Learning from Streetscapes for Wellness

Photos courtesy StreetLab. Graphic by Kevin Chan.

How can new approaches to streetscapes improve quality of place and quality of life?

Streets make up over a quarter of New York City’s land area, serving as public corridors that define how we navigate and experience the city. Given their significance in our city’s landscape, it’s no wonder that the design of streetscapes has a tangible and measurable impact on the well-being of New Yorkers. The designers, planners, and caretakers of the public realm, in partnership with community-based organizations, have developed a wide range of interventions to improve our city’s physical, mental, community, and environmental health. These projects, ranging from temporarily pedestrianizing streets to redesigning corridors for multimodal transport, can be seen in residential, commercial, and industrial areas, as well as in parkland, throughout the five boroughs.

Designing New York: Streetscapes for Wellness serves as a source of inspiration for policymakers, practitioners, and community advocates seeking to reimagine streets and promote public health. In celebration of this remarkable publication, Open House New York inaugurated its Public Policy Talks series with Learning from Streetscapes for Wellness. Attendees heard from Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Sue Donoghue and Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, alongside Sreoshy Banerjea, Executive Director of the Public Design Commission, about how this comprehensive resource will guide decision making and priority setting for projects in their relevant agencies. Streetscapes for Wellness author, Jenna E. Miller of PDC, Streetscapes for Wellness partner Jennifer Nitzky of ASLA-NY and The Fine Arts Federation of New York, and other thought leaders who contributed to this groundbreaking resource including representatives from the Department of Parks & Recreation, Department of Transportation, Department of City Planning, and Van Alen Institute, discussed the importance of community-driven streetscape design and highlight notable case studies.

This event was presented in partnership with the Public Design Commission and made possible through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation.


Welcome & Context: Introduction to OHNY Public Policy Talks

  • Pamela Puchalski, Executive Director, Open House New York

Case Studies Presentation

  • Jenna Miller, Deputy Director – Urban Design & Policy, NYC Public Design Commission
  • Jennifer Nitzky, Trustee, American Society of Landscape Architects – NY

Commissioners’ Discussion: Post-pandemic agency priorities for community-driven streetscapes

  • Sreoshy Banerjea, Executive Director, NYC Public Design Commission
  • Sue Donoghue, Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
  • Ydanis Rodriguez, Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation
  • Pamela Puchalski, Executive Director, Open House New York (Moderator)

Discussion with city agency leads: Collaborating on community-driven design

  • Neil Gagliardi, Director of Urban Design, NYC Department of Transportation
  • Erick Gregory, Chief Urban Designer, New York City Department of City Planning
  • Nancy Prince, Chief of Landscape Architecture, Department of Parks & Recreation
  • Cassim Shepard, Distinguished Lecturer, CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture (Moderator)

Discussion with Streetscapes for Wellness contributors: The importance of community-driven design 

  • Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute & PDC Commissioner
  • Jenna Miller, Deputy Director – Urban Design & Policy, NYC Public Design Commission
  • Jennifer Nitzky, Trustee, American Society of Landscape Architects – NY
  • Cassim Shepard, Distinguished Lecturer, CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture (Moderator)

Speaker Bios:

Sreoshy Banerjea is the Executive Director of NYC’s Public Design Commission, which reviews new structures, art installations, and landscape architecture projects on City-owned property. She previously served as the Vice President of Urban Design for the NYC Economic Development Corporation, where she shaped the master plans for renovation and development of EDC assets. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she founded Design Corps, which arranged partnerships between volunteer architects and restaurants to design outdoor structures.

Sue Donoghue, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation since February 2022, was previously the city’s Prospect Park Administrator, as well as the President of the Prospect Park Alliance. In these roles, Commissioner Donoghue directed the day-to-day operations of Prospect Park and led fundraising initiatives for capital improvements and restoration efforts.

Neil Gagliardi is the Director of Urban Design at the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) where he offers more than 25 years of interdisciplinary design and planning experience. During his tenure at DOT, Neil has spearheaded design initiatives that foster pedestrian-friendly, visually-appealing and sustainable streetscapes, public spaces and transportation corridors citywide. Neil’s international achievements and versatile project portfolio ranges from comprehensive neighborhood zoning and streetscape design plans in Queens to a transformative, art-in-action, redevelopment project in a favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Erick Gregory, Chief Urban Designer, New York City Department of City Planning

Deborah Marton is Executive Director of Van Alen Institute, an independent non-profit working to create equitable cities through inclusive design. A leading voice on the intersection of environmental and social justice, she was previously Executive Director of New York Restoration Project, where she completed fulfillment of the private sector commitment to plant a million trees as part of New York City’s MillionTreesNYC initiative and lead creation and/or renovation of more than 50 community garden spaces throughout New York City’s most under resourced communities. In her previous role as Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space, Deborah launched the Taxi 07 program, resulting in a new purpose-built NYC taxi. Deborah is a Commissioner on the NYC Public Design Commission.

Jenna Miller is Deputy Director, Urban Design & Policy at the NYC Public Design Commission and Co-Founder of New York City-based design firm RUEd’ ARCH. As a LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design and Construction, Jenna has designed and managed a breadth of public and private design/build and architectural projects in the U.S. and abroad. At PDC, Jenna led and authored Designing New York: Streetscapes for Wellness, and she oversees various interagency public realm design and policy initiatives. Recently, Jenna contributed to Streets Ahead: Five Routes to a Thriving City as an Urban Design Forum Fellow and Co-Lead of the “Care” Working Group. Jenna holds a M.Arch from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and a B.A. in Architecture and Environmental Studies from Wellesley College, and she has presented widely about advancing spatial equity and social justice in the public realm.

Jennifer Nitzky is a Landscape Architect and Certified Arborist with 25+ years of experience in urban design, streetscapes, parks & playgrounds, and green infrastructure. The Design Principal at Studio HIP, she focuses on community-oriented planning and design process; leading workshops and hands-on community activities to create dynamic and equitable public spaces. As a consultant to the Trust for Public Land, Jennifer has played a pivotal role in helping to transform more than 200 NYC schoolyards into vibrant green playgrounds. She is dedicated to elevating the health and wellness of the public realm through collaborative community-based design. As an Urban Design Forum Fellow, she participated in the Streets Ahead initiative to envision a more vibrant, equitable streetscape for New York City. She also collaborated with the NYC Public Design Commission on the Streetscapes for Wellness publication. Jennifer is a Fellow and Trustee of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Vice President of the Fine Arts Federation of New York, a member of the NYC Pollinator Working Group, and a past Manhattan Community Board 7 member.

Nancy Price, PLA, FASLA, is the chief of landscape architecture at the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks). In this role she establishes the design aesthetic and vision for the design department’s large and highly varied portfolio of projects. She guides the work of 100 landscape architects and a number of consulting firms. Ms. Prince sets standards for excellence in design to ensure that park projects are innovative, enduring, accessible, resilient, and sustainable. Under her leadership, NYC Parks’ designs regularly win awards and recognition. In recent years Ms. Prince has spoken about design in the public realm at national conferences held by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Planning association. She holds a master’s in urban design from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Massachusetts. She earned her BA in Urban Studies from Concordia University in her native city of Montreal.

Pamela Puchalski is the Executive Director of Open House New York, where she extends the principles that OHNY stands for and celebrates—openness, access, and diversity—to neighborhoods across the city. Pamela led in strategic planning, program design, and fundraising for a range of organizations in the U.S. and internationally across public, private, and nonprofit sectors, including Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, Tishman Speyer, and The Africa Center. Her recent efforts to foster inclusive economic growth include co-founding the Global Institute on Innovation Districts. As Executive Director of The American Assembly, she incubated the national Middle Neighborhoods movement. She was also part of the core team behind Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities and launched the Global Cities Initiative at Brookings Institution.

Ydanis Rodriguez, appointed Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation in January 2022, aims to make New York the most walkable and bikeable city in the nation. To this end, he is leading initiatives to increase investment in NYC’s Streets Master Plan and to fulfill DOT’s pledge to redesign 1,000 intersections across the city. Commissioner Rodriguez previously represented NYC City Council’s 10th District (Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill), chairing its transportation committee from 2014-2021.

Cassim Shepard is Distinguished Lecturer at the Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York. He previously taught in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, the Cities Programme of the London School of Economics, and the School of Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As the founding editor-in-chief of Urban Omnibus, an online publication of The Architectural League of New York, he spent six years working with hundreds of local designers, artists, and public servants to share their stories of urban innovation, with a particular emphasis on housing, infrastructure, and the changing nature of cultural institutions. His work has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacDowell residency and recognized with an Arts and Letters Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Public Policy Talks is a new series of public programs about new and evolving public policies impacting quality of place. Tailored for the general public, these discussions demystify how the city functions and who it serves — breaking down what may seem like complicated policy measures for broad audiences to help residents understand the current administration’s priorities. Above all, these talks illuminate how public sector investments in the physical realm are improving the city’s resilience, cultural vitality, social cohesion, and economic opportunity.

The Public Design Commission (PDC) is New York City’s design review agency, and has jurisdiction over permanent structures, landscape architecture, and art proposed on or over City-owned property. The mission of the PDC is to advocate for innovative, sustainable, and equitable design of public spaces and civic structures, with a goal of improving the public realm and therefore related services for all New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs.

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