On July 18, 2023, Deborah Marton, Executive Director of the Van Alen Institute, was unanimously elected President of the NYC Public Design Commission (PDC). Marton, who served as a PDC Commissioner since 2020, will build on former PDC President Signe Nielsen’s legacy by reviewing City-owned property designs and advocating for innovative, sustainable, and equitable public spaces and civic structures citywide.
Marton is an accomplished professional, holding a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Marton began her career as an associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher before becoming project director at James Corner Field Operations, where she led the original Fresh Kills Master Plan team. From there, Marton became the Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space, where she launched the Taxi 07 program to create a new purpose-built NYC taxi, and then Executive Director of the New York Restoration Project, where she fulfilled MillionTreesNYC’s commitment to plant a million trees and created/renovated over 50 community gardens citywide.
In her current role as Executive Director at the Van Alen Institute, an independent non-profit that creates equitable cities through inclusive design, Marton has developed significant public realm initiatives that center community interests, including Neighborhoods Now, which connects New York designers and interdisciplinary professionals with community-driven organizations to develop pandemic recovery strategies. Marton also guided the expansion of Van Alen’s Public Realm R+D program, which invites designers to create temporary public installations to unite people. Additionally, Marton oversaw Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge, an international design competition with the NYC Council to transform the iconic Brooklyn Bridge walkway into a center of equity, accessibility, and sustainability.
The PDC is the City’s design review agency, which has jurisdiction over permanent structures, landscape architecture, and art proposed on or over City-owned property. The PDC comprises 11 members: an architect, landscape architect, painter, sculptor, three lay members, and representatives of the Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library, and the Mayor. Its members serve pro bono and meet once per month to improve the public realm and related services citywide.
PDC President Marton stated, “Design excellence is about more than what — what material or color or form. It’s about the who — who are we designing for, and did they have meaningful opportunities to contribute their perspective? The PDC is committed to ensuring public buildings and civic spaces welcome and serve every New Yorker.”
By: Dylan Shusterman (Dylan is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2025.)