National Capital Planning Commission Responds to Feldman’s “We Must Save America’s Mall”

Dear Coalition Friends:

Why attack the messenger? We wondered what the National Capital Planning Commission’s (NCPC) Executive Director, Patricia Gallagher, had in mind when she penned the personal attack published in today’s Washington Post, copied below. Ms. Gallagher rejects the Coalition’s letter of September 28th calling for a Conservancy for the National Mall, but then she goes on to endorse the idea of a Conservancy.

Why does Ms. Gallagher attack me (Judy) personally but never mention the National Coalition to Save Our Mall? How did she completely miss the National Coalition’s message that the Mall needs better, more coordinated planning, and thus the call for a Conservancy? How does this personal attack jibe with her statement that the NCPC “embraces public involvement?”

Furthermore, why does Ms. Gallagher call for a Conservancy under the auspices of one group — the Trust for the National Mall –, but not the Coalition or the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, two citizens organizations that have been calling for an updated L’Enfant/McMillan Plan for the Mall for several years (including in its First Annual State of the Mall Report)?

It is important to note that Ms. Gallagher is also an advisor to the Trust for the National Mall. It is quite significant that this Trust — originated by Georgina Sanger with the laudable goal of raising funds to improve the Mall — has signed binding contracts with the National Park Service as part of its Public Partnership program.

-Judy Scott Feldman, Ph.D.


Planning Isn’t ‘Dangerous,’ It’s Essential

Sunday, October 19, 2003; Page B08

In her Sept. 28 Close to Home piece “We Must Save America’s Mall,” Judy Scott Feldman said, “Planning can be dangerous. It can restrict vision, impose the will of a powerful elite or produce an unrealistic ideal.” I disagree.

Planning is why Washington is the highly regarded capital city that it is today. From Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for the city, to the 1901 McMillan Plan’s framework for a modern metropolis worthy of a great nation, to more recent plans on a local and regional scale, planning has shaped our capital into a city that is admired and respected throughout the world.

The National Capital Planning Commission has carried on this tradition, preparing award-winning and visionary plans for the Mall, including “Extending the Legacy,” the Memorials and Museums Master Plan and the National Capital Urban Design and Security Plan. These plans call for protecting the national Mall’s character while keeping Washington vibrant and symbolic of our country’s values and heritage.

As groups and individuals increasingly stake claims to the Mall, the pressure on it has become staggering. The challenge to federal planners is to make wise choices in judging the competing demands for recreation, tourism, commemoration, open space, security and historic preservation. In a democracy, planning is successful only if it reflects the values of its citizens. When an important public space evokes the pride and patriotism of a people, as the Mall does for Americans, plans for its use should reflect the views of many.

Despite Feldman’s claims to the contrary, the Commemorative Works Act of 1986 and the commission’s Memorials and Museums Master Plan have been effective at locating projects off the Mall. Under the Commemorative Works Act, the commission guided the National Japanese American Memorial, the Navy Memorial, the Gandhi Memorial and the Women in Military Service to America Memorial to prominent but off-the-Mall sites. Since its adoption two years ago, the Memorials and Museums Master Plan also has been used to help select off-the-Mall sites for a memorial to disabled veterans; to Tomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia; and now to determine an appropriate site for a memorial to John Adams.

As for protecting our national icons, I do not share Feldman’s idea that a single security solution is appropriate for the Mall. While bollards are appropriate for certain streetscapes along Constitution and Independence avenues, they are inappropriate for the undulating landscape surrounding the Washington Monument. Further, it is unrealistic to think that in an area as vast and complicated as the Mall, a one-size-fits-all approach can work.

One new development that will help ensure a common vision for the Mall is the creation of a Mall Conservancy, a plan conceived by Georgina Sanger of the Trust for the National Mall. This consortium would help coordinate the planning for the revitalization and maintenance of this great open public space.

The National Capital Planning Commission embraces public involvement in its deliberations and decision-making, and it invites members of the public to express their views. Dialogue and consensus-building are indispensable to democracy and to carrying out our mission of preserving the beauty and urban design of our capital.

Planning has helped shape and preserve historic Washington for more than 200 years. We must continue to use that process to ensure that our nation’s capital will forever embody the greatness of our past, present and future.

— Patricia E. Gallagher
is executive director
of the National Capital
Planning Commission.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company