Adrian Benepe, the Parks and Recreation Commissioner who helmed the Department for a decade, is leaving to go work at the Trust for Public Land, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Benepe’s job will be filled by Veronica M. White, who heads New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity.
Now, there are a couple of things worth pointing out about Benepe’s tenure.
He vastly expanded the city’s park system — Bloomberg notes that he added “730 acres of new parkland,” not counting “2,000 more acres at Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island still to be added.” He was also behind the completion or creation of popular projects such as Brooklyn Bridge Park and Manhattan’s Highline. What this means is that most New Yorkers — 76.5 percent — now live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
However, he has also been criticized by artists and entertainers. Citing disorganization, Benepe began in 2010 the big push to limit the number of artists in parks.
This decision was then expanded to performers and is currently the subject of a complex and costly lawsuit between artist advocates and the city, which we’ve written about extensively.
Also, concerns abound whether Benepe should have hit up private investors for fundraising: People worried that he’s trying to privatize public parks.
White has also used private donors to generate cash for her org’s anti-poverty efforts.
We reached out the Department and to the Center’s spokesmen to see how White’s leadership might impact the artist-vendor policy, if at all — and whether Benepe’s departure is related to these legal battles. We’re also curious to know whether private fundraising will continue and what that might mean for the public. We’ll update if we hear back.
However, based upon the City’s continued insistence on fighting the (messy) vendor issue in court, we’re guessing that White probably won’t suddenly change course on this.