Dear ASLA-NY Members and Friends,
I have had the great honor and privilege of being elected and serving as your President for these last ten months. Even as I was running for office, I did not fathom the year that lay ahead. I moved in with my partner at the top of the year, just finished assembling our IKEA closet masterpiece, when suddenly our bedroom became my office, our frisky feline Mishka entertaining unsuspecting viewers with his unchoreographed video-conference cameos!
As the coronavirus gripped New York and we went into lockdown – I led my first board meeting, virtually. We welcomed my niece Samara into the world on Arbor Day (named after the winged achene fruit). We moved my parents out of my “permanent” address on Long Island, sorting through thirty-five years of life accumulation. This year has directed me inward to focus on what is important.
I ran on the platform for the Presidency that all voices need to be heard – the urgency cemented in the months that followed. The crises of 2020 have shined the limelight on the center stage role of landscape architecture. I, along with the entire Board are forever changed and are activated and empowered to move us positively forward.
In an uplifting spirit, I would love to share with you what our incredible ASLA-NY volunteer members (tripled to more than sixty!) and our tireless Executive Director, Diane Sferrazza Katz, have been cooking up behind the scenes while under quarantine:
- Our Advocacy Committee is currently taking a new approach that enables Members’ rights and interests at a local, state, and federal level. Through strategic communication, we are keeping members informed of important advocacy issues and drafting position statements in addition to engaging in outreach on behalf of our partners. Our Advocacy Committee is our direct liaison to the New York State Council of Landscape Architects established to further important legislative agenda. We now have five chapter members representing us on the Council!
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is our newly formed working group. Building on the momentum of the Black Lives Matter Movement, we are ushering in a shift toward equity in our profession by starting with our board members and disseminating to the Chapter through each of our committees. Decided to make systemic change, there will be opportunities for landscape architects and designers in the region to participate in the coming months as the group continues to form.
- In the spirit of inclusivity, we have also built up a dedicated Membership Committee that is reaching out to lapsed and potential members to understand individual needs to make the Chapter more beneficial to the wider population. One endeavor we are working towards is creating practice networks that allows our members to connect with others in the same area of interest.
- Our Awards Committee runs and administers the Chapter’s annual design awards. To encourage and assist more firm participation and to reflect the diversity of our profession, we are revamping both program and submission requirements. We have studied past awards data and are working on outreach to all local firms – developing strategies to encourage participation from minority-owned firms and to be more representative of the wide range of practice of our profession offers.
- Our expanded Education Committee is collaborating with local schools for integration in and out of the classroom through educational enrichment opportunities targeting school-age students in underserved communities. We realize that engaging with the young is our greatest opportunity to change the future. This threads into our developing Mentorship Program which will target aspiring landscape architects enrolled in degree programs to convince the wide breadth of career opportunities available. Our Education Committee has also helped transform Little 12th Street as part of the Future Streets collaboration with AIA and APA.
- Our Programs Committee has successfully adapted to the fully digital format with a silver lining of engaging with speakers from distant locations, including our cross-over series with the ASLA-NY Upstate Chapter and engaging with our members from a further geographic reach of our Chapter. We are looking forward to experimenting with new ways of engaging members in the upcoming year through both social and educational events.
- Our Communications / Public Awareness Committee has masterfully reconfigured our newsletter and our new ASLA-NY website is launching soon! With a fresh layout and organization, we are better showcasing award winners, upcoming programs and events, and general chapter news and information. During COVID, we provided online resources to members, including a wide range of CEU opportunities, online education, work from home, and mental health resources. Our Communications / Public Awareness Committee led this year’s Park(ing) Day Event on West End Avenue and developed a website to promote it.
Alliances across disciplines and at National ASLA greatly further our efforts in the profession – strengthening our network and changing our community with recent endeavors including:
- building a New York and regional team as part of the Nationally led ASLA Climate Action Committee a future regional network forming to host a series of conversations aimed at addressing climate change;
- collaborating in the Fine Arts Federation and the NYC PDC, production in the second document in their Designing New York Series, “Streetscapes for Wellness” providing guiding principles and recommendations for quality design of streetscapes and adjacent open spaces;
- working with community groups and the AEC industries in Redefining the Street: A Community Design Collaboration sponsored by ASLA-NY and the AIANY-NYS Unified Crisis Task Force, to reimagine public space to equitably improve the health, access, and safety through temporary measures and permanent solution that can be implemented in NYC and contribute to future urban policies; and
- partnering on the National COVID-19 Outdoor Classroom Initiative, assisting local schools in developing outdoor classrooms through pro-bono conceptual design and consultation.
Thank you to our sponsors, especially those who continued to support us during this difficult year. We look forward to our continued collaborations in the time ahead.
We applaud the immeasurable contribution of our ASLA-NY Volunteers, these incredibly engaging and spirited individuals that gave tremendously of their time while we are in a crisis.
Colleagues and Friends – we welcome you to reach out – to give us a call, send us a message, comment on our social media pages, come to a meeting – however you prefer to join us. I can be reached directly at [email protected]. My heart is with all of you and the journeys you have been on this past year.
As I am cautiously optimistic, I look forward to seeing you in person soon. I sincerely wish you and your families a healthy, happy, and peaceful year ahead.