A New Initiative, Leveraging Data to Improve Cities Globally


L-R: Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, NYU president John Sexton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYU CUSP Director Dr. Steven Koonin, and NYCEDC Executive Vice President Kyle Kimball. Photo: Julia Evanczuk.

When it rains, it pours: following the inaugural symposium for Columbia’s Institute of Data Sciences, this morning we joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the open house celebration and ribbon-cutting for CUSP, NYU’s new Center for Urban Science and Progress.

Based in Downtown Brooklyn, CUSP is a public-private research center and graduate degree program that uses the city of New York as a sprawling, real-life laboratory, mining NYC for data and patterns to develop solutions to make the city more “efficient, livable, equitable, and resilient.”

“This will be the capital of the study of cities in a century that will be the century of cities.”

This is a compelling program not only for NYU, but also for the city itself. CUSP has already initiated collecting a range of NYC-specific metrics to analyze opportunities for improvement, such as NYC’s water usage, cab commute times, greenhouse gas emissions, and social media activity. We’ve also spoken before with Jennifer Cho, NYU CUSP’s Director of Development, about their recent inquiries into the opportunities that infrared data can offer:

Photo courtesy NYU CUSP.

“An infrared picture of the Manhattan skyline also holds many points of inquiry. Is the dense red an indication of an overheated building, or poor insulation allowing heat to escape? What can be done to mitigate the overheating/heat loss, and what would be the cumulative effect to energy usage if smartly applied across NYC?”

Source: cusp.nyu.edu/research

NYCEDC Executive Vice President Kyle Kimball says, “I personally look forward to living in a city that is impacted but the work that is done here.” Adds NYU President John Sexton: “We so often think in terms of next quarter, or next term…the hallmark of this mayor is that he plants many trees under which others will sit. This is one of those many trees.”

The ultimate goal is to leverage this information to make NYC a global leader in the developing field of urban science and informatics, spreading their findings to improve urban systems and quality of life in cities across the world. “This will be the capital of the study of cities,” says Sexton, “in a century that will be the century of cities.”

The ribbon cutting. Photo: Julia Evanczuk.

The ribbon cutting. Photo: Julia Evanczuk.

Anticipating its first wave of students in fall 2013, CUSP is becoming a connected global hub for urban science. Last week, CUSP announced partnerships with four US Department of Energy laboratories: Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. The partnerships will allow CUSP to expand its access to expertise and offer fellowship opportunities for students. CUSP also announced today two additional partnerships with Microsoft Research and Lutron Electronics.

“Each brings an expertise in their respective fields that is unmatched,” says NYU CUSP Director Dr. Steven Koonin. “Research collaborations with Microsoft and Lutron present exciting opportunities to advance CUSP’s mission and improve the quality of life for New York residents.”

Data science has long been one of NYC Media Lab’s core interest areas, and we are excited to see how CUSP will apply this field to the improvement of cities. For more information about CUSP, visit cusp.nyu.edu.

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