In a conversation with OHNY executive director Gregory Wessner, Kate Ascher, a leader in infrastructure, transportation, economic development, and real estate in New York and London, discussed the large-scale systems that power New York City and how investment in urban infrastructure is critical to the city’s recovery.

Ascher is also the author of several books on urban infrastructure and the delivery of municipal services, including The Works: Anatomy of a City (Penguin Books, 2007), a classic book about how cities work, as well as co-author of New York Rising (Monacelli Press, 2018), an illustrated anthology of New York City’s real estate and development history.

Author Bio

Ascher currently leads several large planning projects on behalf of BuroHappold’s Cities Group, which specializes in sustainable urban development. She typically works at the intersection of public and private sectors, planning and implementing urban infrastructure and development projects involving major financial, regulatory, organizational and political hurdles. She also serves as the Milstein Professor of Urban Development at Columbia University, where she teaches real estate, architecture, infrastructure, and urban planning courses.


Open House New York’s Conversations on the City offers diverse perspectives on the issues defining New York’s recovery, resilience, and reopening in the aftermath of COVID-19. The series was launched at the onset of the pandemic in April 2020 amid a moment of uncertainty about the future of urban life, ultimately drawing together an audience of 10,000 over the subsequent months. Organized around a broad theme or topic, the series has a point of view: urban life brings an abiding joy. What makes cities continue to thrive, what propels them forward, is a shared need for human connection; this is what cities make possible and it will always prevail over whatever challenges may arise.