New Deputy Park Administrator Named at Washington Square Park

William Morrison

A new Deputy Park Administrator, William Morrison, has been chosen by the New York City Parks Department for Washington Square Park, and is now in place, after the staggered departure over this year of the former Park Administrator. Morrison has worked for the Parks Department for the last six years in the Marketing & Citywide Special Events division.

The job was only advertised ‘internally’; numerous queries to the Parks Department press office about what was happening with the position went unanswered until earlier this week.

Unlike his predecessor, George Vellonakis, Morrison will not also work for the private conservancy – a welcome shift.

Following is NYC Parks Department announcement on the hiring and some additional history related to the position and what it means for Washington Square Park.

From NYC Parks:

A dedicated Parkie, we are happy to share that after a competitive internal search, William Morrison has been promoted to deputy park administrator for Washington Square Park.

William Morrison CV – Deputy Park Administrator

William Morrison has spent six years working at NYC Parks in the Marketing & Citywide Special Events division, where he has served as the Senior Manager for the past three years. In this role he managed over one hundred special events annually ranging from music festivals and parades to commercial activations and political demonstrations, executed citywide marketing campaigns for agency and mayoral initiatives, developed and maintained sponsor relationships, managed the NYC Parks merchandise program from design to point of sale, and balanced budgets as the financial officer for his division.

More recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, his role expanded to include the management of emergency projects such as coordinating an emergency field hospital deployed to Central Park, distributing over one million face masks to seventy NYC Parks sites across the five boroughs for public consumption, and facilitating the production and distribution of COVID-19 signage across all NYC Parks properties.

William earned his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College majoring in both Political Science and Urban Studies. As a native New Yorker, William developed a long standing and deep connection with the public space in NYC Parks’ care while growing up and is incredibly excited to manage one of its crown jewels – Washington Square Park. He currently resides in the East Village with his wife Renée. In his spare time he is an avid film photographer, hiker, camper, skier, and fan of live music.

History of Recent Washington Square Park Administrators

The Washington Square Park Administrator, an employee of the NYC Parks Department, oversees, coordinates and manages the functioning of this iconic park.

In early 2008, when Washington Square Park Blog began, Rebecca Ferguson was the Park Administrator; she started around that time. Ferguson left in 2012; it took nine months before Sarah Neilson was brought on board in March 2013. Neilson was the face of ushering in a private “conservancy” to raise funds for the park in what can only be described as a “murky” “process.” Neilson said she needed to also be “Executive Director” of this new conservancy – in a controversial “dual role” – as it enabled her to “share news about the park.” (As if they could not receive information otherwise.)

The community and park users have had a long history of activism in preserving the park from privatization and corporate influence and did not want a private conservancy that ran or had influence over the park so this was quite a contentious development.

(If you are not familiar with the history, visit this page.)

Neilson left the positions abruptly in November 2016.

Nonetheless, Washington Square Park has remained run and managed by the New York City Parks Department.

George Vellonakis 2005

In May 2017, Washington Square Park’s controversial redesigner, George Vellonakis, was ‘hired’ for the job. He was also dubbed “Executive Director” of Washington Square Park Conservancy, and, perhaps the reason he was placed in the position, he blurred many lines between the public and private roles. Washington Square Park Blog received a tip that Vellonakis was leaving early 2020, yet it was only revealed in June that Vellonakis had been “on leave” since January and planned “retirement” in the fall.

With the now confirmed arrival of new Deputy Park Administrator William Morrison, hopefully, the public and private lines can be separated as they have previously been and is in the best interest of this very public space.

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Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Washington Square Redesigner/Admin George Vellonakis has Left the Building – What Will This Mean for the Park? June 26, 2020

Park Re-designer George Vellonakis Appointed New Washington Square Administrator May 15, 2017

Washington Square Park Seeks New Park Administrator | Time to Separate Public Park Positions from Private Conservancies November 11, 2016

Washington Square Park Administrator Job Posting 2012 & 2016

Documentation: What was Concealed in Public Statements by Washington Square Park Private Conservancy Founders

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