A lawyer with extensive policy expertise who ran for City Council, a messaging guru with deep roots in city media, and an activist (who is also an architect) have joined the staff of Open Plans, the not-for-profit that advocates for livable streets.
Sara Lind — who left a prestigious law firm to begin a career in public service, first leading to a stint as secretary of Community Board 7, then running for a Council seat on the Upper West Side — is Open Plans’s new director of policy. In that role, she’ll roll out new policy initiatives and work with the incoming administration, elected officials and not-for-profits to effectuate those plans.
Robert Green — a marketing and communications strategist and film and television producer — was hired as director of strategic communications. His job will be to promote Open Plans’s messages and raise its profile on the city and national scene.
Carl Mahaney — the principal of an architectural firm, UWS parent, and safe-streets tyro — is the new advocate for StreetopiaUWS, the progressive community group that has been fighting for livable streets, safety infrastructure for cyclists (especially in and around Central Park), and the pedestrianization of Broadway (with some successes, as Streetsblog reported here and here).
The hires signal a big push in front of the new mayoralty and City Council on the part of the 22-year-old organization, which has used tactical urbanism and grassroots advocacy in order to advance a variety of active-transportation and safe-streets initiatives.
Open Plans was the driving force of the first protected bike lanes in New York City (along Ninth Avenue in Chelsea) and many streetscape changes on the Upper West Side including the first UWS protected bike lane (along Columbus Avenue). It has played an important part in the open-streets movement.
Its affiliate, Streetfilms, has created more than 1,000 films on street safety and biking, by highlighting developments around the world. (Full disclosure: Open Plans is the parent company of StreetsblogNYC and StreetsblogUSA.)
“With our new hires, we can more deeply engage with lawmakers and policy leaders inside New York’s government,” Open Plans Chairman Mark Gorton said in a statement. “Open Plans is iterating and proactively solving issues so New York City can build the ability to manage streets as public spaces and transform deadly car sewers into social spaces for kids and neighbors.”
Gorton is a major proponent of the idea that New York City needs an Office of Public Space Management in order to take advantage of advances in urban “placemaking” and to devolve responsibility for neighborhood amenities away from distant, centralized bureaucracies. The idea gained traction on the mayoral campaign trail, with several candidates, most notably Maya Wiley, voicing versions of it.
The hires join Chief of Strategy Lisa Orman and Director of Public Space Advocacy Jackson Chabot, and reflect a growing commitment by Gorton to affect change, including recent hires at Streetsblog and the funding of an upstate organizer for Transportation Alternatives.