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Snapshot Columns

Reimund Schwarze

Coronavirus, the Future of Cities and an Inclusive Green Recovery

September 08, 2020

By: Reimund Schwarze

COVID-19 has plunged the world into the deepest crisis in industrial history in just a few months. What began as a local epidemic in Wuhan in December 2019 has developed into a global pandemic along the travel and trade networks so characteristic of 21st Century globalization. The inevitable lock-down has led to GDP losses in the G7 countries of between 20–30% for the first two quarters of 2020. 1 The size and duration of the current economic decline will ultimately depend on the pandemic's duration, i.e., on the availability of a vaccine. Some economists already doubt whether a full recovery 2 is even possible. The fear of a "95% economy", i.e. a permanent worldwide reduction in economic activity, is making the rounds.

This terrifying scenario nurtures the urge of some politicians to open up their economy too quickly, which at first sight seems to create a trade-off between public health and public wealth, between saving lives and saving the economy. Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics, has sharply rejected the underlying misunderstanding: 3 Infected workers and entrepreneurs cannot save an economy any more than fearful consumers could. Without an end to the health crisis, there can be no end to the economic crisis. Simply closing our eyes to the pandemic's dangers is not the way out of the economic crisis. Only a coordinated strategy to combat the pandemic and recover the economy can — the priority is clearly on health policy. Still, economic policy innovations are important and, like every crisis, they offer the opportunity for change — for a transformation towards an inclusive and green economy. Cities can manage this crisis and even emerge as hubs of resilience and innovation — as they always have been throughout economic history — but inclusiveness and the degree of green will take conscious policy choices, particularly with respect to inequalities, local capacities and promoting new forms of solidarity.

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Charles Komanoff

The Big Shrug — Disappearing Bill de Blasio and the Fall of New York

July 01, 2020

By: Charles Komanoff

No one today remembers Abe Beame, whose frail 1973–77 mayoralty was sandwiched between John Lindsay's tumultuous two terms and Ed Koch's combative three. Invocations of Beame's tenure inevitably invoke the 1975 Daily News' "Ford to City: Drop Dead" headline and then the 1977 Con Ed blackout and subsequent disastrous looting. Fiscal collapse. Urban decay. Beame himself, a one-time New York City comptroller, barely figures in those recollections. It's as if he wasn't there.

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Sharon Waskow & Christine Campbell

The Power of Community

April 17, 2020

By: Sharon Waskow & Christine Campbell

Decades of inaction on all levels of government have left a wave of frustrated and exhausted environmentally minded people wondering how to make a difference. Though there are many effective national and international environmental groups to join, simply writing a check or attending a rally with strangers can leave a person feeling out of the loop and lacking a true voice. What's missing is a sense of community; a tangible sign that we are not in this alone and that we can work together to make a difference, even if only in our own neighborhood.

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Scott Rasmussen

Building Grassroots Environmental Infrastructure (and bridging the digital divide)

February 21, 2020

By: Scott Rasmussen

In May of 2018, a crew of eager volunteers set to work running ethernet cable and fixing antennae to the roof of Saratoga Village, a 16-story public housing development in Brooklyn. These volunteers were united in this unique mission as members of the non-profit NYC Mesh, a community network dedicated to ensuring that all New Yorkers — no matter what they can afford or where they may live — can connect online. In the course of a week, the volunteers installed community infrastructure that would improve building efficiency and monitor air quality as well as provide a free, high-speed internet connection to residents. Strategically-placed equipment on the roof allowed those living in surrounding buildings to connect online with nothing more than a small rooftop antenna and a suggested monthly donation.

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Vanessa Warheit

California's Dirty Secrets

October 20, 2019

By: Vanessa Warheit

People often say that California is a leader in the climate movement — but we still have a lot of work to do to earn our climate cred. While it's true that the Golden State has made a lot of progress on demand-side solutions (think: electric cars, municipal composting, solar panels), the rest of the world needs to know that California has some dirty secrets. We're still pumping oil & gas out of the ground at a terrifying rate; and we're still investing our public pensions in the companies that are engaged in this reckless behavior. Both of these things are already losing us a lot of money — and they are poised to cause catastrophic losses.

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Catherine McVay Hughes

A Greener FiDi — Make Way for Lower Manhattan: Shared Streets Project

July 02, 2019

By: Catherine McVay Hughes

In March 2019, the Financial District Neighborhood Association (FDNA) released Make Way for Lower Manhattani (MW4LM), a vision to make the Financial District greener by making its streets and sidewalks cleaner and safer for the people who live and work there. This first-of-its-kind study was then incorporated into NYC's Earth Day 2019 announcement "ONENYC: Mayor DeBlasio Announces Transportation Measures to Increase New Yorkers' Mobility: The City has identified locations to implement its Bus Action Plan to increase bus speeds 25% by 2020, help more businesses receive off-hour deliveries, and explore new pedestrian zones in Lower Manhattan."

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Richard Leigh

Living Better Electrically

May 03, 2019

By: Richard Leigh

Avoiding Extinction

The Extinction Rebellion is right! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C report is right! Human civilization will be unalterably diminished or even wiped out by climate change, not this year, but if current practice continues, during this century. What is to be done?

The solution is blindingly obvious and known to all: stop using fossil fuels. Other steps may help, like constraining biological methane emissions or moving towards permaculture (agriculture that embeds carbon in the soil) or removing CO2 from the air, but those steps are add-ons. They will only help if we stop extracting and burning fossil fuels, and the IPCC's best estimate is that we must do that, globally, by 2045 to 2055 if we are to have a reasonable chance of holding the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C. (We used to talk about 2°C, but it has become clear that the near-term impact on low-lying real estate, like in Bangladesh, Brooklyn, and Mar-a-Lago, will be too much too soon in this more relaxed 2°C case.) I'll stop now, but you can look all this up on the IPCC's web site.

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Genevieve Guenther


March 01, 2019

By: Genevieve Guenther

The summer of 2018 was very hot. Record-breaking temperatures baked the planet, inspiring nearly 130 reports about the heat on US network television. It would seem that every one of those reports should have discussed the heat's link to climate change, considering the scientific fact that climate change made the heatwave five times more likely. But only one segment even mentioned the words "climate change."

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Robert Muldoon

Building Operator Training In The Time Of Climate Change

January 02, 2019

By: Robert Muldoon

Among the potential leaders of our climate change era are the operating staff of the many thousands of buildings across New York City. As the main energy users and biggest greenhouse gas emitters, NYC buildings consume over 70% of our total energy and therefore have become the main focus of the City's efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. With NYC ramping up initiatives to make buildings more efficient, the role of management and building staff increases in making these efforts a success.

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Stuart Brodsky

WeWork's Opportunity to Stimulate Environmentally Sustainable Market Transformation in Office Property Markets

November 01, 2018

By: Stuart Brodsky

When a company such as WeWork holds a dominant positon among its supply chain and stakeholders, it has the potential to be an effective and innovative advocate for change in both practice and performance metrics — priorities that improve the corporate bottom line and demonstrate corporate citizenship. Known as market transformation, such a process should result in changes to the negotiated content and outcomes of transactions between stakeholders. To be truly market transformative, the achieved change should become standard practice, rather than a one-off result.

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Jeffrey Gracer & Amy Turner

Together, New Yorkers Are Leading On Climate Change

September 04, 2018

By: Jeffrey Gracer & Amy Turner

These are discouraging times for those of us who used to expect that our federal government would exercise climate leadership. It's been a chronicle of attempted destruction from Washington, kicked off by President Trump's deeply divisive June 2017 announcement of his plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement and continuing in August 2018 with the proposal of Trump administration "replacements" for Obama-era fuel economy standards and the Clean Power Plan. If these most recent regulatory announcements survive court challenges, they would set back efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from the transportation and power sectors. With this administration, we've seen funding cut for critical climate science programs, references to "climate change" deleted from federal agency websites, and cabinet-level denials of the basic science around our changing climate and extreme weather events.

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Courtney St. John

The Role Of Media For Advancing Discourse On Climate Change

July 02, 2018

By: Courtney St. John

Most people are well aware of the global shift that's been taking place in mass media over the last decade. The factors contributing to the decline of trust in the media are many, and include the rise of internet and social media that allow readers to seek out information sources that only confirm what they already believe, decline of local journalism and a prevalence of special interests that control what journalists can report on, all of which contribute to a general public that is confused about where to turn for accurate, unbiased information about global issues.

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Fulton Center transit hub oculus
February 7, 2019 at 11:41:06 AM EST