Michael Kwartler, FAIA - Founder and President

Michael Kwartler, principal of Michael Kwartler and Associates, is an architect, planner, urban designer, and educator. He is the founding director and president of the Environmental Simulation Center (ESC), a non-profit rcreated to develop innovative applications of information technology for performance-based planning, design, and decision-making. His experience spans the worlds of government (e.g., senior positions in NYC Urban Design Council and Department of City Planning), real estate development (e.g., zoning, development plans and analyses for non-profit and for-profit developers), academia (e.g., former Director of Columbia University’s Program in Historic Preservation), and information technology (e.g., 3D GIS and CommunityViz©, the first GIS based planning and design decision support software now used by over 3,000 communities). As a result he brings a unique perspective and understanding of the diverse needs and interests of all stakeholders.

For over thirty years, Kwartler’s professional practice and teaching have focused on urban design and the theory and practice of legislating aesthetics and good city form. Examples of his work include the award winning and precedent setting performance-based Housing Quality Zoning Regulations and Midtown Zoning Regulations both adopted by New York City, which recognize the power of zoning to determine urban form; Westside Futures a community based preservation and development plan; “Building in Your Own Backyard” a NEA/NYSCA supported proposal to provide new affordable infill housing and site redesign to reweave NYC public housing developments into the fabric of the neighborhood; pilot community planning and design projects with the Regional Plan Association for the Third Regional Plan; the Southwest Santa Fe City/County Master Plan Initiative, Baltimore Vision 2030 Regional Plan (2002), and the award winning Community Development Plan for the Kona Region of Hawaii with ACP; Main Street LRT Corridor Land Development Model and Performance Report Card and Urban Design Guidelines for Houston Texas; the Lower Manhattan Greenwich Street South Urban Design and Regulatory Plan with H3; the Ford Foundation supported Human Development Overlay District (HD-OD), a project designed to bridge the gap between Physical Capital Plans and Human Capital Plans in rapidly changing neighborhoods; Development and Regulatory Plan for the Port Authority of NY/NJ Hudson Yards properties with Cooper Robertson and ERA/AECOM; author of the adopted Visual Simulation amendment to the City of Glen Cove, NY’s Zoning Ordinance to require visual simulations as part of its planning and public review process (adopted 2011). And most recently, Knowledge District/Downcity Urban Design Plan and new Zoning Regulations for Providence, RI with Perkins + Will (adopted 2012).

His publications include “Legislating Aesthetics: The Role of Zoning in Designing Cities”: in Zoning and the American Dream (Haar and Kayden, 1990); Preserving Sunlight in New York City’s Parks: A Zoning Proposal(1991); “Planning and Zoning the Mature City: A Working Paper: in Planning and Zoning New York City (1992); “Regulating the good you can’t think of” in URBAN DESIGN International (1999); and Critique: “New Zoning Proposed for New York Needs Further Refinement” Architectural Record (2000) “CommunityViz: An Integrated Planning Support System” in Planning Support Systems: Integrating GIS, Models, and Visualization Tools (Brail and Klosterman, 2001); “Just-In-Time Planning: New York + Houston” in Architectural Design (2005)Visioning and Visualization (co-authored with Gianni Longo), Lincoln Institute for Land Policy (2008); “Linking People and Place: The Human Development Overlay District” in Planning and Technology Today (Summer 2008), “Legislating the Use of Visual Simulation in the Planning , Review and Permitting Process” in APA Urban Design and Preservation Newsletter (Winter 2010), and “The Preparation of the Kona Region Community Development Plan: A Case Study is Visioning and Visualization” in Future Cities and Regions (Spring 2012).



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Kwartler is one of New York City’s most respected urban design, zoning, and development consultants, providing consulting services to the City’s major for and non-profit developers, cultural institutions, hospitals, schools and universities, public agencies, civic and community-based organizations. Clients include the NYC Department of City Planning, NYC Housing Authority, Empire State Development Corporation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, MTA, NYU, CUNY, Con Edison, Pfizer, New York Hospital, LIJ/NorthShore Health System, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Village Care, Brooklyn Medical Center, DownState Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Phipps Houses, J.P. Morgan Chase, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. Michaels Church, the Armenian Cathedral, University Settlement House, Irish Arts Center, Real Estate Board of NY, Community Board 7, and numerous architecture firms, for and non-profit realestate developers, and law firms.

Urban design plans and studies include: a new Regional Center in Long Island City; the Con Edison Waterside Generating Facility and West 29th Street Maintenance Center; an area-wide regulatory system and mixed-use urban design plan for the Greenwich Street area of Lower Manhattan; preservation and development plan for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; large-scale residential developments fronting the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn; a development and preservation plan for Pfizer’s Brooklyn properties, Kona Community Development Plan for the County of Hawaii, planning and development study for the Port Authority of NY/NJ, and campus expansion plans and zoning analyses for CUNY’s Brooklyn, Queens, and Lehman Colleges.

Michael Kwartler studied Architecture at Cooper Union and Urban Planning at Columbia University. Entering the New York City government in 1969 he served as Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Urban Design Council and later joined the City Planning Department as Associate Director of the Division of Land Planning and Environmental Management. He has lectured widely and taught architecture and urban design at Arizona State University, the University of Oregon, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, M.I.T., Harvard University, Hong Kong University, and the Milano School of Public Policy at the New School.

He held the Clarkson Chair in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at SUNY/Buffalo and awarded Cooper Union’s John Q. Hejduk Award in Architecture. Kwartler was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1990 for his work in developing “humane zoning regulations.” He has served as the Director of Legislative Affairs for the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and most recently he was appointed public member of Community Board 5 in Manhattan.