Rehanna Azimi, Project Associate
With a background in International Affairs and Communications, much of Rehanna’s work has explored how politics can be deployed through storytelling and recreating community narratives. While completing her bachelor’s at John Cabot University, she investigated the role of new media in connecting immigrants who were isolated from community systems. Expanding this work in her masters thesis, she designed processes for institutional collaboration and civic engagement. She has an MS in Design and Urban Ecologies from Parsons School of Design.
Nisha Baliga, Participatory Planning Director
Nisha has worked extensively with public agencies, community organizations, cities, and private institutions on master plans, programming studies, and urban design frameworks. Before HSC, Nisha worked as a Senior Associate in the Urban Design and Planning Studio at Beyer Blinder Belle for more than 10 years. Nisha’s experience includes project for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York City Department of City Planning, New York State, Princeton University, University at Buffalo, Institute for Advanced Study and Aga Khan University.
In her role as Senior Planner on a large campus master plan for the Aga Khan University, Nisha was posted for almost two years in Arusha, Tanzania. Nisha is bilingual (English/Hindi), is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and received a Master of Urban Planning from Columbia University, where her Master’s research and thesis explored Community Based Upgrading and Tenure Regularization methods in the informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya.
Dylan House, Community Design Director
Dylan has been with HSC since 2006, through his work as Director of Community Design Programs, he has created participatory tools to engage people in shaping their public spaces, developed community-based plans, participated in neighborhood coalitions and has facilitated the creation of public art installations. Previously he coordinated HSC’s education programs, working as a teaching artist, developing curriculum, and leading design/build workshops with hundreds of public school students. Dylan is a graduate of Pratt Institute with a Bachelor of Architecture, and studied architecture and urban design abroad in Paris and Rome. Prior to joining HSC, Dylan worked at various architecture firms in New York City. He brings experience in graphic design, printmaking, photography, and woodworking. Dylan is also an avid cyclist and urban explorer.
Gabriel Halili, Project Manager
Gabo is an architect and urban planner with experience in design, community engagement, and advocacy. Before Hester Street Collaborative, Gabo was a project manager at the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) working on urban planning, preservation, policy, and community education. He was also part of MAS’s Livable Neighborhoods Program that, in 2016, delivered workshops to five New York City neighborhoods outside Manhattan. These workshops trained communities on local urban planning and government processes, economic development, and cultural asset mapping. In 2015, Gabo received his master’s degree from Cornell University in City and Regional Planning. While there, his studies focused on community-based planning, civic technology, and Southeast Asian studies. Complementing his academics, Gabo was also a project manager with Design Connect, a student organization that offers design and urban planning services in Upstate New York through community collaboration and engagement. A licensed architect in the Philippines, Gabo has extensive design experience in a variety of projects including residences, hotels, and high-rise towers. His professional degree in Architecture is from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila.
Julia Lindgren, Senior Project Manager
Julia has extensive experience working in community engaged design and planning. As a trained architect, she believes that design can serve as a catalyst to enhance livability for all communities, particularly those with limited resources. Most recently, Julia worked as a Designer at Interface Studio Architects in Philadelphia where she designed and documented ground-up residential infill, mixed-use multi-family, and commercial interior projects with a focus on sustainability and community health. While at ISA, Julia led an outcomes-based design studio in partnership with public health practitioners and community developers that explored how various design decisions can be leveraged to optimize population-level health impacts. Before that, Julia was a Project Manager at bcWORKSHOP in Dallas and Brownsville, Texas where she developed and implemented initiatives at the neighborhood and regional scales to improve community equity through projects that included rapid recovery disaster housing, resident-informed participatory home design, and UTRGV inclusionary planning. Julia’s passion for design continuously feeds her love of travel, people, and working with her hands. She holds a Bachelors of Architecture degree from Lehigh University and a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Washington.
Isabel Luciano, Project Manager
Isabel has extensive experience implementing frameworks for participatory planning and direct democracy. Before joining HSC, Isabel worked at the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) where she helped cities design processes that allowed community members to directly decide on how to spend public money. Here, Isabel developed innovative and accessible tools and workshops that she used with community members in several North American cities to ensure their local expertise was effectively used to put forward the ideas that best met their city’s needs.
Isabel holds a Masters of Planning from the University of Toronto. It was during her years as a student, while she researched and worked for affordable housing providers, that she noticed the gaps created when community members are left out of the policy and decision-making process. Isabel is excited to continue to transform the ways in which cities make decisions by engaging community members in the urban planning process.
Betsy MacLean, Executive Director
Betsy MacLean has been engaged in groundbreaking sustainable community development work for more than 15 years. As the Executive Director of Hester Street Collaborative, Betsy and her team work with community organizations, private firms and government agencies throughout New York City and nationwide to provide low-income communities with the tools they need to shape their built environment. Before Hester Street, Betsy worked in East New York as the Director of Community Development at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation where she oversaw well over $100 million of affordable housing development and spearheaded the community-driven design and construction of Brooklyn’s first green public school, P.S. 89. Cypress Hills Verde, a community-wide sustainability initiative she developed, led to energy-efficient retrofits of hundreds of low-income homes, the construction of a community-operated urban farm, an innovative participatory planning process for the large-scale re-development of long vacant land, and expanded fresh food access. Betsy’s projects have earned The Alliance for a Greater New York’s (ALIGN) Movement Builders award, ioby’s Heroes in our Backyard award, and the Boston Society for Architects’ Excellence in Affordable Housing award. Prior to her time in East New York, Betsy created and directed an international community development program in Cuba and, before that, worked as a carpenter. Betsy holds master’s degrees in Urban Planning and International Development from Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young sons.
Maulin Mehta, Project Manager
Maulin has been working to improve neighborhoods through policy and place-based strategies since 2010. Prior to joining HSC, Maulin worked in the Interagency Coordination Unit at the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. There he worked with public agencies and consultants to review open space and infrastructure projects impacting parkland throughout the City. He made sure Department design and safety standards were upheld, community needs were incorporated into new open space proposals, and that agencies compromised in the best interest of the City. He also helped to streamline the Department’s construction permitting process and improved predictability and transparency of the review process. Before this, he worked at HANDS, Inc. where targeted real estate investments were used to stabilize distressed neighborhoods in the cities of Orange, East Orange, and Newark, NJ. He managed projects that utilized industrial blight to transform city blocks, encouraged low-income family homeownership, and provided economic opportunity for arts-related enterprise. His responsibilities included project development, financing, demographic analysis, and community needs assessments. He holds a Master of Urban Planning from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Rutgers University.
Masoom Moitra, Project Associate
Masoom is trained as an architect and has been working in the field of community engaged design and research since 2010. Prior to joining HSC, she has worked in low-income communities and the informal settlements/slums of Dharavi and Shivaji Nagar in Mumbai. She has researched locally developed affordable housing typologies and practices, facilitated participatory design for residential, commercial and religious structures, and initiated the building of networks of contractors, residents, shop owners, politicians, architects and planners. She has also been a part of a team that has worked on community based planning in Pondicherry and researched a best practices report for a project with the Ministry of Urban Development in India related to developing guidelines for alternative transportation schemes in Indian cities. She holds a Masters in Design and Urban Ecologies, with a thesis based on the role of women and children in the development of marginalized neighborhoods in Quito, Ecuador. She has previously dabbled in earth architecture and continues to be an artist, educator and activist.
Anna Pelavin, Program and Design Associate
Anna has been with HSC since 2013. A New York City native, her fascination with the city’s diverse neighborhoods and passion for preserving their livability has contributed to strong interests in community driven design and urban agriculture. At HSC, she supports the development of community planning initiatives, creates visioning tools and popular education materials, and grows avocados. Previously, she taught in HSC’s design education program at P.S. 134 . Prior to joining HSC, Anna worked in Cornell University’s digital fabrication labs and did graphic design and illustration. Anna is a graduate of Cornell University, where she re-imagined the New York City Potter’s Field on Hart Island for her Bachelor of Architecture thesis.
Isella Ramirez, Senior Project Manager
Isella brings extensive community organizing and leadership development experience to Hester Street. She grew up in the City of Commerce; a community overburdened with industrial pollution a few miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. For seven years she worked with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a community-based organization working to promote a healthy and safe environment in Commerce, East Los Angeles, and Long Beach. There she also held the role of Co-Executive Director, where she managed the organizational work-plan, and led organizing and leadership development. Most recently, she worked with Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, NJ as an environmental justice program manager, where she developed an extensive leadership training program for local leaders. She is passionate about environmental justice and is interested in identifying and implementing planning practices, tools and frameworks to more effectively be an agent of change in underserved communities. She holds a B.A in Latin American & Latina(o) Studies from Vassar College and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. She makes amazing pico-de-gallo and has a fun earring collection.
Lori Schlabach, Development and Operations Director
Lori has over ten years of experience that encompasses international education, media and publishing, design, and development. She joins the staff at Hester Street after nearly four years coordinating fundraising and development operations at a local homeless organization. Prior to moving to NYC in 2008, Lori lived in small-town Ohio, where she worked in editing, graphic design, and marketing at a community newspaper and book publisher. She also spent two years teaching ESL in China. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from Malone University.
Maria de la Torre, Project Associate
Maria’s interest in the impact of space on people’s lives, in the relationship of communities with their surroundings, and in architecture as a tool for social development have led her to focus her career as much on buildings as on people. Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Maria studied architecture in Universidad de los Andes where she graduated magna cum laude in 2012. In Colombia, she worked on the design and construction of small-scale commercial and residential projects in her own architecture practice, she collaborated with other architects in institutional and hospitality projects, and she was part of the participatory design team at the non-profit Fundación Escuela Taller de Bogotá (FETB). While at the FETB Maria directed community engagement workshops and led participatory design activities for the revitalization plan of three public markets in Bogotá. In 2016 Maria completed a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation at Columbia University. Her graduate thesis explored participatory processes in preservation planning through installation art, and was granted a Faculty Award for Outstanding Thesis for community based preservation.
Casey Wang, Senior Project Manager
Casey brings over five years of planning experience, placemaking expertise and passion for human-centered design to Hester Street. Prior to joining, Casey worked at Project for Public Spaces to advance participatory planning and design projects from conception through implementation. Working with community-based organizations, local government agencies and private developers, she designed and facilitated innovative community engagement tools, and studied how public life unfolded in the parks, plazas, squares, streets, university campuses, mixed-use developments and downtowns that she worked on revitalizing and developing. Her strengths lie in translating what she hears from a community into a shared vision and actionable goals. Collaborating with community residents and stakeholders from the outset, she co-created programming plans and schematic designs, developed activation strategies, and implemented short-term programmatic and physical interventions for over ten public space projects across the U.S. Ingrained in all of her work is a commitment to actively promote an inclusive approach to building equitable, resilient and vibrant communities. She holds a master’s degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University.
Sapna Advani, AICP, LEED AP
Sapna has collaborated with HSC on a variety of projects, including Resilient Rockaways. An urban designer and planner, Sapna has over sixteen years of experience working on projects that include rejuvenation of downtowns, waterfront developments, neighborhood planning, transit corridors, campus planning, regional growth management, and community planning for both the public agencies in several cities as well as the private sector. Her past year of work doing community-centric resiliency planning in Red Hook has given her an added perspective on ways and means to engaging a community in a truly integrated and participatory manner. Sapna holds a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from Pratt Institute and a Bachelors of Architecture from Sushant School of Art and Architecture, New Delhi, India.
Samuel Holleran (or Sam Holler) is an interdisciplinary urbanist, artist/designer, and writer. His work examines collective memory, civic engagement, and low-fi visual culture. He has helped to create, curate, and produce numerous artists books, print portfolios, installations, and public art projects.
From 2014-2016 he was the Participatory Design Fellow with the Design Trust for Public Space, working with the Design Trust for Public Space, the Queens Museum, and NYC Parks to establish a pilot community design program: a new, replicable process for engaging park users in the design and planning processes.
Sam also works as a design educator with the Center for Architecture and the 92nd St Y in New York City, developing art, architecture, and urban design curriculum for public high school students. He previously worked at the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). Sam is a graduate of the Cooper Union, where he was the recipient of the Lubalin Fellowship for Typography and the Menschel Fellowship for Creative Inquiry.
Jess is a designer, builder and artist originally from New York City. In addition to being a teaching artist on and off with HSC for the past decade, she’s pursued the craft of fine furniture making as a student at Capellagarden in Sweden, College of the Redwoods in California, as a resident artist at the Staten Island Makerspace, and as a design/build intern at Yestermorrow in Vermont. Her interest in designing and building was sparked while studying architecture at Smith College and has continued to keep her on her toes, creating and transforming spaces for people and sharing her skills and knowledge through teaching.
Chat Travieso is a Brooklyn-based artist, designer, and educator. His public art works have been commissioned by or organized in collaboration with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance, The Architectural League of New York, Design Trust for Public Space, the NYC Department of Transportation, and the Cambridge Arts Council. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Designboom, and BOMB Magazine as well as recently published books Pop-Up City: City-making In a Fluid World (BIS Publishers, 2014) and Supernew Supergraphics (Unit Editions, 2014). He previously worked for WXY Architecture + Urban Design on the development of the East River Blueway Plan and the Center for Urban Pedagogy as a Teaching Artist. He is the recipient of a Community Arts Fund Grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council, the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Moulton Andrus Award and the Harvey R. Russel Scholarship from the Yale School of Architecture, and the F. Grainger Marburg Traveling Award from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He received a B.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an M.Arch from the Yale School of Architecture.
Mauricio has 15 years of experience teaching art in Santiago de Cuba, where he was born and raised. Since arriving in the United States in 2000, Mauricio has worked in the public art field creating commissions for the NYC Department of Education, Groundswell Community Mural Project and the Fifth Avenue Committee. He uses public art as an indispensable tool to show and explore aspects of social reality of interest to him and the community in which he works. Mauricio’s work is in private collections in Europe, Mexico and the United States.
Anne Frederick, Founding Director
As the founding director of HSC, Anne worked to develop a community design-build practice that responds to the needs of under-resourced NYC communities. Her unique approach to community design integrates education and youth development programming with participatory art, architecture, and planning strategies. This approach is rooted in partnership and collaboration with various community based organizations, schools and local residents. Prior to founding HSC, Anne worked as an architect at Leroy Street Studio Architecture and as a design educator at Parsons School of Design and the New York Foundation for Architecture. Anne graduated from Parsons School of Design and The New School for Social Research in 1998, and has represented the work of HSC at various conferences, lectures and exhibitions.