New York has one of the most vibrant street scenes among major North American cities. To keep the party going—and make the city’s parks, plazas, and sidewalks prettier and more welcoming—Mayor Eric Adams has appointed Ya-Ting Liu as the city’s first-ever public realm officer.
In her role, Liu will be a facilitator between city government, the private sector, and community organizations to create and sustain public spaces across the city. The goal is not only to make sidewalks, streets, and parks more inviting but also to spur economic development.
“In New York City, the public realm is everyone’s living room. It’s where we eat, play, and gather. Having beautiful public spaces accessible to all people is one of our greatest assets—it is what makes New York City so special,” said Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu in a press release. “I am thrilled and honored to be the first-ever chief public realm officer for the City of New York, and I look forward to working with our businesses, community partners, and city agencies to build vibrant, attractive, and inclusive public spaces in all five boroughs.”
Liu is charged with converting the Open Restaurants program, the temporary outdoor dining scheme that emerged during COVID-19 pandemic, into a permanent institution in collaboration with the New York City Council. They will be developing guidelines for the street and sidewalk dining sheds and making information readily available to restaurant owners and their neighbors.
She will also be responsible for implementing a $375 million plan to refresh and expand public spaces, including updates to Open Streets in the Bronx and Staten Island, a reconstruction of Jamaica Avenue from Sutphin to Merrick boulevards in Queens, and the continuation of the Broadway Vision plan, a proposal for better bike and pedestrian connections between Madison and Greeley squares in Manhattan. She will also work on bringing the vacant space under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge back into public use (This may herald the revival of the beloved Brooklyn Banks skatepark.) In addition to these projects, Liu will work on Reimagining Fifth Avenue, a plan to redesign the street from Bryant Park to Central Park to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit.
On the public-private partnership side, Liu will spearhead reforms intended to make it easier for private entities and community groups to partner with city agencies to steward public spaces, as well as work with the city to think through designs and technologies that improve the public spaces they manage.
Lastly, Liu will tackle the longstanding problem of construction sheds that can shroud sidewalks for years.
Many of these projects are tied to the recommendations from “Making New York Work for Everyone,” an economic development action plan introduced by the mayor late last year.
“Our city’s public spaces are too important to fall through the cracks of bureaucracy, and now they won’t,” said Mayor Adams in a press release. “New Yorkers need to know there is one person at City Hall whose number one goal is to improve their quality of life by creating incredible, new public spaces and ensuring the ones we have are clean, equitable, and safe. As someone who knows how to think big and ‘Get Stuff Done’ for New Yorkers, Ya-Ting Liu is the right person to serve as the city’s first-ever chief public realm officer.”