The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s board of trustees (NNJCF) has appointed Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP as the organization’s executive director. 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.
Founded in 1998, the NNJCF, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in Hackensack, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The 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 benefit northern New Jersey. His impact across the region will be maximized by his extensive nonprofit management experience in building collaborative community partnerships,” said Michael Shannon, president of NNJCF.
“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. NNJCF 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.
During his tenure as founder and director of The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking and Creative Placemaking Communities, Vazquez used professional development programs to grow the field of creative placemaking throughout the United States. 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 (APA) 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 earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and two Masters degrees in Planning and in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. He also 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 The 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 advisor to the APA’s Arts and Planning division.
NNJCF works with local governments, school districts, businesses, non-profit organizations, and citizen groups to improve community life. Through collaborative partnerships, regional problems are identified and resolved. The Foundation’s primary areas of work are climate action, creative placemaking, civic engagement, education, philanthropy, and public health.
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