NYC Mayor Eric Adams today appointed Ya-Ting Liu as the first-ever chief public realm officer from Harlem to Hollis.
Delivering on a key promise from his State of the City address.
In this newly created role, Liu will coordinate across city government, community organizations, and the private sector to create extraordinary public spaces across the entire city and continue to drive the city’s economic recovery. Mayor Adams today also signed Executive Order 27, codifying the creation of the position and ensuring that New Yorkers continue to have a one-stop shop for all issues related to public space.
“Our city’s public spaces are too important to fall through the cracks of bureaucracy, and now they won’t,” said Mayor Adams. “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.”
“I am thrilled for Ya-Ting’s newest appointment as chief public realm officer. Her out-of-the-box-thinking, passion for well-designed, inclusive public spaces for all, and ability to bring all parts of government together is critical to the operations portfolio and ensuring that our agencies deliver forward-looking ideas and projects,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “She brings over 15 years of organizing, advocacy, and policy expertise on creating a built environment that is safe, clean, and livable for all. This is her first tour inside government, and she approaches complexity with a fresh, practical perspective. She knows what it takes to ‘Get Stuff Done,’ and I’m excited for her to realize the mayor’s vision for public realm.”
“Maintaining a vibrant public realm is absolutely vital to our economic recovery and the overall dynamism of our city, and I am thrilled to see the creation of the chief public realm officer role,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “I look forward to continue working with Ya-Ting Liu as she spearheads improvements to our public realm in both our central business districts and in emerging commercial corridors across the five boroughs.”
“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. “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.”
As chief public realm officer, Liu will focus on delivering two components of Mayor Adams’ “Working People’s Agenda.” She will execute on a plan to invest $375 million to create and expand high-quality public spaces in all five boroughs, which includes the Broadway Vision plan, a full reconstruction of Jamaica Avenue from Sutphin Boulevard to Merrick Boulevard, and permanent upgrades to Open Streets in the Bronx and on Staten Island. At the same time, she will lead the administration’s work to deliver a permanent outdoor dining program in partnership with the City Council that works for businesses and residents, building on the massive success of the pandemic-era temporary Open Restaurants program, with clear design guidelines and accessible tools for restaurant owners and communities.
Additionally, Liu will also 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.
Liu’s work will support the city’s recovery with a focus on quality of life, wellness, safety, and equity. Building on the recommendations of the “New” New York panel and Mayor Adams’ $900 million investment in traffic safety, her additional priority projects will include:
- Keeping city streets vibrant by addressing the longstanding, pervasive issue of unsightly sidewalk construction sheds, replacing them with newly designed structures, and strengthening enforcement against those who leave sheds up for years;
- Reimagining Fifth Avenue from Bryant Park to Central Park as a safer, less congested, pedestrian-centered boulevard that also prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, mass transit, and public space, in partnership with a wide range of public, private, and community partners; and
- Reclaiming spaces under the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, that have for years been closed to most New Yorkers, for public use.
“Ya-Ting Liu’s appointment reaffirms the strong commitment to the public realm throughout the Adams administration, and she is perfectly positioned to lead this effort given her longstanding role working under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Joshi,” said New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “I’m excited to continue to work with Ya-Ting to build upon the innovative leadership of DOT’s public space team, and coordinate the key contributions from NYCEDC, NYC Parks, the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management, and others.”
“Our public spaces play an increasingly important role for New Yorkers, as places to play, learn, rest, and connect,” said New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “We have long known that our parks are essential infrastructure, but COVID entirely changed the way we think about and interact with public space. It’s more important than ever to coordinate with our sister agencies, and we’re excited to work with Ya-Ting and break down silos to better serve New Yorkers.”
“From waste containerization to street sweeping to outdoor dining, so many of the biggest, most visible, and complicated questions of municipal management take place in the public realm,” said New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch. “The urban space that we all share deserves not just attention, discussion, and planning, but also action, and a principled, dedicated public servant to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for our neighborhoods. I have had the privilege of working closely with Ya-Ting Liu, and I am thrilled to have her continuing to serve as a colleague in this new role.”
“Creating and carving out public spaces where residents can freely and safely walk and bike around the city encourages low-carbon transportation, which is crucial to combating climate change,” said New York City Chief Climate Officer and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “I look forward to collaborating with Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu on ways we can better utilize public spaces across the city.”
“I cannot think of a better person to lead the city’s public realm work than Ya-Ting Liu,” said New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Executive Director Kizzy Charles-Guzmán. “She is a known collaborator and problem solver and will undoubtedly model an equitable and climate-focused approach to create a more livable city that centers safety, accessibility, good health, play, and joy for all New Yorkers.”
“We owe it to New Yorkers to make much-needed improvements to the public realm,” said New York City Department of Buildings Acting Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik, P.E. “I commend Mayor Adams for smartly choosing Ya-Ting Liu for this role, and I look forward to working with her on improving the pedestrian experience by modernizing sidewalk sheds and ramping up enforcement efforts against owners who allow sheds to remain in place for too long.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Ya-Ting Liu as the first chief public realm officer of New York City,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “The creation of this position was a key action item from the ‘New’ New York Panel’s action plan to make New York City the best place for work by making it the best place — period. Under Ya-Ting’s leadership, there will be a clear voice and vision guiding across all agencies to promote strategies for improving livability through public realm improvements and strategic problem-solving. I look forward to continuing to work with Ya-Ting to help create a more vibrant and accessible public realm for all New Yorkers.”
“New York wouldn’t be New York without its extraordinary public realm,” said New York City Department of City Planning Director (DCP) and City Planning Commission Chair Dan Garodnick. “Parks, privately-owned public spaces, shared streets, waterfront access, and Open Restaurants are just some of the ways DCP is connecting New Yorkers. We’re excited and ready to work with the dedicated, passionate Ya-Ting Liu to make our public spaces even better. Together, we’ll create a healthier, safer, more walkable city for all.”
“Investments in public space are essential to enlivening our commercial corridors,” said New York City Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. “From Open Streets to outdoor dining, public spaces keep small businesses open and thriving. By appointing the city’s first-ever chief public realm officer, Mayor Adams is showing once again his dedication to improving our neighborhoods with safe, social spaces that ensure our workers, business owners, shoppers, and all residents are able to enjoy all our city has to offer. We are excited to partner with Ya-Ting Liu as she takes on major projects to improve the quality of life in the city’s commercial districts.”
“The Public Design Commission is thrilled that Ya-Ting Liu will be New York City’s first chief public realm officer,” said New York City Public Design Commission (PDC) Executive Director Sreoshy Banerjea. “At long last, we will have the focus on innovation, implementation, maintenance, and interagency coordination that breaks down silos between agencies and civic organizations and works toward a common goal of delivering extraordinary public spaces. PDC is a natural partner to help the chief public realm officer identify opportunities and advocate for priorities that align with our collective mission of delivering high-quality public spaces.”
“The appointment of Ya-Ting Liu as the city’s first-ever chief public realm officer is a major win for New Yorkers. I am confident that Ya-Ting’s deep understanding of New York City, along with her grit, tenacity, and broad-based knowledge of New York’s transportation and sustainability landscape, means we will continue to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for the people of New York,” said Richard R. Buery, Jr. co-chair, “New” New York panel; and CEO, Robin Hood. “Prioritizing the siting and development of open spaces throughout the city and working with the restaurant industry and local community leaders to ensure greater stability for the nearly 300,000 hourly wage workers the industry employs will be major accomplishments in transforming our city into a place of opportunity for all New Yorkers.”
“‘Making New York Work for Everyone’ recommended the creation of a director of public realm towards the goal of reimagining New York City’s business districts as vibrant, 24/7 live-work-play destinations,” said “New” New York Panel Executive Director Julie Stein. “Ya-Ting Liu is an incredible leader and visionary who will play a critical role implementing key public realm initiatives from the ‘New’ New York action plan, including investment in beautiful, permanent public space, improving quality of life issues, and offering new reasons to go to our business districts.”
“New York City’s streets are our city’s largest public space. As a longtime transportation advocate and safe streets champion, we congratulate Ya-Ting Liu on her appointment as New York City’s first chief public realm officer,” said Elizabeth Adams, senior director of advocacy and organizing, Transportation Alternatives. “We look forward to working with Liu in her new position to build a stronger, more resilient city with safe, high-quality places to walk, bike, and gather in every neighborhood of every borough.”
“We’re thrilled to see this key public space management role fulfilled,” said Jackson Chabot, director of advocacy and organizing, Open Plans. “Appointing a first-ever chief public realm officer fills a desperately needed gap in our city. We believe this position will coordinate leadership, unite siloed efforts, and centrally support our vital public spaces. We’re looking forward to working with Ya-Ting, the administration, and agencies to make New York City better together.”
“Ya-Ting is the rare person who embodies deep caring for her fellow humans, expert knowledge, experience, and vision to be able to see the public realm in all its possibilities and failings, partnered with the essential strength and determination to be able to guide projects through the complexities of government,” said Rosa Chang, co-founder and president, Gotham Park by Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan. “Ya-Ting has been a champion of Gotham Park since the moment we met, and to have a real champion with a seat at the table is what makes or breaks a new grassroots community park initiative like ours. We in New York City are so extremely fortunate to have someone who cares so deeply about how our public spaces can and will shape us taking the helm as chief public realm officer. Ya-Ting is an advocate for us all, and with real power to shape how we live in this complex city of ours, I am so excited to see her impact in our neighborhoods and our daily lives.”
“The New York City BID Association applauds Mayor Adams for appointing Ya-Ting Liu to this important position,” said David Estrada, executive director, Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID); and co-chair, New York City BID Association; and Roberto Benfatto, president, Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance; and co-chair, New York City BID Association. “BIDs are passionate advocates for neighborhood public spaces, and we look forward to partnering with Liu to ensure that these vital community resources receive the coordination and resources they need and deserve.”
“For decades, New York City has lacked the cross-agency open space vision it needs to deliver on the promise of a more equitable 21st-century parks system,” said Adam Ganser, executive director, New Yorkers for Parks. “New Yorkers for Parks called for the creation of a position to oversee that vision in our ‘Five Point Plan for Park Equity,’ and we applaud the Adams administration for creating the much-needed role. Ya-Ting Liu brings valuable experience to the new chief public realm officer position, and I look forward to working with Ya-Ting and the new office to bring attention to the needs of the parks system, advocate for increased NYC Parks funding, and create a more equitable New York.”
“We thank Mayor Adams for appointing the very first chief public realm officer in New York City history,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president, Municipal Art Society of New York. “Ya-Ting Liu is supremely qualified for this new role. We look forward to achieving a better planned, coordinated, and maintained public realm with benefits for all New Yorkers under her leadership.”
“AIA New York commends New York City for establishing the role of chief public realm officer, a critical leadership position that will be instrumental in the equitable management of our city’s public spaces, and congratulates Ya-Ting Liu on her appointment to this new role,” said Jesse Lazar, interim executive director, American Institute of Architects in New York City. “A fierce public space advocate, Ya-Ting’s extensive experience in urban planning, combined with her dedication to equitable and sustainable design, will be instrumental in creating a more livable and vibrant public realm for all New Yorkers. We particularly look forward to seeing the city’s Open Restaurants program improve under the auspices of this new position, which will review the outdoor dining program in the context of the broader public realm.”
“We are thrilled that the Adams administration is doubling down on its commitment to the public realm by creating this critical position in City Hall,” said Holly Leicht, executive director, Madison Square Park Conservancy (MSPC). “The future of New York City is more livable, breathable neighborhoods that blend work and play and prioritize people over cars. Ya-Ting Liu is the perfect choice to lead this initiative, as she both understands the broader vision of how the public realm can transform communities and is also ready and willing to roll up her sleeves and dig into the details to move projects forward and get things done. MSPC looks forward to working with her and our other partners to make Madison Square a model of what thoughtfully planned public infrastructure can be.”
“Every New Yorker deserves beautiful parks, safe streets, and lively commercial corridors in their neighborhood,” said Daniel McPhee, executive director, Urban Design Forum. “We are thrilled that Mayor Adams has heard our call for a chief public realm officer, and we are eager to support Ya-Ting Liu to more equitably invest in streets, sidewalks, parks, and plazas in every corner of our city.”
“We commend Mayor Adams for addressing New York City’s need for leadership and high-level coordination in the public realm as we recover from the pandemic and reimagine our public spaces,” said James Mettham, president, Flatiron NoMad Partnership. “Ya-Ting Liu has the vision and know-how needed to collaborate effectively with public and private partners, navigate complex challenges, and shepherd projects in diverse neighborhoods across the city that will create more inviting spaces for pedestrians, cyclists, commuters, tourists, and businesses. We look forward to working with New York City’s first chief public realm officer on such projects in our mixed-use district, including the reconstruction of the Flatiron Public Plazas and Worth Square, and the continuation of Broadway Vision in NoMad.”
“Quality public spaces are what makes New York City a vibrant and dynamic place, which is why we applaud Mayor Adams’ appointment of Ya-Ting Liu as the city’s first chief public realm officer,” said Regina Myer, president, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “In Downtown Brooklyn, we’ve seen how successful public realm improvements can be, and with the city prioritizing this effort, all five boroughs have an opportunity to create and expand access to public spaces that are designed to work for the people using them. Congratulations to Ya-Ting on her new role, and we look forward to working with her and the current administration to make Downtown Brooklyn even better and support the city’s recovery through the public realm.”
“Whether it’s dining alfresco at local restaurants or enjoying pedestrian plazas, the way millions of New Yorkers and tens of millions of annual visitors interact with our streetscape constantly evolves, as do the needs to effectively plan and manage precious public space in our big, complex city,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director, New York City Hospitality Alliance. “So, the appointment of Ya-Ting Liu as the city’s first chief public realm officer is not only an excellent selection for this position, but also smart city planning.”
“I am thrilled to work with Ya-Ting Liu in her new capacity as chief public realm officer,” said Laura Rothrock, president, Long Island City Partnership; and executive director, Long Island City Business Improvement District. “Ya-Ting is well-positioned for the role due to her vast experience in solving complex issues that involve collaboration with multiple city agencies and stakeholders. I thank Mayor Adams for his vision in addressing the public realm with an economic development lens and know Ya-Ting is the perfect person to lead this effort.”
“RPA is thrilled that Ya-Ting Liu has been named New York City’s first-ever chief public realm officer,” said Kate Slevin, executive vice president, Regional Plan Association (RPA). “We could not imagine someone more well-suited for the role — Ya-Ting is a fierce advocate for safer, more livable, and more accessible streets and has the experience necessary for this complex role. Our public space is an incredibly valuable commodity in New York City, and we believe having someone focused solely on transforming the streets into a place where New Yorkers can safely get around on bikes or transit, play, exercise, and dine is crucial to the success of the city. Additionally, we need someone who can bring the many agencies that manage pieces of the right-of-way together to deliver improvements more efficiently and cooperatively. We look forward to working with Ya-Ting as she assumes her new role.”
“We are thrilled with the appointment of Ya-Ting Liu as the city’s first chief public realm officer, and we applaud Mayor Adams not only for this inspired choice, but for creating this critical position in the first place,” said Julie Tighe, president, New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV). “Ya-Ting has over a decade of policy experience under her belt and having served as director of NYLCV’s New York City Sustainability Program, we know exactly what she brings to the table: A brilliant mind, care for the environment, and an unmatched work ethic. With Ya-Ting ensuring the city’s public space is planned and managed equitably, New York will be a healthier, more environmentally friendly place to live and visit.”
“We applaud Mayor Adams’ appointment of Ya-Ting Liu as the first chief public realm officer for the City of New York,” said Madelyn Wils, chief advisor, Fifth Avenue Association. “We have learned, particularly since COVID, the importance of creating and improving public space throughout our city. Ya-Ting will bring a thoughtful approach to coordinating citywide efforts to build and upgrade public spaces across the five boroughs.”
Ya-Ting Liu brings over 15 years of policy, community organizing, coalition building, and government affairs experience to the Adams administration. She has dedicated her career to building coalitions and partnerships to deliver projects across a range of issue areas, including transportation, sustainability, and technology. For the last year, she has served as chief strategy officer to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi, a title she will continue to hold concurrently with chief public realm officer.
Before entering city government, Liu worked as the director of government affairs and policy for the rideshare company Via, as sustainability program director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, as director of transit advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, and in federal advocacy for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
Liu earned a Bachelor of Science in conservation studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Liu will report to Deputy Mayor Joshi and work closely with Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer.
Photo credit: NYC Mayor’s Office.