Open & Candid: Naama Lissar

Naama Lissar spent the summer as a fellow here at OpenPlans analyzing NYC’s Community Boards.  Her robust research and in-depth exploration of the CB structure opened the door for a range of possibilites to truly engage the public in issues that affect their neighborhoods and city.  She’s now the Community Tools Planner here at OpenPlans.  Here’s Naama in Naama’s own words:

Welcome aboard – what have you been up until this point?
My background is in architecture and urban planning; I have a strong interest in bridging the planning and technology worlds.  At OpenPlans I’ll be analyzing the planning process in NYC.  Given the existing planning landscape, identifying opportunities and challenges for the public to be part of this process and have a real influence on their block, neighborhood, city.  The question is, how can people affect what is happening around them?

Does most of this stem from your work this summer investigating Community Boards and including the widescale community in a more meaningful way?
This summer was certainly the starting point for what I will be doing in OpenPlans.  My work had focused on Community Boards. CBs provide an important connection between the public and the city.  I analyzed the CB structure and process, and then identified opportunities and challenges for public participation. The next step was developing ideas for online tools, which will provide the public with more options to be part of this process. These tools would also assist CBs in outreach and documentation. 

Where did you go to school and work at before OpenPlans?
I’ve just completed my masters in urban planning at New York University. I interned at the Department of City Planning and contributed to the Boerum Hill rezoning project, from the initial phases of public outreach through certification by the City Planning Commission.  Before moving to NYC, I worked as an architect in Tel Aviv for four years. I was involved in different projects of various scales, mainly public buildings. I designed a green high school building – the first phase was constructed right before I came to NYC, two years ago. I studied architecture in Israel and Denmark.

Why the shift from architecture to urban planning?
I decided to make a change because I wanted to start thinking of space from a broader perspective, and really comprehend the different layers that shape the city. Now that I’ve graduated from NYU, I feel lucky to have this combination of design and planning. As an architect, you need to know a little bit about everything. As an urban planner the pockets of knowledge you need to tap and posses are endless. I’ve learned a lot about cities in general and about NYC in particular and I am excited to have the chance to contribute to the future-oriented thinking efforts here at OpenPlans.

You know the saying: “Engineers know everything about something, Architects know something about everything.” How would you direct-object that statement for the Urban Planner?
Urban planners know everything about everything  (or at least they should!).

What do you hope to accomplish here at OpenPlans?
OpenPlans is at the intersection of planning and technology, and I will be providing the planning angle. I hope to contribute to the development of tools that will engage people in the planning process in a meaningful way; tools that will really make a difference.  I wanted to stay at OpenPlans because I think it is a group of very devoted, smart, open minded and talented dreamers, who believe that cities can be a better place for people to live in.