What New York and Shanghai Could Learn from Each Other

On Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a courtesy visit with the Honorable Han Zheng, his counterpart from Shanghai. This got The Observer wondering what the two might have to discuss—besides who has better soup dumplings—so we turned to global urbanism expert, Columbia professor, Professor Skyscraper himself, Vishaan Chakrabarti and posed this question. Here is what he had to say in an email.

Shanghai is poised to build some 200 kilometers of subway line by 2020.  In New York, where we are building only a few kilometers by comparison, many dismiss this as a necessary act in a growing China.  In reality, our competitors are poised to leapfrog us in most areas of urban mobility, from state-of-the-art transit to zero-emission taxis to high-speed rail.   We need to wake up and smell the construction.

To be fair, under the mayor and governor’s leadership, we have more underground infrastructure construction—the  No. 7 extension, the Second Avenue subway, East Side Access and the Third Water Tunnel—than we have seen in this City since the turn of the last century. But we’re still behind.

The areas in which Shanghai could learn from New York are primarily in the areas of livability:  great public spaces like the High Line, landmarking historic neighborhoods like Boerum Hill, beautiful waterfronts like the East River, and robust affordable housing efforts like Hunters Point South.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC