Urban Affairs

The Urban Affairs program is focused on projects that enhance New York City’s vitality as a leading and livable urban capital.

We partner with civic and cultural institutions, local government, and independent nonprofits that design innovative, feasible initiatives to address the common needs of diverse New Yorkers.

The Foundation continually seeks opportunities to strengthen the city’s pluralistic communities and civic spaces, re-envisioning public libraries, affordable housing, and local public affairs journalism to cultivate engaged, creative urban citizens.

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Featured Project: THE CITY

Recognizing that robust local journalism is the lifeblood of New York’s civic life, the Revson Foundation incubated and became a founding donor of THE CITY, a nonprofit digital news organization focused on public affairs journalism in New York City, in 2018.

Despite being the media capital of the country, crucial city agencies, neighborhoods, and institutions are the subject of declining coverage, leaving our city with a deeply compromised information ecosystem. Though THE CITY’s local reporting launched in only April 2019, it is already filling the gap, and its membership and readership continue to grow dramatically.

THE CITY’s diverse team of 20 journalists in all five boroughs, City Hall, and Albany are producing essential reporting. Examples of their impact include:

  • Their pandemic coverage led to the provision of masks to MTA employees and to residents and workers of NYCHA. It also led to a probe by the Schools Special Commissions for Investigations into whether the Department of Education tried to cover up early coronavirus cases at city schools.
  • Their series of reports on the Mayor’s questionable fundraising practices prompted the Conflict of Interest Board to codify prohibitions on certain fundraising tactics and add significant fines for violations.
  • Their reporting on the death of Layleen Polanco while held on $500 bail at Rikers Island prompted Mayor de Blasio to announce a plan to end solitary confinement in city jails.
  • After THE CITY reported inequities in vaccine access, Governor Cuomo created inoculation sites with appointments reserved for residents of hard-hit neighborhoods.
  • THE CITY’s reporting on the nascent organizing efforts of NYC food delivery workers — known as the deliveristas — for better wages and working conditions is a stellar example of its impact reporting inspired coverage from other news outlets locally and nationally and was cited by NY City Council members as the inspiration for new legislation that took effect in January

Through their Open Newsroom, they have engaged thousands of New Yorkers with in-person and virtual events to learn how the paper can make its reporting more responsive to New Yorkers’ needs. During the first wave of COVID-19, they published 10 guides on navigating life during the pandemic based on readers’ questions and tips. Open Newsroom attendees identified housing and work issues as particularly challenging, prompting THE CITY to create newsletters dedicated to helping their readers navigate those issues along with complicated assistance programs. Their Coronavirus Tracker, THE CITY’s most viewed feature, provided a tool to help New Yorkers understand the progression of the virus, the response of the healthcare system, and how the virus was affecting their own zip codes. Nearly two dozen accountability articles emerged from the project.

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