Shared Spaces, Shared Solutions

February 29, 2024

On February 15th, the Alliance for Public Space Leadership (APSL) celebrated the one-year anniversary of Mayor Adams’ appointment of New York City’s first-ever Chief Public Realm Officer, Ya-Ting Liu.

This convening brought together more than 60 advocates from over 50 organizations, including community-based organizations, small businesses and street vendors, business improvement districts (BIDs), disability advocates, design professionals, open street volunteers, park conservancies, and others who have collectively been working to improve New York’s public realm.

Ya-Ting Liu was the guest of honor, and she was joined by Department of Transportation (DOT) Assistant Commissioner Emily Weidenhof to provide updates on the City’s initiatives to streamline and incentivize the construction, maintenance, and activation of public open space.

The Alliance for Public Space Leadership's State of the Public Realm event on February 15, 2024 featured New York City’s first-ever Chief Public Realm Officer, Ya-Ting Liu, and MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein.

This gathering exemplifies the unique relationship between an alliance of advocates and the City position they helped create. APSL was founded in 2022 and is led by the Municipal Art Society of NY (MAS), the American Institute of Architect-New York, Open Plans, New Yorkers for Parks, and the Design Trust for Public Space. APSL quickly grew to more than 50 organizations, and the appointment of the Chief Public Realm Officer is a direct result of APSL’s research and advocacy.

In the year since Liu was appointed, she has proven the benefits of having central, visionary leadership dedicated to our public space. Tasked with aligning the City’s many disparate and diverse goals, Liu has been a staunch advocate for public space progress. With her support, New York City has passed a historic outdoor dining program, expanded 5th Avenue’s popular holiday Open Street, reopened, and reactivated the Manhattan public space beneath the Brooklyn Bridge with the creation of Gotham Park, and installed new people-centered amenities in the Flatiron District as part of the larger Broadway Vision plan to rebalance Broadway from Union Square to Columbus Circle. These marquee projects have shown on a grand scale what’s possible for the city’s public realm and demonstrate Ya-Ting Liu and the Adams administration’s dedication to rethinking the way New Yorkers use streets and sidewalks as public space. Yet there is more work to be done to care for and activate our public spaces across all five boroughs with an inclusive and equitable focus.

At the February 15th event, APSL members vowed to continue to push for a fair increase in the City’s budget for the public realm, to ensure less-resourced neighborhood parks and plazas are cared for; an increase in capital investment in streetscapes, plazas, and parks throughout all five boroughs; reform of the City’s permitting process to ensure trusted community partners can activate and enrich their public spaces during block parties and Open Streets; and a plan for ensuring the position of Chief Public Realm Officer as well as a larger office of the Public Realm is codified to ensure longevity and success beyond this administration.

The Alliance for Public Space Leadership came together out of the heightened awareness of the pandemic when New Yorkers realized the critical importance of our public open spaces for health and wellbeing. The progress we as a city have made is impressive. Our vision for ensuring the public realm delivers the greatest good of all New Yorkers will drive us forward to find deeper and more innovative collaborations of all kinds to achieve a more livable and equitable city. The Alliance Leadership will continue to support and push the City to develop a long-term and holistic vision for how to harness the potential for public space for everyday New Yorkers.

Help us continue our planning advocacy on behalf of New York City.