NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has announced he is leaving the Department of Parks and Recreation for a position at the Trust for Public Land. Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement, "Adrian Benepe has done extraordinary work as Parks Commissioner leading transformative changes in every corner of New York City, and I couldn’t be prouder that he is going to lead the Trust for Public Land’s new initiative to replicate our work in cities across the country."
Benepe has been in the Bloomberg administration since the beginning, and the NY Times reports:
He was regarded as one of Mr. Bloomberg's more colorful and energetic appointees, and one who often seemed more comfortable out of the office than indoors. He oversaw the addition of 730 acres of parkland, with 2,000 more at Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island planned, according to the mayor's office. He also played a major role in the creation of new parks like Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line, and the construction of parks near the new Yankee Stadium, and Icahn Track and Field Stadium and Randalls Island Fields.
His tenure, like that of most high-ranking public officials, included some controversy. He clashed with street vendors and artists over park access, and his courtship of private funds to build and maintain public parks was viewed by some as problematic.
His replacement will be Veronica White, the founding Executive Director of New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity. Benepe said in a statement (full city press release here), "I have been fortunate to practice public service and oversee the building and maintaining of parks during an unprecedented period of interest, investment, and inspiration. With Mayor Bloomberg’s dedication to great public space and sustainable urban development, and First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris’s passion for excellence in design, public art, preservation, and programming, I could not have had stronger leadership and support."
The TPL describes itself as "the nation's leader in creating city parks and raising money for local conservation." In a recent Times article about the Parks Department's maintenance of water fountains, Benepe "conceded that, as a boy growing up on the Upper West Side, he and his friends were sometimes guilty of drinking fountain abuse. Their weapon of choice was not sand, however. 'One of our favorite tricks was to jam Popsicle sticks into the spout' so that the water would run until it was cold, he said. 'Out of guilt for that, I’ve devoted 27 years to the parks department.'"