Educators Forum

Museum of the City of New York Educators Forum is a site for teachers to access curriculum, research, and ideas from the Museum of the City of New York.

Planning Urban Places and Spaces


At its heart, urban planning is a process for negotiating public and private interests in the city. Planners study the form, population, and special characteristics of cities, and develop strategies to support the development and preservation of urban assets over time.

Although cities have been planned for centuries, urban planning only emerged as a distinct professional field in the 19th century, when reformers began advocating for planning as a way to address public health crises including infectious disease and air and water pollution resulting from overcrowding in cities.

The documents in this section introduce students to some of the key plans, planners, and planning concepts that continue to shape the city today.

Download Educator Resources:

How Do People Use The Neighborhood_Template

Plans and Regulations

The laws, regulations, and processes codify urban planning and design in cities and articulate the city’s common values. Zoning is one of the most powerful tools that urban planners use to shape the city. Zoning regulates the form and use of buildings, and in the words of Amanda Burden, the Director of the New York City Planning Commission, it “provides a three-dimensional blueprint for what any area of the city can become.”

New York City created the first comprehensive Zoning Resolution in the nation in 1916. Spurred by a growing population, public health crises, and the construction of large towers that cast long shadows across the city, the Zoning Resolution of 1916 provided controls on building heights, setbacks, and land-use.

In 1961, the Zoning Resolution was redesigned. This new framework created incentives for private developers to create public amenities, as well as coordinating land-use and bulk regulations in the city. This Resolution, which we are still using today, encouraged higher-rise buildings in business districts, and reduced densities in the residential districts the outskirts of the city.

Although urban planning legislation can seem complicated, this section includes documents and activities that can help students understand the planning process and its role in shaping their communities.

Download Educator Resources:

5 PUPS Public Space and Private Space



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