Urban Policy Lab Projects

Real-World, Client-Based Projects.  Each spring, teams of students in our Urban Policy Lab advise clients in government and the nonprofit sector on pressing policy and management issues. Working under the supervision of a faculty supervisor, students research the issue, identify possible solutions, and analyze them. The students present their recommendations to the client in a formal briefing and afterward submit a written report incorporating client feedback. This spring, our student teams worked with these clients on policy issues confronting them. 

Urban Policy Lab Responses to COVID-19

The coronavirus shutdown coincided with the second half of the Urban Policy Lab. In the Lab, students work in teams on two different issues for different clients. When it became clear that a second round of client projects was no longer possible, students were asked to produce a policy memo that would analyze an issue and offer recommendations to inform and guide a decision-maker. A number of students chose to address the many urgent crises that New York faces as a result of the coronavirus. These students turned constraints posed by the stay-at-home order into an opportunity to analyze, understand, and effectively respond to policy challenges posed by COVID-19.

In tackling coronavirus response strategy, students identified a range of topics, central policy issues, and recommendations.

Food Response to the Coronavirus and Corresponding Economic Downturn

COVID-19 Rapid Housing Strategy for NYC’s Shelter Population

Protection for Immigrant Agricultural Workers in New York State during COVID-19

Economic impact and recovery from COVID-19 Crisis on Freelancers/Gig Workers/Independent Contractors

Urban Policy Lab | Featured Projects

The Urban Policy Lab course taken in the second semester of the first year is an applied policy-analysis experience in which students work together in small teams to resolve a policy issue for a public or nonprofit decision-maker.

Workforce Development in the Food Sector

Urban Policy Lab Student Team: Keri Springett, Angela Butel, Eben Fenton, Hugo Fausto Torres-Fetsco, Alix Scherer
Client: Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration)
Central Policy Issue: How can Restoration offer opportunities for career advancement in the food sector?

Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation’s first Community Development organization, asked the student team to enhance their workforce development program and increase retention. The team focused on the food industry, concentrating their research on institutional dining, catering, inventory management, and grocery. In their analysis of these areas of the food sector, the team considered such criteria as the number of job openings, opportunities for career advancement, and training costs, and recommended that Restoration concentrate their efforts on the grocery industry. The team presented their recommendations in an oral briefing and subsequent report. They recommended that Restoration build targeted partnerships within the grocery industry, close the skills gap with training, and add programs to assist with employment retention.

Improving Lease-Up Rates for Housing Choice Voucher Holders

Urban Policy Lab Student Team: Heather Beck, St. Clair Logan, Antonio
Client: NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)
Central Policy Issue: How can HPD improve lease-up rates for Housing Choice Voucher holders?

Housing Choice Vouchers help low-income households pay for housing in the private market. “Leasing-up” refers to the ability of voucher recipients to find an apartment and sign a lease. Lease-up rates have decreased in recent years and HPD asked the students for ideas on how to reverse this trend. The team explored what cities around the country are doing to address the issue in order to determine how New York City can improve lease-up rates. Drawing on academic literature, interviews with housing expects and program administrators, the team identified several barriers to leasing up, and compared several ways of addressing these barriers. Their analysis led to the following recommendations: modify the process for inspecting apartments prior to lease up; enhance tenant supports; and build landlord outreach.

Urban Policy Lab | Spring 2019 Clients and Issues

Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Anchor Institutions and Community Development

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Improving Transportation Options for Central Brooklyn

Center for Court Innovation
Strategies for Scaling Up the Project Reset Criminal Justice Diversion Program

City Council Member Ritchie Torres
Improving Election Technology and Management

Nature Conservancy of New York State, Inc.
Promoting Tree Protection, Tree Planting, and Long-Term Tree Stewardship on Private Property

NYC Administration for Children’s Services
Increasing Parental Voice in Preventive Services

NYC  Department of Administrative Services
Rethinking the Operations of NYC’s Central Storehouse

NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & Development
Improving the Affordable Housing Application Experience for Transgender, Gender Non-Binary, and Gender Nonconforming New Yorkers

NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence
Integrating Survivors of Domestic and Gender-based Violence into the Coordinated Entry System for Housing Assistance

NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
Improving Customer Services for Immigrant Queries

Partnerships for Parks
Strengthening Relationships between Parks and  Public Housing

United Neighborhood Houses
Rethinking Senior Centers

Urban Policy Lab | Spring 2018 Clients and Issues

Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development
Supporting Immigrant Businesses

Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation/Better Bike Share Coalition
Improving Bike infrastructure in Central Brooklyn

Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Food Services and Workforce Development

Green Thumb
Food Production and Community Gardens

Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
Legal Services and Domestic Violence

Nature Conservancy of New York State, Inc.
Tree Stewardship on Private Property

New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres
Internet of Things, Privacy & Cyber Security

New York Immigration Coalition
Rethinking Membership Options

NYC Administration for Children’s Services
Opioids and Child Welfare

NYC Dept. of Education, Office of Community Schools
Improving Retention of Community School Directors

NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
How to Reduce Improper Disposal of Sanitary Wipes?

NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & Development
Improving Housing Voucher Effectiveness