We EMPOWER people with the knowledge and tools to TRANSFORM their public spaces from the ground up.

We believe that success comes from solutions crafted from consensus and opportunities taken together.

CDS started out as a two-person firm focused on downtown revitalization and organizing special assessment districts. Before placemaking was a cultural phenomenon, we were helping communities reimagine their commercial districts and public spaces—supporting both public and private stakeholders in the critical conversations and community planning needed to create real change.

Today, we’ve grown to more than one hundred employees and we’re proud to say that we’re achieving the impact that we always knew was possible; connecting place management with outdoor cleaning and public safety services to provide a unified, accessible, and effective suite of services for business improvement districts, private property owner associations, and municipalities.

We are Practitioners, rolling up our sleeves to get things done. You can always find us walking, making sure the litter is picked up, watching how public spaces are used, chatting with store owners and yes, stopping to smell the flowers. We are Listeners. We don’t come with predetermined solutions. We want to know your hopes and your challenges so that we can find the opportunities. We are Determined. You have goals and we want to help you achieve them. Sometimes the best route isn’t the quickest or even the easiest, but you will always get the best we can offer to guide you towards success.

In addition to being public space managers, our company’s principals also maintain the same sensibilities as the business and community interests we serve.

We are...

  • Downtown property owners that want to see our investments grow
  • Special assessment payers that want to see clean and safe streets
  • Current and former small business owners who know the work never stops
  • BID board members that want solid work plans and good governance
  • Evening and weekend warriors, volunteering in the communities that we serve
Chris Bernardo

Chris Bernardo

President & Chief Executive Officer

Jerry Blankman

Jerry Blankman

Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

Beth Anne Macdonald

Beth Anne Macdonald

Director of Community Planning & Development

Danielle Russell

Danielle Russell

Creative Placemaking and Communications Manager

Daniel J. McGinley

Daniel J. McGinley

Senior Strategist

Matt Christensen

Matt Christensen

Senior Operations Manager

Rudy Kucukyantiryan

Rudy Kucukyantiryan

Senior Operations Manager

Fred K. Harrington

Fred K. Harrington

Quality of Life Public Safety Manager

Debbie D. Mangual

Debbie D. Mangual

Public Events Manager

Paula Pinto

Paula Pinto

Administrative Assistant

Chris Bernardo

Chris Bernardo

President & Chief Executive Officer

Chris has loved downtowns for as long as he can remember. As a teen, he spent weekends jumping on and off the train to walk the downtowns along the Northeast Corridor, amazed at how a transit system can connect communities, creating new opportunities for work and exploration. Among his early favorite places to wander were Rahway, Elizabeth, Newark and of course Jersey City – all communities that he has proudly served with CDS.

Chris took his early love of downtowns to college with him, graduating from Montclair State University with a degree in Political Science and then taking the chance to “Be the Greater Good”, spending a year in Montana with the national service organization AmeriCorps. During that time, he spent time building trails and improving public amenities within Yellowstone Park and developed a community service program for at-risk youth in downtown Billings, with a focus on cleaning and maintaining sidewalks and public spaces.

Through CDS, Chris has been able to fully realize his devotion to downtowns. Focusing on communities that are fiercely committed to preserving character and sense of place; Chris works with stakeholders to co-create a vision that is grounded in the practical yet expansive enough to be transformative. He believes it is sometimes the smallest project that can ignite the biggest change.

In his role as President & CEO, Chris believes the greatest strength of CDS resides within a team that brings their heart and soul into every community they work with. Each staff member at Commercial District Services is passionate about improving the communities where they are invited to serve. Clients know that they will always have an ally; ready to answer their call, roll up their sleeves and advocate tirelessly for their success.

When Chris is not busy working to improve the districts of his clients, he and his wife can be found walking with their two children in other downtowns throughout the region, taking photos, finding new restaurants and visiting parks. He also volunteers on several community boards and committees, including: West Caldwell Planning Board, Project Main Street- Caldwell, Downtown New Jersey, and the Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce.

Favorite Quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

Jerry Blankman

Jerry Blankman

Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

Jerry’s approach to business and public space management can be traced back to his roots in Jersey City. One could say that small business runs in the family. As a child, Jerry remembers listening to stories of his grandmother immigrating from Russia to the United States as a young girl and eventually owning a candy store in an area now located within the Journal Square business district. Growing up, he spent most of his afternoons and weekends next to his dad working in their own family pharmacy, a hub of neighborhood life.

Jerry credits this time spent with father as having a profound influence on not only his strong work ethic but his desire to tend to the well-being of those around him; first in keeping with family tradition as a pharmacy owner and now as the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of CDS.

In his current role, Jerry is the heart of CDS, managing the day to day resources and ensuring overall client satisfaction. Jerry works closely with the CDS management team to develop and implement plans for the operational infrastructure of systems, processes, and personnel to successfully meet the growing needs of clients.

Jerry’s greatest sense of accomplishment at work comes from delivering operations and management expertise to every client on a consistent basis, no matter what the size of the project. From developing a district wide sanitation project to meeting with a business owner to discuss replacing a sign, Jerry takes the time to focus on the goals of the stakeholder, ensuring that each client feels seen and heard.

When not keeping the CDS staff focused on delivering outstanding customer service to clients, Jerry loves to spend time outside hiking with his wife and two sons. Jerry loves to cook for family gatherings and no amount of snow can keep him away from the backyard grill.

Favorite Quote: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” —Jim Valvano

Beth Anne Macdonald

Beth Anne Macdonald

Director of Community Planning & Development

An anthropologist at heart and also by training, Beth Anne gets to wake up every day and do what she always wanted to do when she grew up – study people, the places they spend time in and the culture they create. Because getting to “know place” is fundamental to any place-making endeavor, Beth Anne spends a lot of time in the field observing how people are affected by the built environment and studying the many different ways they engage with it.

She brings her love of all things culture-related to each new project, examining how the “power of place” is created by the perceptions, experiences and stories created by those who participate in and give life to a particular place. She considers her work especially vital in this time of increased displacement due to natural disasters, migration and economic upheaval when a sense of place is lost or must be recreated.

Knowing that language demonstrates and influences how we think about place, Beth Anne enjoys asking a lot of questions and is an attentive listener when meeting with stakeholders. She believes that deep listening is fundamental to gaining a better understanding of current conditions and fostering the collaborative environment necessary for creating a future based on the shared story of many voices.

When not quietly observing the daily life of a community, she can be found on her front porch reading a book, on the water kayaking or in the mountains of upstate New York or northern Maine.

Favorite Quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver

Danielle Russell

Danielle Russell

Creative Placemaking and Communications Manager

Danielle studied music and music theory before she felt the call to urban planning – making placemaking a perfect fit for her extensive creative talents. Danielle uses her artistic sensibility to elevate client branding through graphic design and always looks to enhance the user experience when considering public space projects. Danielle is a keen listener and strives to find the perfect pitch between innovation and practicality with every project.

Danielle became interested in the built environment early on growing up in Hillside, NJ where she would walk to the community pool, often stopping for Portuguese food on the way home with her brothers or watching her high school marching band pass by her house Saturday mornings under a canopy of street trees. Those fond memories have turned into a career focusing on the psychology of public space and how light and sound affects how we think, feel and behave.

When Danielle isn’t thinking about how to improve lives through design, she still loves to swim and write music. Her favorite spot is on the beach with a notebook and her guitar.

Favorite Quote: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Albert Einstein

Daniel J. McGinley

Daniel J. McGinley

Senior Strategist

Dan has a degree in Civil Engineering and over 40 years of not-for-profit corporation management experience including as Director of Education Activities for the American Society of Civil Engineers and Executive Director for the Institute for Professional Practice. Through his work, he has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with specific exposure to architectural, civil and construction engineering projects.

Dan’s parents were first-generation Americans and he was born and raised in Newark, NJ. Education and family were always important, and Dan grew up with much of his family living near-by. He attended elementary school with several cousins and many members of his extended family still reside in his current community of Verona.

When not generating a lot of documentation requiring electronic and paper filing, Dan sits as Chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment in Verona, keeping him current on issues of urban planning and development. He also enjoys home renovations and improvements and reading (especially finance magazines).

Favorite Quote: To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Matt Christensen

Matt Christensen

Senior Operations Manager

With a degree in psychology, Matt is an expert in customer service. His approach to work is to live by the “Golden Rule”, always treating people how he would want to be treated in any given situation. Whether training a new CDS ambassador, meeting clients to solve a problem or interacting with a member of the public, Matt knows that trust is built from a positive experience that leads to a positive association that grows into a strong relationship over time.

Matt shares his love of the outdoors by tirelessly improving every public space project he manages. Most days he can be found leading his team in repairing public amenities, removing graffiti and coordinating sanitation efforts.

Matt grew up spending summers on Long Beach Island, so when he is not leading his clean team ambassadors, he can be found down the shore, saltwater fishing and boating.

Favorite quote: “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Rudy Kucukyantiryan

Rudy Kucukyantiryan

Senior Operations Manager

Rudy’s career began in the hospitality industry and it shows in everything he does. From analyzing data to designing a new flower installation or overseeing a maintenance program, Rudy’s goal in managing projects is to create a warm and friendly environment, working closely with stakeholders to ensure the vision comes to life through a spirit of collaboration.

Rudy has a degree in International Business and has owned several businesses throughout his career, providing him a solid foundation in management and a talent for developing strong customer relationships. Rudy credits his dad’s entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic and devotion to family as significant influences in his own approach to life.

When Rudy isn’t facilitating successful stakeholder relationships, he can be found enjoying being anywhere outside with his wife and their 3 dogs, fishing with friends or enjoying some delicious chicken parm.

Favorite Quote: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” —Mae West

 

Fred K. Harrington

Fred K. Harrington

Quality of Life Public Safety Manager

In his role as Quality of Life Public Safety Manager, Fred offers his boundless positive energy and a quick smile to motivate his team no matter what challenges the day might bring. Born, raised and still firmly rooted in Jersey City, Fred loves the faster pace of urban life but knows that it is essential to slow down and pay attention to detail whether that means noticing new graffiti or offering aid to someone in need.

With a Master’s degree in Public Administration and deep experience working within the New Jersey prison system, Fred makes treating everyone with patience and dignity a cornerstone of his approach to working within the public space realm. He credits his parents with instilling within him an abiding legacy of love, morals, integrity and laughter that he shares with not only his own children and family but all those he encounters.

When not improving the quality of public space, Fred loves to hang out with his kids, check out the latest issue of Car & Driver or spend the afternoon out on the green, swinging a golf club.

Favorite Quote: Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves, are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. –Colin Powell

Debbie D. Mangual

Debbie D. Mangual

Public Events Manager

Debbie’s unique background combines corporate jewelry sales and an entrepreneurial spirit which comes from watching her mom participate in street markets and events as a young girl in Jackson Heights, Queens. Following her mother’s example, she developed a passion for helping entrepreneurs and creating exciting new events.

Debbie helped to lead the first outdoor recurring pop-up event called “6th Borough Market” in Downtown JC and in 2015, she founded the Artist & Maker Market, a Jersey City based pop-up event company, expanding from six markets to now over 90 markets a year. She proudly considers herself a successful businesswoman, just like her mom.

Debbie uses events to build collaborative relationships between diverse stakeholders and creatively reclaim the value of public space. When not bringing people together in plazas, streets and sidewalks, Debbie can be found in her art studio painting or making jewelry or spending time with her husband and fur baby.

Favorite Quote: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” —Anais Nin

Paula Pinto

Paula Pinto

Administrative Assistant

With over 15 years as an office manager, Paula knows how to keep things organized even on the busiest of days. She is the cheerful voice on the phone answering questions and taking detailed messages and the friendly face greeting guests at the office. Her easy-going personality allows staff to stay focused and motivated when each day brings something new and sometimes unexpected.

Paula grew up in Angola, Africa and moved to the United States with her family to the Ironbound section of Newark at age 11 to avoid the unrest of civil war. As a young child coming to the United States, she had to quickly adapt to an unfamiliar environment and learn a new language. This experience left her with a passion to make others feel welcome at every opportunity.

Fondly remembering her childhood delight of seeing snow for the first time, Paula loves to celebrate the seasons, especially anything winter related. When she is not taking care of her co-workers, Paula loves to spend time visiting her daughters, cooking and walking her dog.

Favorite Quote: She rose against all odds. “Long live the rose that grew from concrete” —Tupac Shakur