Choosing the De Blasio Administration’s Parks Commissioner

A letter sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris —

February 11, 2014

Dear Deputy Mayor Shorris:

I understand that Prospect Park Alliance’s Emily Lloyd is being considered for the post of Parks Commissioner in the De Blasio administration.

I am not in favor of Ms. Lloyd’s appointment as our next Parks Commissioner. I feel strongly that Ms. Lloyd’s appointment would signal continued support of former Mayor Bloomberg’s privatization of our public spaces – and we’d never be able to get away from this overused, unwelcome model! While Ms. Lloyd may have positives about her, in her time heading up the Prospect Park Alliance, she closed the boathouse to the public on weekends to rent it out for weddings and functions; she repeatedly allowed large corporations and promoters to use the Nethermead which limited access to park goers and left long lasting damage to the grounds. The Great Googa Mooga is just one example; when people protested this usage of the park, there was an incredible lack of responsiveness from her private organization. That is not what we want to see at our city’s Parks Department.

We need to shift it away from the privatized and non-responsive model former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe pushed and Veronica White and Liam Kavanagh have continued. The De Blasio administration can be at the forefront of this shift.

I have been uncovering via my blog what went on at Washington Square Park with a private conservancy created behind closed doors over two years and pushed through based on deceptions and lies in which Bloomberg Administration’s Parks Department officials played a key role. I reached out to Bill de Blasio as Public Advocate and he had his office look into this (unfortunately, the Parks Department’s response to his letter took so long that, at that point, he was transitioning to be Mayor!). I FOILed and obtained copious amounts of information about how the Parks Department colluded to keep things from the community which had long resisted the conservancy model at Wash Sq Park. This private group came before the public saying “we’re not really a conservancy” while 501(c)(3) documents and internal emails outlined that not only were they attempting to be one, but, in fact, planned to become a full blown one. Park advocates are tired of this model. Currently, the community around Wash Sq Park is trying to push this back. I would welcome the De Blasio administration discussing with me what could be done about this situation.

Privatization of our public spaces again and again leads to: less transparency, less accountability, decreased public access, change in usage, increased commercialization and corporatization, and allows affluent, real estate and corporate interests to take hold. (Bryant Park, anyone?)

New York City needs a Parks Commissioner who will create a new model to fund our parks and not be stuck in Mayor Bloomberg’s old model; we have an opportunity to lead the way for other cities on what public space means, how important it is, and why it should be funded by our government and not handed over to private entities and interests in the way that it has been over the last twenty years or more.

Who your administration chooses is so very important — I hope you will look to other candidates than Emily Lloyd.

I write the Washington Square Park Blog (an independent, hyper-local site) and have written about privatization of public space (“Privatization of the Commons in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York”) at the Huffington Post. Bill de Blasio was my City Councilperson for a long time and we worked together on environmental issues in Brooklyn and continued contact during his time as Public Advocate.

Thank you so much.


Cathryn Swan
writer/blogger, publicist, advocate

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Who Will be the Next NYC Parks Commissioner? Veronica White Quietly Departs To Join Bloomberg L.P., Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh Takes the Reins – For Now? January 10, 2014

Was Manhattan Parks Commish Response to Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate “Concerns” about Private Conservancy at WSP Truthful or Manipulative? January 15, 2014

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7 thoughts on “Choosing the De Blasio Administration’s Parks Commissioner”

  1. Beautifully put Cathryn. I am in complete agreement. I have nothing personal again Emily Lloyd. I met her within the first week of her current appointment in Prospect Park while she was assessing the horrible garbage situation around the Vanderbilt Playground area. She seemed very willing to listen. But her policies and execution of policies and politics surrounding the park have disappointed me greatly. For that very reason, I think this new appointment would be a failure to those who love, utilize, advocate and volunteer for the park.

  2. Hi Randi,

    Thank you! And thanks for relaying your experience with Emily Lloyd. She may have been in a tough situation but … still. Things didn’t have to be the way they were. And she represents Bloomberg and his policies at this point.

    Hi Ivan,

    Someone flagged me on this and there also was a NY Daily News piece (which I just saw yesterday!) about this. The piece is here:


  3. Holy crap. My worst nightmare. Are they serious? From what I hear she is responsive to no one. Can’t we get someone who knows something about PARKS??

  4. As a practical matter, the rotation of the Parks director will be seen by some as an opportunity for political cover for the WSPC. Doubtless some CB2 people will say the CB can’t take any definitive stand on the whole matter until the new Commissioner has reviewed the situation.

    But I think CB2 can actually take a stand that is independent of any opinion of a future Parks Commissioner.

    CB2 can pass a resolution

    whereas the prior conservancy approval was not provided with accurate information of the conservancy plans at the time of review in June 2013,

    and whereas the currently visible scope of plans and roles of the WSPC in fact diverges significantly from the plans and roles presented to the CB last June,

    therefore the prior CB2 conditional approval of the Conservancy cannot not be considered to be standing at this time.

  5. GVreader,

    Sorry for the delay and well stated – succinct and accurate.

    Update to Ann and others,

    If you missed it, Emily Lloyd has been made Commissioner of DEP (a position she had held before going to Prospect Park Alliance) – not Parks! So that ‘threat’ has been removed but we don’t know who will be at the helm still. Hopefully the letters helped. Thanks again Seth!



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