Gone will be the miniature civic history lessons that punctuated ribbon-cutting speeches made by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. With yesterday’s announcement that the commissioner is moving on to the non-profit Trust for Public Land (TPL), the plaudits are pouring in. But as the Bloomberg Administration begins is slow-motion wind down, New Yorkers should be wary of comparisons to the “good” Robert Moses, builder of parks and playgrounds, despite the scale of public works undertaken under Bloomberg. But in terms of Parks, there is little doubt that Benepe’s tenure was historic in scope.
Now, one of the mayor’s signature initiatives—that a park be within a ten minute walk from every home—is about to go national. But will what flies in NYC fly in Louisville? “If I’ve learned one or two things in this job it’s that no one model will work for every situation,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
With nine million dollars total in prizes up for grabs, The Mayor’s Challenge simply asks for innovations in city life, a subject that’s been a growing concern for countless architects, planners, and governments worldwide. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the competition last week calling for individual designers and teams to address urban challenges from sustainability to citizen empowerment. “Every day, mayors around America are tackling increasingly complex problems with fewer and fewer resources,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Our cities are uniquely positioned to inspire and foster the innovation, creativity, and solutions needed to improve people’s lives and move America forward.”
With just a year and a half left of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure remaining, the first of his major appointees, New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, is moving on. Under Benepe, the Parks Department was transformed on a scale that approached the early tenure of Robert Moses. Since his appointment in 2002, the commissioner oversaw the largest expansion of waterfront parks like Brooklyn Bridge Park, embraced public-private partnerships as seen on the High Line, and distributed more than $250 million in Croton Water Filtration funds to small pocket parks throughout the Bronx.
Robert D. Yaro is the President of Regional Plan Association, America’s oldest independent metropolitan policy, research and advocacy group. Based in Manhattan, RPA promotes plans, policies and investments needed to improve the quality of life and competitiveness of the New York Metropolitan Region, America’s largest urban area. Mr. Yaro Co-chairs the Empire State Transportation Alliance and the Friends of Moynihan Station, and is Vice President of the Forum for Urban Design. He serves on Mayor Bloomberg’s Sustainability Advisory Board, which helped prepare PlaNYC 2030, New York City’s new long-range sustainability plan.
Since 2001 Mr. Yaro has been Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. He also taught at Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts.
He holds a Masters Degree in City and Regional Planning from Harvard University (MCRP ’76) and a Bachelors Degree in Urban Studies from Wesleyan University.