Great Cities Think Alike

To the Editor:

Re “Uh-Oh, Are We SC-NYC?” [August 6]:

I don’t know what was in the minds of New York’s policymakers as they looked to Chicago’s Planned Manufacturing Districts as a model for New York. But I do know what was in the minds of Chicago’s policymakers as they developed and applied that concept, because I was one of them, and I do know that we looked east to New York.

As first deputy commissioner of economic development in the first administration of Mayor Harold Washington, and as acting commissioner when he died in office, I oversaw my department’s role in developing and executing policies to fulfill his commitment to build and strengthen the city’s economy.

In spite of conventional wisdom that manufacturing was history, Mayor Washington knew that the strong and viable Chicago manufacturers were a crucial factor in the city’s economy, providing high-value-added jobs to a generation of workers still in their prime earning years.

He instituted many policies that allowed these companies to continue and thrive; land use and zoning were among the most important.

As my department set out to address these issues, we were aware of the work of New York’s Garment Industry Development Corporation in developing land use and zoning which could help sustain garment manufacturers in New York.

We used that as a platform, developing, refining and enhancing the policy, which was adopted by the city council and Mayor Richard M. Daley after Mayor Washington’s death. It’s gratifying to see the idea coming back full circle to New York.

It makes no sense to jeer a mayor for recognizing good policies that happen to have developed elsewhere. Urban problems exist everywhere. Urban problem-solvers are on the job everywhere, and yes, they do talk to each other. If I were mayor I’d have a best-practices czar who would do nothing but scan the world for good ideas.

Rosalind Paaswell
Manhattan Great Cities Think Alike