First it was the Office of Urban Policy. Then, at the time of its launch in 2009, it quietly turned into the Office of Urban Affairs: a small, but interesting name change. Its director, Adolfo Carrion, the former Bronx borough president once rumored to be in the running for HUD secretary before President Obama tapped fellow New Yorker Shaun Donovan to head the agency, was at the helm of an upstart White House office. The office was supposed to represent something of a pipeline between the West Wing and respective urban city halls.
Just over a year later, Carrion has left his post, being named HUD’s Regional Director for New York and New Jersey. Carrion’s tenure as President Obama’s point man on urban issues at the Office of Urban Affairs was short, and mostly uneventful. There were a few minor bumps, like the issue of the architect renovating Carrion’s Bronx home while that same architect sought the then-Bronx Borough president’s approval to build Boricua Village, an affordable housing complex in the Bronx.
But mostly, his tenure was marked with a muted tone that contrasted the high level of anticipation reflecting the ethos that “urban policies are the rules and incentives that shape the prosperity, equity, and environmental sustainability of the metropolitan regions in which 8 in 10 people live,” as Xavier de Souza Briggs, Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, wrote in Shelterforce just before the 2008 elections.
In fact, fairly soon after the launch of the Office of Urban Affairs, some people, like Diana Lind, editor of Next American City, worried that the office could lack potency: “…This isn’t going to be as serious and as powerful a role as many urbanists had hoped,” she said of Carrion in April 2009.
It’s hard to say whether these things related to “reports that Carrion missed being home with his family”:https://www.observer.com/2010/real-estate/carrión-out-white-house-urban-czar-moving-hud, (he came pretty close to lamenting his being away from NYC last month as the keynote for the Regional Plan Association’s Regional Assembly), or whether he took this new post — a good post in the housing policy sphere — as part of a road map to run for office again — perhaps for lieutenant governor of New York State.
On his departure, Carrion emphasized his laying the “foundation for the new office:
“President Obama’s bottom-up approach to addressing the nation’s challenges is why I gladly accepted the challenge of being the first director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs…[w]e are beginning to implement this strategy, I’m delighted to join my long time friend and colleague, Shaun Donovan, to fully implement this comprehensive urban development vision in my home region and across the country.”
A new director for the Office of Urban Affairs as not yet been named, and we’ll be watching how that office takes shape anew moving forward. Certainly we wish Carrion well, but we’d like to see that foundation really take hold — soon.