New York: The Future Now


There’s a reason New York City is known, to many, simply as “The City.” In many ways, it's a model metropolis, teeming with energy, innovation, and diversity.

And that’s no accident. According to Mitchell L. Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning and Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation, an active city government and robust public-private partnerships have kept the city on the cutting edge for more than 400 years.

Take the New York City subway system. Its 23 lines make their way through New York City’s 468 stations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But what makes the subway truly unique is its “distance insensitivity”—no matter the distance you travel, the fare remains the same. This policy makes the city more commuter-friendly, more mobile, and more equitable.

The fact that New York can move faster below ground than most other cities can move above ground means the city can also better absorb large-scale events without disrupting the lives of its residents. Compare the Pope’s visit to New York City to the other two urban centers he visited: Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. In both, mass-transit ground to a standstill, employees were told to stay home from work, and residents made a mass exodus out of the city. In New York, Professor Moss says, New Yorkers didn’t even know the Pope was in town.

And with flights to more international destinations than any other city in America, New York attracts a huge number of immigrants that strengthen the city’s economy and labor market. But Professor Moss says it's not just transportation and infrastructure that make New York a hub of diversity: New York is a firmly pro-immigrant city, which enables it to attract the best talent and ideas from around the world.

And consider this: There’s a reason New York City is the birthplace of MTV and the source of nearly all news and non-fiction television in the country. New York City has more fiber optic lines than any other city in America, making New York the world’s communications hub.

New York is also an extremely resilient city. As Professor Moss notes, New York has experienced three massive disasters this century: The September 11 attacks, the 2008 Financial Crisis, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. After each, New York emerged stronger but more prepared to face the challenges of the future—a testament to an active civic and nonprofit sector as committed as the city’s government to New York’s prosperity.

With more than half of the world’s population living in cities in the 21st century, thoughtful and careful urban policy will be more influential than ever before. Professor Moss’ deep-dive into the policy intricacies of New York City provide a blueprint off of which other city planners design their own policies.