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The Livable Neighborhoods Program: Faces from the Frontline

donnely marks

The following interview is the first in a series focusing on how the MAS Planning Center’s Livable Neighborhoods Program (LNP) has helped New Yorkers tackle planning-related challenges in their neighborhoods head-on. Since 2007, the LNP has provided resources and training to nearly 400 New Yorkers. Learn more about it and upcoming training sessions.

Donnelly Marks< (pictured) is a professional photographer who decided to become more involved in her community (Astoria, Queens), in 2002. As part of the Norwood Neighborhood Association (NNA), Donnelly quickly learned that “…pictures were a very useful tool; helpful when making a presentation to the community board, the press, City Council, etc.” Donnelly uses pictures to document areas of concern and to highlight achievements on her neighborhood association’s website. In October of last year, she attended the Livable Neighborhoods Program (LNP) training at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, taking workshops in Historic Preservation and Using Maps and Data.

What made you want to devote a Saturday afternoon to learning more about neighborhood planning?

Juan Camilo Osorio from MAS attended our community board meeting (Astoria CB1) last fall. Our son made comments in the meeting and afterwards Juan told us about the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) workshop and Livable Neighborhood workshops. The program name alone “Livable Neighborhood” says it all. When Juan Camilo explained the LNP workshop offered a chance to learn from planning, preservation and GIS experts in a professional and friendly setting, how could anyone resist?

What did you gain from the training? Were there any “a-ha” moments?

As a member of a community association in Astoria, our group had been working hard to improve our neighborhood and address some important quality of life issues, so the workshop sounded perfect.

I found the information and resources shared in the LNP workshops to be extremely useful. For those new to preservation and community service like myself, it has not been easy to navigate the city agencies, rules and processes, to understand the “big picture” or who or what agency and resources would be most constructive for us to reach out to. The presenters consolidated information in a very user-friendly way.

37th st houses angle astoria

How have you been able to put what you learned to work for your neighborhood?

I was able to take home and put GIS to use immediately. GIS was used to create a presentation to our community board related to quality of life issues our neighborhood was addressing. In addition, alternative courses of action for “special neighborhood” preservation were shared and we hope to make use of these ideas in the future.

Any parting thoughts for those considering the training?

Getting involved has been challenging and hard work but it’s been wonderful meeting neighbors and those in City offices who are working to make our community a better place. Being involved has also made our neighborhood feel much more like “home” which is a great feeling.