Keynote Speakers & Presentations



Opening Plenary & Keynote Speakers
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

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Susannah C. Drake

Founding Principal

Susannah C. Drake, FASLA, RA, RLA is the founding principal of DLANDstudio Architecture + Landscape Architecture pllc. The firm, winner of the 2014 AIA New Practices New York Award, has received city, state, and national AIA and ASLA awards. In 2013, Susannah was awarded the AIA Young Architects Award and Fellowship in the ASLA, and was recognized as an Architectural League Emerging Voice. As an architect and landscape architect, Susannah specializes in complex projects that require a synthesized, analytical, and research-based approach. Her large-scale planning work engages diverse systems to create ecologically and socially progressive projects that are equally well-crafted and beautiful.

Susannah’s research has been at the forefront of innovation on urban ecological infrastructure. Her campus landscape design and large-scale urban infrastructure work has received grant funding from the Graham Foundation, EPA, NEIWPCC, NYSDEC, and NYSCA. Susannah is the former President and Trustee of the NYASLA and former Trustee of the Van Alen Institute. She lectures globally about resilient urban infrastructure, and has taught courses at The Cooper Union, Harvard University, Syracuse University, Washington University in St. Louis, Florida International University, The City College of New York, and Illinois Institute of Technology. Susannah delivered the keynote addresses at the 18th Congress of the International Union of Women Architects in Blacksburg, VA in 2015, and at the XXV International Union of Architects World Congress in Durban, South Africa in 2014. She contributed to Nature and Cities, the 2016 Lincoln Land Institute book with her chapter entitled “WPA 2.0: Beauty, Economics, and Politics in the Creation of Public Infrastructure.” Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. DLANDstudio’s recent projects include The QueensWay Metropolitan Hub, Public Media Commons in St. Louis, Missouri, “A New Urban Ground” for MoMA’s Rising Currents project, BQGreen, and Gowanus Canal Sponge Park™. 

Susannah received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Dartmouth College and Master in Architecture and Master in Landscape Architecture degrees from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.


Alan Steel

President & CEO
New York Convention Center Operating Corporation
Javits Center

Return of the Javits Center:

Alan Steel, President and CEO of the Javits Center, will deliver a keynote presentation outlining the remarkable transformation of New York’s largest convention center into a model of sustainability and wildlife sanctuary. Due to a lack of investment and maintenance for more than two decades, the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side became known as a massive energy hog and a notorious bird killer due to its dark mirrored glass. But that all changed with a five-year renovation, including the installation of a 6.75-acre green roof, one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Along with a host of sustainable upgrades, a focus on energy-efficient practices and partnerships with research institutions, the convention center has reduced its energy consumption by 26% and become a unique home to 26 bird species, five bat species and thousands of honey bees. Listen to Alan as he walks through the challenges, results and impact of sustainable building in a dense urban environment and what exciting plans he has for the future of one of New York’s most iconic facilities.

Mr. Steel has spent more than 30 years as an event management executive and United Kingdom trade development official. He is the former President of George Little Management (GLM), a major producer of trade shows in the United States and Canada, where he was responsible for the creation of new events, oversight of corporate strategic planning, marketing programs and the direction for various company events including NY NOW (formerly New York International Gift Fair), the National Stationery Show, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and SURTEX. Mr. Steel was also active in developing domestic and international markets for the company. Before joining GLM in 1982, Mr. Steel worked for more than 15 years with the British government in a number of trade-related positions at the Department of Trade and Industry in London, the British Consulate in Chicago and the British Trade Development Office in New York. In these roles, Alan bought and sold exhibit space to participants in trade and consumer shows, conferences, and special events. In 2014, Mr. Steel was awarded with the King’s Glove award by the International Association of Exhibitors and Events (IAEE) for his enriched contributions to the trade show industry in New York and beyond.

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Raphael Espinal

Council Member
37 District, New York City

A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, Rafael L. Espinal Jr. is the Council Member for the 37th district, proudly serving the vibrant communities of Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills and East New York. Council Member Espinal is Chair of the Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, where he has overseen the implementation of NYC’s successful Paid Sick Leave Law, passed consumer protections for women, seniors, and immigrants, and continues to fight for a more fair and vibrant marketplace in NYC. Council Member Espinal is committed to finding consumer solutions to environmental problems and ensuring New York City remain a leader in sustainability. He has introduced legislation related to banning plastic bottles in city parks and beaches, expanding access to urban agriculture and mandating green roofs.

Morning Plenary & Keynote Speakers
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
8:30 am - 9:30 am

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Laura Starr

Founding Principal
Starr Whitehouse

With over 25 years’ experience working in the New York City area, Landscape Architect Laura Starr has emerged as a local champion for sustainability, collaboration, and design excellence. As Chief of Design for the Central Park Conservancy, Starr worked intensively to forge consensus among diverse groups of stakeholders, renovating major destinations such as Harlem Meer, the West Side, and the Great Lawn. Entering the private sector, she collaborated on lauded landscape transformations exemplified by the Battery Upper Promenade, the award-winning designs for the Battery Bosque, and a pair of historic courtyards on Front Street at South Street Seaport. Starr’s leadership was transformative for the ASLA-NY, which she led as president from 2013 to 2014. Under her guidance, the ASLA-NY built new relationships with professional organizations and the press, ran a successful fund-raising campaign to hire a full-time director, and rebranded itself into the optimistic, highly-connected, and urban organization it is today.

As a founding partner of Starr Whitehouse, Ms. Starr continues to nurture ties between the public, the city, and professional organizations. She has negotiated public/private partnerships both internationally, on master plans for Tel Aviv’s Park Ariel Sharon and Gazelle Park in Jerusalem, as well as locally, collaborating with BIG Architects on the innovative VIA 57 West development, just one of a series of innovative housing developments that make density livable and high-quality housing affordable for thousands of New Yorkers. Ms. Starr has contributed significantly to Sandy recovery efforts through her work with the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, as the Landscape Architect on The BIG U, a winning Rebuild By Design team, and leading the East Harlem Resiliency Project. She has run numerous public outreach workshops that gather vital community feedback and build informed consensus around a series of implementable plans that refortify lower Manhattan while strengthening neighborhood identity. Today, Starr is seen as a leader in the field of sustainable landscape design and a strong advocate for a city that is greener and more responsive to the needs of a twenty-first century public.


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Fernando Ortiz Monasterio


One of the best Architects of Sustainable Architecture in Latin America, Fernando Ortiz Monasterio has dedicated his career to decrease the gray seen in Mexico City and increase Vertical Gardens and Green Space. Fernando co-founded Verde Vertical and is running a project called 'Via Verde' that is installing and maintaining over 1,000 green columns with more than 2 million plants along Mexico City's Beltway expressway. Fernando will be speaking at CitiesAlive's Morning Plenary on Wednesday, September 26th.

Morning Plenary & Keynote Speakers
Thursday, September 27, 2018
9:30 am - 10:30 am



Dr. Ken Yeang

Hamzah & Yeang

Designing with Ecology: Ecoarchitecture and Ecomasterplanning - Concepts, Principles, Design Interpretations

Presenting the theory, principles, design ideas and experiments for designing ecoarchitecture and ecomasterplanning. The science of ecology is adopted here as the fundamental basis for designing for our sustainable and resilient future. The paper discusses the ’ecosystem ‘ as ecology’s model of nature as the basis for designing our built environment as hybrid ‘constructed ecosystems’.

Presented is a theoretical model for ecological design and shows examples from the presenter's design and planning work to illustrate the concepts and principles.

Ken Yeang is an architect, planner and ecologist who is best known for his signature green architecture and masterplanning, differentiated from other green architects by their authentic ecology-based approach, by their distinctive green aesthetic and green performance beyond conventional rating systems. He trained at the AA (Architectural Association, UK) and received his doctorate from Cambridge University (UK) on ecological design and planning. His key buildings include Solaris (Singapore), Menara Mesiniaga (Malaysia), Spire Edge Tower (India), Genome Research Building (Hong Kong), Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Extension (UK). He is principal of Hamzah & Yeang with offices in Malaysia, UK and of North Hamzah Architectural and Engineering Company in China. He is a recipient of the Malaysian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the Government of Malaysia Merdeka Award and the Architectural Society of China Liang Sicheng Award 2016. The UK Guardian newspaper named him as one of 50 individuals who could save the planet, and he is named by CNN as the leading architect in ecological design.