GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — The Long Island Index invited architects, urban designers, planners, students, and visionaries to submit bold design proposals for capitalizing on the potential of the “underperforming asphalt” found in dozens of downtowns in New York’s Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Competition advisor June Williamson, co-author of “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs,” helped conceive the competition to solicit innovative design ideas for retrofitting the 8,300 acres of opportunity in 156 downtowns and train station-adjacent areas highlighted in the Long Island Index 2010 “Places to Grow” report. It also invited designers to consider island-wide challenges that could be addressed by bold design strategies.

”The energy of designers from around the nation and the world who tackled the proposition that we can build even better communities in the first suburbs of Long Island was extremely gratifying,” said Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index. “It was a bold move to sponsor this competition, a first for us, and it is thrilling to see the creative use the designers have made of the data we have painstakingly assembled and tracked here at the Index over the years. It was a tough job for our invited jurors to select the group of finalists featured on our website.”

The finalist’s ideas run the gamut. Some approached the issue from a regional perspective; others were more localized. None of the ideas are small ones with just a single building to retrofit a downtown. The finalists were thinking bigger, long-term. Some are idealistic, others are inherently practical. Regardless, they are thought provoking and ask Long Islanders to consider how the first suburb might be transformed for this century.

A special “People’s Choice Award” is being publicized in a broad media campaign designed to get out the vote. During the months of July and August, look for signage on buses in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, fliers on LIRR passenger seats, and posters at libraries in Nassau and Suffolk encouraging patrons to cast their vote on library computers. Voting opened July 7 and ends August 31.

The public is encouraged to participate by visiting to learn more about the competition, view the proposals of the finalists, and cast their vote. The winners of the competition, as selected by the jury and the Long Island Index People’s Choice Award recipient, will be announced at a press conference on Oct. 4, 2010, at the Community Development Corporation of Long Island 40th Anniversary Gala luncheon. Prizes totaling $22,500 will be awarded, including a $2,500 prize for the top project submitted by a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program.

According to Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation and publisher of the Long Island Index, “Sponsoring the Build a Better Burb competition provides us with a unique opportunity to further our goal at the Index of providing the public with timely, useful information as well as innovative ideas and visions to help build a better Long Island. With the current economic issues facing our region, this is the right time to address how to create the homes, jobs, and communities we need. We hope through the public campaign this summer to really get Long Islanders talking in a more vigorous way about working together to shape our shared future.”

“The submitted ideas were tremendously varied in scale, scope, and point of view, but most were both highly imaginative and optimistic,” said competition advisor June Williamson. “They reflect the broad range of current progressive design thinking about the challenges of retrofitting and reshaping the development patterns of North American suburbs, which experts concur must change.”

The best submissions, richly illustrated with plans, renderings, diagrams, and videos, were selected as finalists by a diverse jury of distinguished academics and professionals. They are:
• Allison Arieff, design journalist, contributor to the New York Times "Opinionator" blog and GOOD Magazine
• Daniel D’Oca, partner at Interboro, New York, and assistant professor, Maryland College of Art
• Rob Lane, director of the Design Program at the Regional Plan Association
• Paul Lukez, principal of Paul Lukez Architecture, Boston, and author of Suburban Transformations
• Lee Sobel, real estate development and finance analyst, U.S. EPA: Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation
• Galina Tachieva, partner at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Miami, author of the forthcoming Sprawl Repair Manual
• Georgeen Theodore, partner at Interboro, New York, and associate director of the infrastructure planning program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology

Jury Coordinator: June Williamson, associate professor of architecture, City College of New York/CUNY, and co-author of "Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs."

The finalists were announced at the Midge Karr Fine Arts Design Center, New York Institute of Technology. Frank Mruk, associate dean of The School of Architecture and Design, NYIT opened the session and wrote the OP-ED entitled “Bright ideas for better suburbs” which appeared in the July 4th edition of Newsday.