President's Viewpoint - Architects give AIANYS $75,000 gift

Originally published in the 2006 newsletter of the American Institute of Architects, Westchester Mid-Hudson Chapter.

by Michael Shilale, AIA, LEED - June, 2006

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Recently your President, President-Elect and Executive Director attended a planning retreat at Hunter Mountain to help AIA NYS set priorities for the next two years. With snow still on some of the ski slopes it was difficult not to dream of skiing Hunter North once more. In my youth there was not a slope too challenging to master. Now I am more content sipping hot brandy in the lodge.

Nevertheless, our focus, and that of some thirty other AIA leaders throughout the state, was to brainstorm how the state can be more effective and crystalize no more than five specific initiatives with action plans and deadlines for their successful implementation.

Our own Russ Davidson, President Elect at AIANYS and a past president of our chapter, helped coordinate the day and reminded us all that thirty architects in a room is not the punch line of some bad joke. It amounts to a significant gift to our state organization. Since we are all board volunteers and based upon an average billing rate of $150.00 per hour, including two 8-hour days, a total of $72,000. in time and expertise was spent planning our state’s future. I won’t steal any of New York State’s thunder by divulging the results of our planning. However, I will tell you that if only a few of the initiatives are implemented we will have a much stronger more effective state organization that will provide valuable services to our chapter and our over 6,000 members.

Our NYS Director Ted D’Amore also attended the conference. I was not in his visioning group and can only comment on his performance on the guitar and harmonica at our evening respite. Neil Young would be proud.

I would like to talk to you about service to our profession, our communities and ourselves. Your local chapter succeeds because of the twelve volunteer board members who donate of their time more than $72,000 every calendar year to bring you programs and events to equip us all to practice more professionally, effectively and profitably. I know many of you are out too many evenings - meeting with existing or potential clients, or serving your communities in a variety of ways. I am still asking, however, all of our other 500 members to give a little back to AIA Westchester-Mid Hudson to assist our chapter in improving services to members and improving our communities. Volunteer for a committee or for board service. We need your help.

Many of us are disheartened by our lack of influence in the design and construction of the built environment around us. We have only ourselves to blame. When was the last time you heard a politician or community leader say “According to the AIA…. “ Not often. This is about to change. At the national level, at the state level and, I believe, at the local level positions statements and positions papers will be written delienating clear and positive action on so many issues critical to our communities. Whether it is affordable housing, downtown or waterfront redevelopment, crumbling schools or smart growth, architects should rally together, build a consensus for a strong opinion and let ourselves be heard. AIA NY has made their theme for this year “Architecture as Public Policy.” AIANY hopes to be effective in advocating for or against planning and projects in NYC. Our positions might not always be popular but we need to have a voice in how our communities are designed. To borrow a “Yogiism” from our Spring Symposium dedicated to Urban Policy and Regional Design, “in order to be heard you need to say something.”