Urban Policy

A Water Availability Intervention in New York City Public Schools: Influence on Youths’ Water and Milk Behaviors

A Water Availability Intervention in New York City Public Schools: Influence on Youths’ Water and Milk Behaviors
American Journal of Public Health, Reviews In Advance (doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302221). Published online ahead of print December 18, 2014.

Brian Elbel, Tod Mijanovich, Courtney Abrams, Jonathan Cantor, Lillian Dunn, Cathy Nonas, Kristin Cappola, Stephen Onufrak, and Sohyun Park
01/05/2015

Objectives. We determined the influence of “water jets” on observed water and milk taking and self-reported fluid consumption in New York City public schools.

Methods. From 2010 to 2011, before and 3 months after water jet installation in 9 schools, we observed water and milk taking in cafeterias (mean 1000 students per school) and surveyed students in grades 5, 8, and 11 (n = 2899) in the 9 schools that received water jets and 10 schools that did not. We performed an observation 1 year after implementation (2011–2012) with a subset of schools. We also interviewed cafeteria workers regarding the intervention.

Results. Three months after implementation we observed a 3-fold increase in water taking (increase of 21.63 events per 100 students; P < .001) and a much smaller decline in milk taking (-6.73 events per 100 students; P = .012), relative to comparison schools. At 1 year, relative to baseline, there was a similar increase in water taking and no decrease in milk taking. Cafeteria workers reported that the water jets were simple to clean and operate.

Conclusions. An environmental intervention in New York City public schools increased water taking and was simple to implement. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print December 18, 2014: e1–e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302221)

The State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2013

The State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2013
Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, New York University

I.G. Ellen et al.
05/28/2014

The State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2013 report , published annually by the NYU Furman Center, provides a compendium of data and analysis about New York City’s housing, land use, demographics, and quality of life indicators for each borough and the city’s 59 community districts.

The report combines timely and expert analysis of NYU Furman Center researchers with data transparency. It is presented in three parts:

Part 1: Focus on Economic Inequality

Each year, the State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods describes, contextualizes, and provides analysis on a pressing and policy-relevant issue affecting New York City. In 2013, the report focuses on economic inequality in New York City, analyzing changes over time in the distribution of the city’s income, economic segregation of city residents, and the neighborhood environments experienced by people of different incomes.

Part 2: City-Wide Analysis

The City-Wide Analysis provides a broad, longitudinal analysis of the New York City's housing and neighborhoods. The chapter is divided into five parts: land use and the built environment; homeowners and their homes; renters and their homes; income and workers; and neighborhood services and conditions.

Part 3: City, Borough, and Community District Data

The data section provides current and historical statistics for over 50 housing, neighborhood, and socioeconomic indicators at the city, borough, and community district levels. It also includes indicator definitions and rankings; methods; and an index of New York City’s Community Districts and Sub-Borough Areas.

Where, When, Why, and For Whom Do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away from the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects

Where, When, Why, and For Whom Do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away from the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects
Annual Review of Sociology. 2014. 40:559–79. 10.1146/annurev-soc-071913-043350

Sharkey, P., and J. Faber
05/05/2014

The literature on neighborhood effect frequently is evaluated or interpreted in relation to the question, "Do neighborhoods matter?" We argue that this question has had a disproportionate influence on the field and does not align with the complexity of theoretical models of neighborhood effects or empirical findings that have arisen from the literature. In this article, we focus on empirical work that considers how different dimensions of individuals' residential contexts become salient in their lives, how contexts influence individuals' lives over different timeframes, how individuals are affected by social processes operating at different scales, and how residential contexts influence the lives of individuals in heterogeneous ways. In other words, we review research that examines where, when, why, and for whom do residential contexts matter. Using the large literature on neighborhoods and educational and cognitive outcomes as an example, the research we review suggests that any attempt to reduce the literature to a single answer about whether neighborhoods matter is misguided. We call for a more flexible study of context effects in which theory, measurement, and methods are more closely aligned with the specific mechanisms and social processes under study.

The Foreclosure Crisis and Community Development: Exploring the Foreclosed Stock in Hard-Hit Neighborhoods

The Foreclosure Crisis and Community Development: Exploring the Foreclosed Stock in Hard-Hit Neighborhoods
Housing Studies, forthcoming

Ingrid Gould Ellen, Josiah Madar, and Max Weselcouch
03/06/2014

As the foreclosure crisis continues, many communities are faced with a glut of properties that have completed the foreclosure process and are now owned by banks or other mortgage lenders. These properties, referred to as “real estate owned (REO),” often sit vacant for extended periods and, recent studies suggest, depress neighboring property values. They also impose significant costs on local governments, which must try to address the risk of crime, fire, and blight that vacant buildings pose. In addition, many worry that REO properties sold to unscrupulous short-term investors hasten neighborhood decline.

In this article we shed new light on the “REO problem” by studying the stock of REO properties at the neighborhood level in three urban areas: Fulton County, Georgia (which includes Atlanta), Miami-Dade County, Florida, and New York City. Using a combination of longitudinal administrative data sets on foreclosure filings, auction sales, and property transactions provided by local government sources, we identify every property transfer into REO ownership in recent years and all subsequent transfers of these properties. To explore the ongoing neighborhood and community development challenges, we divide census tracts into four groups based on their concentrations of REO properties as of the end of 2011. We then compare these neighborhood types across several dimensions. Because we use a uniform methodology for all three areas, we are also able to compare neighborhood groups across jurisdictions with the metrics we calculate.

We find several neighborhoods in Fulton County and Miami-Dade County with extremely high concentrations of REO properties as of the end of 2011, including some tracts with more than 100 REO properties. In New York City, however, REO concentrations are generally much lower, and no census tract had more than 12 REO properties. In all three jurisdictions, the neighborhoods with relatively high concentrations of REO properties are generally not the most distressed areas of their regions in terms of poverty and unemployment, but are still high-poverty and potentially vulnerable. Moreover, they are disproportionately black, highlighting the uneven impact the foreclosure crisis may be having on communities. Importantly, we find that that the number of REO properties in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of each area was declining as of the end of 2012 (or 2011, our latest year of data in Miami-Dade County), generally in line with the countywide or citywide trend in REO inventories, and that investors did not account for an appreciably higher proportion of purchasers of REO properties in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Furthermore, few of the properties that were purchased by investors appear to have been “flipped” within a short period. On the other hand, we also find that those REO properties that remained in these cities as of the end of 2012 or 2011 (including those in hard-hit neighborhoods) had been in REO for a longer duration than was typical one year earlier, so the composition of the REO stock may shifting towards more problematic properties. Additionally, in Fulton County’s hardest-hit tracts REO properties made up about 40 percent of all sales in 2012, so were likely still exerting significant downward pressure on housing prices. Finally while the National Stabilization Program (NSP) may be improving neighborhoods in other ways, we find that only a negligible share of the REO sales in the hardest-hit tracts of Fulton and Miami-Dade Counties in 2010 and 2011 were to non-profit entities and developers using NSP funds.

Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools

Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools
Journal of Housing Economics 23(1), 2014: 28-40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhe.2013.11.005

Ingrid Gould Ellen, Amy Ellen Schwartz, and Keren Horn
03/06/2014

The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. Rather than concentrating low income households in designated developments, vouchers allow families to choose their housing units and neighborhoods. In this project we explore whether low income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. Unlike previous experimental work, which has focused on a small sample of voucher holders constrained to live in low-poverty neighborhoods, we look at the voucher population as a whole and explore the broad range of neighborhoods in which they live. Relying on internal data from HUD on the location of assisted households, we link each voucher holder in the country to the closest elementary school within their school district. We compare the characteristics of the schools that voucher holders are likely to attend to the characteristics of those accessible to other households receiving place based housing subsidies, other similar unsubsidized households and fair market rent units within the same state and metropolitan area. These comparisons provide us with a portrait of the schools that children might have attended absent HUD assistance. In comparison to other poor households in the same metropolitan areas, we find that the schools near voucher holders have lower performing students than the schools near other poor households without a housing subsidy. We probe this surprising finding by exploring whether differences between the demographic characteristics of voucher holders and other poor households explain the differences in the characteristics of nearby schools, and whether school characteristics vary with length of time in the voucher program. We also examine variation across metropolitan areas in the relative quality of schools near to voucher holders and whether this variation is explained by economic, socio-demographic or policy differences across cities.

Spatial Segmentation and the Black Middle Class

Spatial Segmentation and the Black Middle Class
American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 119 no. 4, pp. 903-54. The University of Chicago

Sharkey, P.
01/01/2014

Ethnographic studies of the black middle class focus attention on the ways in which residential environments condition the experiences of different segments of the black class structure. This study places these arguments in a larger demographic context by providing a national analysis of neighborhood inequality and spatial inequality of different racial and ethnic groups in urban America. The findings show that there has been no change over time in the degree to which majority-black neighborhoods are surrounded by spatial disadvantage. Predominantly black neighborhoods, regardless of socioeconomic composition, continue to be spatially linked with areas of severe disadvantage. However, there has been substantial change in the degree to which middle- and upper-income African-American households have separated themselves from highly disadvantaged neighborhoods. These changes are driven primarily by the growing segment of middle- and upper-income African-Americans living in neighborhoods in which they are not the majority group, both in central cities and in suburbs.

Mobility and the Metropolis

Mobility and the Metropolis
Washington, D.C.: The Economic Mobility Project, An Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts

Graham, B., and P. Sharkey
12/03/2013

In a 2011 public opinion poll, The Pew Charitable Trusts asked Americans how important they thought a number of factors were in determining whether people in the United States get ahead or fall behind economically. More than 80 percent of respondents identified factors such as hard work, ambition, and access to education as key drivers of upward mobility, while less than half viewed growing up in a good neighborhood as an important factor. On the contrary, respondents strongly agreed that a young person with drive, ambition, and creativity growing up in a poor neighborhood is more likely to get ahead economically than someone growing up in a more affluent neighborhood who lacks those attributes.

Contrary to these perceptions, however, evidence is building that location actually matters a great deal and that Americans’ economic mobility prospects vary by state, locality, and even neighborhood.

For example, a 2009 Pew study indicated that a person who experienced high neighborhood poverty throughout childhood had a much higher risk of moving down the economic ladder as an adult. Other recent research examining mobility among metropolitan areas, including nearby towns and rural areas, showed that economic mobility varied widely across these localities. And, in a 2012, first-of-its-kind analysis of Americans’ economic mobility at the state level, Pew found that a number of states, primarily in the Mideast and New England regions, had higher mobility than the national average, and other states, primarily in the South, had lower mobility. 

This report adds to the growing body of research as it examines economic mobility across 96 U.S. metropolitan areas and the role of place in Americans’ prospects of moving up or down the economic ladder. It also offers insight on why and how location matters. Although a host of factors, such as state and local policies and labor market conditions, could influence mobility, this analysis considers one: neighborhood economic segregation, or the degree to which the poor and the wealthy live apart from each other. To begin to answer this question, Pew commissioned original research that, using three longitudinal data sets, measures differences in economic mobility across American metro areas over the last generation and identifies above-average-, average-, and below-average-mobility areas. The analysis then looks at whether metro areas’ rates of economic segregation are related to their rates of economic mobility.

Dispelling An Urban Legend: Frequent Emergency Department Users Have Substantial Burden Of Disease

Dispelling An Urban Legend: Frequent Emergency Department Users Have Substantial Burden Of Disease
Health Affairs, 32, no.12 (2013):2099-2108

Billings, John and Maria C. Raven
12/01/2013

Urban legend has often characterized frequent emergency department (ED) patients as mentally ill substance users who are a costly drain on the health care system and who contribute to ED overcrowding because of unnecessary visits for conditions that could be treated more efficiently elsewhere. This study of Medicaid ED users in New York City shows that behavioral health conditions are responsible for a small share of ED visits by frequent users, and that ED use accounts for a small portion of these patients’ total Medicaid costs. Frequent ED users have a substantial burden of disease, and they have high rates of primary and specialty care use. They also have linkages to outpatient care that are comparable to those of other ED patients. It is possible to use predictive modeling to identify who will become a repeat ED user and thus to help target interventions. However, policy makers should view reducing frequent ED use as only one element of more-comprehensive intervention strategies for frequent health system users.

Buying Sky: The Market for Transferable Development Rights in New York City

Buying Sky: The Market for Transferable Development Rights in New York City
Furman Center Policy Brief; October 2013

The Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy
10/22/2013

New York City’s zoning code (known as the “Zoning Resolution”) regulates land use in part by limiting the square footage of the building that landowners can develop on their property. Some buildings are built below the applicable limit—because they are constrained by other regulations such as historic preservation rules, they were built subject to earlier, more-restrictive zoning rules, or the owner chose to develop the property less intensely than the zoning allows because of market conditions or other considerations applicable when the building was built. The Zoning Resolution provides limited opportunities for an owner of land that is less than fully developed to transfer her unused development rights to other properties. This enables the recipients of those development rights (known at that point as “transferrable development rights,” “TDRs,” or “air rights”) to develop larger buildings than the Zoning Resolution otherwise permits, while the seller loses the right to ever use those rights on her own property.

Home parking convenience, household car usage, and implications to residential parking policies

Home parking convenience, household car usage, and implications to residential parking policies
Transport Policy, 29, 97-106

Guo, Zhan
09/16/2013

This paper investigates the effect of home parking convenience on households' car usage, and the implications to residential parking policies. A random sample of 840 households is selected from a travel survey in the New York City region, and their home parking types are identified through Google Street View. It found that with the same car ownership level, households without off-street parking used cars much less, and relied more on alternative modes than those with off-street parking. For households with access to both garage and street parking, those who use the handy street parking tend to make more car tours than those who do not. In general, convenient home parking encourages households' car usage. Policy implications to the minimum off-street parking requirement, residents parking permit, street cleaning, and new urbanism neighborhood design are discussed.

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