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Friday’s Headlines: A New Public Role for the Public Realm Edition

12:03 AM EST on February 17, 2023

It’s time for some real public space management now that Mayor Adams has appointed Ya-Ting Liu to head a new office.

The day began with the bombshell announcement that Mayor Adams had not only made good on his promise to create an office of the public realm, but named much-esteemed livable streets supporter Ya-Ting Liu to the position of "chief public realm officer."

Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. Photo: Mayor's Office
Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. Photo: Mayor's Office
Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. Photo: Mayor's Office

Advocates are high on Liu, who is currently the chief strategy officer to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. Before joining the Adams Administration, Liu worked in government affairs for Via, the taxi company, and was the sustainability program director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, the director of transit advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, and worked in federal advocacy for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. She was also executive director of the Friends of the BQX.

That's a stellar resume. But there are a lot of questions remaining from City Hall's exciting press release:

    • The city says “Liu will coordinate across city government, community organizations, and the private sector…” There are lots of devils in those details; after all, Vision Zero was also initially hyped as a unique cross-agency effort — yet has basically become the DOT begging other agencies for help while most (looking at you, Department of Health) run away.
    • The city says the new office will “ensure that New Yorkers continue to have a one-stop shop for all issues related to public space…” That's potentially great, but it's also what 311 is supposed to be.
    • On the plus side, the release said Liu will "advance forward-thinking reforms to make it easier for community groups and the private sector to partner with the city to become stewards of public spaces and for city agencies to pilot innovative designs and technologies that improve public space management.” This has been on the wish list of advocates for years, so it's definitely an area they'll be watching.
    • Liu will also be tasked with overseeing the entire open restaurant program (if and when the Council gets off its collective ass). That's a big change from the mayor's previous insistence that the program remain inside the DOT.
    • The press release on Liu doesn't mention additional staff or political or budgetary support. Nor does it explain how Liu will possibly be able to do her new job as the head of a new office while retaining her current position with Deputy Mayor Joshi.

Initial coverage was mostly cursory: The Daily News and amNY played it exceptionally straight. The Times tried to go all featurey, but ultimately played it straight, too. Gothamist added depth (likely because reporter Elizabeth Kim got access to Liu early). City Hall declined on Thursday to make Liu available to Streetsblog, the seminal outlet on public space management. Maybe today?

In other news:

    • One of Eric Adams's MTA Board members (whose tweets are locked) said some nice things (see tweet, right) about free buses (presumably because the state would pay?).
    • The Daily News covered the opening of The Brake Room, which is Chik-fil-A's attempt to ease sidewalk congestion and give delivery workers a place to recharge (with coffee and plugs). We were there, too, but didn't see much controversy, despite how some have spun the new amenity.
    • Nolan Hicks continues some fine reporting that, unfortunately, exposes the MTA to largely overstated accusations of incompetence. (NY Post)
    • Like Streetsblog, amNY covered the Council's effort to rein in last-mile delivery warehouses and trucks.
    • The new garbage cans are here! The new garbage cans are here! (DSNY)
    • Planetizen covered our editor's defaced license plate scoop from Monday.
    • Put the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on a road diet, pols say. (The Brooklyn Paper)
    • We can expect a lot more double- and illegal parking across the street from our office, thanks to Banksy. (Gothamist)
    • Hell Gate did the evergreen story about all the terrible people after whom our roads are named.
    • Billions in service and infrastructure improvements for the LIRR just isn't enough for Newsday.
    • And finally, did you see this? The Big Button is now yellow!

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