Feniosky Peña-Mora

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Feniosky Peña-Mora
Former Commissioner of the
New York City Department of Design and Construction
In office
April 8, 2014 – June 21, 2017
Personal details
BornMarch 6, 1966
Dominican Republic
ResidenceNew York City
Alma materUniversidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (B.S.) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.S., Sc.D.)
ProfessionEducator, Engineer, Civil Servant

Feniosky Peña-Mora, Sc.D., (born March 6, 1966) is a Dominican-born engineer, educator, and is the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction. He served as the 14th Dean of Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and also as the Associate Provost of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. He has an international reputation for his teaching, research, and leadership in managing engineering programs.

Personal life and education[edit]

Peña-Mora's childhood in the Dominican Republic was relatively unstable. His mother, Mirtha Lopez divorced when Feniosky turned eight, and then moved to New York in search of employment without him. Peña-Mora moved around between aunts and their fathers. When he failed to join the United States military after high school, Peña-Mora enrolled in the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña in Santo Domingo.

In 1988, Feniosky Peña-Mora arrived in Washington Heights from the Dominican Republic. He was 21 with a degree in engineering from Ureña in Santo Domingo. Peña-Mora took English classes at Teachers College, Columbia University and at a YMCA program in Greenwich Village. He studied nights at Bronx Community College.

Before arriving in MIT, Peña-Mora met Minosca Alcantara, a fellow engineering student at the university. They started to date, and when Peña-Mora was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s graduate school, she followed him to the United States. Peña-Mora earned Master of Science and Doctor of Science degrees in civil engineering from MIT. Peña-Mora was offered a teaching position upon finishing his doctorate. Subsequently, Peña-Mora took a year to develop real-world experience, working on the construction of the Central Artery in Boston, commonly known as the Big Dig.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (2003–2009)[edit]

In 2003, the Peña-Mora, then an associate professor at MIT, and his wife left Massachusetts for the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he accepted an endowed faculty position in its civil and environmental engineering department. In 2008, he became an Associate Provost at the university. As Associate Provost at the University of Illinois, Peña-Mora was involved with interdisciplinary, diversity and entrepreneurial initiatives. He served as the campus lead for the Consortium on Fostering Interdisciplinary Inquiry that consisted of US research institutions which have exhibited leadership and innovation in supporting interdisciplinary activities in higher education.

As co-chair of the Illinois Chancellor's Diversity Initiatives Committee, Peña-Mora coordinated faculty, administrators, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds to create Project 2012: Re-envisioning Diversity and Inclusion at Illinois. Peña-Mora instituted the [Global Leaders in Construction Management program, a five-year combined bachelor's and master's degree program.

Columbia University (2009–)[edit]

In June, 2009, Peña-Mora accepted his new position as Columbia's Dean of Engineering and Applied Science in June, 2009.

Peña-Mora is the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Columbia University.[1] Previously, he was also the dean of the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science at the university.[2]

As a professor, his tenure has shown his interest in interdisciplinary research and teaching in the applied sciences. As dean, he focused on implementing a three-pronged strategic plan encompassing faculty excellence, student support, and space growth. During his deanship, the School of Engineering and Applied Science doubled its endowed chairs and raised $75 million for Columbia Engineering.[3][4] During his time, the school also advanced from 21 in 2009 to 15 in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report Graduate Ranking[5] and from 26 in 2009 to 20 in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report Undergraduate Ranking. Peña-Mora also led the reformulation of the online Master's program in engineering, which ranked number 1 in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report.[6]

Peña-Mora's tenure was controversial. A number of faculty members and department chairmen passed a "no-confidence" vote in his leadership.[7] They criticized his self-serving style of management, his hasty expansion of the engineering school, which overloaded professors with too many students, and asserted that he prioritized fund-raising over research and did not honor his promises. One of Peña-Mora's most vocal critics, Prof. Van C. Mow, called him a "control freak" and stepped down from his position as Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2011.[8] Mow's harsh critique was challenged by some as being driven by his general "resistance to change," especially when implemented by a Dean 26 years his junior.[7] After various attempts to bridge the differences, Peña-Mora eventually resigned in July 2012.[9]

Students, alumni, administrators, and community leaders speculated at the time that two reasons may have been at play: youth and race.[8] Peña-Mora resigned from his position as Dean in July 2012.[10] As a results, some questioned their “confidence—as well as the confidence of many others at Columbia—in the ability of Columbia to maintain diverse leadership at the top.”[11] Faculty, students and community leaders complained about “racial bias in its ranks“.[12] A highly regarded Hispanic biology professor[who?] has complained to Columbia President Lee Bollinger about the "ethnic bullying", "unbridled racism" and "the shameful bullying of our engineering Dean Peña-Mora shows similar characteristics" to the ‘gauntlet’ other minority faculty have faced at Columbia.”[12] Another professor communicated how senior faculty in engineering even “complain about his [Peña-Mora] Spanish accent";[12] which was especially surprising, given that Israel-born Zvi Galil, Dean of the Engineering School from 1995–2007, had a strong accent that was "loved" by many.[13]

Peña-Mora continues to supervise PhD and graduate research students, while he is currently listed as being on "public service leave," he maintains a named professorship at the Columbia's engineering school, a position which paid him more than $500,000 in 2015 on top of his salary as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction.[14]

New York City Department of Design and Construction (2014–2017)[edit]

On April 8, 2014, Dr. Peña-Mora was appointed the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) by mayor Bill de Blasio. On June 21, 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Peña-Mora's departure.[15] While Commissioner, Peña-Mora visited many of the DDC's projects, including the rehabilitation of the High Bridge, which restored a vital link between upper Manhattan and the Bronx; the new New York City Police Academy in College Point, Queens, which will train more than 1,600 new police officers each year to protect the City; the Ocean Breeze Athletic Center, which symbolizes continued investment in neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Sandy; and, the transformation of Times Square into a permanent pedestrian plaza.[citation needed]

Peña-Mora prioritized sustainability and resiliency in DDC's public buildings and infrastructure projects and focus to providing contract opportunities for New York City's minority- and women-owned businesses.[citation needed]

Controversy followed Peña-Mora to the public sector in 2016 when a supposed quid pro quo scheme was uncovered, as Peña-Mora directed DDC funds and City contracts to Renee Sacks, and organizations she works with, and Sacks' firm, Sacks Communications, made its entire Spring 2016 issue of Diversity/Agenda magazine all about Peña-Mora.[16]

In June 2017, Peña-Mora announced his plans to step down from the DDC.[17] News reports tied his departure to "Hurricane Sandy rebuilding failures." [18]


  • Hussein, K. and Peña-Mora, F., “Collaborative Agent Interaction Control and Synchronization System,” MIT Case No. 8376S, Daly, Crowley & Mofford, LLP file MIT-057AUS, US Patent Application No. 09/540,947, Issued February 28, 2006.
  • Peña-Mora, F. and Kuang, C., “Mechanisms and Artifacts to Manage Heterogeneous Platform Interfaces in a Collaboration,” MIT Case No. 9249S Daly, Crowley & Mofford, LLP file MIT-057BUS, US Patent Application No. 10/069,885, Issued January 9, 2007.
  • Peña-Mora, F., Vadhavkar, S., Dwivedi, G., Kuang, C., and Wang, W., “Software Service Handoff Mechanism with A Performance Reliability Improvement Mechanism (PRIM) for a Collaborative Client-Server System,” MIT Case No. 9250S, Daly, Crowley & Mofford, LLP file MIT-092AUS, US Patent Application No. 10/069,797, Issued May 15, 2007.
  • Peña-Mora, F., Park, M., Lee, S., Fulenwider, M., and Li, M. “Dynamic Planning Method and System,” MIT Case No. 9185S, Daly, Crowley & Mofford, LLP file MIT-086AUS, US Patent Application No. 10/068,119, US Patent No. 7,349,863, Issued March 25, 2008.
  • Peña-Mora, F., Park, M., Lee, S., Fulenwider, M., and Li, M. “Reliability Buffering Technique Applied to a Project Planning Model,” MIT Case No. 9186S, Daly, Crowley & Mofford, LLP file MIT-087PUSP, US Patent No. 7,415,393, Issued August 19, 2008.
  • Golparvar-Fard M., Peña-Mora, F., and Savarese, S. (2010). “D4AR- 4 Dimensional Augmented Reality Models for Automation and Visualization of Construction Progress Monitoring.” United States Provisional Patent Application No. 61/570,491, filed December 14, 2011.
  • Thomas J., Peña-Mora, F., and Golparvar-Fard, M. (2009). “Mobile Workstation Chariot.” Provisional Patent, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Docket Number: TF08208-PRO).


  1. ^ University, Columbia. "CV". Columbia Engineering. Columbia University. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  2. ^ Sandoval, Edgar. "...dean of the American Dream..." nydailynews.com. New York Daily News. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  3. ^ Columbia, University. "Columbia University Campaign News". Columbia University. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  4. ^ Masterson, Kathryn. "Off Campus Is Now the Place to Be for Deans". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  5. ^ World Reports, US News. "Graduate School Rankings". US News and World Reports. Archived from the original on November 18, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
  6. ^ World Reports, US News. "Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs". US News and World Reports. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "SEAS Tenured Faculty Vote No-Confidence Peña-Mora, Prof Says," Columbia Spectator, May 18, 2012.
  8. ^ a b PÉrez-Peña, Richard. "Discord Over Dean Rocks Columbia Engineering School". New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  9. ^ Kaminer, Ariel (2012-07-03). "Feniosky Peña-Mora, Columbia Engineering Dean, Steps Down". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  10. ^ Kaminer, Ariel. "After Revolt, a Dean at Columbia Steps Down". New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  11. ^ Schwarz, Alan. "At Columbia, Faith of Some in President Is Shaken". New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  12. ^ a b c Gonzalez, Juan. "Columbia University students and city and state politicians defend engineering dean over campaign of 'attacks'". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  13. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 5 December 2003 — Columbia Spectator". spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  14. ^ Skelding, Conor. "Columbia paid city commissioner more than $500K in 2015". DNAinfo.
  15. ^ "Statement from Mayor de Blasio on the Departure of DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora". 21 June 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  16. ^ "City Paid Magazine Publisher to Devote Entire Issue to DDC Commissioner". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  17. ^ "City's Embattled 'Build it Back' Head to Resign, Sources Say". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on 21 June 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  18. ^ Durkin, James Fanelli, Erin. "Department of Design and Construction chief to step down amid Hurricane Sandy rebuilding failures - NY Daily News". Retrieved 16 September 2018.

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