Bethany Hogan doesn’t consider her work to be a regular 9-5 job. On an average day, she balances paperwork and hosts neighborhood meetings with the goal of bringing open space to at-risk communities. As a government relations and special projects manager at the New York Restoration Project, Hogan manages a community park proposal called the Haven Project. She collaborated with the South Bronx community to propose and fund a project in the waterside area of Port Morris, which she calls a “a transformative open space plan.” She hopes that when this new park is built, residents will get more exercise and be able to breathe a little easier.
HOW DID YOU GET IN THIS LINE OF WORK?
I’ve always been really passionate about sustainability issues, and obviously the problem of climate change, but my skillset was much more like writing, creative thinking, strategy, whatever. I was always really interested in politics and things related to coalition building at a local level. … In college, I had really cool internships. I worked for a political watchdog group in Philly. I also worked for the Chamber of Commerce, which gave me a sense of advocating for certain issues requires these kinds of partnerships.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF OPEN SPACE?
There’s the sort of the mental wellbeing component of it. The feeling of being closer to nature kind of makes you a better version of yourself. … Having a more actively designed, well considered, really sustainability-minded design system is better for you kind of across every possible outcome health-wise. So spaces that are better designed for individual health across a number of platforms are obviously great for individuals, but also, they’re better – they’re better for a city as an organism.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK IN AN AT-RISK COMMUNITY?
I think one of the things that’s especially unique about the South Bronx is that it has a really incredible history of environmental justice. … They have been doing this work for a really long time. And I think what we’ve lent to that process so far is that we have the ability to fundraise and maintain land. I think that kind of ability to carry a strategy through to reality and build it, grow it, give it a real legacy, that’s probably our biggest attribute as a partner. But we couldn’t be doing what we’re doing if it weren’t for the network that exists.
FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
When you actually get to go out and see real people who interact with the work regularly. … I can’t think of that many jobs where you get to go to so many different neighborhoods and really see stuff in real life all the time.
I mean the really easy answer is bureaucracy, and that’s healthcare, and that’s government and that’s everything, right? … Sometimes someone will say something can’t be done, and then you ask again and they say no, and then you ask again and they say yes. Figuring out at what point you keep fighting it is, I think the hardest part. But I mean, at the same time, when you actually get stuff to happen it’s amazing.
(Header photo by Axel Drainville via Flickr)