This summer, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association partnered with several organizations to create the City Planning Institute, a two-week program in City Planning for 20 public high school students from the cities of Passaic and Paterson. The other partners were with the Center for Community Planning, the New Jersey Community Development Corporation, Passaic County Community College, the Paterson Board of Education and the Passaic Board of Education. Funding for the program came from the Valley National Bank, the New Jersey Community Development Corporation, APA-NJ, and through the generous donations of members of APA-NJ and the Bloustein Alumni Association. The classes were held at the Passaic County Community College.
The program was created to introduce the field of City Planning to students from the two cities as a possible career choice and to teach them a new way to think about their neighborhoods and how they can change them.
The program curriculum, which was developed by the Center for Community Planning, presented an overview of city planning, including lectures, guest speakers, field trips, and a final project. The curriculum included many of the topics that planners deal with, such as local cultures and their impact on neighborhoods, community involvement, economic development, land use and zoning, community design, the role of planners and citizens in creating neighborhoods, community history, SWOT analysis, and multi- modal transportation. The students were taught to use various software packages, such as mapping, Google Earth, Sketch Up, and Powerpoint. Three field trips included a community walk in the college neighborhood, the Valley Arts District in Orange, and a tour of historic sites in Paterson, including the Great Falls National Historic Park and the Garret Mountain Reservation. There were also five guest speakers, all planners, to introduce the students to the various specialty areas in planning. Guest speakers included:
- Debbie Lawlor, a land use planning consultant
- Ricardo Fernandez, a planner and the business administrator from the City of Passaic
- Richard Polton, a planner with a strong background in historic preservation, and the author of a book about one of Paterson’s most important architects, Frederick W. Wentworth
- Mike Lysicatos, a transportation planner with Passaic County
- David Kutner, a planner with New Jersey Future who spoke about sustainability and climate change.
For a final product the students created and presented a redevelopment plan for the historic 9 -story Fabian Building in downtown Paterson. The building was designed by Frederick W. Wentworth, the same architect that Richard Polton’s book is about. The building is located a block away from the county college campus. The class created plans for redeveloping the building as a performing arts facility and community center for the college. After two short weeks in the program, the students presented their plan at a final showcase at the New Jersey Community Development Corporation’s historic building in the Paterson Great Falls neighborhood. The showcase was attended by family members, local elected officials along with county and municipal planners.