Obituary of Mary S. Hommann

April 20, 2022

Mary Hommann, a city planner who was a pioneer in the establishment of homeowner rehabilitation as a significant component of a local plan, died on April 20, 2022. She was 99. She also pioneered as a woman in a traditionally male profession in 1958-65 when she was director of the acclaimed Wooster Square Neighborhood Renewal Project in New Haven, Connecticut. There she worked with the redoubtable Mayor Richard C. Lee, as well as such distinguished urban professionals as Thomas Appleby, Melvin J. Adams, and Edward J. Logue. In 1965 the city published Wooster Square Design, a book written by Ms. Hommann, describing the planning and renewal of the area.

Ms. Hommann received her Master of City Planning degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1956. As Assistant Chairman of Pratt Institute's Department of City and Regional Planning in Brooklyn (1965-71), she helped improve and broaden the curriculum, working with Chairman George M. Raymond, another action-oriented visionary.

In the 1970s she was, in this order: principal of her own consulting firm, Hommann Associates; Development Planning Director for the City of Yonkers; and Planning Director for the City of Long Beach, New York.

Based on discussions with fellow planners over the years, Ms. Hommann became deeply concerned about the powerlessness of city planning in America, especially as compared to strong governmental planning control in such countries as Sweden, France, and Great Britain. Thus in 1993 Praeger published her book, City Planning in America, Between Promise and Despair in which she traced the history of American development and that of city planning in order to identify the inability of the profession to play a significant role in actual urban development. At the time Melvin J. Adams wrote: "This is a thoughtful book, filled with common sense pragmatism, fierce optimism, unadulterated outrage, and gentle humor. It should be read, not just by planners, but by everyone interested in our metropolitan areas." Several authors of her generation produced significant works on urban affairs, but she was one of the very few with actual executive experience in the city planning profession.

Mary Hommann is survived by her foster daughter Beverly A. Reith, her nieces Muriel J. Murray and Constance Thibaut, her nephew Charles Thibaut, Ann H. Gullen, Christopher Hayden, and William Hayden.

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