Mr. Bloomberg at the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize Ceremony
By Asif Mehmood
‘This world has become a place of ‘Me-Now’ and this has made life difficult as no one is concerned about the future – something for the next generation’ said Mr. Bloomberg in his acceptance speech at the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize presentation event at Raffles Hotel, Singapore on March 21, 2012. The Mayor of New York City was speaking to a large gathering of people from all walks of life including students of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize – jointly organized by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Center for Liveable Cities, Singapore and sponsored by Keppel Corporation Ltd. – ‘is a biennial international award that honours outstanding contributions towards the creation of vibrant, liveable and sustainable urban communities around the world’. Mr. Kishore Mehbubani - Dean of the LKY School of Public Policy and Chairman of the nominating committee for the 2012 award – announced the winner – New York City - and gave a brief citation of the leadership role of Mr. Bloomberg and the services of Departments of Transportation, City Planning and Parks and Recreation for ‘strategically orchestrating the remarkable transformation of New York City over the last decade’. (http://www.leekuanyewworldcityprize.com.sg/laureate_newyork.htm)
The Mayor spoke of similarities between New York City and Singapore in terms of their multi-cultural outlook and global economic import. He said New York faced a rapid urban growth in the recent past and it was a daunting task to make it a place attractive for private sector to generate employment. He illustrated three main projects in the city to grab attention in urban redevelopment designs; Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City’s first aerial park on elevated railway line and promoting the use of street space for cyclists and pedestrians.
The Brooklyn Park gives a new idea in spatial location of a public park. It is an intelligent adaptive reuse of city’s industrial waterfront into a park, which is situated right in the middle of metropolitan hustle and bustle. The elevated railway line – located in the meat packaging district – was considered to be an eye soar. The new vision in urban planning has transformed it into one of the most frequented place of the city. This re-inventive initiative has brought US$ 2 billion of new investment to the area. The number of cyclists has been doubled since 2007 through an effective management that encourages better use of streets. A total of 430 kilometres of new bike-lines have been built and security for pedestrians on the streets has been improved.
Apart from these, efforts have been made to make New York a model for urban public transport through major extension projects of subways. Further, 50 new residential apartments on the waterfront have been constructed to improve water sources. His vision was to attract ‘creative classes’ to the city to further strengthen the economy through their innovation, he added.
Responding to a question on challenges facing the city in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Mr Bloomberg said the prevalent view then was nobody would like to live in the city anymore and the companies moved their offices from the commercial districts. The current reality of the city was different, he said. The downtown population had been doubled and corporate activities were thriving due to improved infrastructure facilities, crime rate reduction and increase in cultural activities. Above all, he said, it was cooperation of the global community and popular love of life and democracy that enabled New York to recover so fast.
The most salient lessons Asian cities could learn from the New York City model would be a belief in the diversity of population for new ideas for society and economy, a focus on reducing crimes to facilitate investment and a long-term strategy for futuristic planning.
As for promoting philanthropy for social sector development, the good humoured Mayor replied that we would have to follow what he called ‘Willie Sutton Phenomenon’. Willie Sutton – a bank robber in the US – when asked why he robbed the banks, he said, ‘because that’s where the money is’. He added that the donors should be given full recognition of their contributions because ‘that’s where the money is’. Besides those who donate money, recognition should be given to those who invest time – the volunteers. Both are very important for public service.
Mr. Bloomberg will receive the prize in the World Cities Summit scheduled to be held from 1-4 July 2012 in Singapore.
Photos of the event are available here.
is a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the LKY School of Public Policy.