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Students in the Urban Policy Management program learn the theories, techniques and practices necessary for improving the quality of life for urban communities. Click here to find out more.
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The goals of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)are to make business blocks look better, attract more customers, and draw good merchants to vacant properties. Currently there is a stark contrast in funding and benefits between Manhattan BIDs and those in the outer boroughs.
In a recent article by the Bronx Bureau, Urban Policy Professor Rachel Meltzer is quoted, saying “When you have the smaller BIDs, you just are not at a scale where you can really benefit from economies of scale…Maybe a third of your budget is going towards administrative cost, and that leaves very little for actual service provision. So economically, it’s harder for it to make sense and make an impact for the smaller BIDs.” The article also refers to Meltzer’s 2012 study, which demonstrated that BIDs are more likely to form, and reap benefits, in neighborhoods that are already at an economic and political advantage.
Professor Jeff Smith had an article featured on The Atlantic’s website entitled “Why Black Democratic Mayors and GOP Governors are BFFs,” Smith wrote about the seemingly unorthodox, but somewhat common relationship between black urban mayors and their white Republican governors. He cites as his two primary cases the relationships between Newark mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, as well as the ties between Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed and Georgia governor Nathan Deal.
Smith goes on to detail the ways in which both parties benefit from these relationships, with little to no cost to them politically, at least usually. Although given recent events surrounding both governors, Smith cautions both Booker and Reed to reconsider these ties.
The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General issued a white paper in January proposing a new line of business: providing nonbank financial services to the “underserved” by handling bill payments, making small loans, offering international money transfers in order to bolster the Post Office’s ability to remain financially self-sustaining. In an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Professor Liasa Servon calls this proposal into question based on her research into businesses that already provide such services.
In her article, Professor Servon points out various gaps in the white paper’s proposal including how it does not explain how the Postal Service would offer better prices than check cashers and payday lenders already do—and make money, how it fails to specify how the Postal Service would develop effective risk scorecards for underserved segments of the population, and how it does not describe collections routines for delinquent loans, or how its loan model would generate a profit.
Melissa Holmes, an alumna of Milano’s Urban Policy Analysis and Management program, is spearheading a revitalization project to repurpose the historic Robins Theater in her hometown of Warren, Ohio. In her student days, Melissa participated in Milano’s Community Development Finance Lab (CDFL). Melissa thought her current endeavor would make a great CDFL project and contacted faculty member Kevin McQueen.
This February, a team of 13 students and three faculty members from The New School Urban Collaborative, a partnership between Milano’s Community Development Finance Lab and Parsons School of Design Strategies, travel to Warren to begin a community engagement process. The team is partnering with local artists and students to engage community members in a plan for adapting the Robins Theater for reuse. Melissa is excited about the collaboration, “I think the intersection of students with locals is really going to create something amazing.”
Read more about the project in this article from the local paper, Residents work to restore Robins theater, downtown. Please note the Tribune Chronicle got an important detail wrong. Melissa is a proud alumna of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy.
Payday loans are illegal in New York, but not in California where Professor Lisa Servon did research working as a teller at Check Center, a check casher and payday lender in a low-income neighborhood in downtown Oakland. There she met Azlinah Tambu, a twenty-two-year-old single mother who took out five payday loans from five different payday lenders, ranging from fifty-five dollars to three hundred dollars each, to cover the expense of fixing her car. In a piece written for the New Yorker, Servon tells Tambu’s story, and discusses the need for a better solution for the growing demand for small loans in the US.