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Envisioning Development

Envisioning Development is a website that provides “teaching tools about land use and urban development in New York City.”

Envisioning Development: What is Affordable Housing? by planspark, on Flickr

From the website:


Channels for community participation are written into New York City land-use law, but the terminology of development can be complex enough to discourage even committed community advocates. As a result, public discussion of development proposals flattens into “pro” and “anti” positions, and many community members who could provide valuable input simply stay silent. Maybe the experts like it that way, but given the large and long-term community impacts of land-use decisions, that’s not the way it should be.
Community education isn’t the only barrier to meaningful participation in the New York City land-use decisions, but it’s one of the biggest. With access to key concepts and technical jargon, community members can develop and articulate positive, nuanced visions for their neighborhood to the experts. More community members participate effectively, and experts get more responsive. Shouting matches can turn into discussions.


The Envisioning Development Toolkit is a set of teaching tools designed to help experts and laypeople communicate. Advocates, policy wonks, community board members, developers, and others can use the tools as a centerpiece for workshops and conversations that describe and clarify problems and propose and communicate solutions.
The Toolkit is visual, tactile, and interactive. Each tool translates abstract concepts and language into straightforward activities and physical objects that let people learn by looking, doing, and listening to each other. Participants teach themselves and others as they use the tools. Concepts and jargon turn out to be less complicated than they seem.


The Envisioning Development Toolkit is designed by CUP in collaboration with the Pratt Center for Community Development, the Fifth Avenue Committee, and other community-based organizations and policy groups across the City. CUP develops and tests the tools in workshops in communities all over New York.

Additional information

Tools used

A list of tools that were used during this project: