Lens Argues for Increased Racial Equity in Urban Planning

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, was featured in a New York Times article discussing the importance of inclusion and equity in reshaping public spaces. Many cities have rapidly transformed urban spaces in response to the pandemic, including new bike routes and more space for outdoor dining. However, many urban planning experts worry that these projects favor some residents and neighborhoods over others. The people who show up for public meetings designed to encourage community engagement tend to be older, whiter, higher-income and homeowners with the time and motivation to show up. As a result, pandemic infrastructure projects have largely left out poorer residents and racial minorities, many of whom are wary of police violence or community surveillance on city streets. “We need to either reduce the power that the white, high-income areas have, increase the power that communities of color and low-income communities have, or do both,” Lens argued.

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