New York City Parks Commissioner Veronica White mysteriously and quietly departed without any fanfare at the end of 2013. During her brief one and a half years tenure in the position, she didn’t really have an opportunity to delve in too much; former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was so larger than life in a sense and had also held the job for a decade, she could only continue what he had started. As of now, she’s gone and Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh is acting as Parks Commissioner.
It has been reported that certain Commissioners will remain with the de Blasio Administration temporarily until replacements are found. Nothing, to date, has been said with regards to the Parks Commissioner. The only reference I’d found until today was a somewhat obscure Rockaways publication, The Wave, which reported that Parks Commissioner Veronica White had departed and Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanaugh had taken over - for now, I presume.
At a parks conference in November, I spoke with both Commissioner White and Deputy Commissioner Kavanagh. Ms. White was somewhat distant, let’s say. Commissioner Kavanagh was more engaged but he worries me: clearly he was involved in Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro’s manipulating the public in installing a private conservancy at Washington Square Park. In addition, at the City Council hearing on oversight of conservancies (the screen shot above is from that appearance), Kavanagh told a few mistruths, shall we say?
A Walk in the Park Blog confirms today that Kavanagh is running the show and reports further that White wished to continue on as Parks Commissioner. When it became clear that would not happen, she “landed” a job with Bloomberg L.P. Interesting, how that works. White seemed thrilled to have the Parks Commissioner job when she first began; she called it her “dream job.”
It is unclear what Mayor Bill de Blasio intends to do with that position. A query sent to the City Hall press office on the matter went unanswered.
From A Walk in the Park Blog, Parks Commish Veronica White Lands Job With Bloomberg After Lobbying Efforts to Stay Failed:
Parks Commissioner Veronica White quietly left the agency on December 31 and landed a job at Bloomberg L.P. after lobbying efforts to stay on failed NYC Park Advocates has learned.
Sources say Ms. White had attempted to enlist the help of several prominent people including DC 37 head Lillian Roberts to lobby the new administration but those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
No public announcement was made regarding her departure and Ms. White did not send out a customary Broadcast email announcement to all parks employees. Instead she sent an email to upper management on Dec. 31st thanking them and stating it was her last day according to several park employees.
Ms. White began her employment the following day on Jan. 1 at Bloomberg L. P. as chief of staff to Thomas Secunda, Vice Chairman & Global Head of Financial Products & Services, and a founding partner of Bloomberg L.P.
“She was more of a figure head,” said a long-time parks employee of White’s sixteen month tenure, and speaking on the condition of condition of anonymity.
“Liam’s been running the agency since Adrian left,” the employee said.
First Deputy Commissioner for Parks Liam Kavanagh has also been the Acting Parks Commissioner since Ms. White’s departure.
“We have a great operating budget,” Veronica White embarrassingly testified in September, a view consistently shared by Adrian Benepe who was fond of calling the funding “robust.”
Ms. White was out on sick leave for several months this spring.
When her appointment was announced she called the position, “truly the most important and great job that I could ever hope to have.” When asked what her top priorities and goals were she stressed the need to make sure that all parks in in all boroughs were maintained. “As we increase the parkland obviously we have to increase the resources available public and private – especially the private – for each of these parks we are creating as well as the existing parks,” she said emphasizing the reliance on private funds.
Former long-time Parks head Henry Stern complained about her lack of parks background at the time and compared the situation to Schools Chancellor Catherine Black.
Veronica applied for the Parks Commissioner job once before, shortly after Mayor Bloomberg was elected in 2001.
Before joining the Parks Department, White worked for Bloomberg as the first executive director of the mayor’s anti-poverty Center for Economic Opportunity a program he created in 2006 that reportedly used $100 million annually in public and private funds.
White is perhaps best known for her controversial anti-poverty ventures, including an initiative to pay poor people to attend parent-teacher conferences and a program to take kids to the dentist.
Ms. White began at Parks’ on August 30, 2012 after the position was vacated by Adrian Benepe who held the job from February 4, 2002 to August 29, 2012. Benepe finally wore out his welcome from the Bloomberg administration and was summarily told to find employment elsewhere according to several City sources.
Benepe landed a job at The Trust for Public Land, a partner organization in the Mayor’s PLANYC Schoolyards To Playgrounds Initiative.
Note: A commenter at A Walk in the Park Blog added this comment:
I do not know what “sources” were polled for this article, but I worked very closely with Commissioner White and never in my career was there a more dedicated hard working and inspirational individual than her! She was hardly a “figure head” and actively involved in everything Parks! She was on “sick” leave for only a few short weeks but on the phone every day with her staff, our agency and City Hall. We need more people like Ms. White in City Government, I will miss her.
Previously at WSP Blog:
NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica White Appears Before City Council Parks Committee Misinformed About “Evolution” of Conservancy at Washington Square | Parks Department Says “No Danger” NYU will “Take Over” The Park September 27, 2013