New York – Sustainable and Competitive Urbanization, Infrastructure, and Finance? in the News This Week

By John Macomber

These news items from Gotham City might add some further flavor to our discussion of PlaNYC in Thursday’s class, March 7:

(Learning Hub entry here)

(Related post in this blog about current events here)


Glad to see that long view politicians and domain experts can mobilize funding to make investments based on science and with the benefit of the populace in mind!

“Department of Environmental Protection Announces Substantial Progress Towards 100 Key Initiatives Set Forth in Strategic Plan” (March 4th)

After Two Years, 57 Projects Fully Achieved and 30 More to be Completed on Schedule

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland today released the 2012 Progress Report on Strategy 2011-2014, which documents significant milestones reached during the two years since the groundbreaking plan was first introduced. Issued in 2011 with Mayor Bloomberg, the plan identified 100 distinct initiatives that will help DEP fulfill its mission to protect public health, improve water quality in the harbor, support economic development, and enhance New Yorkers’ overall quality of life by delivering high quality drinking water, managing stormwater, collecting and treating wastewater, and reducing air, noise, and hazardous materials pollution. At the plan’s mid-way point, 57 initiatives have been fully achieved, 30 are on track to be completed on schedule, and the remaining13 are in the planning and design phase.


But aren’t we learning in class that these are the kind of beneficial light touches by government that can attract private capital and get cities built?

A Stealth Tax Subsidy for Business Faces New Scrutiny” (NYT March 5)

“…the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the offices of the Goldman Sachs Group and the Bank of America Tower in New York — all of these projects, and many more, have been built using the tax-exempt bonds that are more conventionally used by cities and states to pay for roads, bridges and schools.

In all, more than $65 billion of these bonds have been issued by state and local governments on behalf of corporations since 2003, according to an analysis of Bloomberg bond data by The New York Times. During that period, the single biggest beneficiary of such securities was the Chevron Corporation, which issued bonds with a total face value of $2.6 billion, the analysis showed. Last year it reported a profit of $26 billion. At a time when Washington is rent by the politics of taxes and deficits, select companies are enjoying a tax break normally reserved for public works. This style of financing, called “qualified private activity bonds,” saves businesses money, because they can borrow at relatively low interest rates.


Maybe this nation-leading leading statistic is not part of KPI for PlaNYC and Bloomtopia?

New York City Leads Jump in Homeless” (WSJ March 4)

An average of more than 50,000 people slept each night in New York City’s homeless shelters for the first time in January, a record that underscores an unsettling national trend: a rising number of families without permanent housing. Families have become a larger share of the nation’s homeless population, growing 1.4% from 2011 to 2012, after their numbers fell as the economy emerged from recession. In Boston, authorities said there were 1,166 homeless families in December 2012, up 7.8% from the previous year. In Washington, D.C., homeless families grew 18% from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The numbers in New York, however, are starker, according to a report to be published Tuesday by the Coalition for the Homeless, a New York advocacy group, citing New York City government figures. More than 21,000 children—an unprecedented 1% of the city’s youth—slept each night in a city shelter in January, an increase of 22% in the past year, the report said, while homeless families now spend more than a year in a shelter, on average, for the first time since 1987. In January, an average of 11,984 homeless families slept in shelters each night, a rise of 18% from a year earlier. “New York is facing a homeless crisis worse than any time since the Great Depression,” said Mary Brosnahan, president of the Coalition for the Homeless.


Smart City or Big Brother?

“More Cameras for New York City Streets” (NYT Op-Ed March 1)

The Bloomberg administration has been working to combat a deadly problem in New York City: drivers who speed or run through red lights.

What the city needs is what many other cities have: street cameras to catch drivers breaking the traffic laws. The administration has been pushing for more cameras at stoplights for years, and the transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, also wants a new batch of “speed” cameras that catch drivers ignoring the city’s normal speed limit of 30 miles per hour. But decisions about traffic cameras in the city must be approved by the State Legislature. That’s ridiculous, of course….New York City has 12,000 intersections with traffic lights, but the state has allowed the city to put up only 150 cameras to take photos of the license plates of cars illegally running through lights. City officials report that when a camera goes up, violations go down.

Late last year, 21 members of New York’s City Council and a number of city health advocates and good-government groups appealed to state lawmakers to allow more cameras to make the streets safer. With cuts in traffic policing over the last decade, these cameras could fill in enforcement gaps. And they would save lives and money.

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What are your thoughts? And more importantly, how would you place the anecdotal stories above in a replicable framework where other cities and other financiers and vendors can extend the lessons of this great metropolis to other cities? How do investors and vendors react to stories like the ones above? Are there take-aways in market selection and private sector action, or only in government policy?



One thought on “New York – Sustainable and Competitive Urbanization, Infrastructure, and Finance? in the News This Week

  1. Pingback: Causality and Hierarchy | Sustainable Cities: Urbanization, Infrastructure, and Finance

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