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New Research Website Promotes Urban Sustainability

New York City as a testbed, DDC Town+Gown as a collaborator

Ian Michaels

Long Island City, NY – The Sustainable Healthy Cities Network and the Town+Gown program at the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) announced today a new website that compiles the most current research on sustainability in the urban environment, focusing on ways to reimagine infrastructure to create more functional and healthy cities.

nyc skyline

The site is generated from the National Science Foundation-funded research project entitled Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy and Livable Cities, which conducts scientific research support cities in developing roadmaps to evolve their urban infrastructure — energy grids, road networks, green spaces and food and water systems — while remaining highly desirable places to live and work that promote the health of residents and the environment.

The research project, referred to as the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, also studies conditions under which “distributed,” or more local, infrastructure would be appropriate for the urban setting. 

The Sustainable Healthy Cities Network brings together scientists, industry leaders and policy partners committed to building better cities of the future. Professors Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota), Patricia Culligan (Columbia University), Richard Feiock (Florida State University) and Armistead Russell (Georgia Institute of Technology) manage the Network across nine research universities, eight major metropolitan “test bed” cities in the U.S., including New York City, as well as infrastructure firms and policy groups.

Town+Gown is a named collaborator on this NSF-funded research project with the Network. Town+Gown at DDC has participated with the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network research team in the development of research translation materials aimed at all government practitioners, including New York City as one of the “test bed” cities. The Network’s new website contains research products and tools, including a quarterly research update, that communicate scientific research results with policy and practice communities.

“Successful collaboration across the divide between researchers and practitioners to produce knowledge that is usable by practitioners, especially those in government, has always been a challenge to achieve,” said Terri Matthews, Director of Town+Gown at DDC. “The area of sustainability research is one multi-disciplinary area where it is important to achieve this type of success on a regular basis, since one of the goals of science-based sustainability research is to provide public sector actors with research results to enable them to make necessary changes in practice and policy that are both efficient and effective.”

"Research on topics like urban infrastructure and food supply, which are essential for daily life in cities and connected to global sustainability outcomes, requires a commitment to engaging in dialogue with practice and policy communities at multiple levels. Enhanced science-to-policy communication tools put the science community in a better position to productively engage with end-user communities in shaping research agendas to answer critical knowledge needs," said Anu Ramaswami, Director, Sustainable Healthy Cities Network; Professor, Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

"Science informed policy interventions are critical to achieving urban sustainability. Useful scientific knowledge often languishes in articles that are inaccessible to policy makers. With our science-to-policy communication efforts, we hope to overcome this problem, by communicating the knowledge generated by our research network in a form that is both relevant and accessible," said Patricia Culligan, Co-director Sustainable Healthy Cities Network; Professor, Civil Engineering, Columbia University.

"Science to policy communications are very valuable for busy city sustainability staff to be able to apply the latest scientific findings to improve sustainability outcomes and quality of life in their communities," said Eli Yewdall, Senior Program Officer, ICLEI USA.

“Sustainability and protection of the overall health of communities world-wide has long been a priority for members of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). The ability to bring local government practitioners and scientists together to collaborate on finding new ways to address these long-term community issues is critical. ICMA welcomes the opportunity to work with SHC’s network of scientists studying these topics,” said Cory Fleming, Senior Project Manager, ICMA.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $13 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit