NYU’s Furman Center released its State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2014. I found its discussion of urban density to be the most notable aspect of this nexcellent and data-rich annual report. The discussion on density concludes,
The renewed attractiveness of New York City since the 1970s means population will likely keep increasing, and so will population and housing density. In 2010, few other U.S. cities had any neighborhoods that matched the density experienced by the typical New Yorker. Yet, by recent historical standards, today’s density levels are not extreme. In recent years, the typical New Yorker lived in a lower-density neighborhood than the typical New Yorker in 1970, as population growth in the city since 1980 was focused in moderate-density neighborhoods. Further, while great disparities in education and crime across neighborhoods exist, these differences are not generally associated with density levels.
High density cities like New York are playing an increasingly important role in the economy as drivers of productivity and innovation. This means the accessibility of the city to new residents is important both for New Yorkers and the nation. We have demonstrated that significant numbers of new residents can be accommodated without elevating density to levels above what the city has historically experienced, and that high-density neighborhoods do not perform lower on key quality of life indicators. City officials will need to ensure that neighborhoods have sufficient infrastructure to accommodate their new residents. (20)
This last point is key: density is not a problem so long as the appropriate infrastructure is built to support it. And while current residents are concerned about the impact of local increases in density, the city as a whole benefits from the increased economic activity and cultural creativity that comes along with heightened density. The De Blasio Administration knows this. Other local elected officials should sign on to increased density along with thoughtful zoning and infrastructure policies.
As a final note, I would compare the transparent acknowledgement of the report’s financial sponsors in the front matter with the much less transparent acknowledgment found in Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies State of the Nation’s Housing 2015 report that I blogged about yesterday.