An International Perspective of Contemporary Urban Planning
Conversation with Ray Bromley
Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2020
pp. 54 – 66
Dr. Ray Bromley served on the full-time faculty of the State University of New York at Albany, from 1985 till his retirement in January 2020 with a full professorship since 1987. He is now an Emeritus Professor, focusing on research and writing. He was born in Britain, educated from Cambridge University in the UK combining Geography with Urban Studies and Latin American Studies. He served for ten years on the faculty of Swansea University in South Wales specializing in urban, regional and national planning, before moving to a consultancy assignment in Peru and then on to Albany.
His primary academic fields are Urban Studies and Planning, Geography, Latin American Studies, South Asian Studies, and International Development Studies. He is the author or co-author of three books, and the editor or co-editor of five books, a nine-book series, and four theme issues of academic journals. In addition, he has authored over seventy articles in academic journals and edited books. Most of his work has focused on microenterprise, informality and casual labor, and on the history and contemporary practice of urban, regional and national planning. He held Fulbright Fellowships in Peru and India, and he has worked for the United Nations, USAID, and various consultants associated with the UN, USAID and the World Bank.
I have known Dr. Ray Bromley since 2000 as my teacher who has an exceptional impression on me. His vast knowledge in Urban Planning and international issues used to transpire in his lectures and sensitize us-students towards these issues. As the Director of the Department of Geography & Planning, he always helped me during my graduate years in SUNY, Albany. It is very nostalgic to interview Dr. Bromley to discuss different issues of urban planning after twenty years. This interview may not cover what all Dr. Bromley is knowledgeable of, but I tried to include as many issues as possible that are relevant today.
You studied geography and planning and have extensive experience in regional planning, urban planning, and community development. How do you relate them and how do these different areas of knowledge helped you in practice and teaching urban issues? Do you think a geographer and an urban planner look at urban issues differently? Since you have education in both areas, how has it helped you to understand urban issues?
As a field of study, geography is much broader than urban planning, and it is not necessarily applied to solve specific human problems. Geography embraces both social and environmental sciences, and it places special emphasis on issues of location, spatial distribution and interaction, and mapping. In contrast, urban planning focuses on a specific set of policy issues as they affect urban and suburban areas. Social and environmental issues and location are important to planning, but the scale of analysis is usually more limited, and emphasis should always go to “quality of life” and “environmental sustainability” issues as they affect the local population.
Ideally, planning should function at multiple levels: national, regional, municipal and neighborhood. Each scale of analysis needs coordination with the level below and the level above, and national, state and local governments should work together, exchanging information and coordinating policies. India is the most populous and complex democracy on earth, and this creates enormous problems in coordinating multi-level planning. Major efforts have been made ever since Independence in 1947, but there are still major problems in the quality and flow of information between levels, and in the coordination of development strategies, budgets and legislation between the different levels.