Our Predictions for New York City in 2017

The five hot topics predicted a year ago – the focus on outer boroughs, rezoning, infrastructure, affordable housing, and regional corporation – continue to play an important role in New York City’s development. 2017 will, however, be overshadowed by two elections.


First, there is no doubt that the incoming Trump administration will have a significant impact on urban centres across the country. But the big question is what will this be? The one thing that is predictable about the president-elect is that nothing is predictable anymore. Nevertheless, cities across the country – from Los Angeles to New York and Seattle to New Orleans – are gearing up to fight some of the proposed policies that could have a huge impact on their residents and the urban economy. Shortly after Trump’s election, Mayor Bill de Blasio ensured New Yorkers (who largely voted for Hillary Clinton) to resist some of Trump’s campaign promises such as stop-and-frisk policing (which de Blasio abolished in NYC when he became Mayor), and the defunding of social programs.

The mayoral election in the fall will occupy New Yorkers for much of this year

Second, the mayoral election in the fall will occupy New Yorkers for much of this year. While Bill de Blasio’s approval rating was inconsistent during his first term, the latest polls show that half of the city’s voters believe that the mayor deserves re-election. He can certainly point to some successes over the past three years. The Mayor’s mandatory inclusionary housing program – that requires the creation of permanently affordable housing in rezoned neighbourhoods – moved the bar on his most important policy issue:  affordable housing.

He also followed through on his campaign promise to create full-day universal pre-kindergarten. And maybe, most importantly to New Yorkers, crime rates in New York City are at a record low despite (or maybe because of) the abolition of stop-and-frisk practices. de Blasio also followed through on some of his environmental goals: Buro Happold’s NYC Cities team had the privilege of working on some of these high-profile projects: New York City’s Roadmap to 80×50, a plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 and the Private Carting Study, an analysis of NYC’s commercial waste market that helped inform the City’s decision-making process to transform the current open-market system to a zone-based commercial waste collection system.

Finally, the mayor also made significant commitments to job-creation for the city, announcing a $500million investment in the Life Science sector (for which Buro Happold led the team producing the initial strategic roadmap), as well as new Industrial Business Zone Plans where infrastructure investment will help modernize manufacturing and commercial space.

The question then, might not be so much that of who may win the mayoral election, but instead which topics the Mayor will run his campaign on for a second term. On several of his hot topics from the first campaign – income inequality, homelessness – he has not scored highly. He thus might not be able to run on these issues. We think that he will largely position himself as a counter-weight to the federal government of Trump: defending immigrants’ rights and opportunities, and resisting any defunding of social programs that would hurt New Yorkers. His new slogan “A city for everyone and a city where everyone has a shot” certainly points to this possibility.

Governor Cuomo has another two years in office and will continue to push his agenda for the renewal of New York’s airport and rail infrastructure

New York City is, however, not only shaped by federal and local policies, but especially in relation to infrastructure the State plays a crucial role. Governor Cuomo has another two years in office and will continue to push his agenda for the renewal of New York’s airport and rail infrastructure. With the opening of the long-awaited first section of the Second Avenue Subway line on January 1, 2017, he has already inaugurated and celebrated a major milestone. One can only hope that his other projects – the new Penn Station, the improvements at LaGuardia Airport, or his newest promise of a $10 billion overhaul of JFK Airport – will not take a century to complete.

In our 2016 predictions, we said that Cuomo will need to become a lot more creative and innovative to find the necessary funding for such projects. The $7 billion in private capital announced for the JFK Airport overhaul, if followed through, is a good step in this direction. And with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announcement of a new $32 billion capital plan, things might even start to happen. One thing is for certain, as with the past 12 months, 2017 will be another year to watch for New York City.

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