Center for an Urban Future & NYU Wagner Release Citi-Funded Report Highlighting Innovative Policy Ideas from Other Cities for NYC's Next Mayor

Report Encourages NYC's Next Mayor to Look at Other Cities for Inspiration on how to Address the City's Biggest Challenges

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New York – In an attempt to provide the New York City mayoral candidates with a pool of innovative and scalable policy ideas, the Center for an Urban Future and the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service (NYU Wagner) today jointly released a new Citi-funded report that details 15 policies from other cities that have clear potential for replication and implementation in New York.

"Innovation and the City," produced with the support of Citi Community Development, concludes that New York City's next mayor will need to innovate and experiment to address some of the city's biggest challenges – and that the search for applicable solutions should start in other cities, noting recent pioneering government reforms in metropolises from Seattle to London .

The report is the culmination of a six-month project in which researchers from the Center for an Urban Future and NYU Wagner interviewed nearly 200 policy experts in cities across the U.S. and around the world to identify the most innovative and effective urban policies, and then assess which of those reforms could actually work in New York. The experts narrowed down a wide range of suggestions to ultimately present 15 of the most promising policies, which address technology, education, waste management, housing, and good government reforms, among other policy areas.

"Just as New York under Mayor Bloomberg has been a model of policy innovation for so many other cities, the city's next mayor should look to other cities for inspiration on how to tackle the big challenges still facing New York," says Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future. "Cities have become the real drivers of policy innovation, and there are a lot of good models for what New York should do."

"With fewer resources and more pressure to produce, cities are generating incredible innovations across the country," says Neil Kleiman, director of the Wagner Innovation Labs at New York University. "This project provides a snapshot of what we can learn. These ideas are concrete, have gone to scale and proven effective."

"According to a recent Citi-commissioned Economist Intelligence Unit report, New York is the most competitive city in the world today and will remain so in 2025," said Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development and Microfinance. "Core to Citi's global strategy is a focus on urbanization, and our support for New York City has been at the center of that focus since our founding right here more than 200 years ago. Through the work of Citi Community Development and our Citi for Cities initiative, we remain committed to spurring urban innovation by working with public sector partners, local institutional clients and community organizations to develop and advance ideas that make New York more livable and more efficient."

Examples of the 15 ideas spotlighted by the report include


San Francisco: Kindergarten to College Savings Accounts
At a time when a college degree is more important than ever but when college costs are spiraling out of control, the city of San Francisco now provides the families of all kindergarteners enrolled in the public school system with a college savings account seeded with an initial $50 deposit. In collaboration with Citi, Kindergarten to College is helping San Francisco families to start saving for college earlier and to save more, by removing barriers to opening an account and providing incentives to spur contributions.

Denver: Sending Public Agency Staff to Innovation School
One of the challenges with government innovations is that many good ideas flounder inside the agencies where they were born. Direct-line workers either wait out reform ideas they dislike, or simply lack the tools and training orientation to move a promising new initiative to actuation. Based on the belief that true innovation must be embraced by line-level staff as much as by mayors and agency heads, Denver launched Peak Academy, an innovation school where city employees can get training, develop new ideas and gain support for new approaches.

London: Crowdsourcing Capital Projects
The world's first "funding platform for public space projects," London's Spacehive is like Kickstarter but for civic projects. Any organization or individual can propose a new capital project or new use for a public space, and raise funds to launch it. Similarly, a project that has received initial funding from a borough president or council member could turn to Spacehive to raise the rest of the funding.

Philadelphia, Providence and Chicago: Digital Badging
These cities are all experimenting with a system of bestowing credentials, known as badges, on young people who take classes or workshops outside the school system and are able to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency. The aim is to encourage the development of talents and skills that too often go unrecognized in the K-12 school system. A digital badge is a visible online record of achievement, the work required, and information about the organization or individual that issued the badge. Once earned, badges could follow students throughout their lifetimes, being displayed on websites or included in college applications and résumés.

Boston and Chicago: Reinventing 311
New York was one of the early pioneers of the 311 constituent service platform, but in the era of the smartphone, it's time to create a more responsive, transparent, and participatory 311 system. Cities like Boston and Chicago are implementing innovative ideas are leveraging open source data and the capabilities of mobile computing to better serve residents and increase accountability among government agencies.

San Francisco: Tax-Free Transit Benefits
San Francisco now requires employers in the city with more than 20 employees to offer tax-free transit benefits to their employees. While many New Yorkers already take advantage of this federal tax benefit, only about a quarter of large and medium companies in the city offer them. Increasing the number of New Yorkers who benefit from this program would save transit riders hundreds of dollars a year on commuting costs, help businesses save money on payroll taxes and ensure that more of the income earned in New York stays in the local economy.

To access the full report, visit

Center for an Urban Future
The Center for an Urban Future is an independent NYC-based policy institute dedicated to highlighting the critical opportunities and challenges facing New York and other cities, and providing fresh ideas and workable solutions to policymakers. The Center's primary focus is on growing and diversifying the local economy, expanding economic opportunity and targeting problems facing low-income and working-class neighborhoods.

NYU Wagner
The Wagner Innovation Labs are a part of the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. They are a new series of experiments that marry theory and practice to promote informed, evidence-based policy-making in a complex world. Each Lab has its own focus and approach, and operates independently, but all reflect NYU Wagner's broad commitment to bringing scholars, thinkers and practitioners together to enrich the policy-making process.

Citi Community Development
Citi Community Development (CCD) is leading Citi's commitment to achieve economic empowerment and growth for underserved individuals, families and communities by expanding access to financial products and services, and building sustainable business solutions and innovative partnerships. Our focus areas include: commercial and philanthropic funding; innovative financial products and services; and collaborations with institutions that expand access to financial products and services for low-income and underserved communities. For more information, please visit

Citi for Cities
Citi for Cities is an initiative which harnesses the best of Citi across the globe to enable cities to become more efficient, by providing financing that facilitates commerce and modernization, and by empowering citizens to access services that enhance livability and prosperity. Citi aims to help cities achieve their ambitions across the key ecosystems that power a city including administration, roads and transit, ports of entry, energy and utilities, workplace and education, health and safety, and regeneration and development. Citi's span of engagement with cities includes public and private sector, the financial sector, and citizens and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit

Media Contacts:
Center for an Urban Future: Jonathan Bowles, 212-479-3347 or
NYU Wagner: Neil Kleiman, 212-998-7535 or
Citi: David Roskin, 212-559-4767 or