Takeaways from 92Y’s City of Tomorrow 2020 Summit — Part I

  1. Housing reform. We need to revisit proposals for 30/70 and 80/20 plans to integrate affordable housing units into free market buildings, instead of pushing affordable housing away from the city center. This requires more city regulations and new incentives for developers.
  2. Improve public spaces through private partnerships and regulation. Given the NYC government’s $10B deficit, we need private support. We need to find ways to incentivize private companies to buy and maintain public spaces in all corners of the city, not just the wealthy areas. In terms of regulations, we should require every building that is designed today to give something back to the community (ie: a park, plaza, open market, or playground).
  3. Introduce cooperative ownership. Community Land Trusts are setup so community residents own parts of the land (or a set of blocks) in their community and have a say over programs/initiatives on that land. While these are still a new idea, if they are successful we may be able to move towards a more civilian-controlled public realm. This could lead to cooperative ownership of social infrastructure (ie: housing, health, education).
  4. Create mixed use neighborhoods and more walkable communities. We need to build communities where we can work/live/play in walking distance. We should decentralize our city and setup zoning ordinances so that our neighborhoods have diversity of use — with art and culture, mom and pop shops, healthcare, offices, manufacturing, housing, and education integrated together.
  5. Policing reform. This is a no brainer, we need more equitable policing. The panelists suggested a greater amount of community control in policing and establishing directives enforced by a review board.
  6. Provide equal distribution and access. We need to figure out how to redistribute certain resources and how to tax certain resources so that there is more equitable distribution. We need to ensure equal access to transportation, education, housing, healthcare, and internet.
  7. More resilient infrastructure. The pandemic has shown that the issue of environmental justice and social equity are intertwined. The city has to make investments related to sustainability as we prepare and react to climate change. There is good news — Local law 97 was recently enacted. Buildings have to be retrofitted to reduce their energy and carbon emissions and meet certain standards / benchmarks by 2024. The law also generates a good amount of jobs that are needed to retrofit all of these buildings in NYC.
  1. Trust in the government. The Mayor credits their success with the first wave of COVID to the fact that the city is reliable, predictable, and functional. People trust the government and follow restrictions (the same restrictions that other cities have tried to enforce).
  2. Housing first model. They recognize that the issue of homelessness is intertwined with issues of unemployment, poverty, drugs, alcohol, crime, and more. However, they believe the root of the issue is the home. They worked with state, the 10 biggest cities in the country, and NGOs to supply 3000 flats for those who were experiencing long term homelessness. They also provided healthcare services to the flats. Roughly 10 years later, they had saved more money due to less pressure on the healthcare system and a lower rate of criminality. As an added benefit, they found their city center was more pleasant and livable.
  3. Aggressive climate goals. Helsinki plans to be carbon neutral by 2025 and to be rid of coal completely by 2029. They’ve launched a competition, open to all of Europe, to determine the best way to do this.
  4. Prioritizing the vulnerable. Their COVID-19 recovery plan is prioritizing the most vulnerable in the city.
  1. Spending cuts and plan for losses — We have enough money in the city and state to get through the end of the year, but we need to make cuts to support us in the coming years. We also have to come up with a plan for when the eviction moratorium ends — what will happen to the back rent from previous residents and businesses?
  2. Request funding from Washington — We need funding from Washington for our transportation system. Without it, there are consequences. There will be more service interruptions and mechanical failures. Those who will suffer the most are essential workers who rely on public transit. And we will see a loss of productivity and economic activity that affects the entire nation.
  3. Plan for taxes — We already have the highest taxes in the country. We need to keep them as is if we are going to bring back 1M jobs and stay competitive. One option is to create a finite tax on the wealthy — one that just lasts a year or two (ie: COVID recovery fee) — to fill a hole, instead of a sustainable tax that will impact long term cost of living.
  1. Renewed appreciation of street space — There are 10,000 restaurants with outdoor dining, there’s an increase in citibike usage, and the city has been enjoying the public space together as a community. Whether for walking, sitting, dining, art, or performances, streets have become a safe community gathering space.
  2. We may be a more affordable city. As we look into how to curb public spending, we may be able to get a hold on some speculative costs that have made it so expensive to live and do business here.
  3. We can come together. This is not going to be solved by elected officials alone. We all need to lead by example. About a month ago, 170 CEOs from major employers signed a letter to the mayor expressing their commitment to the city and willingness to help with developing a plan for recovery. They also expressed their concern about security, crime, and quality of life. Money isn’t as big of an issue as management and a plan, and we can to work together to get through this.

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