An Urban Planner’s Love Story

A West Philly pedestrian plaza Ariel worked on and to this day, remains thrilled by. (Source: University City District)

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to urban changemakers and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together 40 top young urban leaders.

Name: Ariel Ben-Amos
Current Occupation: Green Streets Program Manager, Philadelphia Water Department
Hometown: Philadelphia
Current City: Philadelphia

I drink: Coffee
I am an: Extrovert
I get to work by: Walk/Bike/Subway
The area I grew up is: Urban

What is your favorite city and why? Philadelphia is my one true love; its grit, eccentricity, architecture and spirit are inspiring. That being said, I feel like I am cheating on Philadelphia whenever I visit New Orleans.

What do you like most about your current job? Figuring out the complex policy, design, and political concerns associated with building green streets is stimulating.

What is the coolest project you worked on? Every summer I get a thrill watching the sweet potato leaves spill out from the planters in the Pedestrian Plaza at 48th and Baltimore.

What are the hard parts about your job? Developing internal project and initiative support within a large agency takes significant patience.

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? Getting out of their own way. Complex governance structures, interlocking dependencies and tight budgets make change and flexibility harder and harder for government, despite an increasing agility found within the community and business sectors.

What’s your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? I want to transform every SEPTA station into a space that supports retail, community gatherings, arts and transit. Such stations will help build a network of transit voters who elect transit friendly politicians because they see the impact of transit funding on their own train stations and communities.