Urban design attributes and resilience
COVID-19 evidence from New York City

  • Authors: Yang Yang, Yihong Li, Katharina Kral, Nathaniel Hupert, Timur Dogan
  • Date: 2021
  • Link: Journal Paper

This paper juxtaposes existing public policies and different planning paradigms with evidence from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City (NYC). Zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) data for NYC are used to address four main questions: (1) How do urban density and crowding affect infection rates? (2) How does the commuting environment relate to pandemic resilience? (3) How does the allocation of points of interest within a city impact the infection rate? (4) How do evident inequalities in a city influence vulnerability during a pandemic? The presented evidence is used to demonstrate that compact, well-mixed, and decentralized cities can increase pandemic resilience due to advantageous features such as short commute times and well-distributed points of interest. At the architectural level, more resilient apartment building typologies need to be developed to mitigate the ramifications of overcrowding. This analysis also reveals significant spatial disparities and how they disproportionally affect the pandemic risk of the vulnerable communities. These findings warrant a broader discussion on how urban design and planning can mitigate inequalities and transform cities into a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable urban environment.

This paper helps urban designers and planners understand how the built environment is associated with infectious disease dynamics. New evidence from data analysis shows that a pandemic-resilient urban environment for compact and mixed cities consists of many factors: decentralized urban activities, adequate affordable dwellings, resilient building typologies, good proximities between jobs and homes, restricted commute time, diverse commuting mode choices, and balanced allocations of urban services and facilities in line with the residential density. This study can guide short-term responses in the safe recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as well as long-term urban design and planning decisions for pursuing a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable urban environment in future public health emergencies. As reopening policies and future urban development schemes continue to be debated, it is critical to assess data on the impact of the current pandemic in major cities to inform decision-makers faced with major policy choices.