How are cities incorporating new virtual technologies to enhance public services, and how can they work with the private sector to improve them?

The Metaverse is no longer solely the realm of the tech sector. Cities across the country are busy exploring how virtual worlds and augmented landscapes offer opportunities to enhance public life, deliver services, and engage residents. Open House New York, the Jacobs Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech, and the NYU School of Professional Studies Metaverse Collaborative hosted a dynamic panel discussion spotlighting how new technologies are being leveraged to reshape the ways we interact with the built environment. Moderated by Jacobs Urban Tech Fellow Greg Lindsay, the conversation featured Ernest Chrappah, Acting Director of the Washington DC Department of Buildings, David Gilford, Head of Policy & Strategic Partnerships at Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, and Daria Siegel, Vice President of Special Initiatives at NYC Economic Development Corporation.

Conversations on the City

Conversations on the City offers diverse perspectives on the issues that define contemporary New York. Organized around a broad theme or topic, each conversation shares the point of view that New York is dynamic and evolving. The series was launched at the onset of the pandemic amid a moment of uncertainty about the future of urban life, ultimately drawing together more than 10,000 New Yorkers. These conversations fostered collective engagement around ideas and innovations that help spur New York’s resilience and preeminence. Join us to continue the dialogue as we explore implications for the future of our city and our day-to-day lives.



Ernest Chrappah, Acting Director of the District of Columbia Department of Buildings, is an experienced government executive as well as a successful entrepreneur with a reputation for finding innovative solutions to complex challenges. Director Chrappah has led the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) since 2018. During his tenure, DCRA focused on technological and customer experience innovation, working to make the agency more transparent, accountable, and responsive.

David Gilford is Head of Policy and Strategic Partnerships at Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners. Over two decades at the intersection of the public and private sectors, David has built cross-sector programs to support innovation. He was previously Principal at HR&A Advisors and co-founder of the Broadband Equity Partnership, where David designed digital and social infrastructure to close the digital divide. David’s public sector leadership includes serving as Vice President for Urban Innovation & Sustainability for the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

Greg Lindsay (Moderator) is an urbanist, futurist, and author. He is the 2022 Urban Tech Fellow at the Jacobs Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech in addition to holding a number of other fellowships, including positions at MIT, NewCities, and the Atlantic Council. He is studying the urban implications of widespread use of augmented reality technologies.

Daria Siegel, Vice President of Tech within the Initiatives team at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, works to support the growth of the technology industry and create opportunities for all New Yorkers. Daria’s experience has been at the intersection of community building and economic development and previously built and managed co-working spaces to support the growing creative industries in Lower Manhattan..


The Jacobs Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech aims to make cities stronger, fairer, and more resilient through responsible technology. Acting as a connector between academia, industry, communities, and government, the Jacobs Urban Tech Hub creates partnerships that identify urban challenges and opportunities, apply research to real-world problems, and inform that research with input from inhabitants about their needs.

The NYU School of Professional Studies Metaverse Collaborative is a cross-industry initiative that is designed to prepare students and industry partners to succeed in the Metaverse. We provide experiences and opportunities to explore, experiment, and lead in this emerging convergence of the physical, digital, and virtual worlds, which is impacting global industries, professions, and communities, as well as life as we know it.