Remembering Bill Shore, Regional Planner

On May 31st, the region lost one of its most passionate voices for environmental stewardship, social inclusion and regional planning when Bill Shore died of cancer.

Bill joined the staff of RPA in 1961 in the position of "Information Director." Over the next 35 years, his title changed to Vice President for Public Affairs, Senior Vice President, and finally Senior Fellow, but his role remained the same: to educate the public and elected officials about the trends and larger forces that were shaping neighbors, cities, regions and the globe and to push for social change. In this endeavor, Bill was indefatigable. From 1961 to 1984, he wrote or edited 661 press clippings on topics ranging from solid waster disposal to housing policy, from economic projections to urban design. He brought an incredible energy and intensity to everything he did. Many colleagues recall that Bill's favorite form of transportation was not walking, but running, which he did all over Manhattan in the cold of winter and summer heat waves alike.

Bill was a true polymath. His early work first identified the perils of suburbanization and outward migration from cities, including the seminal report "The Race for Open Space" (1964). In the late 1960's, Bill authored or co-authored all the major volumes of the Second Regional Plan, including critical volumes such as "Public Participation in Regional Planning" (1967) and "The Second Regional Plan: A Draft for Discussion" (1968). In 1973, Bill headed up CHOICES for '76 with Michael McManus. The project produced five hour-long Emmy award-winning documentaries narrated by luminaries such as Ruby Dee, Eli Wallach and Cliff Robertson. The shows examined the challenges facing America's cities and asked citizens to provide their views on how to address these mounting challenges. The larger campaign included mailing 500,000 surveys to residents and asked viewers to return completed forms. Over 100,000 surveys were completed this way, providing a compelling experiment in the emerging field of advocacy planning.

In the 1980, Bill "stumbled into a different kind of public participation," as he recalled it, with the creation of Westchester 2000, a standing task force of over 100 county leaders in the public and private sector who met regularly to tackle the county's problems related to suburbanization, infrastructure and economic development. Similar projects in Morris and Fairfield counties and the Bronx followed in quick order. Today, the building of coalitions is standard for civic groups and political campaigns, but Bill was instrumental in creating these new strategies. In the 1990s, he provided critical direction to the fledgling Third Regional Plan, giving us a direct link to 30 years of advocacy and research. He was also the toughest editor a young graduate student ever faced.

When he retired from RPA in 1995, Bill began turning more of his attention to environmental concerns, especially the causes and effects of global climate change. He brought his customary passion to the cause, founding the Nature Network, an alliance of several dozen major environmental organizations and institutions of higher education in the New York metropolitan region.

Bill was a planner to the end. Just a month before his death, he reached out to friends and colleagues, both to let them know what was happening and — in a continuing display of his passion for causes larger than himself — to ask if there was anything he could do to help. "Cancer will defeat me very soon, though I will try to prolong life through chemo beginning next week," he wrote. While noting that there remained "much to be done, much to be done" he offered that if "you have particularly important tasks peculiar to my talents, aimed at the mission of my later life — preserving world ecosystems — I will try to get to them."

We've lost Bill's passionate voice and decades of experience, but he leaves the region a much better place for his tireless efforts.