$10G prize for 'bold new' ideas on LI's downtowns

Northport (May 22, 2009)

Northport (May 22, 2009) (Credit: Craig Ruttle )

Calling all visionaries. A Long Island contest is looking for a few good envelope-pushing ideas.

A Garden City group Wednesday announced a "Build a Better Burb" contest, with a top prize of $10,000 for the winning idea on how to re-imagine and reinvigorate Long Island's aging downtowns.

The Long Island Index People's Choice Award creators said they seek "bold new ideas" on "creatively retrofitting or redeveloping existing downtowns" that can be about a particular downtown or a "prototypical" one.

"Hopefully we get some crazy ideas, too," said Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation and publisher of the Index. The contest would look for doable proposals but, "whenever there are breakthroughs, you have to push the envelope."

The new competition hopes to attract entries from planners, architects, urban designers, students, engineers and "visionaries" everywhere who are capable of meeting the contest's guidelines. They'll have until June 21 to register at buildabetterburb.org.

A blue-ribbon panel will select at least 20 finalists by July 6, when the public can begin to vote on winners to be announced in September. A $2,500 prize will go to the top student entry. There is no fee to compete.

"There should be no preconceptions about what is or is not possible," competition adviser and "Retrofitting Suburbia" co-author June Williamson said in a prepared statement.

"What would you do in these acres of opportunity?" said Williamson, an associate professor of architecture at City College of New York. "Build a car-free community for thousands? Plant an oasis of urban agriculture? Produce renewable energy and provide well-paying green jobs? The possibilities are endless."

Douzinas said the contest is modeled on similar ones held elsewhere and was a good way of "bringing some of the best professional thinking about design and suburban change and development to Long Island."

The Long Island Index marshals the research of experts and polling to produce an annual report about Long Island life. Its 2010 "Places to Grow" report found that many acres are available for development in downtowns.

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