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A Coffee with Anthony Fabre, Director of Economic Development & Policy

We grabbed coffee with Anthony Fabre to talk about relationship building, policy design, and what it's like to have worked in New York City for the bulk of his career. We got some great urban planning resource recommendations, too!

Anthony is the Director of Economic Development and Policy at Karp Strategies. With over a decade working in or alongside government, Anthony brings a deep understanding of how policy and public processes affect our work at Karp Strategies. Anthony is a big believer in the importance of building long-standing relationships and cultivating trust within the communities we serve, and he brings that approach to all of his work

How did you first become interested in working for the public sector?

I’ve always known, even before I was a planner, that I wanted to be in the public sector. I knew I wanted to work for the government and play a part in policy work and design. Government doesn’t always function the way it should, but I wholeheartedly believe a good government works for its people. I’m very interested in the ways policy and government interact with citizens in their everyday lives. Also, after living in New York and moving to Florida in high school, where the built environment was quite different, I realized I wanted to come back to New York and work in government here—in the best city in the world. 

What do you see as the biggest benefit of incorporating stakeholder engagement into policy design?

The whole point of taking the time to design a policy should be to ensure that it actually benefits everyday people. Who knows better what is needed than the people living in these cities every day? They may not always know how to bring about the needed change, and that is where planners come in. However, they know what they need on a day-to-day and long-term basis. I think this also affects my approach to planning—listening to people and then discussing what the options are and getting into difficult conversations with key stakeholders. I think stakeholder engagement is not a box to check. Oftentimes, you can build a better city just by listening to people and understanding how they use space. It’s also important to understand that not everyone within that community is the same—I’ve learned from speaking with electeds and speaking with community boards that you may represent the community but still do not represent all of the thoughts of that community. 

Why is building relationships such an important part of being a successful planner?

I use the word relationships a lot because it’s one of our strengths at Karp Strategies. As a planner, it’s important for you to build relationships in order to build trust with the people you’re working with. Once that trust is built, even if the stakeholders don’t agree, they respect you and your thought process and understand that you’re being fair to them. This way both clients and the local community can better understand that your intentions are good. By building these relationships, there is common ground that’s found through trust in the process. 

How have you seen urban planning change throughout your multiple roles interacting with government entities?

When you’re a student and have little experience, you think that people who are in roles of power don’t understand the community or don’t have the best interests of the community at heart. In reality, this is not true – planning in general, I have learned, is multi-dimensional. Just like with the government, there’s so many branches and entities that must work together to bring about results. I have learned that it is a lot more complex than what it may seem—we must listen to the community and have their best interests at heart, but even within one seemingly common interest, there’s a lot of different ways to approach it and a lot of competition in addressing it. In order to have a successful project, you need to take all of those approaches into account and must have an organized plan. Without the right plan and timing, all of your hard work can come crumbling down.

Having worked with an immense database at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, what are your thoughts on how databases influence policy and program design in cities?

The way people gather data in itself can be biased. Databases often miss information because the way the data is collected itself is biased. And that is based on the bias or worldview of the people collecting the information. This goes into why it’s important to have people on your team who come from different backgrounds and perspectives. To be a good planner, you must understand that not everyone views the city or uses space similarly. In fact, not everyone has the same lifestyle—and this impacts how you collect information.

What are your top three urban planning book or podcast channel suggestions, if any?

I would recommend the book Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg. It focuses a lot on public libraries. I have a passion for institutional buildings and a particular interest in libraries—my mom worked for the New York Public Library for 20 years. Libraries remind me of when the government still wanted to build magnificent buildings for common citizens. 

Another book I recommend is Factfulness by Hans Rosling. It talks about how much the world has improved, and it shows you by the numbers how as a whole, people across the world live in better situations than they did previously. 

Fast Facts:

Last TV show I binge-watched: Only Murders in the Building

Restaurant (delivery) I'd recommend to close friends : Adda Indian Canteen (31-31 Thompson Ave)

Book I’m currently reading: Fixer Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing System by Jenny Schuetz

Best concert I’ve ever experienced: Coldplay Music of the Spheres World tour launch in San José, Costa Rica (2022) 

Movie I’d pay to see again and again: Too many to choose from but I'd probably just watch on Netflix or Hulu!


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