New York City has a long and illustrious history of urban planning, with the first comprehensive zoning resolution enacted in 1916. This rich history is documented through decades of planning reports, land use maps, and historic photographs that capture a changing urban landscape. When the city was on the brink of bankruptcy, President Gerald Ford refused to commit federal funding. However, private citizens have played a major role in the development of New York City's urban landscape.In 1942, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) highlighted wartime passenger transportation demands and called for the creation of a regional war transportation office for the New York metropolitan area. Two years later, the Russell Sage Foundation agreed to support the creation of a plan for New York City and appointed Norton as president.
Towards the end of Mayor Ed Koch's term, he praised the inauguration of the Metroplex complex in downtown Brooklyn and credited Howard Golden and the Association of Regional Plans for organizing a hearing.The influx of new citizens to New York City was critical to its recovery and growth. These new citizens brought new complexity to the city's racial and economic divisions, affecting everything from neighborhood change to language barriers in schools and the workforce. At this time, New York City and the region were suffering from lack of investment in infrastructure, social divisions, and environmental degradation.In 1929, the New York Times reported that black residents of Sandy Ground, a town on Staten Island, were excited about the Regional Plan and about the prospect of building a road that would connect the village to the rest of New York City and increase land values. The RPA also increased its focus on sustainability and climate change, and how New York City could better adapt to this new reality and mitigate damage.The RPA drafted a document that said that downtown Brooklyn would be the next place to do business in New York City.
Adams and his team tried to differentiate their Regional Plan from the Burnham Plan by focusing less on grand architectural concepts and more on improving health and general well-being for people living in urban communities. The RPA also worked with John Lahey from Quinnipiac College on a quality of life survey published in 1995 that showed how perceptions of life in New York lagged behind those in other growing regions.The RPA also supported the creation of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which brought together under one roof subway, bus, commuter rail, toll facilities for bridges and tunnels in New York City. The MTA's first long-term capital plan was created in 1968. Private citizens have played an integral role in shaping New York City's urban landscape over time.