Exploring the Future of Our Cities

Exploring the Future of Our Cities

The Crescent City Connection over the Mississippi River in New Orleans.CreditCreditMarka/UIG, via Getty Images

By The New York Times

NEW ORLEANS — How do the greatest cities succeed?

The question could not come at a more critical time, as cities around the world face challenges — and opportunities — unimagined in human history. By some estimates, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Will city dwellers have sufficient housing? Can police forces cope? Will food distribution be adequate? What about the effects of climate change? Will technology provide the answers?

Experts across an array of disciplines are meeting in New Orleans to tackle these and other questions at the Cities for Tomorrow conference hosted by The New York Times and the NOLA Media Group, publishers of The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com.

Convening the event in New Orleans could not be more meaningful. This year, the city is celebrating its 300th anniversary — and its resilience in the face of three centuries of extraordinary physical and cultural adversity. Its latest catastrophe occurred just 13 years ago, when Hurricane Katrina breached the city’s flawed storm defenses and left a devastated New Orleans behind.

Among the conference guests are policy and government officials, entrepreneurs, cultural and sports figures, thought leaders, and industry executives.

Topics include the race among tech companies of all kinds, along with venture capitalists, to invest in urban areas large and small — like Amazon’s plan to move to New York and suburban Washington; efforts to promote environmental resilience with an eye toward social equity; techniques for working effectively with state, federal and even international counterparts to advance local interests; thoughts on conquering the urban income divide; and the impact of athletes-as-activists on cities and the nation.

On a lighter note, the conference is acknowledging the food and music scenes that have helped make New Orleans so famous.

Some of the guests include the mayors of the cities of New Orleans, San Diego and Seattle; Mitch Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans who was the state’s lieutenant governor during Katrina; Steven Case, a venture capitalist; Walter Isaacson, an author and professor at Tulane University; Grant Hill, co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks; Adam Silver, commissioner of the N.B.A.; Stefano Boeri, architect and city planner; Emeril Lagasse, the celebrated chef; and Jon Batiste, bandleader and musical director of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

Speculation about the 2020 presidential field is already heating up, and Mr. Landrieu has been mentioned as one of more than 30 potential Democratic candidates. But in the conference’s opening panel on Thursday evening with Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, Mr. Landrieu declined to answer a direct question about whether he would run.

“Probably not, but if I change my mind, you’re going to be the first to know,” he said, before rushing off to catch a plane. Maggie Astor


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