Queens should lead the city on being green-friendly

Mayor Bill de Blasio (r.) introduces new city Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver earlier this month. Photo by Rob Bennett/mayor's office
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There is a tendency among too many public officials these days to ignore or denigrate the good work their predecessors may have done. I fear our new mayor is an example of that. That does not make for effective governing.

As spring has arrived, the mayor at last named a new city Parks commissioner. Mitchell J. Silver, a native of Brooklyn who called Prospect Park his front yard, is a well-known urban planner who recently served as president of the American Planning Association.

He is a graduate of Pratt Institute and has a master’s in urban planning from Hunter College. He worked for the city for some years, had a private practice that involved New York City projects and was a top planning official in Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, N.C.

Adrian Benepe, the city’s longest-serving Parks commissioner, is now a top executive in the prestigious and effective Trust for Public Land, but he continues to live and work in New York and is involved in the study of what to do with the forgotten spur of the Long Island Rail Road. During his tenure, he had fine support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Let us hope that kind of help from City Hall will continue.

During Benepe’s tenure, we had the largest program of park improvements and renovations since the days of Robert Moses in the 1930s. Volunteers, civic organizations and community groups aided the effort. We are nearing the end of the Million Tree Project.

Benepe once said, “What separates a great city from an OK city are great parks and public spaces.”

We have many of these in Queens but not nearly enough, and keeping them usable and inviting is a constant job.

Parks serves 29,000 acres, 730 added in the last decade. There are more than 1,000 playgrounds, 660 ballfields, 550 tennis courts, 63 swimming pools, 35 recreation centers, 14 miles of beaches and more than 2,500,000 street and park trees.

Imagine if every one of those had local people helping to care for them all. Queens has been a place of civic involvement. Every sitting area, every greenspace — large or small — should have that kind of concern for its existence.

The new Parks commissioner — backed by the mayor — should make it a priority to get that kind of civic engagement throughout the city. There should not be a Tale of Two Cities about the greenery we all need.

In this respect, Queens could lead the way in showing what civic involvement can do.

Let’s start, for example, with all the greenspaces around Borough Hall — once all the construction is finished, of course. Let’s get that fountain going again, even without Civic Virtue guarding it.

Let’s look at places like Atlantic Avenue, which cuts through so much of our borough and could use a good deal of green help. All the communities along that route, working together, could make it a green boulevard.

It can be done. It should be done.

But will it?

We are a great city. In my jingoistic view, the greatest in the universe. Let’s show it in our greenspaces. In One Greener and Greener city.

As Benepe commented on Silver’s appointment, he said of the mayor’s comments about inequity, “If there is a perceived lack of equity in how funding is spread around, that’s easy to fix. It can be done by the mayor talking to the Parks commissioner.”

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Reader Feedback

al from rh says:
April 8, 2014, 11:58 am
Tom Fox from Breezy Point says:
Good point Ken.

However, civic engagement must be supported by the administration to be as effective as possible. we must also fight the tendency for the Goverment to take us for granted and further reduce park spending.
April 10, 2014, 8:33 am

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