Published February 21, 2019
UB urban planning alum Samuel Wells (MUP '14) brings passion to his work for the City of Albany, where he oversees the city's efforts to address vacant properties.
Says Wells, who grew up in Albany's distressed South End: "We talk a lot in Albany about equity, about building a city where every neighborhood works. Our biggest challenge moving forward is creating more equitable outcomes and improving our cities. The work I do on vacant buildings attacks these challenges head on."
Immediately upon graduating from UB, Wells was hired as a planner with the Capital District Transit System in Albany, NY where he oversaw transportation demand management programs such as Guaranteed Ride Home. In this position he was responsible for maintaining databases and ridership information while keeping on top of economic development trends in the region. His career accelerated rapidly from there.
In 2017, he was hired as the city's Neighborhood Stabilization Coordinator to oversee all aspects of vacancy remediation for the City of Albany. In this role he also works to improve the city’s data management systems for vacant properties. His public service in planning extends beyond the city limits - Wells also serves on the board of directors for the Albany County Land Bank.
MUP graduate Sam Wells reflects on his time at UB and encourages urban planning students to get out of the classroom and immerse themselves in local planning projects.
UB’s School of Architecture & Planning best prepared me for life beyond school by immersing students in local planning initiatives and projects that were happening in the region. We weren’t ensconced in our siloed city on the hill – we were actively encouraged to get out in the community, listen to what was happening, and to learn about those processes and plans. The experiences I had working in and with the community in Buffalo really helped me learn what it takes to be an effective planner.
I see my work for the City of Albany as improving the quality of life for all of our residents. We talk a lot in Albany about equity, about building a city where every neighborhood works. Past policies and practices on the municipal, state, and federal levels created our current problem in Albany and many other older cities, where not every neighborhood provides a safe, quality environment for our citizens. Our biggest challenge moving forward is creating more equitable outcomes and improving our cities. The work I do on vacant buildings attacks these challenges head on.
Get out there and immerse yourself in local planning projects. Absorb as much as you can about planning processes – ask why things work the way they do? City Planning can be a messy process with lots of grey and not so much clear black and white. Seek to observe and learn more about this dynamic.