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Biden School at UAA 2024

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​A delegation of representatives from the Biden School attended the International Conference on Urban Affairs (ICUA) on April 25 and 26, 2024. Hosted by the Urban Affairs Association (UAA), this year’s conference took place in New York City, focusing on bringing practitioners together to explore ways of making cities more equitable and resilient. Conference tracks included: Cities as Global Landscapes, Resilient Cities, Rights to the City, Democracy Under Stress and Asian Cities on the Edge.​

See below for a full list of school representative participants and their respective session details.


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“Bridging” the City: Community Perspectives on Capping I-95 in Wilmington, Delaware

Description: “Wilmington, DE is bisected by the I-95. Much like in other cities in the United States (Connerly, 2002; Mohl, 1993) the interstate runs through the middle of the city, through the Adams-Jackson corridor in a dense urban neighborhood, dividing the city physically, culturally, and socio-economically (David et al. 2021). Recently, there has been local, state, and federal interest in addressing the separation caused by the I-95 (WILMAPCO, n.d.). One proposal includes capping the interstate to create a greenspace (Hargreaves Jones, 2023; Johnson, 2023). The cap would aim to reconnect and support neighborhoods while creating inclusive, equitable, and safe outdoor spaces that could encourage pedestrians and outdoor recreation (Hargreaves Jones, 2023). This study utilized a survey (n=65) to assess community perspectives of the I-95, its impacts on their neighborhoods, and their thoughts on capping the Adams-Jackson corridor. Qualitative and quantitative analysis revealed that respondents identified their neighborhoods as being negatively impacted by the I-95 for a variety of reasons, and a majority (73%) of survey respondents cited the intervention of a cap as their dream scenario for the interstate. These findings show that despite the differences in neighborhoods and their physical separation by the I-95, community perspectives regarding a cap were generally positive and perceptions of interstate impacts were generally negative. While respondents recognized the value of the interstate, they also recognized the harm perpetuated by it. Future assessments of community perceptions regarding capping should examine their affected population closely and use their vision to inform development of a cap as a solution. Interstate caps such as this can contribute to a more equitable and greener city.”

Meredith Braine (Co-Author)

Master of Energy and Environmental Policy Program Alumnus

Nina David (Co-Author)

Associate Professor, Energy and Environmental Policy Doctoral Program Director

Keihan Hassanzadehkermanshahi (Co-Presenter, Co-Author)

Doctoral Student

Zoe Ketola (Co-Presenter, Co-Author)

Doctoral Student

Track: Rights to the City

Category: Community Development, Gentrification, Neighborhood Change​


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Exploring the process of public participation during the formulation of Form-Based Codes (FBCs)

Description: “The built environment impacts our everyday lives. Our mobility, access to food, amenities, recreational activities, and employment opportunities are all influenced by land-use planning and zoning. Form-Based Codes (FBCs) – an alternative to conventional zoning – focus on building ‘form’ instead of separation of uses and can be used to facilitate a built environment that is more inclusive broadly (Parolek et al., 2008). As of 2019, there have been a total of 720 codes globally that match the form-based codes criteria, out of which 654 are in the United States, including cities like Denver (CO) and Nashville (TN) (Borys et al., 2019). Proponents argue that FBCs can better capture and fulfil a shared "public" vision and can allow for dense, walkable, and aesthetically pleasing mixed-use neighborhoods, where development follows a pre-determined urban character (Barry, 2008). Therefore, participation from the outset is integral to the process of creating a holistic vision for the locality, at least theoretically (Talen, 2009; Walters & Read, 2014). To understand the kind of participation that is planned for and materializes on the ground, we investigate the strategies that planners use to facilitate public participation during the FBC adoption process and whether the strategies used result in meaningful and inclusive participation. We use a survey of planners in 67 localities that have already adopted FBCs between 2009 to 2019. The survey asks planners about the specific participation techniques that were used during code formulation, the stakeholder groups that were targeted for participation, outreach efforts to underrepresented groups, and the resulting participation outcomes. We analyze whether and how localities conceive of participation differently for Form-Based Code formulation; the participation techniques and strategies they use to facilitate the development of a shared public vision; the extent to which they “include” stakeholder groups throughout the code development process; and planners’ perception of the effectiveness of the strategies used to facilitate participation.”

Ayesha Bilal (Presenter, Co-Author)

Doctoral Student

Nina David (Co-Author)

Track: Rights to the City

Category: Planning Equitable Cities: Urban Design, Land Use, Public Space, Growth Management, Services

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NYC Lights-Out Policy on Bird Population: Evidence-Based Case Study of Policy Making and Policy Evaluation

Description: "Every year, up to 230,000 migrating birds are killed through building collisions or exhaustion caused by disorientation from intense Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) as they pass through New York City. In order to protect migratory birds, a non-profit organization, Audubon, and their partners have established a lights-out program in 45 cities across the U.S. Especially in NYC, in December 2017, Lights Out Bills Int. 274 and Int. 271 were signed and required that all city-owned buildings turn their nonessential outdoor lights off from 11 pm to 6 am during the spring and fall migration periods.

In this research, we aim to assess the effectiveness of the lights-out policy in collaboration with NYC Audubon. Our study involves comparing bird fatality and bird density during the migratory seasons, both before and after the policy's implementation. We will employ three types of data sources: RGB image data, captured every 10 seconds from the Urban Observatory, will allow us to monitor the lights-out policy's implementation and calculate ALAN brightness. Radar data obtained from the Next Generation Weather Radar system will be used to calculate bird density. Additionally, we will incorporate data from Audubon volunteers, documenting bird fatalities during the early morning hours of our observation period.

Furthermore, considering NYC Audubon's ongoing advocacy for lights-out policy making, we will conduct a single case study through interviews and archival records to study the relationship between NGO advocacy and policy making. The research will be divided into two stages: In the initial stage, the research question will focus on the initiatives and efforts that NYC Audubon undertook to safeguard bird populations. For phase two, we would like to assess the relationship between NYC Audubon's advocacy and the lights-out policy in NYC by using this as a single case study of the Advocacy Coalition Framework."

Lan Yu (Presenter, Co-Author)

Doctoral Student

Gregory Dobler (Co-Author)

Associate Professor

Track: Resilient Cities

Category: Environmental and Energy Policy Challenges in Cities and Urban Green Futures


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Privacy-Preserving Spatio-Temporal Data Aggregation for Energy End Use in City

Description: "Cities are increasingly observed by proximal remote sensors capturing spatiotemporal data for multiple purposes, such as monitoring urban foot traffic (Dobler et al., 2021), tracking environmental pollution (Qamar et al., 2023), assessing city lights (Baur et al., 2018), and estimating energy consumption (Arjunan et al., 2021). However, collecting and aggregating large-scale observational data on urban environments raises critical questions for scrutiny and analysis (Lyon, 2014). As more data becomes publicly accessible, there is a growing concern about key privacy threats, including surveillance, disclosure, discrimination, and abuse (Rao et al., 2018). Despite the absence of Personal Identifying Information (PII) collected through remote sensing observational methods, the behavioral information content of the data challenges the conventional PII concept. This challenge becomes especially pronounced when analyzing the behavioral patterns of multiple individuals and suggests the need for a new concept, often referred to as PII 2.0 (Schwartz & Solove, 2011). Using remotely sensed infrared imaging data of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) usage from the Urban Observatory (Dobler et al., 2021), we derive activity-based metrics that are unique to anonymous individual users within the field of view, highlighting the potential shortcomings of the existing PII concept with respect to disaggregated behavioral proxies in urban environments. Thus, we propose a novel approach for assessing privacy impacts while aggregating spatiotemporal data for energy-end use measures in the city. Our work explores the potential of using AI-driven modeling to identify the presence of individuals' behavior in aggregated urban behavioral data from derived HVAC usage patterns extracted from approximately 160,000 proximal infrared images captured in Brooklyn, New York City, from June 2018. The results of this study highlight the theoretical and practical implications and complexities of preserving privacy when using remote sensing imagery to quantify urban function and energy end-use."

Kyungmin Lee (Presenter, Co-Author)

Doctoral Student

Gregory Dobler (Co-Author)

Thomas M. Powers (Co-Author)

Associate Professor

Track: Rights to the City

Category: Urban Technology, Media and Communications, Smart Cities, Digital Divides


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Urban Affairs Association (UAA) logo

For a full list of presenters and more details on the topics covered at this year’s conference, visit the UAA website.

#UAA2024

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