AIA on the Hill: Grassroots 2015

At the 2015 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, 03.04.15-03.06.15, participants were empowered to become messengers. During this “year of the advocate,” AIA National continues its repositioning campaign in an effort to better serve AIA members and the general public. This period of self-improvement involves refocusing advocacy efforts on issues that matter most to the membership, including assisting communities through design, advancing the 2030 sustainability goals, and increasing diversity. Through these initiatives, the AIA is working to raise the organization’s profile throughout the U.S. and internationally. A new board structure has also allowed the organization the ability to make smarter and swifter decisions. Keynote speakers Jonah Berger and Liz Ogbu and seminar panelists highlighted the often overlooked importance of effective communication when designing.

Although the latest snowstorm shut down much of DC, the AIANY group managed to have two productive meetings on Capitol Hill. We set out with three federal priorities: the federal Historic Tax Credit, which helps revitalize communities across the nation; the Safe Building Code Incentive Act that would increase FEMA disaster-assistance grant funding to states that adopt and enforce up-to-date model building codes; and the National Design Services Act to enable recent architecture graduates to work with non-profit community design centers in exchange for student debt relief.

Along with our colleagues from throughout New York State, we met with Senator Charles Schumer’s office, where the conversation focused on the economic opportunities derived from renovating historic districts. Cities like Buffalo have seen a lot of success through the Historic Tax Credit. At Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s office, AIANY and AIA Queens representatives focused on the need for more stringent building codes in the post-Sandy northeast region. We also discussed the importance of small businesses when it comes to issues of procurement and taxation.

In all our sessions, we addressed the need to focus on sustainability at the federal level, and offered ourselves as an innovative think tank for issues that arise. AIANY is always at the ready to provide valuable input and opinions.

Policy Pulse

  • On 02.25.15, AIANY Executive Committee members had a meeting at the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) to discuss the newly released zoning proposal that aims to remove barriers that constrain housing production, encourage better quality buildings, promote senior housing, and reduce unnecessary parking requirements. AIANY supports the proposed changes, and plans to hold a public program with DCP for members and colleagues from the four other AIA chapters in NYC.
  • AIANY held a netWORKing event on 02.25.15 at the GD Cucine showroom. AIANY leadership, members, friends, and staff discussed the chapter’s recent advocacy efforts and ways of advancing those initiatives and increasing participation. Issues included: moderate- and low-income housing, reducing carbon emissions in buildings, government and agency procurement issues, resiliency through design and policy, and historic buildings. Attendees were enthusiastic about harnessing the energy in the room to advance the AIANY policy agenda and improve the city’s built environment.
  • The Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute in the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, in association with the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP), hosted the “Trading High in the Sky: Transfer of Development Rights” conference on 02.26.15. The program explored issues and proposals related to the transfer of unused development rights (TDR) in New York City. DCP Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said that the department is reconsidering its policies regarding TDR and accepting recommendations. For more information, read DCP’s A Survey of Transferable Development Rights Mechanisms in New York City.
  • The New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection held a conference on site-sourced and stored renewable energy at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center on 02.27.15. Experts in the field presented solar, wind, micro-grid, heat pump, energy storage, energy recovering systems, and transportation technologies. AIANY presented public testimony.
  • NYC is currently participating in HUD’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. The city is competing against 67 other jurisdictions for a piece of the remaining $1 billion in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds. The city must submit a two-phase application. In the first phase, due on 03.27.15, the city describes unmet resiliency needs. The Phase 1 application is now available for public comment. The public can view the document and submit comments here. If HUD accepts the city’s contention that it has unmet needs, then HUD will allow the city to advance to the Phase 2 application, due in October, in which the city will identify particular projects for which it seeks funding.
  • In an effort to advance public building accessibility, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams unveiled the “Access-Friendly NYC” initiative with aging and disabled advocates on 02.22.15. The AIANY Design for Aging Committee (DFA) participated in an age-friendly design audit of Brooklyn Borough Hall. Read DFA co-chair Lisa Morgenroth’s response in the press release here.