A Tale of Two Cities

A Comparative Analysis of Quality of Life Initiatives in New York and Bogota

Article appearing in Urban Studies, Volume 47, Issue 2

Urban Studies

In the 1990s, city officials made a concerted effort to enhance security and civility in two large cities long associated with fear and danger: New York City and Bogotá, Colombia. In this article, a comparison is made of how `quality of life’ and `civility’ were conceptualised and pursued in New York City and Bogotá in the 1990s. The findings suggest that there were some similarities in the conceptualisation and operationalisation of these ideals, and that both cities became markedly safer in the period under investigation. Yet there were also important differences in the quality of life campaigns undertaken in the two settings. Specifically, measures to protect rights, enhance social services and expand the use of public spaces, particularly in poor communities, were a key component of Bogotá’s quality of life campaign. The Bogotá example shows that it is possible to take crime and civility seriously without criminalising minor offences and by coupling security measures with broader initiatives to strengthen democratic inclusion.