Columbia University’s Journal of International Affairs held its signature Thought Leadership Forum on Monday, April 23rd, 2012 at SIPA to launch its 65th anniversary issue: “The Future of the City,” an exploration of pressing global challenges through an urban lens.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was the keynote speaker. He laid out his vision for the future of New York City.
“Successful cities are those who will meet the needs of an increasingly mobile and knowledge-based workforce,” said Stringer.
He stated three objectives for New York: first, create strong neighborhood-based governments; second, increase transparency; and third, focus on both hard and soft infrastructure, especially human capital.
“In our increasingly mobile world,” he added. “It’s no longer about having the fastest trains or best housing.”
Left to right: Alexander Garvin, Jeffrey Inaba, Greg Lindsay, Ester Fuchs, Kavitha Rajagopalan, Carne Ross, Saskia Sassen and Jesse Keenan.
The diverse panel of thought leaders discussed various aspects of the city from urban planning to technology, immigration to democracy.
Professor Saskia Sassen, selected as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2011 by Foreign Policy magazine and a contributor to the Journal’s new issue, closed the discussion with general thoughts on cities.
“The city serves as a lens to understand enormously complex events,” she said.
“What makes a space a city? Cities are, one, a complex system, two, an incomplete system—and in that incompleteness lies the ability to outlive empires, multinational corporations… Third, in cities, norms are made.”
Sassen added that there is no perfect global city that can do it all, nor is there an idea about the perfect imperial capital city any longer. Rather, there is now a network of global cities. She ended with a call to listen to and learn from the city itself.
“Cities have speech,” said Sassen. “It’s a speech that’s been forgotten. If we begin to think that cities talk back to us… that opens possibilities.”
This event was live tweeted. For more highlights and quotes from the keynote speaker and panelists, click here:
- Michelle Chahine