New Leadership: Meet Pamela Puchalski, Executive Director
Open House New York is thrilled to welcome Pamela Puchalski, who joined the Open House New York team as Executive Director in March 2021.
1. What excites you about joining Open House New York?
Open House New York presents a new set of challenges for me to learn from, in a city I proudly call home. Over nearly two decades, OHNY has come to symbolize the very essence of New York City’s greatness—its openness and energy, and its richly diverse cultures and communities. However, New York City is now at an inflection point. Whatever lens one takes—be it fiscal or the health of residents or the health of our environment, or most urgently, systemic racial injustice—our city is in crisis and needs its civic organizations to step up and reach out in new ways. I am deeply committed to OHNY’s vision for an open city, and we have important work ahead of us to realize that vision.
2. Under your leadership, what can the Open House New York audience look forward to in the coming months?
A lot remains unknown due to COVID-19. And there is a lot of healing that needs to be done given the loss of life and isolation too many of us have endured through the pandemic, and the decades of racial inequities, suffering, and unheeded calls for change. So, I am taking my first few months to work with the board, staff, members, volunteers, community and site partners, and countless others on a strategic plan—the roadmap for our future—to create a truly open city. I believe that after two decades OHNY is ready to make a huge leap—who we serve, what we do, and how we do our work. I suppose I see it as a crucial “yes, and” moment for OHNY and the city. Rest assured that OHNY Weekend will continue to anchor our work, and the 2021 OHNY Weekend on October 16-17 is going to be quite celebratory.
3. In this challenging time for New York, what role can civic organizations like Open House New York play in the city’s recovery?
Organizations across the city and the country are adopting strategies to reposition themselves and achieve impact around issues of equity and access. Activating residents in both consciousness-raising and decision-making is, I believe, critically important to a thriving democracy and our collective well-being. An engaged and diverse public also creates a more vibrant and culturally dynamic city for all. The OHNY Weekend has a remarkable track record – thanks to OHNY, New Yorkers welcome fellow New Yorkers and tourists alike to sites of cultural significance or architectural distinction—places that are not usually open to the public. No doubt OHNY’s most commanding resource is its robust volunteer base. Civic organizations like OHNY can find new ways for their constituencies to serve as active agents within their programs rather than passive audiences being presented “at”. I believe by doing so we can create new paradigms of what is possible.
4. What’s your most memorable Open House New York experience?
I joined forces with [Open House New York founder] Scott Lauer the year Open House New York was founded because of our shared commitment to engaging the public about the history and future growth of New York City. In 2003, the Center for Architecture, which I was then overseeing, moved up its opening to serve as the official welcome center for the first OHNY Weekend. It was one of my proudest moments as a New Yorker, welcoming people who came through our doors simply because they wanted to be a part of the OHNY Weekend.
5. I’m an Open House New Yorker because …
I am drawn as much to the city’s rooftops as its subway tunnels. I also have a piece of Manhattan schist, excavated from drilling down the height of the Empire State Building. Above all, I believe in the people of New York. What we can accomplish together. Diverse personalities and backgrounds all comingling in hundreds of neighborhoods across one of the densest cities in the world. That’s just awesome.