Op-Eds

Loretta Lees and Elanor Warwick: Defensible space

A is for Architecture, February 28, 2024 – Interview with Director Loretta Lees

In Episode 26/ 3 of A is for Architecture, Loretta Lees and Elanor Warwick speak about their book, Defensible Space on the Move: Mobilisation in English Housing Policy and Practice, published with Wiley in 2022. We discuss a few of its themes, including the emergence of the concept in America with Oscar Newman and others, its transference to Britain and its articulation and deployment by geographers, architects and policymakers, not least Alice Coleman, in the later twentieth century.

Episode 33: Neighbourhood Defenders

Dense City Podcast, February 12, 2024 — Coverage of Professors Katherine Levine Einstein, David Glick and Maxwell Palmer

Today, we welcome Dr. Katherine Einstein, Dr. David Glick, and Dr. Maxwell Palmer from Boston University. We discuss their book: Neighbourhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America’s Housing Crisis; published in 2019. The book is premised on how local political inequalities can end up limiting the housing supply and contribute to the current housing crisis. Participatory institutions like local neighborhood committees often notify neighbours themselves and solicit comments on proposed housing developments, taking an active role for better or worse.

IOC Director Loretta Lees Featured on International Urban Podcast

Urbanistica — Interview with Director Loretta Lees and peer scholars

IOC Director Loretta Lees was a featured guest in episode 417 of the Urbanistica podcast on the book “Women Reclaiming the City, International Research on Urbanism, Architecture, and Planning,” edited by Tigran Haas, which also featured Director Lees’ work on gentrification as a scholar-activist.

BU City Planning Students Develop and Present Plan for Busy Square in Boston Suburb

Boston University Metropolitan College (MET), September 28, 2023 — Highlights MetroBridge Urban Studies Capstone Course (MET UA 805)

Students of the Boston University Metropolitan College (MET) City Planning & Urban Affairs programs worked with the City of Malden, Massachusetts, to help develop the components of a neighborhood plan for Maplewood Square, the city’s second-largest business district. The class gathered community feedback before making their final presentation on May 8, 2023. The collaboration was part of BU MET’s Urban Studies Capstone Course (MET UA 805), which integrates the principles and applications of city planning, urban affairs, and public policy.

Gendered Differences in Mobility and the Demand for Transport: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Urban Ethiopia

The International Growth Centre, July 31, 2023 — Highlights Seed Grant Recipient and Assistant Professor Mahesh Karra

Inadequate transport infrastructure in growing cities can lead to congestion and decreased mobility, making it crucial to prioritise efficient and safe transportation solutions. Investigating gender-specific travel demand in Ethiopia demonstrates the value of contextually appropriate and equitable transportation policies and services for rapidly growing cities.

Last Word: Mel Parry, Professor Alice Coleman, Hugh Callaghan, Cynthia Weil

BBC News Radio, June 9, 2023 — Interview with Director Loretta Lees

The geographer whose modifications to modernist high rise estates won the support of Margaret Thatcher. Last Word spoke to Professor Loretta Lees, urban geographer, and current Director of the Initiative on Cities at Boston University, USA.

Alice Coleman Obituary: Geographer who championed the idea of ‘defensible space’ in order to improve on the problematic designs of some high-rise estates

The Guardian, May 24, 2023 — Written by Director Loretta Lees

The geographer Alice Coleman, who has died aged 99, set out to prove that British modernist high-rise council estates were failing because their layout lacked “defensible space”, and that their problematic design reduced social interaction while encouraging crime and anti-social behaviour.

Bar for lesbian and non-binary communities set to open in Boston later this summer

WBUR, May 18, 2023 — Interview with Faculty Fellow Japonica Brown-Saracino 

We hear from Thais Rocha, co-founder of Boston’s LGBTQ Nightlife Events, about the new lesbian and non-binary focused bar set to open this summer in Boston. Once opened, it will be one of fewer than 30 bars in the country that caters to the lesbian community. Plus, Japonica Brown-Saracino, a professor and chair of sociology at Boston University, joins us to talk about why there’s so few bars and how local LGBTQ groups are filling the void.

One to One with Suzy Wrack: The House I Grew Up In

BBC News Radio, March 7, 2023 — Interview with Director Loretta Lees

Football writer Suzy Wrack talks to urban geographer and professor at Boston University, Loretta Lees, about how growing up on council estates shaped their lives, and led them to studying the impact of space and design.

Theory in Geographical Research: 15 Visions

University of Barcelona, February 15, 2023 — Interview with Director Loretta Lees

Project carried out by students of Theory of Geography, Degree in Geography, University of Catalonia

Gov. Healey’s opportunity to drive transformative change: New administration should pursue integrated approach to state’s interrelated challenges

Commonwealth Magazine, January 18, 2023 — Jessica Simes BU Urbanist and Julian Agyeman IOC External Advisory Board member

With Gov. Healey now in office, it is time for Massachusetts to embrace a transformative policy agenda. Rather than continuing to tinker around the edges and address individual policy areas in a piecemeal fashion, Massachusetts is uniquely positioned to lead the nation – and the world – in demonstrating the transformative power of making large integrated public investments that link housing, education, transportation, environment, and health.

America’s Mayors See Regulatory Powers As Their Top Climate Action Tools, but Are Reluctant To Limit Resident Choices, According to Survey of U.S. Mayors

Rockefeller Foundation, January 17, 2023 — Stacy Fox Associate Director

The Inflation Reduction Act marks a landmark investment in climate, featuring hundreds of billions of dollars in commitments toward transforming American energy use and emissions reductions. Local leaders are key allies in putting these dollars to work, as frontline communities are centered in its implementation. America’s mayors feel a sense of urgency to act, as their communities face real and immediate climate impacts, including drought, extreme heat, flooding, and air pollution. Just 3% of mayors say they are not concerned about any local effects of climate change.

How Michelle Wu can become a global mayor on climate

Boston Globe, January 3, 2023 — Loretta Lees IOC Director

Climate Ready Boston is the city’s initiative to get Boston ready for the long-term impacts of climate change. The initiative seeks to prepare for heat, flooding, and social vulnerability. In Michelle Wu’s 2020 Planning for a Boston Green New Deal and Just Recovery campaign proposal, she committed to climate justice and a suite of policies. She said, “Cities have tremendous power to lead the charge to mitigate the threat of climate change, eliminate the violence of poverty and economic inequality, close the racial wealth gap, and dismantle structural racism.”

Real/Symbol Episode 2: Land, place, roots

Real/Symbol, October 4, 2022 — Interview with Director Loretta Lees

In our second episode we will explore more deeply how our ideas about place and land shape how we might begin the healing and repair from the violence caused by displacement, gentrifcation and urban development. In our often enclosed narratives of extraction and profit, we have allowed the logic of capitalism to tell us what’s possible, but our imaginations can and must stretch further.

Policing Health

Inquest, June 22, 2022 – Features Assistant Professor of Sociology Jessica T. Simes

Well before #DefundThePolice went viral, abolitionist activists and scholars had been calling for the redirection of funds from the criminal legal system into a broad set of nonpunitive community resources. Their work has suggested that greater public investment in health care and social welfare could reduce policing in disadvantaged communities. Prior research has illustrated the expansive role police currently play in responding to social problems and health emergencies that could be addressed in other ways. To test this premise, we embarked on a study that asked whether a greater investment in social programs might reduce community reliance on police.

POV: US Child Welfare System Is Falling Short Because of Persistent Child Poverty

BU Today, June 10, 2022 – Features School of Social Work (SSW) professors Astraea Augsberger and Mary Elizabeth Collins

Although US government spending on the child welfare system totaled $33 billion in 2018, the most recent year for which an estimate is available, it’s still failing to meet all children’s needs because of overwhelming demand.

Looking back on ARPA and America’s Cities: A Menino Survey Reflection

Initiative on Cities, March 9, 2022 — Katherine Levine Einstein Faculty Fellow, David Glick Faculty Fellow, and Maxwell Palmer Faculty Fellow

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan was signed into law. It stands as one of the largest federal spending stimulus bills ever passed, with $350 billion in total funds directed to help transform American states, cities, and towns[1]. A look in the rearview mirror reminds us of the bleak outlook presented by mayors prior to its passage.

Opinion: We must stop privileging the voices of housing opponents

CT Post, November 11, 2021 — Coverage of Professors Katherine Levine Einstein, David Glick and Maxwell Palmer

We must stop privileging the voices of Fairfield County’s housing opponents at the expense of other, more valuable views. Two articles — “Neighbors say plan for 192 apartments in Greenwich ‘would absolutely reduce the quality of life for us,” and “Darien neighbors say apartment building proposed to replace offices would be ‘too big for this spot’” — are recent examples of the problematic way too many stories frame housing and land-use issues in the region.

Making Up for Lost Instructional Time: Reengaging Middle and High School Students

Cities Speak, June 28, 2021 — Daniel Daponte Former NLC Menino Fellow

In March of 2020 school districts across the U.S. abruptly closed their doors and transitioned to remote learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Immediately, teachers, parents, administrators, and community leaders expressed concern about low school attendance and engagement…

City dwellers gained more access to public spaces during the pandemic – can they keep it?

The Conversation, March 31, 2021 — Katharine Lusk Co-Director

Through a year of pandemic shutdowns and protests, Americans have rediscovered their public spaces. Homebound city dwellers sought havens in parks, plazas and reclaimed streets. Many of these places also became stages for protests against police violence and systemic racism in the U.S…

Many Republican mayors are advancing climate-friendly policies without saying so

The Conversation, May 30, 2018 — Nicolas Gunkel Research Fellow

Leadership in addressing climate change in the United States has shifted away from Washington, D.C. Cities across the country are organizing, networking and sharing resources to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and tackle related challenges ranging from air pollution to heat island effects…

Here’s how city networks can help American cities reduce their carbon footprint

CityMetric, May 9, 2018 — Nicolas Gunkel Research Fellow

Over the last three years, US mayors have become increasingly convinced that cities should play a strong role in reducing the effects of climate change. Today, two thirds of mayors are willing to expend resources to take action on climate. If the political will exists, the question then becomes: who is offering a roadmap to get there – and what are the next steps?

The ground game: cities & racial equity

Medium, March 27, 2018 — Katharine Lusk Co-Director

On Sunday March 11th, Initiative on Cities Executive Director Katharine Lusk took the stage at SXSW to lead a discussion on how mayors are advancing racial equity in America. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Leon Andrews from the National League of Cities, and Dr. Atyia Martin, former Chief of Boston’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity, joined to discuss local powers, progress and stumbling blocks...

As the Trump administration retreats on climate change, US cities are moving forward

The Conversation, February 20, 2018 — Katherine Levine Einstein Faculty Fellow, David Glick Faculty Fellow, and Maxwell Palmer Faculty Fellow

Despite almost universal scientific consensus that climate change poses a growing threat, President Donald Trump’s recent infrastructure plan makes no mention of the need to build resilience to rising global temperatures. Instead, it actually seeks to weaken environmental reviews as a way of speeding up the infrastructure permitting process. Mayors overwhelmingly believe that climate change is a result of human activities….

Why I’m an unabashed fan of America’s mayors

Next City, March 3, 2017 — Katharine Lusk Co-Director

Lobbyists aside, spending quality time with elected officials is not high on anyone’s priority list these days. But I often tell people how much I love walking into a room of mayors.As American politicians go, mayors are cut from a different cloth: They often have the heart of a humanitarian, but they combine it with the management ethos of the accountable executive….

Urban nation: What’s at stake for cities in the 2016 elections

The Conversation, November 1, 2016 — Graham Wilson Director Emeritus (2014-2021); Professor of Political Science, Katharine Lusk Co-Director, and Conor LeBlanc Former Associate Director(2017) and Administrative Coordinator(2014-2017)

Cities are America’s economic engines. America is becoming more urban, reflecting a global migration to cities that is changing the political power structure. Many mayors, unencumbered by the partisan gridlock that characterizes Washington, D.C., are leading novel policy initiatives and setting national agendas. But they don’t operate in a vacuum. They need the federal government to shape the future….

N.H. braces for economic fallout from Brexit

The Exchange, June 28, 2016 — Graham Wilson Director Emeritus (2014-2021); Professor of Political Science

As Europe struggles to sort out what Britain’s decision to leave the EU means for the Continent, here in the United States there are impacts as well.  In this segment, New Hampshire Public Radio explores how this European shake-out might affect the economy in New Hampshire and New England. Guests on the show include Graham Wilson, political science professor at Boston University and UK native, and Dawn Wivell, CEO at Firebrand International….

3 Ways cities can improve curfews for minors

Cities Speak, May 2, 2016 — Sana Johnson Former NLC Menino Fellow

Curfew laws have serious unintended consequences, including disproportionate minority contact, the criminalization of homeless and runaway youth, worsening outcomes for kids and the exposure of cities to lawsuits for unconstitutionality. Local decision-makers should consider taking the following actions in order to ensure that their curfews protect rather than harm young people in their cities:.

What city leaders should know about curfews for minors

Cities Speak, April 28, 2016 — Sana Johnson Former NLC Menino Fellow

Do curfew laws actually protect city youth and increase public safety? Not only do curfew laws yield a number of serious unintended consequences, but their effectiveness as a tool for protecting general public safety – especially the safety of young people – remains unconfirmed by research….

Policies written by youth delegates at NLC’s National Youth Convention

Cities Speak, March 9, 2016 — Sana Johnson Former NLC Menino Fellow

Young people from more than 35 diverse cities across the country convened on Monday, March 7th to participate in the National Youth Convention at NLC’s 2016 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. Modeled after the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, youth delegates took on the challenges of developing a National Youth Platform and choosing their candidates for the presidential bid….

U.S. mayors desperate to fix crumbling infrastructure but states, feds hold them back

The Conversation, February 22, 2016 — Katherine Levine Einstein Faculty Fellow and David Glick Faculty Fellow

The drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan illustrates two urgent and related challenges that are stressing many American cities. First, critical infrastructure systems such as roads, bridges and water networks are aging and underfunded. Second, cities are not getting the support they need from higher levels of government to fix these problems….

Why mayors are looking for ideas outside the city limits

The Conversation, October 30, 2015 — Katharine Lusk Co-Director

When our dear colleague and cofounder of the Initiative on Cities program at Boston University, former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, passed away one year ago, letters poured in to our offices at Boston University. The intimate condolences from Boston’s many neighborhoods – Hyde Park, Roslindale, Dorchester – were to be expected. But the letters and fond remembrances from heads of state, governors, ambassadors, and countless domestic and foreign mayors took us by surprise…

The C-title that cities need: chief research officer

Governing, September 24, 2015 — Katharine Lusk Co-Director

You can almost hear it: In mayoral cabinets nationwide, new chairs are being pulled up to the table. Chief resiliency officers are joining their ranks, along with data and innovation chiefs. And yet room hasn’t been made for a critical seat: chief research officer. In cash-strapped cities drowning in data and searching for evidence-based interventions that have real impact, a chief research officer would be a master stroke…

America’s mayors are taking on the big problems, but they can’t escape partisan divide

The Conversation, May 21, 2015 — Katherine Levine Einstein Faculty Fellow and David Glick Faculty Fellow

Paralysis, gridlock, dysfunction: these are just three of the words commonly used to describe federal politics. Making things happen is no easy task in a polarized Washington, DC. But move a couple of levels down – to our cities – and a different picture emerges…