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Deborah Marton

Executive Director

Deborah Marton believes democracy demands shared spaces that communicate respect, dignity, and beauty. Since joining Van Alen Institute in 2019, Deborah has led major initiatives that put community interests at the heart of the public realm, such as Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge, an international design competition with the New York City Council to rethink the iconic Brooklyn Bridge walkway as a center of equity, accessibility, and sustainability; Neighborhoods Now, an ongoing initiative with the Urban Design Forum to channel pro-bono resources from New York-based design firms into community-driven pandemic recovery strategies; and expanding Van Alen’s Public Realm R&D program, which surfaces the work of emerging designers through temporary installations that test new strategies to bring people together in public space.

Deborah previously held the position of Executive Director of New York Restoration Project (NYRP), where she redefined NYRP’s identity from projects to people, situating the organization’s work squarely at the intersection of environmental and social justice. During her tenure, Deborah completed fulfillment of the private sector commitment to plant a million trees as part of New York City’s MillionTreesNYC initiative, and oversaw the creation and/or renovation of more than 50 community garden spaces throughout New York City’s most under resourced communities. She also collaborated with the South Bronx community to develop the Haven Project, a plan for a connected network of public open spaces. In her previous role as Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space, Deborah increased the organization’s visibility and effectiveness, by creating game-changing municipal projects such as Taxi 07, resulting in a new purpose-built NYC taxi.

Deborah currently serves as Board Chair of the Public Policy Lab. She lectures widely on various topics, including green space and public health, open space management structures, and urban equity. Deborah received a Master of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.