Armando Carbonell returned from the New York Academy of Sciences/Urban Age Institute conference "Sustainable City Finance" last week and reported on the Lincoln Institute session, "The Sustainable City in the Sustainable Region." The panel sought to show connections between the city and nature, and the potential to harness revenue streams from regional ecosystem services at different scales, beginning with the New York City water supply watershed and extending to the Northeast megaregion – roughly the Boston-to-Washington corridor. Among the many financial concepts and instruments discussed, Albert F. Appleton, former chief of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, presented on a proposal for a land use services tax, that would combine aspects of the property tax and impact fees. Rohit T. Aggarwala, from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, and Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association were also on the panel.
An overview of global urban development trends followed, led by Abha Joshu-Ghani of the World Bank Group, which, among other insights, underlined the relationship between density restrictions in Mumbai and the proliferation of slums, which now house 60 percent of that city's population. Of interest to followers of European spatial planning, steeped in the special language of "subsidiarity" and "structural funds," was a presentation by Jan Olbrycht, member of the European Parliament and president of its urban group, and former mayor of Cieszyn, Poland, who spoke of new financial instruments available directly to cities to pay for EU urban imperatives. In an afternoon session moderated by Bob Buckley of the Rockefeller Foundation, Eduardo Rojas of the Inter-American Development Bank described successful financial mechanisms, including the novel "Agencias Cero" of Spain, for innovative, high-risk development projects that involve land assembly, master planning, regulatory approval, and public and private shareholders, all executed through a negotiation process.
About 200 participants from around the world representing public, private, and NGO sectors attended the program. More information is available via the Urban Age Institute.