Perris Straughter is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Perris Straughter is the Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Predevelopment for New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. In that role he oversees seven units engaged in planning, predevelopment and resiliency work as part of the development of thousands of units of affordable housing throughout the five boroughs. The division he oversees is responsible for public engagement, issuing RFPs for public property and securing land use approvals for projects. His division is also responsible for planning efforts for over 200 acres of city owned land. Previously Perris was at the same Department as the Director of Queens and Staten Island Planning. He also serves on the American Planning Association's Diversity Committee. Before coming to New York Perris was Supervising Planner in the City of Newark, NJ, where he coordinated planning and zoning approvals processes for the City. He helped lead the comprehensive overhaul of Newark’s zoning code and master plan. During his tenure in Newark he also led the Newark Public Art Program. Perris was a leader in Newark’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Community, including organizing Newark's LGBTQ Pride events and serving as Chairperson of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Commission. Perris has a Master’s in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University. He is originally from Southern California.
The course will introduce students to the planning process by reviewing commonly used planning practices and tools. As an intermediate level course, broad overviews of each topic will be provided. The intention is to expose students to the many considerations that go into planning, while introducing them to skills that can be incorporated into their “planner toolkit” which can be further expanded upon through future coursework and work experience. Students will be expected to apply skills and concepts learned in class to a simulated planning project based on a real site in New York City. By the end of the course, students should be able to 1) identify and scope planning problems and issues; 2) determine the information required to address the issues; 3) collect, analyze, and synthesize planning information; and 4) concisely and effectively communicate findings and recommendations.
Beyond the “toolkit,” students will be encouraged to identify and establish their own set of values and visions that underlie their work as planners. Through lectures, lab sections, and group project work, students will be expected to think critically about the tools being used by planners today – how are these tools useful (or not) to the planning process? Are these tools still relevant? What is missing from the planning process, as it currently exists? What can you, as future planners, do to improve the planning process?
Key to the planning profession is engagement. Most of a planner’s work necessitates engagement of institutions and of people in order to effectuate change, and change (or prevention thereof) is the planner’s currency. Specifically this course will look at community engagement, or engagement of the public within a defined geography. What is community? How is it defined? What does it look and feel like? And how does it manifest itself, or not, as part of the planning process? Communities in the United States are rarely equitable, particularly as it relates to planning. How then can community engagement be equitable? How does a planner conduct equitable community engagement? How does one even define it or recognize it? This course will examine all of this and take a brief look at best practices in the field. In particular, this course will examine the New York City community board, which is not just a convenient petri dish for studying equitable community engagement but in many ways is a laboratory where equitable community engagement will be defined, tested and perhaps ultimately succeed or fail.