Trailblazing urban planner, Vazquez, named Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s executive director

Leonardo Vazquez was appointed as executive director of the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation, according to a Thursday announcement. Vazquez comes to NNJCF with more than 30 years of experience working as an urban planner, community economic development professional, creative placemaker, educator, journalist and author.

Headquartered in Hackensack, the NNJC foundation’s work focuses primarily on climate action, creative placemaking, civic engagement, education, philanthropy and public health.

“Leonardo Vazquez ‘s long history of leadership in the fields of urban planning, community economic development and creative placemaking will substantially benefit northern New Jersey. His impact across the region will be maximized by his extensive nonprofit management experience in building collaborative community partnerships,” Michael Shannon, president of the nonprofit, stated.

“This is an exciting opportunity to serve northern New Jersey and to help communities through planning for climate change, creative placemaking, environmental justice and social justice initiatives. The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation undertakes many great things by promoting collaboration, bringing people and communities together to help them achieve more than they could alone. I am honored to join the foundation and to be a part of this effort,” explained Vazquez.

Vazquez has served as founder and director of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking and Creative Placemaking Communities. As such, he used innovative convening and professional development programs to grow the field of creative placemaking throughout the U.S. His two organizations engaged more than 8,000 people from the worlds of cultural heritage, the arts, public policy and other areas to explore ways of leveraging the power of arts and culture to enhance communities.

Vazquez’s work in urban planning, civic engagement, creative placemaking and social justice garnered several national awards. In 2012, he won the American Planning Association’s National Planning Leadership Award for Advancing Diversity and Social Justice in Honor of Paul Davidoff. He also wrote or contributed to plans that won statewide awards from the APA’s New Jersey Chapter and New Jersey Future.

Vazquez has taught a range of subjects, including urban planning history and theory, economic development, creative placemaking, and planning ethics at the following institutions: the New School, the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers State University of New Jersey, and the Knowlton School in the College of Engineering at Ohio State University. A published author, he co-edited “Diálogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities” and wrote “Leading from the Middle: Strategic Thinking for Urban Planning and Community Development Professionals.”

A native of Argentina raised on Staten Island, New York, Vazquez has lived in New Jersey for more than 25 years and is a resident of Maplewood. He serves as chair of the Sustainable Jersey Arts and Creative Culture Task Force and is also involved with the Maplewood Arts Council. He co-founded the Latinos and Planning division of the APA and serves as an adviser to the APA’s Arts and Planning division.