Category Archives: Urban Studies

The World Cup: Panem et Circenses et Transit (Killjoy Alert!)

Kafui Attoh is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute.

The World Cup is upon us! All praise be to FIFA! In less than a week, millions of people worldwide will tune into what promises to be the largest global bread and circus event of the year. Indeed, an estimated half a million fans will descend on Brazil itself — no doubt, to partake in the spectacle first hand. As is now common with these mega events, the World Cup boasts its own theme song — a predictably forgettable anthem by J-Lo and Pitbull called “We Are One (Ole Ola).” It will also have its own cuddly mascot — Fuleco, an anime-inspired “three-banded Armadillo.” Reportedly, Fuleco is modeled on an endangered species native to Brazil.

With all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster, the World Cup is a big deal. For the host nation, the finances alone are absurd. Since “winning” the right to host the tournament seven years ago, Brazil has spent $11.3 billion on Cup related infrastructure projects. Many of these projects — despite the desperate need for hospitals and better transit — have been limited to new arenas and new stadiums. An additional $800 million has been spent on security alone as roughly 170,000 security personnel have been dispatched across the country to regulate crowds and secure arenas. “Ordem without Progresso,” as Brazilians might say.

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The Significance of the TWU and UFT Labor Contracts

Written by James Parrott, the Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute

For the first time in nearly five years, major labor agreements were recently reached covering public sector workers in New York City. On April 17, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 concluded a new 5-year contract dating from January 2012 covering 34,000 workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), most of whom work for the subway and bus system in New York City. Two weeks later on May 1, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reached a 9-year agreement with the City of New York stretching back to November 2009 that affects over 100,000 public school teachers and support staff.

Both contracts represented a breakthrough in ending managements’ demands for a 3-year wage freeze that had grown out of a counter-productive post-Great Recession conservative infatuation with public sector austerity, or more precisely, a mindset that held that workers had to sacrifice to help clean up the economic mess caused by financial sector excesses.

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Progressive Urban Policy Meets Albany: 2014

Eve Baron is the Academic Program Manager of Urban Studies at The Murphy Institute

New York City Mayor de Blasio came into office on a platform to rewrite the city’s “Tale of Two Cities,” a reference to the stark and growing differences between the life chances of the city’s rich and poor. One of his first policy initiatives was focused on children—universal pre- kindergarten. Universal pre-k programs have long been seen by education advocates as critical to children’s future academic and social success, and critical to support the needs of working parents. De Blasio was successful, in that New York State Governor Cuomo agreed to a budget deal this year that would fund universal pre-k, yet the Mayor failed to reach his goal of a permanent funding stream—he was not able to persuade the state legislature to allow the city to levy higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for the program. Short of that, NYC’s pre-k programs will need to be re-funded each budget cycle. Perhaps even bigger are  questions of gaining autonomy over the tax levy process—if NYC had more control, could we enact a more broadly progressive agenda—one that included pre-k and low-cost housing, after-school programs and infrastructure funding, for example?

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