Jeff Gold is an urbanist who has earned his living as an acquisitions editor, a partner at new media partnership JIA, and director of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility (IRUM), an eco-transport nonprofit. He also chairs the steering committee of the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign and serves on the board of the National Jobs for All Network. And he’s active in electoral politics at the local, state, and national level.
Growing up, Jeff was always comfortable with adults, whereas “children scared the hell out of me,” he said. “My teachers used to call me Mr. Gold.”
He describes his family as “Brooklyn-to-suburbs anti-political,” until they stumbled into a school busing controversy that politicized Jeff. His parents were first-generation Ashkenazi Jews, and his father was a businessperson for whom self-employment was key to independence from arbitrary bosses. In his own way, Jeff has followed in his father’s footsteps, staying self-employed for the better part of his life.
“I’ve been obsessed with FDR and the New Deal since childhood,” he said, recalling a children’s picture book that depicted the 32nd president as “happy, warm, and comfortable in his own skin.” Later, Jeff’s travels across the country would flesh out his sense of the impact of positive government—and the New Deal in particular—especially in the West.
During his high school years, spent at the hippie-ish Village School, the anti-war movement made a huge impact on him, as did the work of Jaroslav Vanek, Charles Lindblom, and most notably Michael Harrington, author of The Other America and founder of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). His attraction to radical politics would follow him to Hampshire College, known for its open curriculum, radical student culture, and encouragement of critical political perspectives.
With his background as a journalist and editor, Jeff has always been interested in the intersection of politics and markets. “I’m intrigued by what markets do or don’t do, and how they intersect with government, nonprofits, and other large actors,” he said. He describes himself as an institutionalist and a statist.
He’s also interested in how organizations function, which makes him an invaluable addition to our Working Group, and to every committee and board he’s part of.
But politics and social change don’t occupy Jeff 24/7. He has a passion for theater, even having written his own plays. The COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on his latest efforts, titled “High Compression” and “Right of Return,” which were all set to be performed in the NYC area. But the pandemic has also inspired a new play, “The Last Schmeer.”
Asked whether he’s discouraged by the recent turn of events in the U.S. and elsewhere—not least the rise of the right and the weak response to climate change—he said, “I take the long view of history, whine all the time to my nearest and dearest, but try to never get sidetracked from engaging cheerfully with the world and pushing back against the worst. Staying in ‘happy warrior’ mode helps to stave off despair.”