Student Forum Explores Disaster Resilience and Reconstruction
Makeshift store in earthquake-devastated area of Haiti. [Photo by Kylie Davis.]
According to data collected by NYU Wagner Professor Rae Zimmerman, the rate of natural disasters has been on the rise since the early 1970s. Causing the highest fatalities are earthquakes, storms and droughts, and intense heat spells (in that order).
This trend line shows the urgent need for vastly increased attention to disaster planning and preparedness across sectors. But Wagner urban planning students found indications of planning gaps during trips to scenes of devastation in Haiti and Chile, where they participated in reconstruction work. Lack of public-safety preparedness and infrastructure fortification added tragic dimensions, while arduous and complex rebuilding efforts by the state, international aid groups, and local agencies were sometimes found halting or, at times, loosely coordinated.
On March 29, 2011, with the world watching recovery efforts in the wake of the Japan tsunami and nuclear power catastrophe, NYU Wagner's Urban Planning Student Association and International Public Service Association brought together students, faculty and practitioners for a forum entitled "Disaster Resilience and Reconstruction Events."
The first panel was composed of students whose recent visits to Haiti and Chile arose from their enrollment in "Post Catastrophe Reconstruction" (co-taught by James P. Stuckey, division dean, NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate) or "Preparing for Emergencies" (with Professor Zimmerman). These students -- including Kylie Davis, Sapna Bhatt, Amy Southworth, Mat Sanders, and Iria Touzon, who said she was visiting Japan when the tsunami hit --offered observations of what worked well, where relief and rebuilding fell short, and why.
In the wake of any natural disaster, such as t Hurricane Katrina in Sanders' hometown of New Orleans, "What you see is survivors adapt to the new reality," he said. "But when you adapt, you're not ‘building back better.' The role of government is to see the big picture and rebuild in a resilient way. If you leave it to individuals, you get haphazard development."
Kylie said, "In reality, people really know how to take care of themselves in certain ways," and the goal of reconstruction participants from the public and private sectors should be to help them to do so, and learn from it.
Problems can actually begin, said Bhatt, when displaced persons are separated from their devastated communities by necessity. While transitional housing is provided on an urgent basis, the urgency wanes, and temporary housing becomes virtually permanent.
A second panel focused on the importance of building pre-disaster resilience and the many forms that it should assume but rarely does; in the U.S, for instance, some of the largest population growth has occurred in coastal areas threatened by rising sea levels due to global warming.
"Resilience," said Zimmerman, "starts before disasters as well as afterward - that is, building that resilience into the community and the infrastructure."
Magarita Pajaro (MUP '05), who has worked at the World Bank and is now with CB Emmanual Partners, moderated the panel. Participants also included Amy Stroud of Build.Found, and Donald Watson of EarthRise design. A former professor of architecture at Rensselaer, Watson said: "The next disaster is the one we failed to plan for." We can't rely on disaster response, he added - for by then "it's already too late.
"Designing for resilience is about reducing the cost of disasters. It is so important - you need to engage yourself, family, community in this discussion," he said.
The event at Wagner was put together principally by urban planning graduate students Amy Faust and Angel Chen, who was moderator for the student panel.
NYU Wagner Joins the Newly Launched New Cities Foundation
Partnering with leading global companies, research institutions and nonprofits, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University has become a Member of The New Cities Foundation, a newly established non-profit Swiss institution dedicated to improving the quality of life and work in the 21st century global city.
The Foundation, launched on March 28, 2011, will perform a unique role in developing new models of collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors that will benefit cities around the world. Through its Task Force and the annual New Cities Summit, the Foundation will be a true "laboratory of ideas," leveraging its members' leadership, expertise, innovations, relationships and products to ensure that the urban future is a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable one. It will be chaired by John Rossant, the executive chairman of Geneva-based PublicisLive, which produces major international conferences such as the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The Foundation's first Founding Members are GE, Cisco, and Ericsson. In addition to NYU Wagner, the Members include global leaders such as Orange (France Telecome), GDF Suez, and the Gateway House think tank in India. The first Summit, a premier global event for high-level exchange and innovation on the future of urbanization, will be held in late 2011 or early 2012 in an Asian city.
"NYU Wagner and New Cities Foundation share a common belief in the power of collaboration - the need to unite sectors to jointly develop fresh, bold solutions to increasingly complex problems facing cities around the world," said Ellen Schall, Dean of NYU Wagner.
For more information, see the press release here.
Class on Design Thinking Makes Its Debut [Video]
Mike Peng, adjunct professor, "Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Problem Solving," Fall, 2010.
A new course at NYU Wagner taught by Mike Peng of IDEO, an adjunct professor, introduced students to the concept of design thinking. In their final projects, student teams employed design thinking, an approach most commonly used in the development of consumer products, to effect policy change and social impact. The challenge was to come up with people-centered improvements for New York City schools, subways, hospital care, or other services. In this NYU Wagner video, Peng discusses design thinking and its relevance for change makers. The students presented their final presentations, also excerpted here, at the close of last semester (Fall, 2010). The course title was "Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Problem Solving."
Prof. Paul Light's book, "Driving Social Change," Explores Social Entrepreneurship
Professor Paul Light's latest book looks at social entrepreneurship in a global context and includes a foreward by Catherine Reynolds.
Paul Light's critically praised new book, "Driving Social Change: How to Solve the World's Toughest Problems," marks the inaugural collaborative work of his NYU Center for Global Public Leadership for Social Change, which is a joint initiative of NYU and the government of the United Arab Emirates to promote public service and social change across the globe, drawing on research, case studies, and networks.
In the book, whose foreward is by Catherine B. Reynolds, chairman of the board of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, Light cogently considers the "onslaught" of urgent threats around the world, from epidemics and political corruption to failed states and environmental devastation. But he writes from a hopeful perspective about the possibility for improvement, "based on the notion that intractable problems can be solved if agents of change have the purpose and perseverance to confront the status quo...."
Light is Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, home of the NYU Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship. At the center of his thought are change agents known as social entrepreneurs. He engages the following questions: Are we relying too much on lone wolves, such as the social entrepreneur?; what are the key drivers of social change?; how do breakthroughs really occur?
"Social entrepreneurship," writes Light, "is a critically important part of the agitation needed for change," but hardly the only ingredient. The book focuses on the overall pieces that must come together to create breakthroughs. And it shows why it takes more than a good idea or plan of action to solve the world's toughest problems.
Richard Brodsky Named Senior Fellow
Richard Brodsky, a highly respected former New York State Assemblyman, has joined NYU Wagner as a Senior Fellow.
Brodsky will work on developing courses and symposia on a variety of public issues, including governance reform of private and public institutions, national and international capital movement between the private and public sectors, and other matters reflecting his long experience in government.
In addition, he will work cooperatively with other disciplines and elements of the University community, and write and speak on issues of public importance within and outside NYU. Much of his efforts will focus on the important but under-developed connections between government and other sectors. He also will teach, and has begun to do so this semester, co-teaching a graduate class on Public Policy and The Arts.
"I am delighted that Richard Brodsky has agreed to join us as Senior Fellow," said Ellen Schall, Dean of NYU Wagner. "Richard brings enormous experience in the workings of state and local government, a keen understanding of what it takes to bring about change, and, not least, unmatched enthusiasm."
Brodsky was a Member of the New York State Assembly from 1982 to 2010, and is a graduate of Brandeis University and Harvard Law School.
"NYU Wagner, as part of a global network university, has a critically important role in educating leaders for public service, he said. "Now, more than ever, we need individuals of the highest caliber, integrity, and training to devote their careers to public life and the public good. I'm delighted to work with the outstanding faculty, administration and student body at one of the world's great universities. My thanks to Dean Schall and the leadership of NYU."
2011 'State of the Borough' Address Spotlights Capstone Program
The Capstone Program at NYU Wagner came in for high praise in the State of the Borough address delivered February 24, 2011, by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.
"In October," he stated, "New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service chose the Kingsbridge Armory for a study through its highly competitive Capstone Program. The Capstone Program is very well-respected, so much so that multiple city agencies have used its services to design and plan major projects. For several months, Capstone has been providing our task force with valuable support as we move forward on developing a new plan for the Armory.
"The report of this task force must be the cornerstone of a new RFP, and I invite the Mayor to join with me to responsibly develop the K ingsbridge Armory. Responsible development means that whatever plan we choose has a direct positive impact on all citizens...." said Diaz.
The Capstone Program is learning in action. Part of the core curriculum of the MPA and MUP programs at Wagner, it provides students with both a critical learning experience and an opportunity to perform a public service. Over the course of an academic year, students work in teams, either to address challenges and identify opportunities for a client organization or to conduct research on a pressing social question. Ultimately, Capstone contributes not only to the students' education, but also to the public good.
Conversation Starter: 'Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Act' - Part II?
Professor Victor Rodwin writes:
The House vote to repeal what critics call "Obamacare" (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - ACA -- signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010) was a key part of the GOP campaign to win back the House of Representatives in the November elections. It worked as an effective mobilizing call to arms.
HR2 (Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Act) passed the House by a vote of 245 to 189 on January 19, 2011. The Senate, however, killed the bill February 2, and the issue receded to a background murmur. Republicans and Democrats have drawn their swords over the President's budget, instead.
Still, repealing the health care act is likely to return to the political agenda. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) states that "The Congress can do better in terms of replacing Obamacare with common sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance and expand access for Americans."
To assess such a proposition, one would have to know more details about his party's solutions. But proposals so far are conspicuously absent.
After Congress passed the ACA, Boehner called it a "dangerous experiment." Texas Gov. Rick Perry called it "socialism on American soil." Many of their Republican colleagues have reread the script used by the American Medical Association (AMA) in opposing extensions of health insurance coverage propounded by President Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton. They suggest that the ACA will result in a "government take-over" of American medicine, at worst, and "government-run" health care, at best.
But such attacks are dangerously misleading because they distort present realities and generate ill-founded fears.
We already have a massive government role in American health care; and for good reasons. We have socialized expenditures for our highest-risk populations - the elderly and severely handicapped (Medicare) and for the very poor (Medicaid) -- and we have a system of socialized medicine for our military veterans, which delivers health care of higher quality than what is received by the average American.
At the same time, most health care in the U.S. is provided by private non-profit hospitals and private doctors reimbursed on a fee-for-service basis. Clinical decisions remain largely in the hands of our physicians and to the extent that there has been increasing intervention and regulation of these decisions, it has come most forcefully from private insurance companies. Meanwhile, we have more government expenditure of biomedical research (NIH) and public health (CDC) than any nation in the world. And the system produces staggering rates of innovation in pharmaceutical research, medical devices and medicine.
The ACA is largely a bipartisan, half-way reform strategy inspired more by former Republican Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts than by left-leaning advocates of single-payer health insurance reform. It does not nationalize the health insurance industry. It does not increase the share of public hospitals. It does not set uniform prices for hospital and physician payment across all payers. And it does not assure universal coverage.
At best, the ACA, if implemented in 2014, will begin to increase coverage to 32 million of the more than 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured. It will achieve this objective through Medicaid expansion and the creation of health insurance exchanges that will strengthen federal regulation of the private health insurance industry through the prohibition of risk selection by insurance companies (the ban on refusals to cover pre-existing conditions and to set annual and life-time limits on coverage).
Finally, the ACA, passed before the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, begins to reverse the post-Reagan policies of increasing income inequalities. It does so by increasing the existing Medicare payroll tax on all those earning over $200,000 ($250,000 for couples).
These are significant, but modest, steps toward what political scientist Jo White calls the "international standard" among health systems in wealthy capitalist democracies - Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, and many more.
This standard, met by all governments in such nations, either imposes taxes on its citizens or enforces a health insurance mandate to provide access to a minimum level of health care services. Without taxes or a mandate, there can be no universal health insurance coverage. Without universal health insurance coverage, we cannot meet the international standard.
Wagner Experience Fund
NYU Wagner is pleased to announce the launching of the Wagner Experience Fund. Eligible continuing students will be able to apply for $5,000 funding to pursue an unpaid summer internship related to their career goals. Details and application procedures will be announced in March. For details, click here.
Conversation Starter: Thoughts for the New NYC Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black
Amy Ellen Schwartz writes:
Cathie Black's appointment as New York City Schools Chancellor came at a difficult period. While her predecessor, Joel Klein, enjoyed swelling public coffers and large increases in per-pupil spending, Chancellor Black takes office at a time when the budget is shrinking, certainly significantly and maybe substantially.
At the same time, while Chancellor Klein claimed standardized test results "proved" his reforms were working, the recent adjustments in those metrics have fueled doubt about whether - and to what extent - his hallmark strategies such as replacing large comprehensive high schools with new, small schools and increasing school autonomy "worked." Even more, the turmoil created by opening and closing schools - and the attendant expense - raises questions about the sustainability of these reforms.
Bottom line: Cathie Black faces considerable challenges in the months ahead and it behooves us to help her succeed. In that spirit, I offer the following suggestions.
Beyond "What Works": While education officials and policy makers tout the importance of finding out "what works," we need more than that. We need to figure out "what's worth the money" or what gives the biggest bang for the public buck. Is the high cost of new small schools worth the money, or would we do better to invest in mid-size schools or schools-within-schools? Unfortunately, relatively little attention has been paid to the costs of interventions and reforms and so the evidence base is thinner than it should be. This is a gap that needs to be filled.
Special Education is Critical: Between 2002 and 2008, full-time special education students increased by 20 percent, from just over 82,000 to over 98,000. (That's an increase from 7.5 to 9.5 percent of total enrollment.) At the same time, direct per pupil expenditures for special education increased 31 percent. Together, this means that Special Education eats up a larger and larger share of the budget, threatening to crowd out spending and services for general education students. (My forthcoming paper with Leanna Stiefel provides more detail.) While federal and state rules and regulations place significant restrictions on classification, services, and so on, the school district can and must find ways to deliver required services in the most cost effective way possible.
Don't overestimate the value of value-added: Although evaluating the efficacy of teachers and schools using test score based value-added measures has undeniable intuitive appeal, the usefulness of these measures in improving schools now is much more limited than the publicity might suggest. For one thing, value-added measures can only be calculated for a fraction of teachers in NYC public schools. (Currently, only about one in five.). More importantly, however, it seems unlikely that value-added scores will identify significant numbers of previously unidentified "bad teachers" that can then be dismissed to make way for (or save the jobs of) otherwise-hidden "great teachers." I am certain that value-added analyses have an important role to play in education policy and practice in the long run - and equally confident that the short-run returns will be fairly small.
Moving Matters: Chancellor Klein was fond of saying that much of his reform efforts were guided by a desire to create a system of good schools and not a good school system. In practice this meant that accountability fell to individual schools for the students currently enrolled. Who, then, is responsible for making sure that students enroll in schools that can provide the services they need? That they choose "well"? In a different vein, a growing body of research shows that student mobility between schools - prompted, say, by family dissolution, foreclosure, or behavioral or academic problems - harms their performance and, potentially, affects their peers. Helping students navigate between schools, adjust to new environments, and succeed will mean attention and accountability for the school system and not just a collection of good schools.
One of my colleagues once claimed that every home in New York City was within walking distance of one of the best public schools in the country...and one of the worst. As a parent and alum of the New York City public schools, I wish Cathie Black the best of luck in her effort to make all of our schools better.
Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E. (2011). "Financing K-12 Education in the Bloomberg Years, 2002-2008" in Jennifer A. O'Day, Catherine S. Bitter and Louis M. Gomez (Eds.), Education Reform in New York City: Ambitious Change in the Nation's Most Complex School System (pp. 55-84). Cambridge MA: Harvard Education Press.
Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E., Conger, D. (2010). "Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth." Journal of Urban Economics, 67:303-314.
Professors Receive MacArthur Grant to Help Study Impact of Foreclosures on Children
The MacArthur Foundation has announced support for a multi-disciplinary, cross-university set of researchers, including three from NYU Wagner, to study the enormous instability in the housing arrangements of many American families over the last decade, and the impact of this instability on children.
According to the researchers, "policymakers know surprisingly little about how such instability affects children, and therefore are hampered in their ability to craft responses." The project approved for Foundation support aims to fill these gaps and provide better guidance to federal, state, and local housing and education officials, community organizations, and elected officials about the benefits of housing stability.
The three Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service professors working on the project are:
• Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of public policy and urban planning, and faculty co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint initiative of NYU Wagner and the School of Law.
• Amy Ellen Schwartz, professor of public policy, education, and economics, and director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU. She also teaches at NYU Steinhardt.
• Leanna Stiefel, professor of economics, and associate director of Institute for Education and Social Policy, who also teaches at Steinhardt.
The trio's co-PI's include:
Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law, New York University, and faculty director of the Furman Center, and the principal investigator on this project; David Figlio, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University; Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and Stephen L. Ross, professor of economics at the University of Connecticut.
The co-investigators note that, to date, some research has examined how residential moves affect children's educational outcomes, but the research has been limited by concerns that effects attributed to moves cannot be separated from those of unobserved characteristics of the families that move and of the neighborhoods to which they move.
Further, existing research does not adequately distinguish between types of housing moves: those that the family plans versus those that are more involuntary; those that involve only a change in housing versus those that take the child to a new neighborhood or school; or those that place the child in better neighborhoods or schools versus those that do not.
Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records in four major markets that are suffering from unusual housing instability-New York City, and the counties of San Diego and Fresno in California and Pinellas County in Florida - Professors Ellen, Schwartz, Stiefel and their co-investigators will test the hypothesis that housing instability negatively affects students' educational outcomes.
In addition, they we will assess whether any effect that housing instability has on children differs by the child's race or the predominant race of the neighborhood in which the child lives or to which the child moves, and if so, what explains those differences.
The research grant was announced as part of a group of nine new MacArthur Foundation grants totaling $5.6 million for explorations of the role that housing plays in the long-term health and well-being of children, families, and communities.
Rogan Kersh Delivers Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Lecture
Rogan Kersh delivered the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Lecture at NYU on February 10, 2011, at Kimmel Center, and received a significant University award as well.
His speech was a featured event of MLK Week 2011.
Kersh, associate professor of public policy and associate dean for academic affairs for NYU Wagner, has been a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow in Health Policy, a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities, and a Luce Scholar. His publications include "Dreams of a More Perfect Union" (Cornell University Press, 2001), a study of U.S. political history; "Medical Malpractice and the U.S. Health Care System" (Cambridge University Press, 2006); and articles and op-ed pieces in numerous academic and popular journals. He is also a frequent commentator in the media on U.S. political issues.
In addition to delivering the address, Kersh was recogized as one of the Office of the Provost's 2011 recipients of the New York University Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award.
Egypt Uprising in Focus, in Two Parts
Professor Natasha Iskander and Waad El-Hadidy of RCLA in the first of two events (Feb. 7 & 8, 2011) devoted to the uprisings of Egypt.
As Egypt's younger generation mount million-strong demonstrations for "Bread, Freedom and Social Justice" -- as one protester's sign read -- the shockwaves from the uprising have reverberated through the government of Hosni Mubarak, the White House, and the digital tentacles of students and other pro-democracy sympathizers in every corner of the globe.
On February 7 & 8, 2011, NYU Wagner and its Research Center for Leadership in Action(RCLA) launched public discussions illuminating some of the less-visible aspects of the revolt, its better-known causes, and where this history-changing moment may lead.
In the first of these two events, which drew nearly 150 students altogether, Natasha Iskander, assistant professor of public policy, and Waad El-Hadidy, senior associate for RCLA, began by showing photos and YouTube videos capturing the good cheer and thoroughly Egyptian-style humor on display on the streets of downtown Cairo -- such as many makeshift hats worn by demonstrators, fashioned from chunks of asphalt or plastic water bottles, and fastened with scarves.
Another video showed a young Egyptian woman's impassioned plea for reform of the country's political process.
Remarkable, said Iskander, was the nonviolent nature of the demonstrations, a feature she called "historic in its own right," especially given the distributive, leaderless character of the protests.
"The protesters are everybody," she said.
And the issues animating them transcend lines of religion, class, and generation, Prof. Iskander and El-Hadidy said. Even in the wake of the Mubarak government's unleashing of thugs on camels and horses to storm the crowds, the police kidnap and detention of journalists and activists, and the sewing of civilian chaos to erode the movement's public support, the protesters as a whole appeared free of bitterness toward the Egyptian authorities. It's a reflection of the socially intimate nature of life in Egypt, a place, said Iskander, where police and army personnel live as neighbors with the people now taking to the streets, and their families.
"This is a real turning point in the history of Egypt," said Iskander, speaking of the spontaneous mass movement, although she cautioned that knotty issues will require negotiators to emerge, and negotiation, such as election reform. These matters go beyond the immediate question of Mubarak's hold on power, and are more complex.
Still, the uprising beginning Jan. 25 " took the world by surprise, it took the people of Egypt by surprise, it also took the demonstrators by surprise," said El-Hadidy.
On Feb. 8, the second discussion, moderated by El-Hadidy, featured: Mona Eltahawy, a frequent CNN guest analyst on Arab and Muslim issues; Karim Tartoussieh, who is writing his dissertation at NYU on digital disobedience, culture, and citizenship in Egypt; Omar Youssef Cheta, a PhD candidate in the joint program in Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, and History at NYU; and Rania Salem, a doctoral candidate at Princeton. Joining Wagner and RCLA in sponsoring the panel discussion was the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Program at the College of Arts and Science at NYU.
The day's speakers described the sparks precipitating the protests, ranging from the government's growing use of summary arrests and police brutality, to the lack of good prospects for younger people, who represent a third of the population, to the Tunisian revolt that toppled that country's longtime ruler. Facebook and YouTube, too, brought people out to the streets, and Eltahawy noted that Egypt's release of Google executive Wael Ghonim, a key figure behind the Facebook and YouTube push, was galvanizing the movement as she was speaking.
"He's a 30 year old who scared the crap out of a 30 year old regime," Eltahawy said, predicting Ghonim could become one of the pro-democracy movement's most important representatives in the tense and uncertain days to come.
For Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, the Answer to Fierce Partisanship is Leadership
Former U.S. Senators Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, Feb. 2, 2011.
Former U.S. Senate leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Trent Lott (R-MS) sized up the often-fractious political climate of today at a public discussion sponsored by NYU Wagner's John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress on Feb. 2, 2011.
In 2001, the two ex-senators traded roles as Senate majority leader three times. But sitting in armchairs in Vanderbilt Hall and speaking before an overflow crowd of almost 500 listeners, they were congenial -- especially in comparison to the often-fierce partisanship that has defined recent sessions of Congress.
Rogan Kersh, Wagner professor of public policy and associate dean for academic affairs, was the moderator. "It can be reassuring to return to an earlier time," he remarked.
Although Daschle and Lott lamented what they called a loss of comraderie among Congress members, they maintained that leadership has been, and will remain, the key to overcoming strained relations between the two parties.
Neither was despairing about today's political atmosphere. Indeed, Lott said, "The Senate was designed to be dysfunctional .... to cool off the hot action of the House." In addition, he noted, major legislation, such as the national healthcare overall, gained recent approval despite its highly controversial nature.
Furman Center Releases "15 Years of Research, Analysis and Insight"
Over the past 15 years, the Furman Center has been committed to the highest standards of interdisciplinary empirical and legal research about housing, land use, real estate, and urban affairs. This report looks back at the Furman Center’s past research, events and reports in four focus areas: Housing Finance and Foreclosures, Affordable Housing, Land Use Regulation, and Neighborhood Change.
Bohnett Fellows huddle with 200-plus mayors in DC
Bohnett Fellows pose in front of the White House during their trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, 2011.
Bohnett Fellows from NYU Wagner joined with their counterparts from UCLA and the University of Michigan in attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. on January 19-21, 2011, with Professor Rogan Kersh. After sharing information, insights, and ideas with more than 200 of the nation's mayors and many other public service leaders, the Wagner students offered these reports:
"It was by far one of the best networking opportunities of my life. Most of the Conference participants were mayors, and between sessions there was ample time for me to walk up to people and introduce myself. I was amazed at how engaged many of the mayors were. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter must have talked to us for half an hour one evening: He was really interested in what we had to say and fielded all of our questions, including some pretty tough ones, with aplomb.
"I was incredibly impressed with the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan. The conference included many speakers from the national stage, including Nancy Pelosi, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica, and Alaska Senator Mark Begich. These folks usually spoke for awhile and then took questions from the mayors. Almost without fail, Mayor Quan's hand would slowly rise, she'd be called on, and then, with perfect posture and composure, she asked the most pointed and well-informed question imaginable. It made me happy for the people of Oakland. They've got a real policy wonk running the place.
"More broadly, it was great to be around Republican and Democratic politicians talking about actual issues - from handgun violence to job creation - without reverting to demagoguery It was the sort of situation that might restore a person's faith in the American political system."
"When elected officials are talking about economic development, I expect to hear more about financial incentives than about public services. But the economic-development drivers the mayors were discussing included developing exports, attracting foreign investment, and producing a highly skilled labor force through education and workforce training. Mayors and federal officials echoed that cities must cooperate across other governments and sectors to succeed in these areas. It's not surprising that President Obama articulated some of the Conference's major themes in his State of the Union address of Jan. 25, 2011. Getting to speak personally to some of the mayors completely changed my perspective on urban government, and my work this semester is going to reflect it.
"The Conference was also the first time the Bohnett Fellows at all three schools were able to come together. I really connected with a Fellow from the University of Michigan over our work in Northern industrial cities. She lives and works in Detroit, and I came to NYU from Pittsburgh. I found that we could swap war stories about managing decline, but at the end of the day we were talking about common points of growth and battling inequality."
Elizabeth H. Guernsey:
"The trip to the Conference of Mayors winter meeting was definitely one of the highlights - if not the highlight - of my Wagner career so far. The access to and conversations with so many mayors was great. I came back from the Conference inspired to know that so many smart people are working in local government and really focused on making our cities great places to work and live. I was also struck by the mayors' signing of the Civility Accord in reaction to the Tucson tragedy. It was refreshing to hear the mayors talking about their cities in a nonpartisan way.
"A highlight of the trip was meeting with the Fellows from the other schools and hearing about the work they are doing in other cities. Another highlight was attending the Mayors Against Illegal Guns meeting, and hearing mayors talk openly about what they think needs to be done to protect public safety in our cities. The mayors were able to talk honestly and openly without worry that they might upset their constituencies."
The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship for incoming Wagner students offers "...a great opportunity for students to directly engage in the challenges of governing our vibrant and diverse city," according to David Bohnett, Chairman and Founder of the David Bohnett Foundation. The Fellowship provides full tuition support and summer stipends for three Bohnett Fellows per year. These students must be enrolled in either the Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program and express an explicit interest in working for municipal governments to solve our most urgent social issues. The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship also allows two fellows a terrific opportunity to intern at the highest level of NYC government. The third fellow gets to take on exciting work with the current President of the US Conference of Mayors, which has an ongoing partnership with Wagner.
Helped by Bill Cosby, artist frames the African American experience
"Manchild," by Alonzo Adams, features a young man seated on a pile of tires -- with books at his feet.
Alonzo Adams was working by day as a salesman for an electronics and appliance chain and taking art classes in the evening when he unwittingly planted the seeds of his commercial success and acclaim as a painter of the African American experience. Many of Adams' figurative works in oils will be on view throughout February at the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner. The exhibition, free to the public, commemorates Black History Month.
For Adams, the brief episode began one day in late 1980s when he suddenly suppressed his usual sales pitch and instead advised a kindly customer not to buy her selected merchandise at full price, nor pay for a service contract.
"We made our money getting people to buy this type of stuff and I had done all that," the artist said of the job he held after graduating from college. "But this particular woman reminded me so much of my mother, I just couldn't do it, my heart wouldn't let me. I called her back from the cash register aisle and explained how she could actually save a lot of money."
"I'm going to return the favor one day," the grateful customer said.
"Don't worry about it," Adams replied. "Just become a better shopper."
Six months later, the local newspaper in Adams' northern New Jersey community published the first article ever written about him, describing his artwork and ambition. His talent at the time lay in watercolor, a usually loose medium that he used with the technical precision of his earlier efforts in pencil. He told the reporter that African American art seemed destined to catch, since even popular TV programs like The Cosby Show were showing works in the background by black artists.
"The lady I helped at the store read the article and showed it to Mr. Cosby. It turned out that her son appeared as a guest actor on the show -- and she liked to go to the Astoria studio when the program was being taped," said Adams.
Cosby sent word to Adams, who was 26, to meet him at the studio and to bring along his watercolor "Amazing Grace," pictured with the newspaper article. Cosby looked it over and said "This is amazing," recalled Adams.
"What do you want to do with your life," the entertainer asked Adams.
"I want to be the best black artist in the world."
"Don't limit yourself to being the ‘best black artist in the world,' " Cosby suggested. "Try to become the best artist in the world."
Cosby said, "You're good but not great - you have potential." He offered to send the younger man to graduate school, saying, "Get in on your own merit to any school in the world, don't mention my name, and I'll pay for it," according to Adams.
Adams earned his MFA at the University of Pennsylvania, courtesy of Bill Cosby, "and my whole world opened up." It was Cosby who'd advised him to learn how to paint in oils because such paintings have greater longevity. Adams' ensuing portraits and landscapes --informed by his family history, his Harlem roots, Jazz, and contemporary urban life -- would be purchased by professional athletes, celebrities, CEOs, and corporate foundations. His studio and gallery are now located in Plainfield, N.J., where he lives in an early-19th century home with his wife and their two sons, 10 and 13.
The NYU Wagner exhibition of Alonzo's works will begin with an opening reception on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 5:30 p.m., for which RSVP is required. Entitled "Sienna Visions: Paintings by Alonzo Adams," the show is presented, together with Wagner, by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and cosponsored by Wagner's Black Student Alliance.
Adams lost his mother, Katie, with whom he was exceptionally close, last year. In one sense, the Gallery show marks his return "from the valley," as he put it.
"You've got to climb back up to that mountaintop and pull yourself back into your work again."
Bill Clinton counselor's latest assignment - teaching at Wagner
Politico.com's "Playbook," a roster of the latest DC news and happenings compiled by reporter Mike Allen, included the following item on January 19 about NYU Wagner's Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration Doug Band:
"ALUMNI NEWS: After conceiving and building the Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton counselor/consigliere/post-presidency architect Doug Band recently joined the NYU staff as an adjunct professor and will use his nearly 16 years working for the Clintons to teach a public service, policy and politics course (despite earning his master's and law degrees from Georgetown). Doug also serves on the international advisory board for Coca-Cola, and on the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Vote Vets boards, all while still running Clinton, Inc., helping heads of state around the world transition out of office, and raising his son Max, who recently turned one (and has started walking), with his wife Lily in NYC."
Professor Ospina Chosen as Co-Editor of Public Administration Journal
Professor Sonia M. Ospina will serve as a co-editor of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, a top-tier journal of public administration.
As the official journal of the Public Management Research Association, it serves as a bridge between public administration or public management scholarship and public policy studies. Having served as an active reviewer, Dr. Ospina will now be one of six co-editors shaping the articles submitted and selecting what is published.
Professor Ospina is Faculty Director of RCLA -- the Research Center for Leadership in Action.
2002 Alumnus Who Advised Newark Mayor Goes to Washington
After working for more than four years alongside Mayor Cory Booker to improve public education in the City of Newark, NYU Wagner alumnus De'Shawn Wright (MPA '02) has garnered an exciting new position in public service -- he has been named the new deputy mayor for education by Washington, D.C., Mayor-elect Vincent Gray. The Mayor-elect was quoted referring to Wright and another new appointee as "top-notch professionals" in policy and management for large and complex urban school systems.
Gray chose Wright, who formerly worked for the New York City Department of Education, on the strength partly of his school reform work in Newark, N.J. In addition, Wright served as a partner with the Newark Charter School Fund, which was successful in gathering support to help fund the city's charter schools.
Since graduating from Wagner, Wright has returned to Wagner on numerous occasions, including in 2009 for a public event with Mayor Booker. We wish him well as he begins his latest leadership position.
Former UK Prime Minister on the Promise of Globalization
Ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks about globalization, Dec. 14, 2010.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown participated in an engaging public discussion cosponsored by NYU Wagner on Dec. 14, 2010, describing what he sees as hopeful economic possibilities presented by globalization. Brown spoke before an audience composed largely of students, and was interviewed on the stage at Vanderbilt Hall by Robert M. Shrum, the renowned U.S. political consultant and Senior Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Introduced by NYU President John Sexton as the University's inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence and "one of the great citizens of the world," Brown in turn hailed what he called NYU's "path-breaking" initiative as the first global network university.
During the discussion with Shrum and a question-and-answer session with the audience, the former prime minister focused on the prospects for growth in European, U.S., and African exports and employment that China's rapidly expanding economy may generate in the years ahead. In light of the 2008 financial meltdown, Brown also spoke of a pressing need for consistent rules and standards for responsible behavior by markets and governments worldwide. He also discussed his role in recognizing the necessity for his government and that of the U.S. to recapitalize tottering European banks as the meltdown was happening.
"We had capitalism without capital - the banks did not have enough capital," Brown said. Through his efforts and those of other world leaders, "we avoided what could have been a Great Depression." He stepped down as prime minister in May, 2010, after his Labour Party lost control of Parliament.
A current Member of Parliament, Brown was in New York to publicize his new book, "Beyond The Crash." Asked by an audience member about the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables, Brown said while American policy was predominantly shown to be honest, "there are certain parts that you'd question, certain parts nobody will like." He said he had suffered personal "embarrassments" from the release but then noted, "You've just got to accept that."
Afterward, the former prime minister signed copies of his new book, chatted with students about their programs of study, and posed for photographs. An article on the event published in the next day's New York Times described the reaction of one NYU Wagner student, who has lived in London. Patrizia Mancini commented: "I have to say that he seems like a different person. He's way more relaxed. As a politician, he would seem fake when he smiled, but now he seems so natural."