If you enjoy going to the Greenpoint and Williamsburg Waterfront, Hunter’s Point South, Coney Island and the Brooklyn Cultural District, thank Justin Garrett Moore. He’s responsible for helping design those and other public spaces around the city.
At age 36, Moore starts his new position this week as executive director of the city’s Public Design Commission. Appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Moore’s responsibility includes enhancing and streamlining the commission’s review process, and fostering accessibility, diversity and inclusion in the city’s public buildings and spaces.
A former senior urban designer for the Department of City Planning for more than a decade, Moore’s been responsible for conducting urban design plans and studies of the physical design and utilization of sites, including infrastructure, public spaces, land-use patterns and neighborhood character.
“When I tell people I’m an urban designer, they think I work in hip-hop,” Moore said. “Just like you can design an outfit, you can design a city. My motivation is really to move things into the direction for better communities for better outcomes for people who need it and really deserve it.”
Originally from Indianapolis, Moore was in high school when he became part of a special program that allowed him to help design his school’s gymnasium. He read architectural drawings, helped with presentations and worked with the planning board commission.
The experience sparked his interest for architecture and making a difference.
“I grew up in an inner-city neighborhood, and I was always interested in buildings and parks,” he said. “I think from an early age, I noticed differences from my neighborhood and white neighborhoods in the things that were there.”
Moore attended the University of Florida, where he majored in architecture. He came to New York to attend Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He was the first person at the school to have a double major, earning degrees in architecture and urban design.
Along with his work for the city, Moore is the adjunct associate professor of architecture in the Urban Design and Urban Planning programs at Columbia.
Moore said that whereas his neighborhood had vacant lots and abandoned buildings, white neighborhoods had parks and buildings that were mostly occupied. He said creating outdoor spaces for the community to use in much-needed areas is something he strives for.
“Our office works with the Parks Department, transportation and city planning, making sure we get quality projects,” Moore said. “The de Blasio administration is interested in equity and serving communities that in the last decade have not had adequate investment. They are Black and brown, immigrant and low-income communities.”
Reaching back to his hometown roots, Moore is also the co-founder of Urban Patch, a social enterprise that focuses on community development and design. With the help of his family, he’s been able to turn vacant lots into community gardens and green spaces in Indianapolis.
Moore said, “I’ve always been very interested in the impact of the investments in communities and having quality facilities and spaces for people. It’s nice to build a park, but it needs to have a function for the people it serves. I’m going to champion and support that.”