JulY 2016 HIGHLIGHT

DR. FENIOSKY PEÑA-MORA, SC.D.

Name: Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora

 

Firm: New York City Department of Design and Construction

 

Practicing City: New York City

 

Type of Work: The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has been New York City’s primary capital construction manager since 1996. As part of its charge, DDC provides communities with new or renovated structures such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, courthouses, senior centers and more.

 

In essence, DDC gives shape to Mayor de Blasio’s vision of a growing, equitable, sustainable, resilient and healthy city. Working with some of the leading architects, engineers and construction professionals in the world, DDC is privileged to collaborate with our client agencies to deliver innovative projects that meet the critical needs of individuals the communities. In so doing, we are driven by a keen sense of urgency and responsiveness, as well as a commitment to client service, collaboration, and mentorship. These guiding values, the contributions we make and the initiatives we undertake define who we are.

 

Featured Project: Plaza de las Americas 

Location: Washington Heights (175th & Broadway)

Completion Date: Ceremonially opened to the public on November 23, 2015 

Your Role: The New York City Department of Design and Construction designed and built the pedestrian plaza.

Brief Description of Project: Plaza de las Americas was designed to enhance the market, providing vendors with access to electrical power and water for the first time since they started assembling in 1994. Now, the vendors and community will have multiple amenities, including pedestrian lighting and benches, trees, decorative paving, a storage/utility column, an automatic public toilet, and a fountain created through the  Percent for Art  program by artist Ester Partegás, celebrating the plurality and richness of cultures that make up Plaza de las Americas.

 

The Plaza was awarded in 2008, during the first round of the NYC Plaza Program, thanks to the hard work of the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation (WHIDC), who applied with the vision to solidify the space that has long been used as a community marketplace, despite the fact that it was only an asphalt street without public amenities.

 

Together we collaborated with our partner agencies, NYC Department of Transportation and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to work closely with the community, conducting interviews, and public sessions to ensure the new plaza design met their needs. Now, the space

                                                                                           Plaza de las Americas

Q&A

 

How did you first learn about engineering and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in engineering. I remember when I was very young, my mother bought a Barbie house for my sister and a toy gas station for me. I built a bridge between the two using wooden lollipop sticks. I convinced her it was easier for the doll to reach the gas station that way.

 

What do you do? 

I am the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction, New York City’s primary civic design and construction project management agency.

 

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

I enjoy being a small part of the process that shapes the city that I’m fortunate to call home. New York City is the greatest city in the world and advancing DDC’s role in actualizing Mayor de Blasio’s vision of a just and safe city for all residents is humbling.

 

What excites you in the work you do? 

The sheer magnitude of the impact of our work on the lives of New Yorkers continues to be overwhelming.  I have the opportunity to see people from all walks of life and all backgrounds using the buildings, pedestrian plazas, step-streets, libraries, museums etc. that we helped build.  When I think about providing the spaces for people to think and expand their minds, or just simply make it easier for them to accomplish their day-to-day routines, it makes me proud to be building for the City. DDC is always building for the city, for the people.  That’s the most exciting part.

 

Who or what inspires you professionally? 

Taking a step back to realize that the work we build provides opportunities for people is very inspirational.  We design to inspire other people.  A new library in a neighborhood that never had one is a symbol of growth and equity– an indication that we are heading in the right direction. It’s inspirational to think about the ways in which DDC’s projects strengthen the city, improve neighborhoods and increase community engagement.

 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement? 

Although I’m proud of all of the projects we’ve worked on, the work that we’ve done with the Plaza de las Americas on 175th Street and Broadway is of particular significance to me for a few reasons.  I lived in Washington Heights for many years and I have friends and family who continues to live there. Further, pedestrian plazas provide communities with a safe meeting place and a space for local commerce.  Being able to give back to this community, to my community, is something that I am extremely happy to do and I applaud the elected officials and our partner agencies that helped make the project happen.

 

How long have you been involved with nycoba NOMA? 

I became involved with nycoba NOMA when I was appointed Commissioner of DDC in April 2014.  Over the last 18 months, DDC’s Office of Diversity and Industry Relations has worked closely with the nycoba NOMA leadership on strategies that will foster an inclusive and diverse pool of architects to design the projects we build.

 

What is the importance of becoming a nycoba NOMA member? 

Although I am not a member, DDC values the importance of maintaining a relationship with members of nycoba NOMA so that that the cultural diversity of our city be reflected in the pool of design professionals who work on our projects. I believe the strength and richness of New York City lies in the diversity of our communities.  DDC is proud to partner with nycoba NOMA to ensure that when working on a project the community feels it has a voice and it has been heard.

 

What would you say to a nycoba NOMA member regarding the value of their membership? 

DDC values nycoba NOMA because of its commitment to promoting educational and networking opportunities for minority design professionals as well as its ability to create a forum for professionals and businesses who represent our multi-cultural society.