March 9, 2021 By Christina Santucci
The city’s Parks Commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver, announced Tuesday that he will be stepping down after nearly seven years of leading the department.
Silver had been appointed as commissioner by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014 and oversaw the completion of more than 800 capital projects — representing $1.85 billion.
Silver said he planned to leave in late spring or early summer and join a civil engineering and land planning firm based in North Carolina. He will split his time between New York and North Carolina.
During his tenure, officials sought to make the parks system more equitable and inclusive by using a data-driven approach to allocate resources to underserved communities.
Silver oversaw the Community Parks Initiative, a $318 million program to improve 67 city parks in densely-populated and growing neighborhoods with higher-than-average concentrations of poverty. The initiative included 10 parks in Queens, which were in areas such as Corona, Astoria, downtown Flushing and the Rockaways.
The commissioner also stewarded the Anchor Parks initiative, a $150 million investment in five large neighborhood parks that serve as focal points, or anchors, of the communities where they are located. One of the Achor Parks was Astoria Park, which received $30 million for an upgrade.
In November, the Parks Department marked Black Solidarity Day by renaming 10 parks — two in Queens — for Black men and women. East Elmhurst Playground became the Helen Marshall Playground, in honor of the first African American borough president in Queens. Underhill Playground in Fresh Meadows was renamed the Ella Fitzgerald Playground, to honor the legendary jazz singer who had lived in Addisleigh Park.
Silver also sought to streamline the capital process, which includes the design, procurement and construction of parks. The Parks Department had finished 843 projects during his tenure — as of January 2021. Officials also said that the agency completed nearly 84 percent of projects on budget and 88 percent on time.
In a statement, Silver thanked de Blasio “ for giving me the privilege to help transform NYC Parks and our parks system; making them more equitable, inclusive and resilient over the past seven years.”
The Parks commissioner also expressed his gratitude to the department’s leadership and staff.
“Serving as commissioner has been the highest honor of my career. I also thank my colleagues in government, conservancy partners and volunteers for making this job the best experience of my life,” he said.
De Blasio has yet to announce Silver’s replacement.