Raleigh’s chief planner to lead NYC parks department

From staff reportsMarch 21, 2014 

Mitchell Silver, director of Raleigh’s planning department, was named the new head of New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation Friday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement with Silver in tow at Seward Park. “No one is more qualified to usher in a new era of expanded access and sustainability than Mitchell Silver,” de Blasio said in a news release. “With Silver at the helm of (the parks department), we’re confident that every neighborhood park, in each of our boroughs, will be well-maintained, safe and easily accessible.”

Raleigh leaders congratulated Silver on the new job and said he’ll leave big shoes to fill here. “Mitchell has provided transformational planning leadership over his nine years of service to the City of Raleigh,” city manager Ruffin Hall said. “Much of the recent development success in our community can be attributed to Mitchell’s vision and ideas.”

Silver’s departure will mean the first big hire for Hall, who’s been on the job for just a few months. He’s responsible for selecting Silver’s successor. Hall said he doesn’t yet know when Silver will leave the planning department, but he’s appointed deputy planning director Ken Bowers as interim director.

Silver, 53, has worked in Raleigh since 2005, but is well regarded in city planning circles throughout the country after his recent stint as president of the American Planning Association from 2011 to 2013.

He’s also no stranger to New York City: he went to high school in Brooklyn; has a degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and a master’s degree in urban planning from Hunter College; and his resume includes time as a policy and planning director for the city as well as principal of a planning firm there.

Silver has not returned calls seeking comment but was quoted in a news release from de Blasio’s office Friday. “I’m honored to lead the department as we pursue the mayor’s vision for equal and expanded quality access to parkland in every neighborhood,” Silver said in the release, noting de Blasio’s plans to make parks in poorer neighborhoods comparably to those of wealthy areas.

New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation oversees 29,000 acres of parkland and 1,900 parks.

In January, Silver was reported to be on Mayor de Blasio’s short list of candidates to lead the NYC Planning Commission, but that post went to Carl Weisbrod.

Parks advocates in New York are backing the choice of Silver. “From what I understand, he’s very much into community-based planning and consultation, which would be an enormous departure from the Bloomberg administration,” Geoffrey Croft, the head of NYC Parks Advocates, told the New York Daily News. “We would certainly welcome those qualities.”

In Raleigh, Silver led months of hearings and meetings to develop a new zoning code that city leaders approved last year. And in recent months, he’s headed the launch of a new downtown planning process to shape the city center for the next decade.

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