Developing a Digital Twin for Climate Adaptation in New York City

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A digital representation of a city is seen from overhead on a black background, with a compass in the upper right corner of the image.

LiDAR point cloud made from data acquisition from Sanborn Mapping Co. image / Center for Analysis and Research of Spatial Information (CARSI Lab) at Hunter College – CUNY


The workshop will gather community partners, municipal agencies, scientific experts, and industry leaders to discuss climate-responsive and ethical urban technologies. Each session is designed to foster multifaceted dialogue, blending insights to spur technological innovation in urban climate response. We will explore the potential of experts and decision-makers using the platform to monitor, manage, simulate, and visualize New York City's complex urban systems. We will also explore the potential of the digital twin to create a virtual environment where non-expert users can learn more about their neighborhoods, inform themselves about possible actions they can take, and get a more synoptic understanding of the impact climate change will have on their immediate neighborhood, city, and region.

If you have questions, please contact the Center for Cities at


8:30–9 a.m. | Registration and Breakfast

9–9:30 a.m. | Project Introduction and Objectives of the Day

9:30–11:45 a.m. | Session 1: Panel Discussions

9:30–10:30 a.m. Panel Discussion 1 - Municipal Representatives

Michael Marrella, NYC Dept. of City Planning

Carmela Quintos, NYC Dept. of Finance

Mallory Rutigliano, NYC Mayor's Office of Management and Budget 

Melissa Umberger, NYC Office of Emergency Management

Roger Weld, NYC Dept. of Transportation

Discussion to build a shared understanding of the "state of the art" of Digital Twin technologies: their requirements, knowledge gaps, and potential for urban climate change adaptation, as well as constraints, including ethical considerations and concerns associated with these emerging technologies and efforts to make them (and cities) more inclusive.

10:45–11:45 a.m. Panel Discussion 2 - Industry Experts 

Jason Caldwell, Sanborn

Michael Koterba, MJ Engineering

David LaShell, ESRI

Virginie Maillard, Siemens

Discussion of how NYC and the non-profit sector are using emerging technologies to support planning processes and climate adaptation efforts, as well as pressing needs, areas of interest, and how Digital Twin technology could be leveraged to support participatory and inclusive climate adaptation efforts.

12–1 p.m. | Lunch

1–3 p.m. | Break Out Working Groups

Working Group 1: Data Inputs and Analysis
Consider the data needs for a digital twin for New York City that policy makers, planners, civil society organizations and community members would use to better understand and adapt to climate hazards and risks.

Working Group 2: Interface and Experience
Discuss how the public, city leaders, and climate experts interface with current platforms, and how an evolving Digital Twin technology can enhance these interactions and experiences. 

Working Group 3: Data-driven Decision-making and Action
How do public officials, civil society, and communities use data to make decisions and to adapt to climate change hazards and risks?

2–4 p.m. | Coffee Break Available

3–3:45 p.m. | Working Group Presentations, Summary, and Next Steps

4–6:30 p.m. | Reception  


Project Team

Co-lead: Sean Ahearn, Hunter College (CUNY)

Sean Ahearn is a professor at Hunter College in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science and Director of the Center for Advanced Research of Spatial Information (CARSI).  He is a spatial data scientist with expertise in GIS, remote sensing, photogrammetry, and machine learning, with a focus on generative models for movement simulation, spatial temporal models, and urban systems.

Co-lead: Farzin Lotfi-Jam, Cornell University

Farzin Lotfi-Jam is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Cornell University, where he directs the Realtime Urbanism Lab. The lab focuses on the use of spatial media and technologies in urban research, particularly examining the effects of digitalization and real-time data on urban environments. He also directs Farzin Farzin, a design studio at the intersection of architecture, computation, and media.

Victoria Beard, Cornell University

Victoria Beard is the Director of the Cornell Mui Ho Center for Cities and a Professor of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. Her research focuses on how planners address urban inequality and poverty, including how underserved communities plan for themselves. She also focuses on access to core urban services, equity, sustainability, and how broader processes create and sustain citywide transformation.

George Del Barrio, Universe City NYC

George Del Barrio is the Founding Creative Director and Executive Producer of The Vanderbilt Republic and MIDHEAVEN Network + Studio. He is also Creative Director and Executive Producer at Universe City NYC, Space for Arts, J. Bouey Dance Projects, and Madhura Studios. As a first-generation American, he concentrates his practice on expanding archetypes. Every installation is driven by a resolute humanism; every invention, design, and transformation is in search of "duende" – meaning is not a discovery, but a creation.

Timur Dogan, Cornell University

Timur Dogan is an Associate Professor of Architecture at Cornell University and director of the M.Arch. Program and the Environmental Systems Lab. His research aims to accelerate building decarbonization through educational programming and strategic research at the intersection of design, computer science, building performance simulation, and urban geospatial analysis. The Environmental Systems Lab has created widely used tools, such as,, patented algorithms, and building component prototypes.

Joseph Ferdinando, Cornell University

Joseph Ferdinando is a Senior Product Manager at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence's Skylight Program and a Fellow at the Cornell Mui Ho Center for Cities. He is a veteran of the US Coast Guard with extensive experience in remote sensing and geospatial analysis. He holds master's degrees in GIS, earth systems science, and computer science.

Wendy Ju, Cornell Tech

Wendy Ju is an Associate Professor of Information Science at Cornell University, an inaugural member of Cornell's new campus-wide multidisciplinary Design Tech department, and an Associate Professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech and the Technion. Her research focuses on designing interaction between people and automated systems. She has innovated numerous methods for prototyping and studying systems for autonomous vehicles and robots. Her current research focus is on urban-scale interaction.

Alex Kobald, Cornell University

Alexander Kobald is the Associate Director of the Design Across Scales Lab at Cornell University. A designer, researcher, and fabricator, he recently led the design of Tree Folio NYC, a digital twin of the city's urban canopy that uses data from LiDAR scans to map and analyze the shade provided by each tree in the city. The goal is to inform species and site selection to respond to local needs and maximize climate benefits.

Anita Raja, Hunter College (CUNY)

Anita Raja is a Professor of Computer Science at Hunter College and The CUNY Graduate Center. Her research focuses on artificial intelligence and machine learning, specifically in the study of multiagent systems operating in the context of uncertainty and limited computational resources.

Ioannis Stamos, Hunter College (CUNY)

Ioannis Stamos is a Professor of Computer Science at Hunter College and Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He focuses on computer vision, computer graphics, and robotics. His current research is in the broad area of 3D processing, classification, and detection from 3D-range and 2D-image data for applications related to urban modeling and robotic perception.

Shipeng Sun, Hunter College (CUNY)

Shipeng Sun is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Hunter College and the Earth and Environmental Sciences Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He also serves as Assistant Director of the Center for Advanced Research of Spatial Information. His research interests include sociospatial network analysis, geovisualization, GIS algorithms, agent-based complexity modeling, human–environment systems, and urban geography.

Anthony Townsend, Cornell Tech

Anthony Townsend is an Urbanist in Residence at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, where his research focuses on trends in urban tech innovation. He is the author of two books, Ghost Road: Beyond the Driverless Car (2020) and Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for A New Utopia (2013). His consultancy, Star City Group, works around the world with industry, government, and philanthropy on urban tech foresight, policy, and planning studies.

Benjamin Wilde, Cornell University 

Benjamin Wilde is the Program and Research Coordinator for the Cornell Mui Ho Center for Cities. He manages the Center's initiatives, including developing scopes of work, planning and managing resources, setting milestones and deadlines, and developing systems of monitoring and evaluation. He also contributes to Center-led research, supervises Center staff, and supports postdoctoral and postgraduate fellows and visitors.

Wenfei Xu, Cornell University

Wenfei Xu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. Her research questions how housing policies, practices, institutions, and technologies have shaped urban inequality, with an orientation toward methods in urban analytics. She works on topics in social-spatial stratification, segregation, race and ethnicity, data science, mapping, and neighborhood change in the United States.


Jeremiah Clayton (Geoinformatics '24), Hunter College (CUNY)

Debargha 'Dave' Dey (Human Factors and Human-Computer Interaction postdoctoral researcher), Cornell Tech

Matthew Franchi (Ph.D. Computer Science, '26), Cornell Tech 

DongHak Lee (M.S. RS '24), Cornell University

Stacey Li (Ph.D. Information Science, '26), Cornell Tech


Juvie Anne Alfeche is the Public Program Coordinator for the Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (RISE), a community-based organization in Far Rockaway, Queens. She manages the Farm Share program, the Rockaway Street Market, and other public events to advance the general well-being of the community.

Alec Appelbaum writes and teaches professionals to write about how communities and systems can thrive amid climate change. He worked as a journalist, covering the greening of cities, for many years, and since 2011 has taught writing at Pratt Institute and NYU and coached Yale students in journalism. He also writes for foundations and trade groups.

Novem Auyeung is a Senior Scientist at NYC Parks' Division of Environment & Planning, where she leads a team of scientists tasked with monitoring and assessing NYC Parks's natural resources; advising on their protection and conservation; and using research and data to inform policy, planning, design and construction, and adaptive management. She is also part of the NYC Urban Field Station, a partnership between NYC Parks, USDA Forest Service, and the Natural Areas Conservancy focused on knowledge co-production across disciplines and bridging the gap between science and implementation.

Mary Bandziukas is a GIS Specialist who supports the NYC DOT Design and Construction division in charge of pavement markings. She is part of several new initiatives developing digital tools and automation, including a Digital Twin of markings and their physical and environmental contexts. Prior to joining DOT, she was a planner at the local and federal levels and contributed to environmental programs in the public and non-profit spheres.

Andrew Buck, AICP, ENV-SP is a Senior Urban Planner/Technologist at VHB, where he combines urban planning, design, and technology to help cities, campuses, and communities in the New York metro area, along the East Coast, and East Asia tackle complex issues like climate change. Part of his work has involved the development of digital twins deploying a combination of big data, model-based design, and geospatial information systems technologies for a variety of use cases ranging from urban design and development and scenario planning, carbon mitigation and climate adaptation planning, and transportation systems planning and design.

Jason Caldwell is Vice President of Business Development and Sales at the Sanborn Map Company. He has 27 years of experience in GIS, remote sensing, and mapping environments, and has consulted for a wide range of clients, including many in government and the energy sector. Prior to consulting, he worked in map production.

Lindsay K. Campbell is a Research Social Scientist with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, based at the NYC Urban Field Station. Her research explores the dynamics of environmental governance, civic engagement, and natural resource stewardship, with an emphasis on environmental and social justice. She is co-lead of STEW-MAP, which maps the social networks and spatial territories of environmental stewardship groups. She also co-leads the Urban Field Station Collaborative Arts Program.

Lindsey Cassone is an Environmental and Climate Planner at VHB, where she works with cross-sector clients on environmental assessments, stakeholder engagement, and various climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. As a researcher and city planner, she is dedicated to understanding how urban communities can leverage data and technology to prepare for and respond to the climate crisis. She holds a Master's in City and Regional Planning from the Pratt Institute, a BS in Environmental Planning and Policy from Virginia Tech, and is a Waterfront Alliance WEDG Associate.

Josh Cerra is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Cornell University Department of Landscape Architecture, and principal investigator of the Climate-adaptive Design studio program in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. His teaching and research investigate relationships between urban ecosystems, communities, and site development processes, and their implications for climate-adaptive design and urban ecological design.

Jacqueline Duke is a Community Health Worker at the Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (RISE), a community-based organization in Far Rockaway, Queens. She is also a Customer Service Supervisor for Queens Library.

Hayley Elszasz is the Climate Science Advisor at the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ). She oversees partnerships with academic institutions to advance actionable climate science, including the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), Rainproof NYC, the Climate Knowledge Exchange, and FloodNet. She is also the Open Data Coordinator for MOCEJ and works to foster knowledge-sharing partnerships between City agencies, climate scientists, and NYC communities.

Deborah Estrin is a Professor of Computer Science at Cornell Tech in New York City, where she also serves as Associate Dean for Impact, and is an Affiliate Faculty at Weill Cornell Medicine. Her research focuses on digital health, including caregiving technologies, digital biomarkers, small data, and public interest technology. She was previously the Founding Director of the NSF Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) at UCLA, pioneering the development of mobile and wireless systems for ecosystem monitoring and research.

Benjamin Max Furnas is the former Director of the New York City Mayor's Office of Climate and Sustainability. Over eight years in the Mayor's Office, he collaborated with partners inside and outside government to spearhead nation-leading initiatives on building decarbonization, renewable energy, worker protections, environmental justice, street safety, sustainable transportation, and reducing the climate impact of municipal operations.

Patrick Gahagan has been a Senior Solution Engineer at Esri for 20 years, working with the City of New York and other large cities along the east coast.  He is a specialist in 3D, CAD, BIM and more recently laser scanning, drone mapping, and Indoors GIS.  Patrick builds demonstrations and proof of concept applications that creatively integrate content from multiple platforms and develops best practices for new technologies that integrate with ArcGIS.  Patrick has built Digital Twins of the Atlanta Airport, George Washington's Mount Vernon, and a house he was going to build in NJ. 

Jim Hall has been doing technology and data for over 30 years. He brings a wealth of expertise in navigating the intersection of business strategy and cutting-edge technology and has a proven track record of delivering innovative solutions that drive organizational growth and efficiency, and he is committed to empowering his clients to thrive in the digital era. His customers have included over 25 agencies in NYC government, the MTA, the PANYNJ and a range of other government agencies.

Michelle Johnson is a Research Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service's NYC Urban Field Station. She focuses on human-environment relationships in urban systems, applying methods from social science, ecology, and geography. Her current research covers civic environmental stewardship, perceptions of urban green spaces, climate-adapted forestry, and social and environmental drivers of change in urban forest patches. She has led or participated in multiple projects with practitioners and community members.

Michael Koterba is MJ's Chief Technology Officer and geospatial services manager. For the past decade, he has been adapting the latest technology to increase the speed and accuracy of MJ's GIS and mapping capabilities. He spearheaded MJ's in-house initiative to develop MJ4D, a web-based software that allows users to remotely explore a digital twin directly via a web browser. He has implemented the use of laser scanning, mobile mapping, UAV technology, ArcGIS, and MJ4D to create digital twins for a variety of projects.

Ha-Kyung Kwon is a Senior Research Scientist in the Energy & Materials division at Toyota Research Institute. She is developing tools and insights for decarbonization and climate resilience, with a focus on the circular economy. Previously, she worked on designing a closed-loop AI platform to accelerate the discovery of new functional polymers for applications in battery electrolytes and fuel cell membranes.

Dave LaShell manages the New York City office of Esri, the global firm that makes ArcGIS. An urban geographer and technologist, he leads a team of experts helping the government apply a "geographic approach" to problem-solving. They use science, technology, and GIS to address some of society’s greatest needs, such as safety, pathways from poverty, sustainability, critical infrastructure, community well-being and resiliency, economic mobility and opportunity, social equity, environmental quality, education, and effective government.

Jesse LeCavalier uses the tools of urban design and architecture to research, theorize, and speculate about infrastructure and logistics. He is the author of The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment and associate professor of architecture at Cornell AAP  where he directs the New York-based urban design program.

Frederic Lescure is a seasoned Project Director with over two decades of experience leading large-scale technology projects with mass transit authorities in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. In his most recent role at Siemens Mobility in New York, he led a project team implementing state-of-the-art digital signaling systems for the 8th Avenue Line in New York City. He previously worked on Barcelona Line 9, the largest driverless metro line in Europe.

Sarah Lipuma is the Resilience Coordinator in the Mitigation Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 2, which includes New York and New Jersey.  She uses her knowledge of climate resilience and geospatial analysis skills to help communities reduce risk and visualize hazards.

Ashley Louie is a designer and civic technologist who works at the intersection of data visualization, geospatial analysis, and interactive storytelling. She has a background in urban design and architecture and is deeply interested in improving the public realm and the built environment. Through her previous work experience at the MIT Civic Data Design Lab, Ashley has designed and developed projects that involve data analysis and visual communication of information in innovative and creative ways.

Robin Lovell is a Senior Product Engineering Writer at Esri, where he creates support documentation, tutorials, and blogs for ArcGIS Online. Before joining Esri, he worked as a consultant, environmental planner, and an Assistant Professor at Manhattan College. His research focuses on sustainable agriculture and gender in the context of climate change.

Virginie Maillard has headed global research on simulation and digital twins at Siemens Technology since June 2018, and has headed Siemens Technology for the U.S. since 2019, overseeing the entire scope of research in the U.S. Before joining Siemens, Maillard worked for Renault, most recently as head of corporate research and research strategy.

Michael Marrella is the Director of Climate and Sustainability Planning for the New York City Department of City Planning. He is one of the pioneers of the modern practice of climate resiliency and waterfront planning and has also worked to protect and improve the natural environment. For the past 15 years, he has led resiliency, waterfront, and open space planning efforts. More recently, his work has expanded to cover a broader range of issues, such as stormwater management, biodiversity, and reducing the city's carbon footprint.

Lucia Mirabella leads the Design and Simulation Systems group at Siemens Technology, where she has worked since 2014. Her team focuses on developing next-generation methods for design and simulation and on creating and leveraging digital twins for several industrial applications. In 2019 she was honored as Siemens Inventor of the Year.

Erin Morey is the Director of Climate Resilience Planning at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). She works to integrate proactive climate actions into the MTA's capital program and plans, including strategies to reduce exposure to climate risks. She has over 11 years of experience in public sector resilience and sustainability planning.

Mark Mutter is the Director of the Digital Twins & Climate Nexus at Arcadis, where his focus is to help clients understand how to best utilize digital twin solutions to solve their problems. He is also the Director of Arcadis' "Climate Risk Nexus," a climate adaptation digital twin that helps clients assess their climate context, understand their resulting liabilities, and prioritize climate adaptation investments.

Fred Ng is a Senior GIS Analyst at New York City's Office of Technology and Innovation, currently focused on maintaining and improving NYC's Citywide Street Centerline (CSCL) database. Previously, at the Department of Education, he worked on determining eligibility for busing based on the spatial relationship between students’ home and their schools.

Rachel Opitz is a Senior Director for the Open Geospatial Consortium's Collaborative Solutions and Innovation Program in North America. Her work focuses on promoting sustainable integrated land management and addressing the impacts of climate change by leveraging interoperable geospatial data and systems.

Sophie Oldfield is a Professor and Chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University and affiliated to the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her research focuses on urbanism in the Global South, including housing, informality, and governance. She has a track record of excellence in collaborative research practice and engaged research.

Masha Pitiranggon is an Environmental Health Scientist with the Air Quality Program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Since 2019, she has led studies on air pollution source apportionment and health impacts of air pollution to inform and evaluate policy, using both established and novel data sources.

Carmela Quintos is Assistant Commissioner of Property Valuation and Mapping at the New York City Department of Finance. She oversees the production of the property tax roll and the digital tax map. Prior to working for the City, she held academic positions at several universities and worked at Lehman Brothers and the World Bank. An economist and data scientist, she is interested in applications of technology and statistical techniques to improve the accuracy, efficiency, and transparency of government services.

Peter Robinson is an Assistant Professor in the Social Justice and Equity Cohort of the Department of Architecture at Cornell University. He is the founder of WorkUrban, a design consultancy that partners with communities, individuals, and institutions to teach students about community engagement and participatory design. He is also a founding board member of the BlackSpace Urbanist Collective.

Mallory Rutigliano is a member of the Environmental Sustainability and Resiliency Task Force at the New York City Mayor's Office of Management and Budget, specializing in climate resilience. She has a background in population health, environmental science, and international policy, and focuses on the impacts of extreme heat and flooding, including in contributing to New York City's Climate Budgeting initiative.

Shiori Sasaki is an Industry Consultant and Strategic Advisor in Esri's Professional Services Division. He advises global architecture, engineering, and construction firms on integrating and aligning geospatial technology with business strategy, particularly focusing on digital twin and digital delivery frameworks. Prior to joining Esri, he held positions at the MTA and the Port Authority of NY & NJ, where he led the development of several high-value geospatial applications for maintenance planning and lease management.

Lauren Smalls-Mantey is a Senior Environmental Systems Analyst for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Over more than a decade in the public and private sector, she has explored the connectedness of climate, health, equity, and policy. As a part of the NYC Division of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources, she served as the Urban Heat Resilience Project Manager for the Cool Neighborhoods Initiative.

Emily Sun is an Associate Climate & Sustainability Planner at the New York City Department of City Planning. Her work includes neighborhood-scale resiliency planning, citywide policy analysis and development, the administration of the City's Coastal Zone Management Program, and the integration of new data sources into planning processes.

Tyler Taba is the Director of Resilience at the Waterfront Alliance. He is charged with developing climate change policy and strategy, leading the coordination and convening of the Rise to Resilience coalition, and identifying changes and trends in climate change that affect and dictate new strategies. He previously worked at the National Parks Conservation Association, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Melissa Umberger is the Executive Director of Risk Analysis and Recovery at the New York City Emergency Management department. She oversees the planning, coordination, and analysis of hazard risk assessments and recovery planning. She led the development of the 2019 Hazard Mitigation Plan update and the City’s guide to hazard mitigation. More recently, she led the interagency coordination and data analysis for COVID-19 and for two extreme weather events.

Roger K. Weld is the Chief Engineer of the New York City Department of Transportation’s Transportation Planning & Management Division. He leads the design team responsible for the Street Improvement Projects program of safety improvements, bus lanes, bicycle lanes, and walking improvements throughout the city; provides capital projects review and approval for any geometric changes to city streets; and improves typical design standards.

Lucia Woo is a Technical and Business Development Manager at Fugro, focusing on geo-data solutions that map, model, and monitor both built and natural environments. Her specialty ranges from imagery and LiDAR data, to 3D building models and analytic platforms. Her background includes NASA earth science missions and critical infrastructure engineering projects.


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