of pedestrian injuries on Queens Boulevard, yet sustaining the campaign year after year became tough.How much can be done in an hour, if the best abilities revolve around nurturing involvement, dealing with diverse voices, and unlocking community engagement?How useful can your contribution be if you know nothing about the local context and your involvement is over at the end of the evening?
As a topic, it was an attraction: people consistently showed up for the Queens Boulevard project.
At the time I was asking a lot of questions about the pace of planning – feeling that people come bursting out of grad school and get tangled up in institutions and the slower pace of change on the outside, despite the urgency of the challenges we face.
Setting up Planning Corps gave us a way to try out a different model of engagement ourselves, and see what does and doesn’t work.
TA works directly on planning-related issues, but because it is strictly an advocacy organization and its primary output was organizing for political change, not design, planners could very naturally augment its core competency.
I think you’re downplaying the human element in this — because you worked at TA, the initial risk was far lower for them.
There was a lot of discussion between us about what enabling change meant for Planning Corps, but we did agree on connecting with non-profits.