Tim Tompkins has been the President of the Times Square Alliance since 2002. He is currently the Chair-elect of the International Downtown Association (IDA) and the past co-chair of the NYC BID Association. Prior to joining the Alliance, he was the Founder and Director of Partnerships for Parks, which works to support New York City’s neighborhood parks and which won an Innovations in Government Award from the JFK School of Government at Harvard for its work to restore the Bronx River. He has also worked at New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, The New York City Charter Revision Commission, and was briefly the Nationals Editor at the Mexico City News, an English language newspaper in Mexico. He has an undergraduate degree from Yale and an M.B.A. from Wharton, and currently teaches “Transforming the Urban Economy” and “Arts, the Artist and Urban Revitalization” at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. When not in the most urban and unnatural place on the planet, he enjoys spending time in New York’s more natural areas, ideally sailing or practicing yoga.
This course examines the special mix of tools, tactics, theories and trends that shape and transform cities. It will be grounded in case studies that look at both successful and unsuccessful urban revitalization strategies in places ranging from Times Square (in different decades) to the Bronx River to Singapore to Atlantic City. Seasoned guest speakers, who in the past have included “Broken Windows” author George Kelling, the Director of the Brownsville Partnership, a NYPost columnist, the Director of a Public Art initiative, a former Atlantic City public official, and the former Director of the Port Authority, will discuss their different perspectives and tactics for changing urban areas. Readings will include contemporary media coverage side by side with case studies and more theoretical selections from leading thinkers like Jacobs, Garvin and Glaeser.
Throughout the course there will be a special focus on the varied nature and role of public-private partnerships in harnessing the power of the nonprofit, private and governmental sectors, especially in transforming public spaces. Students will examine the different perspectives and strengths of each sector, and the special skills needed to make such partnerships powerful tools for change. The central role of public space transformation and placemaking in shaping perceptions and empowering communities will be looked at in depth.
Explicit theories and implicit assumptions about the economic life of cities will be illuminated through the numerous real-world examples, some of which will involve the instructor’s hands-on experience with urban park revitalization, the growing international BID movement, and the transformation of Times Square. Through specific examples we will examine how ideas about urban economic development shift across time and place, even as certain deeper truths remain constant. While reviewing the standard tools in the economic development toolbox, we will also look at relevant ideas and practices in corporate branding and competitive strategy, managing public space, nurturing creative industries, and reforming governmental practices and regulations.
Short assignments will require students to prepare succinct written or oral analyses of particular case studies. A final paper or presentation will require students to analyze or put forth an urban revitalization strategy for a particular place and discuss the criteria for determining the success of that strategy.
Across all classes, assignments and case studies, we will repeatedly ask: What are the things that make cities thrive and grow, and how does one nurture those things? We will answer that in part by keeping our eyes on the fundamental economic forces that drive cities and their land values. But we will also focus in every class and case study on the less quantifiable but no less important political and press skills needed to form partnerships, shape outcomes, and transform cities.