Parks Commissioner Stepping Down in Late Spring or Early Summer

Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver Image Credit: John McCarten

After a seven-year tenue, Commissioner Mitchell J Silver is stepping down in the late spring or early summer of 2021. On March 9, 2021, the Department of Parks and Recreation announced the coming departure of their Commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver. Commissioner Silver has served as the Commissioner since May 2014. He is the fourth longest serving Commissioner of the Parks Department. Commissioner Silver spent his seven-year tenure reforming and updating the park system through over 800 different capital projects.

Commissioner Silver started multiple initiatives to make the parks system more equitable and inclusive. These initiatives include:

  • Community Parks Initiative: This initiative invested $318 million in local New York City parks located in areas of higher than average poverty.
  • Anchor Parks Initiative: This initiative invested $150 million for repairs and development of Astoria Park, Highbridge Park, Betsy Head Park, St. Mary’s Park, and Freshkills Park.
  • Parks Without Borders Initiative: This initiative was a $50 million investment in changing the designs of parks to lower fences, create more entrances, and other aesthetic and design choices.

The Commissioner oversaw the completion over 800 capital projects by streamlining processes and instituting new park design policies. To address inefficiencies, Commissioner Silver implemented Red Zone meetings to resolve projects, increased the use of design templates, reduced change orders, and prioritized transparency.

The Parks department has made extensive accomplishments under Commissioner Silver’s leadership. The staff is currently managing over 500 active projects with 843 completed projects as of January 2021. Over $1.85 billion has been invested in these projects over the past 7 years. Through these projects the department has repaired and newly built 256 playgrounds, 142 paths and plazas, 55 comfort stations, 47 athletic fields, and 27 piers and waterfronts.

Under Commissioner Silver’s leadership, the Parks department has implemented new design principles into all of their projects including: Diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, resiliency, sustainability, planning, placemaking, and universal design.

Under Commissioner Silver, the Agency committed to furthering diversity and inclusiveness through external and internal changes. Internally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer was elevated, the agency met and exceeded its Minority- and Women- Owned Business Enterprise contracts, and has encouraged staff listening sessions. The agency has also launched an internal review committee to review park names and rename a tranche for Black Americans. Additionally, the Commissioner removed a moratorium to be replaced by a monument approved by the Commissioner that is depicting women: Monumental Women.

Under Commissioner Parks, two guidelines were established, the Native Species Planting Guide and the Design and Planning for Flood Resiliency. The Native Species planting guide was designed to help individuals who are designing natural green spaces to plant native plant species. The Flood Resiliency guideline was set up to help develop and renovate more coastally resilient waterfront parks.

Commissioner Silver will be joining the McAdams land planning and landscaping architecture firm as a Principal of the firm. There he will provide directional leadership and serve as an ambassador in regional and national industry events.

Mayor de Blasio stated, “Parks have offered a solace for so many New Yorkers during the darkest days of the pandemic. And no one has been a better steward for our parks than Mitchell Silver. He has overseen the improvement of parks across the five boroughs and made them a welcoming place for everyone. All New Yorkers are better off for his service.”

Commissioner Silver stated, “I thank Mayor de Blasio for giving me the privilege to help transform NYC Parks and our parks system, making them more equitable, inclusive and resilient over the past 7 years. I am grateful to have worked with the amazing NYC Parks leadership team, as well as all the dedicated Parks staff who keep our parks safe, clean and accessible, especially through this global pandemic. Serving as commissioner has been the highest honor of my career. I also thank my colleagues in government, conservancy partners and volunteers for making this job the best experience of my life.”

By: Patrick McNeill (Patrick is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


One thought on “Parks Commissioner Stepping Down in Late Spring or Early Summer

  1. The Fort Hamilton Senior Center is vital to the seniors in the Bay Ridge/Fort Hamilton Area and beyond. Yet it is closed for 440 days and there is no opening in sight except to turn it into an inappropriate children’s camp. The center was built in 1965 for SENIORS while another building in the same JJCarty park was built to have pre kindergarten children. That preK building is not unused but the Park Department is willing to keep Seniors LOCKED OUT. Medical experts say that social isolation significantly increases an older adult’s risk of premature death….there is a 50% risk for Dementia from being in isolation. Yet the Parks Department will not make the Center “Senior Citizen Ready.” It is a cooling center in the hot summer, but Parks Department is still unwilling to keep the promise to the elderly and make way to reopen the Senior Center.
    We need your help. I just spoke on the phone to a man 96 who was in WW2 ! He asked me Why do you think they are doing this to us? I had no answer.
    Can you help?
    Mari Magaldi

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