Capstone Courses and Projects

Brennan Center for Justice

Determining the Empirical Impact of Corporate Independent Expenditures on Elections and Political Integrity
The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law is a non­partisan think tank that combines public policy and public interest law to advocate for measurable legislative and legal changes that advance fundamental issues of democracy and jus­tice in the legal sector. Following the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, the Brennan Center for Justice commissioned a Capstone team to examine the impact that corporate independent expenditures have on repre­sentative democracy. To understand the effect, the Capstone team compared trends in democratic indicators such as voter turnout, electoral competitiveness, and corruption convictions across states with varying historical restrictions on cor­porate independent expenditures. The information was compiled and analyzed to support the Brennan Center's campaign finance litigation efforts.

Congressional Research Service

Improving the Effectiveness of the Supplemental Security Income Program
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) works for the U.S. Congress to identify and clarify policy problems, explore policy options and potential impacts, monitor and assess program implementation and oversight, and help lawmakers understand legislative procedures and processes. CRS was interested in understanding why the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pro­gram, which acts as a safety net against poverty for the elderly, blind, and dis­abled, has not grown in enrollment as rap­idly as other income assistance programs. The client requested a Capstone team to study the effects of proposed SSI policies on enrollment, program cost, and the per­centage of recipients under the federal poverty line. The Capstone team consid­ered the effects of three SSI policy propos­als, including the elimination of Social Security income, to calculate SSI benefits. The team also paid special attention to the incidence of poverty among the elderly recipients, particularly those individuals aged 85 and older.

Cricket Island Foundation & Social Justice Philanthropy Collaborative

Analyzing the Impact of the 2008 Financial Crisis on the Field of National Social Justice Philanthropy
Concerned that the full impact of the 2008 financial crisis has not yet been felt in the field of social justice philanthropy, Cricket Island Foundation (CIF), a New York­based foundation supporting youth­led social change, partnered with the Social Justice Philanthropy Collaborative (SJPC), a net­work of national philanthropic organiza­tions that calls on grantmakers and donors to deepen their commitment to funding social change. Together they requested a Capstone team to assess the current asset value, spending rate, and investment strategies of national social justice funders and to project what those might look like through 2015. The Capstone team designed criteria to determine which foundations to study, created an interview tool, conducted background research and financial modeling on the study popula­tion, interviewed a subset of foundations, and highlighted emerging trends. The Capstone team presented its findings to the clients who will use this research to publish a report for national social justice funders and their grantees. The clients will use this data to drive long­term funding strategies and educate grantees about the financial health of the field.

New York City Department of Finance

Commercial Fleet Programs
The New York City Department of Finance (DOF) is the primary revenue collection agency for City government. DOF currently offers four programs designed to facilitate summons closure for owners of commer­cial fleets. The programs range from sim­ple notification programs to substantial discounts in return for the commercial entity waiving its rights to contest a sum­mons. The DOF engaged the Capstone team to conduct a comprehensive evalua­tion of its programs and determine whether they are still appropriate solutions to the present­day challenges and needs of com­mercial ticketing in NYC. The team con­ducted interviews with different stakeholders, researched best practices in other munici­palities, and conducted quantitative data analysis to produce a report for the DOF. The report contains feasible policy and procedural recommendations that will help DOF improve and re­envision these programs with respect to the agency's pol­icy objectives.

New York City Department of Transportation

Lifecycle Cost Analysis of Sustainable Streetscape Projects
In the design and construction of its streets and public spaces, NYCDOT seeks to use designs and materials that are high quality, durable, and cost effective. Currently, the full lifecycle costs and bene­fits of materials and designs are not con­sidered when assessing NYCDOT capital streetscape projects. To help NYCDOT bet­ter understand the full lifecycle costs and benefits of various design and material choices, the Capstone team analyzed data on recent NYCDOT capital projects through two lenses: the current capital budget approach and the lifecycle costing analysis approach. The team conducted research on materials and designs currently used in sustainable streetscape projects in NYC, Chicago, and London. The results of the comparative analysis will be a useful framework for NYCDOT and other city agencies to use to assess future capital projects.

The Office of the Bronx Borough President

Redevelopment Models and Analysis of the Kingsbridge Armory
The Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx is a 575,000 square ft space that has been predominately vacant since 1994. The City is currently seeking a sustainable redevel­opment plan for the Armory that is appro­priate for the local community. The Capstone team was engaged to work with the Office of the Bronx Borough President and the Kingsbridge Armory Task Force to develop financial models for the redevel­opment of the Kingsbridge Armory. The Capstone team conducted a literature review, interviews, and a retail survey of the Kingsbridge neighborhood. As a final deliverable the team developed three financial models for the redevelopment along with baseline criteria to use to eval­uate future Request for Proposals to rede­velop the space.