Past Meetup

Participatory Urban Planning: Crafting Democratic Cities in the Digital Age

This Meetup is past

44 people went

Location image of event venue


Join us on May 9th for an interactive panel discussion about the role of citizens, urban planners, and technology in the shaping of cities, lead by Urban Planner, Designer and Educator - Mike Ernst (

Doors upon at 5:30 pm.

Today, more people worldwide live in cities than not. The need to make smart, well-informed decisions about how and where people live, work and play is more important than ever. As technology develops at a rapid pace, allowing decision-makers to have access to more information than ever before, inequality can limit the voice of those without digital access.

Join us in a discussion about participatory urban planning: how do we shape our built environment in ways that are democratic, sustainable, and equitable? What are the technologies out there that can allows us to make better-informed decisions, and what the barriers to their use? How do we make cities that are both economically robust and inclusive?


596 Acres ( is a public education project aimed at making communities aware of the land resources around them. With the goal of a food sovereign New York City in mind, 596 Acres is helping neighbors form connections to the vacant lots in their lives by mapping city-owned, vacant land in Brooklyn. Print maps are attached to the fences that lock the neighborhood out of the land, and a digital map facilitates connections between those who are interested in transforming lots near them. As neighbors organize, 596 Acres often acts as a liaison between the neighborhood group and the city agency that controls the vacant lot.

Since the summer of 2011, three groups that have met through 596 Acres’ print and digital maps have received access to their target lots and are in the process of creating community-driven spaces in their neighborhoods. Over twenty other groups are in the process of organizing to get access to their lots.

Eric Brelsford is the programmer behind 596 Acres’ online tools.
Paula Z. Segal is the founder of 596 Acres.

Frank Hebbert: Frank leads the Civic Works team at OpenPlans (, exploring how technology, planning, citizens, and government come together. He thinks we can make better places and beat climate change with the winning combo of planning, technology and public participation.

Frank holds a Masters in City Planning from MIT. He blogs ( intermittently on open source planning, tweets ( slightly more, and is one half of Holobiont ( He co-organizes Planning Corps (, a network of volunteer planners providing assistance to non-profits.

OpenPlans is a 501(c)3 using technology to change the way that cities and citizens interact. They believe open source, open data, and sustainable mobility options can improve millions of lives.

Kaja Kühl, (Dipl.Ing, AICP):

Kaja is an urban designer, urban planner and the founder of youarethecity is a research, design and planning practice interested in creating dialogue about the urban environment. youarethecity ( collaborates with institutions, individuals and non-profit organizations to produce maps, diagrams, writings, designs, websites, events and exhibitions about urban spaces. Kaja received her Diploma in Architecture from the University in Karlsruhe, Germany and a Master of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University in New York. Prior to founding youarethecity in 2008, she worked for the New York City Department of City Planning as an Urban Designer and team leader where she was responsible for design guidance and development of public policy for several private rezoning applications and city initiatives. Kaja is a certified planner and Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University, where she coordinates the 5 Borough Studio ( as part of the Urban Design Program and teaches studios and seminars related to her research ( on migration and urban spaces.

Brendan Crain:

Brendan is the Communications Manager for the Project for Public Spaces (, where he works to promote Placemaking strategies that directly engage citizens in the shaping of their public spaces. Prior to joining PPS earlier this spring, he worked for the Institute for Urban Design (, co-organizing the By the City / For the City ( crowdsourced design competition and the first Urban Design Week festival. He has written extensively on urban issues, focusing frequently on the impact that new technologies are having on cities. He is the founder of the Where ( blog (though lately, if he has something to say, he's much more likely to tweet ( it.)


Mike’s work has focused on participatory planning, community outreach, and innovative, sustainable design through new technologies. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Mike was based in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past eight years before recently relocating to New York City.

Mike has worked as a planning and design consultant on a wide variety of projects. He was the 2007 Piero N. Patri Fellow in Urban Design at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (, and was a Community Innovation Fellow with the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Community Innovation ( at the Institute of Urban and Regional Development ( He is a LEED Accredited Professional with a degree in interdisciplinary studies from Miami University of Ohio and holds a Master’s of City Planning from UC Berkeley.


GREENSPACENYC ('s mission to create physical and digital spaces for dialogue and education about issues pertaining to urban sustainability and community advocacy.

The GREENSPACENYC team (lead by Laura Scherling and Jeff Kasper) develop, host, and curate Pop-up events, classes, and workshops about sustainability that run the gamut from art-making & sustainable architecture to food studies & urban agriculture. GREENSPACENYC aims to offer educational events to highlight and build a network of participants interested in sharing information on sustainable practices to the public at free or very little cost. GREENSPACENYC hopes that participants take the information, skills and resources obtained from their online platform and physical events, and start their own projects - even on a small scale to improve their city.

Check out our generous Venue Sponsor the Wix Lounge:

Located steps from Union Square, the Wix Lounge is a completely free co-working and eventspace for creative professionals. Grab your laptop, pop into the Lounge and enjoy a productive workday, great networking opportunities, and amazing events. Active since 2010, the WixLounge is run by (, a free website publishing platform providing user friendly tools forbuilding beautiful, easy-to-make desktop, mobile, and Facebook sites. The Wix Lounge providesfree support to users, giving them help and advice for making the ideal website. To learn more about the Wix Lounge, please visit (


Complimentary drinks and coffee.


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