Betsy MacLean has been engaged in groundbreaking community development work nationally and internationally for more than 20 years. Since coming to Hester Street, she has quadrupled the organization’s budget, grown and cultivated a diverse staff of planners, designers and community developers, dramatically increased the size and scale of projects, and expanded HST’s reach beyond New York City to include neighborhoods and cities throughout the US.
Before Hester Street, Betsy developed affordable housing and community facilities throughout NYC at UHAB, the Fifth Avenue Committee and Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. At Cypress Hills 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, green jobs for local youth, the resident-led design and 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.
Prior to her time in East New York, Betsy researched and contributed to community development initiatives in Guatemala, Mexico City and Costa Rica. She created and directed an international community development program in Cuba that brought together workers and activists from the US to learn from the Cuban model and construct housing, urban farms and community murals alongside their Cuban counterparts. Betsy started her community development career as a carpenter in the Midwest and NYC.
Betsy holds master’s degrees in Urban Planning and International Development from Columbia University. She coaches boys basketball, serves on the board of the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Education Center and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two tall sons.