The New York Policymaking Process Criminology Essay

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In 2009, the NY Department of Youth and Community Development and Nike partnered together to launch the Step It Up New York Dance Competition, a cultural program aiming at mobilizing the New York City youth around social causes such as education, anti-violence, homelessness, AIDS and the environment. This project used both sport and arts as catalysts for social change, to elevate young people through dance all while empowering teams to engage their communities around modern social issues. It aimed at conveying a message of civic responsibility and encouraging volunteering in associations and local organizations, as well as to inspire neighborhoods throughout New York City by informing people on youth projects that they might not know of. For this event to be commonly referred to as the "Super Bowl of dance competitions", it makes us wonder about the power of local initiatives in the making of such influential social projects.

With this research, we aim at better comprehending the substantial resources deployed by the city for cultural events, as well as the diversity of actors involved. We will especially look at the importance of initiatives in partnership with private actors at a local and community level, in order to adapt to the socio-economic, cultural diversity of New Yorkers. In addition, we will try to address New York as a privileged place for great national events, often organized in partnership with multinational companies such as Coca-Cola or Nike in the case of the Step It Up New York Dance Competition, in the form of contests or gatherings of young talent in the country.

Features of modern American society

Over the 20th century, the quality of life in the US has relatively increased, especially from the 1940s onward. Actors involved in the making of public policies, national and local initiatives have adopted a new urban approach, also taking into account the matter of the suburbs and not only the heart of the city. Elements that have played an important role in this revival of true public policies are deteriorating downtowns and deindustrialization generated by urban sprawl, as well as the development of ghettos inhabited by minority groups.

Demographic context

It is important to stress that the notion of community is a central element in the design of cultural policies in the United States. Because of the importance of multiculturalism and its impact on the structure of cities, a geographical approach allows identifying local needs of certain social groups more specifically. Community, in this sense, can be defined as a group of individuals interacting with each other in a closed space. Sociologically, a community refers to a social unit that is larger than a household, with shared values ​​and exhibiting internal cohesion. Therefore after family, a community is the first instance of socialization that young people face. This modern realization explains why decisional actors can consider community-based associations as major partners while building projects.

As one of the most dynamic and attractive cities in the U.S. and around the world, New York has had a history of migration, which heavily impacted the city social and economical landscape today. In the 1920s, immigration was a major component to deal with in the US. Actually, the first political views on immigration were based on a will to complete assimilation of minority groups in the United States. In this so-called "Americanization" model, immigrants would trade their cultural values ​​and traditions for the "American" life. With the rise of liberalism in the 1960s, this vision of integration has evolved into a commitment to multiculturalism, a concept that characterizes modern New York. Integration is the key word in the New York City policies, and it shows in the various projects carried out to improve the lives of young people in the city.

With a population of about 8,214,426 inhabitants in 2012, New York is renowned for being young and cosmopolitan. Nearly 24% of the population is under 18, and about 10% are between 18 and 24 years, which is an important part of young people. The city is also the most densely populated countries, the product of a long tradition of immigration. New York presents with many communities, Asian, Hispanic, African American, Puerto Rican, Italian, Irish, etc. The urban landscape of New York City reveals great socio-economic disparities amongst those communities, which is the major concern that local organizations aim to tackle. Geographically, some communities are clustered into poor neighborhoods, triggering an increasing in discrimination and segregation behaviors.

The youth at the heart of New York policies

Government agencies, community groups, local government initiatives as well as community development seek to increase opportunities for support and development for young people in priority, in the sense that they represent the active force generation and will eventually take over the governance of the city.

In this perspective, the New York Youth Plan: The Key to Our Future Economic and Social drafted in 1997 is one of the first important steps in terms of attention given to the young, and calls for mobilization at both state level and municipalities, particularly that of New York. This plan promotes a development strategy for young people, since they are the best placed actors to address the problems of youth in general, but also community concerns. This view is opposed to a previous way of thinking the youth, who was first seen as an obstacle to social development and not as an asset.

The city of New York thus began to focus on creating community conditions helping young people succeed, including the most vulnerable. In 1945, the New York State Commission Act was established to focus on delinquent youth as well as youth development at large. Youth is truly considered an object of public policy with the establishment of the 1947 New York City Youth Board Trial, dedicated to young people and open to local communities as partners for analysis on effective needs of young New Yorkers.

Diversity of actors

For historical and institutional reasons, US States retain a substantial degree of flexibility in the development and implementation of public policies. Thought to be applied to the entire State territory, they affect all administrative subdivisions (counties) and cities. Regarding the city of New York, a non-negligible part of social policies is developed outside of the city by the administration of the State of New York. An important part of these policies is primarily to receive the funds allocated by the central government and redistributed in different counties, depending on the programs implemented and local needs. There are also intervention programs directly implemented by the State of New York and implemented on the ground. However, it is important to note that the majority of these programs are implemented at the local level through partnerships with municipalities, charities and businesses.

The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development

The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, as we have seen through the Step It Up Dance Competition project, is the first developer and coordinator of youth policies of New York. This branch of the government of New York City aims to develop and carry out programs for the empowerment of young people and their families. The DYCD is also responsible for administering funds allocated by the State, the State of New York and the municipality to neighborhood associations. The extent of these actions is visible through various projects: aid services to immigrants, internships and first job opportunities for young people, community centers, literacy classes, extra-curricular initiatives, summer programs etc. The importance of the DYCD lies in the fact that it works in partnership with other stakeholders in the development of projects conducive to the well-being of youth in the city: it is truly at the heart of public and private interactions and includes within it several consultants and coordination.

Coordination between the DYCD and the various departments of the municipality is provided by the Interagency Coordinating Council and Youth, in charge of promoting collaborative partnerships on youth issues in New York. Its mission is to ensure that all available resources in the city are used for the benefit of youth, families and communities in need. Founded in 1989, the council coordinates in parallel the actions of governmental agencies in New York, those of community organizations, as well as of non-profit associations. Their goal is not to scatter in existing projects and push decisional actors to come up with innovative initiatives.

These partnerships are made possible thanks to the Mayor's Fund, which enables businesses and private individuals to make donations to municipal departments to support and invest in programs that are important to heart. For some companies, this investment allows them to include youth in their projects and expand their visibility in the community youth.

New York grassroots initiatives in the New York City governance history

A unique feature of New York in terms of urban governance is the multiplicity of actors involved in the making of public policies, as well as the importance of the private sector. Many policies are in fact carried out by local neighborhood associations funded by various public agencies. Similarly, the municipality uses many public-private partnerships to increase its capabilities. To understand these characteristics, it is important to review the historical and institutional development of the city since the end of World War II. It is characterized by a decrease in the role of municipal government in social policy and an increased role for the private sector, reinforced by the action of various mayors and especially that of Michael Bloomberg.

A. The economic crisis and its consequences

The contemporary economic history of New York is traditionally divided into three periods: a period of strong economic growth in the immediate postwar period, followed in the late 1960s by a period of declining growth, political and social tensions and by a significant fiscal crisis in the 1970s. The economic situation of the city began to recover in the early 1990s, culminating in the three mandates of Michael Bloomberg who seeks to rule the city like a business and give it international status. During these three periods, the public sector steadily decreased, especially in regard to social policy, to make room for larger private sector. This explains the strong presence today of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and associative initiatives to compensate for a relative weakness of the municipal government.

In the post-war period, New York City experienced a golden age characterized by strong economic growth, creation of jobs, and an important role played by trade unions. In terms of urban governance, this period is characterized by a strong presence of the municipal government, which was directly responsible for the implementation of active policies in the areas of education, pensions, housing and culture. The private sector, especially banks, insurance companies and real estate companies were already playing an important role insofar as they were the main buyers of treasury bonds of the city, and therefore an important source of funding. Nevertheless, their influence on public policy was limited because of the place played by unions.

This governing structure was destabilized by political and social tensions that emerged in the late 1960s. In particular, the question of minority racial African-American and the loss of tax revenue for the city due to the leakage of middle and upper classes to the suburbs and the development of 'ghettos' inhabited by minority groups, was translated into a severe economic crisis that lasted into the 1990s. Regarding New York, the city underwent a restructuring in its flagship priorities agenda, as actors mobilized for better integration of immigrants and youth. The municipal government was no longer able to finance the maintenance of infrastructure and urban public services, or to borrow from financial markets due to the growth of the debt. It is this economic and fiscal crisis which allowed the new ruling classes and elites to reorient economic policy, imposing fiscal austerity measures and drastically reducing spending on the city social policies. A new standard emerged then, redefining the role of actors in urban policy and strengthening the legitimacy an intervention of the private sector in New York governance, while advocating the imposition of neo-liberal laissez-faire for economic backgrounds.

B. A new mode of governance: the "Bloomberg Way"

It is from this period, and because of this new ideology, that many PPPs developed and that a new mode of governance was born. From the 1970s, rationalization and performance emerged as being features of modern public policy in New York. This can be explained by a greater desire to control public spending of the elites, by the emergence of a new conception of the citizen as consumers of public services, and by a growing skepticism towards the government. This type of governance, which gives a large place to the private sector, was particularly drawn by the current Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, elected in 2001 and re-elected twice in 2005 and 2009. Indeed, Bloomberg centered his campaign on his capacity to manage a business effectively (Michael Bloomberg is the CEO of Bloomberg LP) and to apply these principles to the city of New York. Its form of government was even characterized as the "Bloomberg Way", as a means to recognize the success of contemporary urban governance model (Purnick, 2009; Brash, 2011). Bloomberg has truly branded New York City of his vision and management of the city, as a product to be sold and exported ("city branding").

New York City, a business to run

The main consequence of the "Bloomberg Way" on the governance of New York was the establishment of a city management that resembled that of a business. This involved the adoption of a series of measures to make the management of the city as transparent as can be. Several indicators and evaluation reports were created by the mayor, such as the Citywide Accountability Program, the "311" phone line for service complain, or the Mayor's Management Report, evaluating each year all of the city departments. Michael Bloomberg also undertook a reorganization of local government based on a technocratic approach to urban management: the most qualified individuals were hired on the base of their specific skills, regardless of their political affiliation. Finally, this vision of the city has lead to a redesign of the organizational chart of municipal services inspired by the world of business. Thus, many departments were centralized around a single authority, as the deputy mayor for economic development and reconstruction (Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding), who is now responsible for all metropolitan services related to economic and urban development. Strong emphasis was also placed on the necessity of an effective cooperation between the various departments of the city, with a particular focus on youth services. Thus, many committees with representatives of the various services have been implemented, such as the Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC), led by the Department of Youth and Community Development, which aims at coordinating actions for young people from different departments of the municipality. Bloomberg is also responsible for the creation of the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), a body that assesses various public policies and PPP, and that estimates the renewal of projects.

City Branding

Another consequence of the "Bloomberg Way" on the management of the city was the development of a policy of City Branding. More specifically, it means giving the city of New York the image of a luxurious city to attract investors, the media, and important companies. The innovation of Michael Bloomberg was to combine traditional city branding policies such as the development of products, the renovation of certain neighborhoods etc. with other policies that were not previously associated with city branding, such as favorable fiscal policy for companies, or direct marketing of some of them. In terms of youth policy, city branding was translated into a school administration reform, as to improve the quality of the New York labor force, necessary for the proper functioning of private companies.

The economic crisis of the 1970s, followed by the emergence of a new mode of governance for the City of New York - culminating with the arrival in power of Michael Bloomberg - have exerted a strong influence on public policy in New York City. This explains the great development of public-private partnerships between the municipality and various companies which invest significant funds in return for increased visibility. On the other hand, many cultural programs are directly developed and managed by local neighborhood associations. This New York trend can be explained by the removal of municipal government since the 1970s, since highly constrained by a balanced budget requirement.


To conclude, one can say that the case study that we have drawn on has revealed a true specificity of New York City, in the demographic dynamics that animate the city as well as in the governing bodies and tools mobilized to this effect.

New York City appears to be a fertile ground for the development of innovative cultural events, due to several factors. Firstly, the relative autonomy granted by the State of New York to the city allows the municipality to experiment with new projects and to call out to local actors, at the heart of communities. At the municipality level, the mayor of New York has made culture, youth and equality political projects in the long term, by placing at the center of municipal priorities the issues of education and health (fight against obesity, promoting physical activity). In the fight against racial discrimination, Mr. Bloomberg has recently launched an initiative for young Latinos and African-Americans, the Young Men's Initiative, as one of the most comprehensive programs to reduce social disparities within the city. The various departments of the municipality are actually mobilized through public-private partnerships to support local organizations through actions towards people in need.

Within the municipality, there is also a specific body devoted to youth programs, the Department of Youth and Community Development, which coordinates projects between neighborhood associations and government agencies while actively participating in the development of youth program. A section of this department (Neighborhoods Association Board) is in charge of identifying the needs of specific communities and to propose new projects on a regular basis.

Such a diversity and richness of partnerships between stakeholders is specific to New York, and makes it a key city on the international stage. For example, the partnership between DYCD and Nike is so far one of the most remarkable in that it is materialized through a competitive internationally renowned New York Step It Up Dance Competition, bringing together young people around social causes in their communities.

The case of New York allows us to identify the emergence of innovative practices in terms of cultural events. This is particularly the case of ecology and the use of new technologies, which are now at the heart of issues on the political agenda of decision-makers. Examples of MillionTrees and attest to this trend, the first project mobilizing youth around the cause of urban environment, the second using new communication tools for more effective social awareness. Innovation also lies in the creation of programs dedicated to youth groups specifically targeted at local level: the Step It Up Dance Competition is a good example of a policy that initially targeted a very specific category of youth (schoolgirls 12 to 16 years), and extended to all young New Yorkers thanks to its success.


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