Letter from our Chapter Trustee

For the last few years, I have had the pleasure of working for NY ASLA members as our chapter’s Trustee on the National Board. I meet with the other trustees from around the country and the Executive committee twice a year – once at the annual meeting in the fall, and once at the mid year meeting every spring.

It’s my job to raise issues of import to our region at these meetings so that others from around the country and ASLA staff can hear what matters to us, and possibly help us find solutions. Here are just a few examples: I worked hard with a small coalition of other trustees to craft arguments to support linking licensure and membership; I enlisted the help of our professional practice group to see if they could help us with the prickly issue of how the intellectual property of landscape architects is not being respected, especially by many of our public clients; and with the help of our colleagues in the Advocacy and Government Affairs group at national, I was able to rally our members to contact their council members last summer and fall about the upcoming changes to the NYC Building Code that codified the definition of landscape architects and what we do.

We don’t always find solutions right away, and sometimes the will of the majority outweighs the will of the minority (which is where I often find myself), but measured, steady improvements are being made in the way our society and the board of trustees is run. Over the course of the last year or so, I have served on a task force that is looking at the way the Board of Trustees operates and how we can improve not only our meetings, but also how we engage new ASLA members. We need to encourage them to become active in the issues that are critical to the continued success of our profession. I also serve on the Membership Services Committee, to work at creating, maintaining and improving the value of the services ASLA provides its members.

As a member of the local Chapter Executive Committee, I also help with local projects. I enjoy working for our members to help raise awareness in the public’s eye about our profession. I can report on one small but important step on that front: On Monday, December 30, 2013 former mayor Bloomberg signed Intro 1056-A into law as Local Law 141 of 2013. This was the bill that we had been working on with the Department of Buildings to improve the process by which projects are filed with the DOB. This law is an update to the Building code that now includes a definition of our profession. It does not yet allow us to sign forms the same way that engineers and architects can, but it is an important beginning. The new law becomes effective on October 1, 2014, so soon thereafter, we will begin again to work with our friends at the DOB to revise their procedures to allow landscape architects to submit their own work without having to hire architects or engineers to do it for them. I want to give credit to the hard working task force who took time out of their business day to meet with DOB officials and to testify before the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings. We’ll be gearing up again soon, so stay tuned!

Finally, I want you to know that I raise my voice at the national meetings for you. And I have been very successful at upholding the reputation that New Yorkers have for being outspoken! It’s because we care and because we are passionate about what we do. So please, if you have issues that you think could be helped by an airing at a national meeting, tell me. Send me a message or give me a call, and I’ll be sure to voice your concerns. The meeting is coming up in May, so send me your ideas as soon as you can. And if you have any questions about what’s going on with the society at a national level, please ask. If I don’t have the answer right away, I’ll be sure to get it for you.


Adrian Smith

Trustee, New York Chapter ASLA

[email protected]

ASLA State Advocacy Priorities for New York

Earlier this fall, ASLA issued the first-ever State Advocacy Priorities Survey to find out more about the issues that matter to landscape architects at the state and local level.  If you answered the survey, thank you!  If not, it is critical that you participate.  We need to hear from you to ensure that we fully understand the issues that matter most to our members.  Please fill out this short survey by December 6!





One of the goals of ASLA-NY is to raise the profile of landscape architects and get you at the table for the discussions going on in and around the city about issues important to or related to landscape architecture.  Our chapter actively seeks speaking opportunities for our members however we need more members to participate in these speaking engagements.  To that end, we are forming a “Speakers Bureau” and asking those of you out there who have something interesting to share, or who have expertise on a particular subject matter, to please JOIN US in sharing the accomplishments and opinions of landscape architects with not just each other, but the world.

Why should you join the ASLA-NY’s Speakers Bureau?

  • It is a great way to make new social and professional contacts.
  • It is not only a great way to further your own career but it helps further the landscape architecture profession as a whole.
  • Landscape Architects need to be involved in the public discourse on issues involving …
  • If you would like to change the world, you need to start somewhere and sharing your revolutionary ideas with others is a great place to begin

What subjects can you talk about?

  •  urban resiliency
  •  green infrastructure
  •  stormwater management
  •  climate change
  •  redesigning the waterfront
  • successful projects
  • projects that failed and what you learned
  • strategies or ideas that seem promising
  • and any of a number of other topics..

How do I join?

Send a brief blurb about you, your background and credentials, and topics on which you would be comfortable speaking to Kathy Shea at [email protected].

Please also note: If you are asked to speak directly by another organization, please share this information with us so that we may publicize your event to our membership and support your efforts (and possibly co-sponsor the event and/or provide CEU credits).

Letter from ASLA-NY President Laura Starr

To the American Society of Landscape Architects:

On November 1st I will be ending my tenure as the President of our New York Chapter and welcoming President-elect Nette Compton in succeeding me. It has been an honor and a challenge to serve in this position.

My goal as President was to rebuild our organizational infrastructure, recreate our image, and improve our relationships with sister design-related organizations, so as to enable the ASLA better to promote our profession and serve both its members and their clients. Toward this end, I took steps to address a number of challenges that had long plagued the New York chapter.

The chapter lacked the organizational infrastructure necessary to effect lasting change. With limited funds we could only hire our directors part-time. This meant that the President and volunteer board were faced with the lion’s share of responsibility, and had to expend time and effort at an unsustainable rate. Since the Presidency changes every year, our ability to undertake and follow through on long-term initiatives was impaired: with each new leader, however good, continuity and momentum was lost. Furthermore, without a full-time director, fundraising and public relations suffered. We had little money with which to do anything.

But there was a still more fundamental problem that we faced: landscape architecture simply wasn’t taken seriously enough by clients, potential sponsors, or the city–especially when compared to other design professions. However good our work was, it was largely ignored in press coverage, opening presentations and various print and online sources. The architects and engineers got the credit, by implication, for our work. This lack of attention and appreciation was ironic at a time when landscape architects were leading some of the most important projects in the city; Brooklyn Bridge Park, The High Line, and the ongoing upkeep and development of Central Park would not have been possible without us.

This problem in turn was due, in part, to the ASLA’s lack of a clear public image. It appeared to me that the first order of business was to revise our logo and website to project the crisp optimism and elegance shown by our profession and by our sister organizations, to attract the elite decision makers and funding sources and be properly recognized by the press.

Not only would creating a more vibrant identity for ourselves help raise our public profile, it might also help the organization’s view of itself. Additionally, we needed a fulltime Executive Director to offer the continuity and energy to help guide our volunteers and ease some of the impossible burdens on members who might otherwise be daunted by the prospect of getting more involved with the organization.

I was determined to address these problems by raising enough money to hire a full time director and revamp our image. The instrument chosen to raise money was our annual benefit gala, the ASLA Dinner. I personally called suppliers, contractors, engineers and architects I knew and got them to be sponsors and attend the dinner. I honored the Architect’s Newspaper for covering the leadership role landscape architects were playing in leading the game-changing projects in New York. And I honored Central Park Conservancy President, Doug Blonsky, who had been my colleague when I was Chief of Design of Central Park. His board and staff came in full force to support him, and very generously supported our event. The third honoree was the Commissioner with the most money at hand to hire landscape architects, DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. In conjunction with honoring Commissioner Strickland, Nette Compton and I met with him and urged him to include landscape architects in green infrastructure projects; it worked, and we are continuing to push to have landscape architects be given a strong leadership role there. Finally, to make the event even more enticing, and to start the re-imaging process, I recruited Keith Helmetag of the world-class design firm C&G Partners to design the

The dinner succeeded in attracting the largest number of guests the ASLA had ever had, and in doubling our revenue. The large audience and the experience of being honored inspired The Architects’ Newspaper to establish an annual issue devoted to landscape architecture, with the ASLA sharing in the advertising revenue.

With our new funds, I sought to hire a full-time executive director who could bring continuity and, with professional administrative skills, ease the impossible burdens on our volunteers. Out of a wide array of talented applicants, we selected Kathy Shea, an attorney and administrator with a proven track record of transforming small nonprofit groups operating under the public radar into prominent enterprises accessible to city-wide audiences. Through her skills in executive strategy, public relations, marketing, and fundraising, she has already helped to do the same for us. We reestablished and renegotiated our relationship with AIA NY. We celebrated the holidays last year with the Van Alen Institute, and co-sponsored a Sandy-recovery speaker series with the Museum of the City of New York. We are continuing to expand our collaborations with other organizations, including the Municipal Art Society and The Cultural Landscape Foundation and will do even more going forward.

With Kathy here full-time, and the continued work of the programming committee under Nette’s direction, we have vastly expanded and improved our own programming. Better and larger events are attracting a larger number of sponsors, as well as talented collaborators in architecture, planning, and engineering. Our new funds also allowed us to create a new dynamic and communicative graphic identity that will aid us in all our efforts. Again, the design gurus at C&G Partners were an invaluable resource, dreaming up fresh, new logo and website designs. The new designs have already given our weekly newsletter, which Jennifer Nitzky has so thoughtfully and tirelessly assembled, a snappy look to match her great work. These visual elements make it palpable that landscape architects are green; we’re urban; we’re leaders and collaborators; and therefore we’re uniquely positioned to lead multidisciplinary teams–for example, those addressing pressing issues of climate change.

To foster the public’s deeper engagement with our work, we are also creating a new Open Spaces app that provides information on some of the city’s parks, plazas, and greenways from the designer’s point of view. More such services are in the works, so stay tuned.

I have tried to address the challenges facing the ASLA and our profession in a way that will create a basis for continued expansion and positive change. As my tenure comes to an end, I would like to express the hope that my efforts will help generate a lasting awareness of the benefit landscape architecture brings to our city, and that it will help give our profession momentum that will continue into the next mayoral administration and beyond.

Thank you all for entrusting me with these decisions. I would like to extend my gratitude to my predecessor, Denisha Williams, for her patience in helping me get up to speed, to our board members for their unending dedication, to President-elect Nette Compton for organizing all of our programs, to Jennifer Nitzky for tirelessly drafting our newsletter every week, to Marcha Johnson for her advocacy work, to Adrian Smith for his role in negotiating with the DOB, and to all who participated in the director selection and graphic design committees.

I will remain heavily involved in the ASLA-NY and wish it every success moving forward.

Laura Starr
Outgoing President of the ASLA-NY
Partner, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, PLLC