Crisis and Recovery Event Series

02/18 Thursday | 6pm

RSVP is required. Please RSVP at the links below.

Conditions worldwide form a triple crisis of unprecedented scope and fury: a crisis of economy, public health, and the natural environment.  Devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and an outward migration of residents and work, cities–beginning with New York–face extraordinary risks, framed in 2021 by the inauguration of the Biden administration in Washington DC and upcoming citywide elections.

On February 16, 17, and 18, New York’s three largest universities are joining forces to host three panels, one on each of the triple crises, where historians will offer insights from past crises and practitioners will suggest future directions and risks.  Over the course of the three evenings, each panel will broaden the discussion from New York to the nation and the world.  Register for one, two, or all three discussions. Listen to the panelists, ask questions, join the conversation.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021, 6-7:30 p.m.
Panel #1 – New York’s Economy in 2021: Crisis as History (CUNY)


Conditions worldwide form a triple crisis of unprecedented scope and fury: a crisis of economy, public health, and the natural environment. Devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and an outward migration of residents and work, cities face extraordinary risks. While pundits ask polemically if the city is “dead,” serious scholars ponder the future of urban agglomerations. New York, the largest U.S. urban center, occupies the eye of the American storm. Between the inauguration of the Biden administration and citywide elections in November, New Yorkers must confront the existential challenges of the urban condition with practical discussions: What scope for action does this city really have? Which precedents, from the New Deal to the 2008 financial crisis, can it draw upon to solve economic, health, and ecological problems? How can the city’s social and cultural communities move new ideas forward without losing ground to special interests and power brokers who represent the past?


Kim Phillips-Fein, Professor of History, New York University; author, Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics
Destin Jenkins, Assistant Professor of History, University of Chicago; author, The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City (forthcoming)
Ronnie Lowenstein, Director, Independent Budget Office of the City of New York (2000-Present)
Adam Tooze, Professor of History / Director of European Institute, Columbia University; author, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World

Moderator: Sharon Zukin, Professor Emerita of Sociology at Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, and of Earth and Environmental Sciences at The Graduate Center, CUNY

Wednesday, 17 February 2021, 6-7:30 p.m.
Panel #2 – The Public Health Crisis: From Global Capitalism to the Pandemic (Columbia University)


From the Black Death in the fourteenth century to the spread of influenza in 1918, disease crises and social recovery have revealed persistent urban disparities that are structured by capitalist networks.  As “endemic risks,” pandemics are the product of both global and local markets and represent a complex interplay between health, environmental conditions, and occupational histories.  The panel will open the discussion of covid-19 to this broader framework, recasting the analysis of public health risk in terms of globalization, racism, changing labor conditions, and 21st-century capitalism.


Merlin Chowkwanyun is the Gemson Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia, All Health Politics is Local: Battles for Community Health in the Mid-Century United States (forthcoming, UNC Press).
Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, As the World Ages: Rethinking a Demographic Crisis, (Harvard University Press, 2017).
Robert Fullilove, Associate Dean, Community and Minority Affairs, and Professor, Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and Director, Bard College Prison Initiative (BPI) and serves as the Senior Advisor to BPI’s public health program

Moderator: David Rosner, Ronald Lauterstein Professor of Public Health, Columbia University, Building the Worlds that Kill Us, (with Gerald Markowitz, Columbia University Press, forthcoming).

Thursday, 18 February 2021, 6-7:30 p.m.
Panel #3 – Climate Crisis: Urban Recovery, Planetary Risk (Institute for Public Knowledge)


The impact of COVID-19 and our nation’s response to it have underscored the grave effects of climate change and the increasing necessity for action. The parallels between the pandemic and the climate crisis are growing in number as both continue to disproportionately harm the same communities.   Is the city finally ready to face these challenges? Restoring the health and vitality of New York City requires doing more than shoring up hospitals and services, more than improving access to parks, schools, libraries, and the other gathering places that are essential for civic life. 

As a densely populated city with low-income areas, New York City needs a bold climate change response and must control for the detrimental climate impact that threatens to come with crisis recovery. This panel considers whether and how New York City will rebuild for the post-pandemic, climate-changed environment and how our model of rebuilding for climate equity and environmental justice can inform other communities. It will tie together the three topics of this week’s series: recovery from the economic, public health, and climate crises that are all exacerbated by an ongoing pandemic.


Diana Hernández, Tenured Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Dan Zarrilli, Chief Climate Policy Advisor & OneNYC Director, NYC Office of the Mayor
Danielle Spiegel-Feld, Executive Director at the Guarini Center and Adjunct Professor, NYU School of Law

Moderator: Eric Klinenberg, Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University; author, Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life

These events are a part of a series organized with the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University, The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University, and The Gotham Center for New York City History at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

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