Working Group Member
Adam Roberts has packed a lot of politics into his young life.
He grew up on Long Island in a family of “proud New Dealers.” At home, FDR was worshipped, he says. It didn’t take long for Roberts to find his calling, and both nature and nurture helped him get there.
During his teens, he dreamed of becoming a dentist, but that dream would soon be replaced by one better suited to his talents and temperament. “I was no good at science,” he admits. His gifts lay elsewhere—in writing and social studies. He put these to good use early on through a high school internship with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. “I saw how Schumer changed people’s lives for the better,” Roberts says. One way or the other, he was determined to become an agent of change as well.
In 2014, Roberts graduated from Johns Hopkins with a degree in political science, after which he went to work for his City Council member, Ben Kallos, who represented the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He then went on to successfully run for Democratic Party office in the neighborhood, first being elected as a District Leader and later as a State Committee Member.
While considering his options for graduate school, he consulted with Ira Katznelson—distinguished scholar, author, and Advisor to the Living New Deal’s NYC Chapter—and ended up taking his advice: Columbia University would provide him with the best, most congenial home on offer for graduate study aligned with his interests.
Since completing his studies at Columbia in 2017, Roberts has served as Director of Policy at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York. There, he applies his combination of book smarts and political savvy to issues pertaining to the city’s built environment. With his leadership, AIA New York has effected the passage of important legislation such as the Climate Mobilization Act in the New York City Council and congestion pricing in the New York State Legislature. These will create tens of billions of dollars in green jobs and reshape New York’s built environment in a sustainable direction.
“Most of the public buildings in New York were either built or retrofitted by New Deal programs,” Roberts says. “The Living New Deal NYC Chapter is advocating for that legacy, which includes public housing, schools, courthouses and much more. All of this must be maintained and restored. We can’t just let it wither away!”
And that, in a nutshell, is why he continues to make room in his busy schedule for our NYC Working Group meetings.