Moving NYC Forward

June: Climate Resiliency

Congratulations to the ABNY Young Professionals June Spotlights of the Month – Stephanie Burgos-Veras, Senior Manager for Equity Programs at Coalition for Community Solar Access and Jacob McNally, Director of Planning and Capital Projects at Hudson Square Business Improvement District. They are both working towards a more sustainable and climate-resilient New York City.

Stephanie Burgos-Veras

Senior Manager for Equity Programs
Coalition for Community Solar Access
How did you get to where you are today?
  • Community: My mentors, friends, family, and colleagues who have showered me with advice, support, and guidance through joyous and difficult moments, without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
  • My handy dandy work plan: Anything is possible if you have a plan. Thanks to a mentor who instilled in me the importance of creating a workplan at the end of the week. I start Mondays with a clear path. It really makes me feel unstoppable.
  • Movement: Exercise has been essential to my well-being. When work gets stressful, deadlines are looming, and things are bit messy, a workout to start the day off can turn any day around.
What are you most proud of?

Getting the Mayor and the MTA to work together to adopt our #BetterBuses policy platform. When I see a bus with a digital screen with the next stop, the 14th street busway painted with bright red paint, and the ability to pay through any door on a bus, my heart is full of joy knowing I played a role to improve the lives of millions of bus riders. If you haven’t taken the bus, I highly recommend it!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

If you don’t have a background in clean energy or sustainability, don’t worry, apply! I made a transition from public transit advocacy to clean energy in 2021. There is no better time to join the clean energy industry. It’s a growing field where diverse perspectives and approaches are needed. If you are curious, enjoying learning and reading policy papers, you will find your footing quickly.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

When I traveled to San Diego earlier this year to attend the Coalition for Community Solar’s Annual Conference and thought it would be a nice idea to walk and take the tram to the hotel. When I got off the tram, I had to cross a 10-lane highway and walk under a solitary underpass with my luggage. It was an unpleasant experience. As a native New Yorker, my default way to get around is via public transit, which can be a recipe for trouble in other cities.

Jacob McNally

Director of Planning and Capital Projects
Hudson Square Business Improvement District
How did you get to where you are today?

I had my key ‘aha’ moment as an undergraduate, realizing that my various academic interests converged under the field of urban planning, where I could get to work on shaping built environments while addressing some of the important societal challenges of our time. After getting a master’s degree in planning and a variety of internships spanning city and county government, real estate development, and the non-profit world, I was fortunate to land a job at the Hudson Square BID that was the perfect combination of my interests and experiences. Over my now 9+ years at the BID, wearing a variety of hats, I’ve been able to learn and experience what it really takes to make positive, physical change at the neighborhood scale in such a dense and dynamic urban setting. Much of this learning is in part thanks to the amazing mentors and project partners I’ve had along the way.

What are you most proud of?

I’ve very proud of all our work over the past decade to transform the public realm of Hudson Square into a network of pedestrian-oriented streets and vibrant open spaces that foster community, sustainability, well-being, and the creative energy that Hudson Square runs on. From our redesign of Hudson Street into a park-like boulevard to the planting and retrofitting of over 500 trees using our award-winning tree pit design, I’ve had the opportunity to lead a wide range of projects that have increased open space visitation, brought public art to unexpected places across the neighborhood, and yielded measurable environmental benefits. Being with the BID for nearly a decade has also allowed me to see through to completion these multi-year projects, increasing my knowledge of and appreciation for the entire process from project conception, through planning, design, construction, maintenance, and evaluation.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

There are so many different directions you could go with a planning degree. When starting out, I’d suggest being open to jobs or experiences that may be in an adjacent subfield or different type of role than where you think you want to end up. The more of these complementary experiences you can stack together, the more well-rounded you become, and in a profession of “generalists,” I think that’s very valuable. Following grad school, I tried out some roles on the operations side of planning organizations in lieu of more traditional planning positions, which gave me important new perspectives as I worked my way back around to actual planning work.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

Growing up in the Hudson Valley with a hunger for city life and coming from a family with long roots in NYC, it was never a question that this is where I would make my life and career. New York is an amazing mix of old and new — I love that I’m able to enjoy some al fresco brunch at a trendy cafe while sitting across the street from the Lower East Side synagogue where my great grandparents were married in 1907. There’s the famous quote, “the true New Yorker believes that people living anywhere else have to be in some sense, kidding,” and while I’ve gotten to see many wonderful cities and landscapes outside of New York, there will always be part of me that believes this quote to be true.

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