Elena Olivo

According to Robert K. Steel, New York's deputy mayor for economic development.

CityLab 2013
Exploring urban solutions to global challenges
See full coverage

Brooklyn has been part of New York since the end of the 19th century, but it's always felt like a city of its own. In recent years it's undergone a massive transformation that's positioned it as one of America's top cities — despite not actually being an independent metro.

"If you look at the last decade in Brooklyn, here you have a top ten city in the United States that really, the story just gets better and better," said Robert K. Steel, New York's deputy mayor for economic development, during a panel on urban success stories The Atlantic's CityLab summit. "Now Brooklyn is the place where lots of the new economy companies want to be."

When pushed to describe the pillars of Brooklyn's success, Steel identified four key factors:

  1. Public safety. By enhancing public safety across the city, said Steel, New York became a bigger place, with Brooklyn neighborhoods once considered dicey now very livable.
  2. Real estate development. Steel pointed to investments made in Dumbo "which basically re-birthed it." (Oddly enough, as The New York Times recently pointed out, the original name "Dumbo" was conceived in the 1970s by a group of artists hoping to deter development.)
  3. Alternative transportation. Expansive as New York's subway is, it still doesn't do a great job reaching the outer boroughs. But an expanded ferry service and the Citi Bike program have made it possible to access a neighborhood like Dumbo in a sustainable way even without a subway line nearby.
  4. Quality of life. By this Steel meant amenities as basic as urban parks — a type of lifestyle, he says, that "competes with Portland, Seattle, and Boulder."

"People now take the ferry from Williamsburg down to Dumbo with their dog and bike and go to work then enjoy lunch in Brooklyn Bridge Park," he said. "This was unimaginable a decade ago."

Top image: New York's deputy mayor for economic development Robert K. Steel. (Elena Olivo)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  3. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

  4. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  5. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

×