Launch of the Marron Institute

+ Brandon Fuller

Today, NYU announced the launch of the Marron Institute of Cities and the Urban Environment. The team here at the Urbanization Project is very excited to be part of this broader commitment to the study of cities at NYU. This morning’s Wall Street Journal describes the genesis of the new institute:

Donald Marron gazed out the plane’s window as he and his family flew into Marrakech last month.

He saw a flat, desert-like land, with small patches of green sprouting around the fast-developing Moroccan city, and could only think of one thing.

“What you hope is that they have built the infrastructure to deal with that big influx of people,” he said.

Those kinds of challenges, facing cities world-wide, seemed to consume Mr. Marron’s thoughts these past few months, as he and top administrators at New York University planned the opening of the Marron Institute on Cities and the Urban Environment, which will be announced Wednesday.

Mr. Marron, a university trustee, the founder of Lightyear Capital LLC and former chairman and CEO of PaineWebber Group Inc., will donate $40 million to launch the institute.

Richard Revesz, the outgoing dean of the NYU School of Law, will lead the institute, which will consolidate the university’s scholarship and research on cities and urban issues.

The idea was born two years ago when Mr. Marron and other trustees were hearing an early presentation on a university bid for city funding for an applied-sciences center.

NYU President John Sexton said he remembered looking over at Mr. Marron, who was writing down line after line of notes.

“If I were to say there was a moment where the spark lit the flame of knowledge, it was [then],” Mr. Sexton said. “He said to me, ‘This is very important, but the issue’s bigger. This isn’t just a matter of applied science, it’s a matter of social science, it’s a matter of humanities and the soul of a city.’”

Mr. Revesz launched a universitywide review to figure out how many professors were doing work related to cities.

“Very, very quickly, the number of faculty working in this area began to approach 100,” Mr. Sexton said. “As is frequently the case at NYU, many didn’t know of the existence of others who were doing exciting things.”

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