Updated, 11:47 p.m.
Former School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora will be the next commissioner of the city’s Department of Design and Construction, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday morning.
Peña-Mora, a civil engineering and engineering mechanics professor who was dean between 2009 and 2012, will lead the city’s public-works and engineering agency and oversee capital construction projects ranging from new roads and sewers to schools and police precincts. According to an email from de Blasio's office, Peña-Mora will assume his new role on April 28.
Peña-Mora’s appointment was announced by de Blasio as part of three other leadership appointments for the Department of Finance, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He will take a leave of absence to assume the position.
“I feel very humble to have been selected to be able to help out,” Peña-Mora said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “I believe it will allow me to learn as much as I will be able to contribute to the organization based on my experiences.”
Peña-Mora said that working for a government agency will be a new experience for him, and that his priorities include ensuring the DDC maintains good relationships with the communities and clients it serves, reducing project costs and delivery times, and maintaining sustainability and resilience standards.
“These are leaders who understand the communities they work for. They have the skills to keep the machinery of these agencies running and take them in a progressive direction that delivers for the people of this city,” de Blasio said in a statement about Tuesday’s appointees. “This is a group of leaders committed to lifting up and investing in New Yorkers in every community.”
Peña-Mora declined to comment on his time at Columbia or his tenure as dean of SEAS, which ended in July 2012 after a majority of faculty in the engineering school voted they had no confidence in Peña-Mora’s leadership.
His resignation came after years of tension between Peña-Mora and a number of faculty, who said that as dean, he worsened the engineering school’s space crunch, prioritized short-term profits over graduate programs, and compromised the quality of faculty.
Still, many students expressed support for Peña-Mora at the time. After his resignation, the Engineering Student Council said in a statement, “Many of the goals we were able to accomplish on behalf of the students would not have been possible without his support and guidance.”
Uptown politicians at the time, including City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Robert Jackson also expressed support for Peña-Mora, who grew up in Washington Heights.
Rodriguez, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, and State Assembly member Gabriela Rosa released a statement Tuesday afternoon supporting de Blasio’s appointments.
“Mayor de Blasio has taken a strong step forward with the appointment of Dr. Feniosky Pena-Mora to commissioner of the DDC. This is a credit to his extensive career in research; teaching; and construction management; and he will provide New York City with the experience and knowledge needed to improve our aging infrastructure,” the statement said.
Peña-Mora said he sees the opportunity as a way to serve the city he lives in.
“One of the three pillars of our professional life is education, research, and service," Peña-Mora said. "So I have been given a leave to work in the government, and when that position finishes, I'll come back and do what I do. ”
Eva Kalikoff contributed reporting.
Correction: Due to a typographical error, an earlier version of this article stated that Rodriguez, Espaillat, and Rosa released their statement on Thursday afternoon. Spectator regrets the error.