Sami Suleiman, Regional Plan Association intern to the director of public engagement, and Master of Regional and Community Planning graduate from the Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
When thinking about the tri-state region, we often think about what separates us. The borders between towns, states, and cities often dominate how we frame our plans and decisions. However, with the Regional Plan Association and the Fourth Regional Plan, we’re hoping to change the conversation to one about connections.
On October 29, over 150 professionals from all over Connecticut in such fields as housing, transportation, environment, economic development, human services, community development, public health, government, and more, gathered at The Lyceum through collaboration with the Partnership for Strong Communities to discuss the past, present, and future of the fourth regional plan. It became clear through the discussion, as moderated by State Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield and led by the panel of experts, that the conversation is one that seeks to break down the boundaries of the tri-state region. Taking into account the many jurisdictions that encompass the region, it is not simply a literal issue.
What the professional community seeks are solutions that cross disciplines, ideologies, and physical boundaries. Rather than a conversation of Connecticut issues existing in a vacuum, the group explored how they are interconnected.
For example, transportation was framed as a precursor to economic development within the state. Similar views were held regarding access to quality housing. If Connecticut is to develop the economic sectors that will attract workers, what use are they if they have no place to live or means to arrive at their place of employment? Similar linkages in public health, education, and infrastructure as the gateway to success were found. A strong infrastructure, both literal and metaphorical, is needed for a strong state and citizenry. The issues the Fourth Regional Plan seeks to remedy are complex, without universal remedy. However they remain some of the most pressing issues the region faces.
Multiple perspectives from different communities, organizations, disciplines, and individuals are necessary to develop a plan that is truly for and by everyone, rather than representing the interests of a select few. Developing these diverse partnerships and dialogue are exactly what the Regional Plan Association seeks to do with the Fourth Regional Plan. From rural Connecticut to midtown Manhattan, we all have a stake in this and should make our voices heard. Another forum will be held from 10am to 12:30 pm on November 20 at Pequot Library in Southport. If you are inspired to go from many voices to one region, please attend.
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