Ester Fuchs

Ester Fuchs

Research Interest


Ester R. Fuchs is Professor of International and Public Affairs and is the Director of the Urban and Social Policy Program and the United States Regional Specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She served as Special Advisor to the Mayor for Governance and Strategic Planning under New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg from 2001 to 2005. Previously, Professor Fuchs served as chair of the Urban Studies Program at Barnard College and Columbia College and founding director of the Columbia University Center for Urban Research and Policy.

At Columbia, Professor Fuchs serves as Director of the, an online voter engagement initiative for New York City. is designed to improve voter turnout through a single online portal that provides easy access to customized sample ballots, polling place locations, and candidate information. She is the principal investigator for a Bloomberg Philanthropies funded-project, Communities Speak, a research, policy and advocacy project that works with city governments and NGOs to collect micro-data on community needs through bi-annual surveys, so that city government can better target resources and policy to high needs communities. She is also a Co-Principal Investigator and Chief Social Impact Officer for the NSF funded Center for Smart Streetscapes. She is a Co-PI on NSF SCC-IRG Grant, Preparing for Future Pandemics: Subway Crowd Management to Minimize Airborne Transmission of Respiratory Viruses (Way-CARE). Professor Fuchs was also co-investigator for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, “Reaching Communities through the Design of Information Visualizations (ReDIVis) Toolbox for Return of COVID-19 Results.” In April 2017, Professor Fuchs collaborated with Professor Patricia Culligan former Director of the Columbia University Data Science Institute to complete a study for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, “Stopping Trash Where It Starts: A Project to Mitigate Floatable Trash NYC Waterways through Targeted Street Litter Reduction.” It is being replicated by the City of Dallas. In July 2017 she published a study for the 125th Street Business Improvement District, “Promoting a Cleaner and Healthier Harlem: Reducing Street Litter in the 125th Street Business Improvement District.”

Professor Fuchs serves on the executive committee of Columbia’s Data Science Institute and its Smart Cities Center, the faculty of the Columbia Climate School Earth Institute, the board of American University’s Metropolitan Policy Center, Senior Fellow of the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto. Fuchs is also a member of the Faculty Steering Committee of the Eric Holder Initiative for Civil and Political Rights and the Editorial Advisory Board for the Political Science Quarterly.

She was inducted into the City Limits New York City Hall of Fame in 2022, She received the Mindr Global award Celebrating 30 Women of Influence for Women’s History Month, in March 2022; the Bella Abzug Leadership Award in 2017; the Above & Beyond Exceptional New York Women of 2017 Award for Education; the NASPAA Public Service Matters Spotlight Award for, an Award for Outstanding Teaching at SIPA and the City of New York Excellence in Technology Award for Best IT Collaboration among Agencies for Access NYC. She also received the Distinguished Alumna Award from Queens College.

While at City Hall, Professor Fuchs coordinated three significant mayoral initiatives: the restructuring the City’s delivery of Out-of-School Time (OST) programs to children, youth, and families; the Integrated Human Services System Project (Access New York) to streamline the screening and eligibility determination processes, case management, and policy development and planning functions within and across the 13 human services agencies through the use of technology; and the merger of the Department of Employment with the Department of Small Business Services to align the City’s workforce development programs with the needs of the business community.

Professor Fuchs currently serves on numerous government, advocacy and community organization boards, including the boards of the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Town and Gown, the Fund for the City of New York, the Citizens Union, the Museum at Eldridge Street, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the 125th Street (Harlem) Business Improvement District, Take Office, and Global Cities, Inc. a project of Bloomberg Philanthropies.,. Professor Fuchs was the first woman to serve as chair of the NYC Charter Revision Commission in 2005. She has also served on the NYC Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board, the NYC Workforce Investment Board, the NYC Commission on Women’s Issues, the NYC Economic Opportunity Commission, the Committee on Economic Inclusion of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Advisory Board for NYC’s Out-of-School Time Initiative.

Professor Fuchs worked closely with former New York City Mayor David Dinkins during his tenure at Columbia, organizing the David N. Dinkins Leadership in Public Policy Forum from its inception in 1995. She continues this work with Dinkins Professor Michael Nutter. She also organizes the Global Mayors Forum at SIPA. Between 2007 and 2013, Professor Fuchs organized and moderated annual international summits sponsored by the Office of the Mayor of New York and New York City Global Partners. The conferences brought together mayoral delegations from cities around the world to discuss important urban policy issues and share best practices.

Professor Fuchs has been the recipient of many grants including ones from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Wallace Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Greater London Enterprise, the U.S. Department of Justice the National Health and Human Service Employees Union AFL-CIO, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation.

Professor Fuchs was a pro bono consultant for The NEW Pride Agenda, Inc. Civic Engagement in Communities Project. She advises Global Cities and the Women’s Economic Development Initiative at Bloomberg Philanthropies. She was a senior advisor for the Mike Bloomberg 2020 presidential campaign and was a member of the transition committee for Manhattan Borough President Mark Levin in 2022.

Professor Fuchs is an expert in urban politics and policy; American politics; civic engagement; and American parties and elections. She consults for governments, NGOs, businesses and political campaigns. She is a frequent political commentator in print, broadcast and new media and lectures internationally. She received a B.A. from Queens College, CUNY; an M.A. from Brown University; and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.