Stimulus and Sandwiches

Stimulus and Sandwiches

The second of the “Not Business as Usual” lunchtime conversation series last Wednesday at the Center for Architecture in New York had quite a turnout, including laid off designers, freelancers, and managers of struggling firms. Everyone was looking for ideas in these turbulent economic times. “We are trying to give information to people, to help them keep in contact with the industry so that they feel like they haven’t lost all their friends,” Steve Glenn from Lutron, one of the sponsors of the series, told AN.

In the light of the current economic situation and the much debated stimulus package, this luncheon focused on federal and local government efforts to spark economy, and how these efforts could affect the design professions. The idea was to get architects and designers to participate and have their say on how the AIA, elected officials, and city agencies advocated for high quality public design as a part of the economic recovery plan.

Last week, members of the AIA went to Washington to express their position on Federal Transportation Policy and to advocate for healthy and safe communities. “The AIA urges members of Congress to support community-based planning and design programs in the upcoming reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU that helps enhance the quality of life, reduce congestion, and provide long term economic and environmental benefits,” according to a statement by the AIA. Sherida Paulsen, president of the AIA New York Chapter, urged those present to address these concerns in coherent written form to congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

The session broke down into different groups addressing different advocacy areas, including transportation, infrastructure, healthcare, and small business issues, Design Corps, energy policy and sustainability, and other issues. In a session that could very well have been a support group for struggling architects, many of the attendees were eager to participate and jot down their proposals, but many others were disappointed for not getting the answers they had come for: How to start their own businesses? What about start-up benefits and unemployment compensation? Will there be tax exemptions? How much of the stimulus package will be directed to architecture firms as opposed to engineering firms?

The truth is, the stimulus package is evolving by the hour. We will likely be unpacking it for months to come.