Rockefeller Foundation President Wants de Blasio to Make Resilience a Priority

January 22, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Host Rafael Pi Roman sits down with Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, to discuss what the foundation thinks one of Mayor de Blasio’s key priorities should be.

As newly-elected mayor of New York City, critics and allies alike are watching Bill de Blasio’s every move. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, had some advice for him: focus on resilience.

Resilience, according to Rodin, is “the ability to fail safely and rebound more quickly.”

“His priorities really are about keeping us safe and making sure the economy is robust, that we continue to try to grow jobs and reduce the divides between us,” Rodin said. She said that these priorities align squarely with the foundation’s resiliency initiative.

“Part of the formula for improving the lives of the most vulnerable among us is to build these resilient capacities for us in the city, but it’s also a tremendous job creator if you’re talking about resilient infrastructure, if you’re talking about diversifying our economy so that if one thing goes down it doesn’t take a third of our economy down,” Rodin said. “We really think it would be a win-win for the mayor to make this a high-priority, early focus.”

In order to help cities rise to the challenge, the New York based Rockefeller Foundation is funding a contest, the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, which will help implement plans for urban resilience.  The foundation is offering technical support and millions of dollars in funding to the winners.

New York City will be one of the first to benefit from the contest. In order to withstand another storm like SuperStorm Sandy, Rodin said “[de Blasio] absolutely must appoint a Chief Resilience Officer.”

“This is somebody who must have the capacity within city hall to bring all the silos together, knock the relevant heads that need to get knocked so that no project gets built without a resilience analysis around it, now work gets done without thinking about whether it can have multiple functions in allowing us to fail safely,” she said.

The Rockefeller Foundation is also working with HUD and the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force on a New York project called Rebuild by Design, which will fund innovative ideas to protect the region from future storms.