The Regional Plan Association presently functions as an independent organization since its inception, providing long-term planning for the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut metropolitan regions. The non-profit civic formation extensively works on developing and promoting economic health, environmental resiliency, and quality of life in and around the said areas. Their research-planning-advocacy approach involves meticulously detailed research concerning aspects such as the environment, land use, and governance and correspondingly advises cities, public agencies, and communities. Contributing to several significant public works initiatives and solutions and economic developmental evolutions, the Regional Plan Association closely relies on dynamic public engagement efforts. 

An overview of Regional Plan Association - Sheet1
Regional Plan Association, the exhibition ©

Milestones of the Regional Plan Association 

Starting in 1922, with its origin traced back to the early 1920s, several prominent experts and high-level advisors from the urban planning and civic domain joined forces to collect data, conduct surveys, analyze, and develop comprehensive plans. They were directed towards a common motive to make the selected region a better place to work and live. With its original goals primarily focused on enhancing livelihoods without political barriers, the first Committee meeting commenced on May 10, 1922. Following this meeting, the proposal was published in the newspapers in 1923, outlining future plans. 

As one the first and renowned initiatives to recognize a New York metropolitan region, they published their first volume, “Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs,” in 1929. The in-depth, long-range plan for revitalizing the focused metropolitan area and essentially helping foster county, city, town, and village planning, marked their formation. Adding to this public recognition, an organization worked complementarily to implement this idea and proposal. 

An overview of Regional Plan Association - Sheet2
Regional Plan Association, the exhibition ©

The Regional Plan Association has conducted groundbreaking research in diverse sectors, including transportation, environment, and economic development. Under the first president of the association, George McAneny, a detailed report on how swamp lands, such as the Meadowlands in Northern New Jersey, could be reclaimed was released in 1930. In 1931, the second volume of the First Regional Plan was released and concentrated more on urban issues such as the relationship of development to open space, segregation of different pathways on the street to separate pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and fitting buildings to streets as an urban design challenge. 

“The Rebuilding of Blighted Areas” was a book published in 1933, suggesting policy solutions in the Depression Era to tackle public housing projects and slum clearance through eminent domain. Followed by this, an expansion of public parks was taken up in 1936 by identifying natural areas that could be acquired for public use, such as the Great Kills Park on Staten Island. 

With similar trajectories, the Regional Plan Association shed light on current urban issues such as the traffic and parking study in the early 1940s, “Airports of Tomorrow,” and “Neighborhood Unit” reports and concepts in the late 1940s. Despite its appreciated involvement, the association was briefly considered for dissolution in 1959, only to get established as a mightier force dealing with issues concerning urban sprawl. By the late 1960s, the organization got involved in rethinking the Tri-State rails, subsequently expanding its goals to release the Second Regional Plan by 1968. Studies about expressways, airports, developing city centres, and recreational areas. By the late 1970s, public transportation and land use policies were proposed, considering the economic, environmental, and land use criteria. 

An overview of Regional Plan Association - Sheet3
Regional Plan Association, the exhibition ©

In 1991, the Regional Plan Association held its first official assembly post when the Third Regional Plan took up the global context to deal with persisting issues often slowed by uncertainty, social divisions, and environmental degradation. The 2000s saw an extensive exploration of various megaprojects, now also considering sustainable and climate-affecting attributes. This helped transition into the transit-oriented developments and a Transit Leadership Summit phase that took off in the 2010s, to also considering the affordability aspects of the public proposals. Health, by now, was a significant factor in proposal considerations.

The Fourth Regional Plan,  published in 2017, had 61 precise recommendations amplifying various entities of the earlier detected ones, with four core values: equity, health, prosperity, and sustainability. Post-2020, the organization focuses on the infrastructure for a new century, correspondingly updating its research and design approaches. 


The 100-year-old non-profit institution continues to be an indispensable source of an idea hub for policymakers across the integral tri-state region. The Constant Future exhibition, held in October 2022, traces a century of the Regional Plan by transporting its visitors with the concept of a “dream city.” With leading, world-class research and development in areas of significance such as energy and environment, housing and neighbourhood planning, transportation, and governance, the Regional Plan Association has continuously evolved as an influential, welfare-promoting setup. Guided and directed by elected officials, selected members, and specialists from required fields, its policies, with the power of evidence, have transformed into a widely adapted practice, serving as an example for such evolutions. 

Regional Plan Association, the exhibition ©

Citations for websites:

RPA. (n.d.). Regional Plan Association. [online] Available at:

[Accessed 20 Nov. 2022].


Lakshmi Sundaram is an architect, muralist and graphic designer with an atypical and interdisciplinary outlook. Design being her finest channel of expression, strong narratives direct her work across all domains. Precisely, an aspiring little drop in a mighty ocean of design revolutions.

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