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Bloomberg CityLab 2022 Concludes with Mayors, City Innovators, Artists, and Urban Experts Sharing Solutions to Pressing Challenges Including Extreme Heat, Mental Health, and More

Mike Bloomberg Praised Cities for Leadership in the Face of Global Challenges like War, Migration, and Combating Climate Change

Bloomberg Philanthropies Announced New Global Initiative for Innovative Cycling Infrastructure and the 19 European Cities Joining the Asphalt Art Initiative

Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv, Urged Cities to Show Solidarity: “We Have to Support Ukraine.”

AMSTERDAM – Today, Bloomberg CityLab 2022, the preeminent global cities summit organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the Aspen Institute, concluded its ninth multi-day summit in Amsterdam. The event, the first in-person convening since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, brought together more than 500 city leaders, experts, innovators, and artists from around the world, representing cities across six continents. In addition, more than 40 mayors attended CityLab Amsterdam from leading cities in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Latin America to attend sessions addressing challenges cities are facing regarding climate, infrastructure, technology, migration, mental health, and more.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City, delivered welcome remarks that praised local officials for their leadership in the face of unprecedented challenges, including the pandemic and related recovery efforts. He also announced the Bloomberg Initiative for Cycling Infrastructure, which will award up to $1 million to ten cities around the world for innovative approaches to improving cycling infrastructure. Sharing new ideas with citizens, he said, is “the mayors’ job – to open their eyes to what’s possible and leave a legacy to the next generation. Mayors can make a difference in the world.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patricia E. Harris announced the 19 European cities receiving Asphalt Art Initiative grants of $25,000 to undertake projects in 2023 that use art and design to improve street safety, revitalize public spaces, and engage residents of their communities. The 19 selected Asphalt Art Initiative projects in Europe include: 

  • New and revitalized pedestrian space in 11 cities: Brussels, Belgium; Zagreb, Croatia; Brno, Czech Republic; Helsinki, Finland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Florence, Italy; Prato, Italy; Rome, Italy; Ferizaj, Kosovo; Cluj-Napoca, Romania; and Madrid, Spain
  • Pedestrian safety enhancements in 5 cities: Tirana, Albania; Gdynia, Poland; Bratislava, Slovakia; Kosice, Slovakia; and León, Spain
  • Intersection and crosswalk murals in 3 cities: Varna, Bulgaria; Athens, Greece; and Istanbul, Turkey

Femke Halsema, mayor of Amsterdam, opened a session on building public trust in the digital era, saying: “I propose to join forces as cities, and cooperate with our citizens, and tech companies who share our values, to create a new public digital space that promotes digital sovereignty.” She continued, “We need a digital city for the twenty-first century.”

Highlights and commentary from featured speakers on Day 1, October 10:

  • In a moving pre-recorded message to attendees, Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, advocated for attendees, particularly city leaders in Europe, to continue supporting Ukraine. He said, “The key for peace and stability in Europe [is] to support Ukraine. Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe and economic and political stability [here] can bring stability in the whole region…that is why I call to everyone, please support Ukraine.”
  • Norman Foster, visionary architect and urbanist, spoke with Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua about the future of cities emerging from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the historic opportunity they have to renew themselves as healthier, more sustainable, safer, and happier places. Foster said, “Is COVID-19 going to change cities? I would say that the lessons are that it’s not going to change anything. It’s going to magnify the trends that are already there.” Arguing for the need to move quickly to rebuild Ukrainian cities, Foster asked, “How can the city see this as an opportunity to regenerate itself as a city of the future and the present?”
  • The mayors of Gdansk, Poland, Riga, Latvia, and Vilnius, Lithuania shared stories of how they are standing in solidarity with Ukraine in a conversation with Amna Nawaz, Chief Correspondent at PBS NewsHour. “Cities are the ones who must do the job. We ask for your leadership, your knowledge, your companies – who know how to build kindergartens, to build hospitals more than national governments do – to act,” said Mārtiņš Staķis, mayor of Riga, Latvia.

Remigijus Šimasius, mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, said, “It’s clear we need to support Ukraine. Now it’s time for more practical steps. Ukraine is terribly destroyed, and it deserves a future with better buildings and urban structures. We have to help Ukrainians believe they can have an even better country than they had before.”

  • Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., together with Claudia López, mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, discussed how city leaders can productively and safely support citizens’ right to express themselves through protest. “As mayors we have to protect services we’re responsible for, but as human beings we have to feel the grief that our fellow citizens feel,” said Mayor Bowser. 

Mayor López noted, “As mayor, you have to be the manager of hope and delivery – you must deliver through collective action.” 

  • Chief Heat Officers from Athens, Greece and Los Angeles, California came together for a discussion about the rise of this novel position within city government and how they are helping their municipalities save lives with concepts like “shade equity” as the planet warms. “We have to redesign our cities and bring more nature into them and get rid of cars – that is the big fight that mayors have to do. We have to fight with the cars, and it takes a lot of guts to do that,” said Eleni Myrivili, Chief Heat Officer of Athens, Greece. 
  • UN Special Envoy for Water Henk Ovink, together with Randall Woodfin, mayor of Birmingham, Alabama and Melissa Martin, Chef and Owner of Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans, Louisiana, discussed how cities can prepare for a future when flooding is no longer a rarity, but rather a matter of routine. “As a water ambassador, people too often agree with me and then do nothing and go back to normal. Now is an opportunity when we can focus the attention on water and insecurity, water and health and then see how it trickles down to everyone in our society. If we get this right, there is an alternative. If we can scale this alternative, there is a better future,” said Ovink.

“Extreme weather events from a municipal standpoint will take partnerships, including partnerships working with our federal government on its infrastructure law, a once in a lifetime opportunity to get infrastructure right,” said Mayor Woodfin.

  • Since July 2021, Little Amal – a lifelike 12-foot puppet of a young Syrian refugee – has walked across Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the UK, the United States, the Netherlands, Poland, and Ukraine to focus attention on the urgent needs of young refugees. In this moving session, Little Amal creator Amir Nizar Nuabi discussed what he and others were hoping to achieve in this project, and what city leaders can learn about real life migrants seeking refuge in their cities.

Following the panel, Little Amal toured the streets of Amsterdam with a procession of CityLab participants, residents, and musical accompaniment. “If you can give your empathy to a puppet, the big challenge is then to give it to a real person. It could be your neighbor, it could be a homeless person sleeping on your route to work, and it could be a refugee community that needs you right now. This act of empathy is crucial for our survival,” Nuabi said.

Highlights and commentary from featured speakers on Day 2, October 11:

  • A day after Russia launched 84 cruise missiles and 24 exploding drones, targeting 117 sites in cities across Ukraine, the mayors of two Ukrainian cities – Bucha, and Lviv – joined by video to discuss the harrowing experience of governing a municipality in a time of war. “It is important for us to have contact with you today, because we need more diesel generators, charging stations and communication with you. Contact your governments, because we need air defense. Today, Ukraine defends democracy. Your support is a manifestation of your solidarity, your strength,” said Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv.

“We had many hopes for our citizens for our cities before 24th of February, but our lives were changed on that day. For 30 days of Russian occupation of my city near Kyiv we witnessed the deaths of hundreds of civilian citizens. The majority of our civilian infrastructure was destroyed. We cannot forget, and we cannot forgive those atrocities,” said Anatoli Fedoruk, mayor of Bucha.

  • With some notable cities making big plays to invest in crypto and court the industry, CityLab convened experts to discuss the promise and pitfalls of adopting cryptocurrency and forming smart policies.

Asked whether mayors should adopt crypto, Tonantzin Carmora, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Brookings Institution replied, “I really believe the technology and consumer protections in their present state are not quite there yet. Local leaders are under constant pressure to adopt new technologies, to adapt, to innovate, to improve the lives of residents and businesses. But if we start with the tech first, or the crypto first, the solution first, we miss out on a lot by not trying to start with the problem first.” 

“At a base level, the idea [of crypto] is about empowering people and enabling a community rather than a few centralized institutions or tech companies controlling things,” said Mark Foster of Strategic Advisory Management.

  • In many cities across Europe and the U.S. drug legalization is on the rise, with proponents claiming numerous benefits for public health, criminal justice and economic growth. A breakout featuring several experts discussed the rewards and risks of legalization, and what we can learn from cities that have left the “war on drugs” behind. “Cannabis is a gateway drug, but it’s a gateway to the criminal justice system for our most vulnerable and marginalized populations,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah from the University of Toronto.  

Noting the opportunity cities have to be first-movers on progressive drug policy, Ashley Kilroy, former director of Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses, said, “Denver did this first with municipal charges. About two years later, our state did it, and now you fast-forward to now and the (U.S.) federal government is doing it.”

  • City Chief Data Officers shared their experiences of the early days of the pandemic, and what they learned in the process. “The Chief Data Officer ought to be a senior role, someone who can advise and help discern right from wrong and facilitate this conversation so that we can know [the truth]. We cannot make decisions unless we have some kind of mutually agreeable truth, some kind of common understanding of the world around us. And I think the Chief Data Officers have to be there to help navigate that,” said Justin Elszasz, Chief Data Officer, City of Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.

Reflecting on her role early in the crisis, Grace Simrall, Chief of Civic Innovation and Technology, City of Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., said, “We had no choice then but to build [a COVID-19 data dashboard] ourselves. And I think just looking through those times, the Chief Data Officer role was always of critical importance for Louisville, but it became elevated to a top senior-level position. We leveraged an incident management team structure to bring a whole of government approach.”

“We want a single data source for government. So Downing Street, as well as local government, as well as health, as well as research. So we have to gather data together for all those purposes. The way that we ended up capturing that data allowed us to create models that were predictive to actually say where it was moving, how uptake was taking, and actually forecast how many people were actually going to end up in hospital beds,” added Ming Tang, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, National Health Service England.

  • James Anderson, who leads the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, opened the final panel of the week with an uplifting message to attendees. “In order to tackle the complex challenges ahead, we need to be investing in the public sector and in the capacities that Bloomberg Philanthropies has been investing in over the past decade. These are the capacity to use data, the capacity to connect with residents, the capacity to form mutualistic partnerships with the private sector and civil society, the capacity to think outside the box. The good news here is that we are not starting from a standstill. The public sector innovation movement is alive and thriving, as evidenced in this room and here in Amsterdam over the past two days.”
  • Anderson also interviewed Claudia Sheinbaum, mayor of Mexico City, about how city leaders can lead digital transformations in their municipalities. “We believe that through digital innovation, we can make sure that everyone in Mexico City has access to the rights that they deserve. So digital services must be [accessible], especially to the poorest of the city. Our objective is to ensure that [through] connectivity and digital services, everyone in Mexico City will have access to the rights they deserve, to connect access to knowledge or to have access to governmental services.”
  • Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, articulated the importance of gatherings where city leaders can learn from one another. “Each of us comes here with a vision of something that’s needed, something better, something shared. We imagine the future we want for our beloved communities, and then we build them here at CityLab, along with the will, and skill, and the know-how to bring those dreams to life,” he said.

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About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 941 cities and 173 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.66 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

About the Aspen Institute:
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

Media Contacts:
Courtney Greenwald
Bloomberg Philanthropies 

Jon Purves
The Aspen Institute