Jonathan Bowles is the Executive Director of the Center for an Urban Future, a Manhattan-based think tank dedicated to independent research about key policy issues facing New York and other cities. During his 12 years at the Center, he has been the architect of the policy agenda for the Center and is responsible for making it one of New York’s most innovative and influential organizations and one in which its policy ideas are well-respected and widely used by policymakers, business leaders, and nonprofit practitioners.
Adam Forman is the author of the Center for an Urban Future’s recent report, Caution Ahead: Overdue Investments for New York’s Aging Infrastructure. He is a Research and Communications Associate for the Center for an Urban Future. He has interned at the Public Advocate’s Office and worked in tax and trade consulting and as a freelance writer. His work has been published in the New York Daily News, New York Post and an assortment of internet blogs. He received his BA from Colgate University in economics and an MA in political science from the University of Washington. He specializes in economic development and urban planning. Adam lives in Brooklyn.
NYC Needs to Focus on Infrastructure
Forman: New York City’s infrastructure is old. Whether it’s our transportation infrastructure, our bridges and roads, utility infrastructure, our steam mains and gas mains, or our buildings: our hospitals, our schools, our public housing buildings, it’s old…I think there are so many areas where we can improve the functioning of our infrastructure and the safety if we were investing more intelligently.
Bowles: It’s hard to think of an issue that is more fundamental to the city’s future success than infrastructure…If there are problems with our infrastructure and people cannot move around easily, it makes it hard for the city to continue to compete. At the same time, we know that a lot of other global cities that New York is competing with are not standing still; they are investing and modernizing their infrastructure in a big way, and New York is really falling behind.
Caution Ahead: The Center for an Urban Future’s Latest Report on NYC Infrastructure
Bowles: We want to put this issue on the radar of Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and the heads of other city agencies and authorities…our hope is that these policy-makers understand the scope of the problem, understand that they need to develop real responses. That means, ideally, much more investment in infrastructure…and also a refocus of our priorities to really have more of our infrastructure dollars go towards maintaining and repairing existing assets rather than just funding shiny new projects.
Forman: It was definitely inspired by Sandy, and we felt empowered by all the attention that was being suddenly paid to infrastructure. We think it’s critical that politicians are finally making a priority of infrastructure investment. However, we were concerned that all the focus would go towards “storm-hardening” and we would miss a lot of assets that might be affected by Sandy, that might not have to do with resiliency but are also critical and can actually compromise our competitiveness and quality of life even more than the next storm.
The Center for an Urban Future: Expanding Economic Opportunity
Bowles: We are an independent think tank in New York City that publishes studies that highlight some of the key opportunities and challenges facing New York with a real focus on growing New York’s economy and expanding economic opportunity. We’ve been really good, over the years, at elevating issues onto the radar of policy makers, and so we’ve done studies—everything from the high-flying tech sector in New York to the role of public libraries as critical human capital institutions.