De Blasio names parks chief to address 'inequalities'

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces his new Parks Commissioner Mitch Silver in Seward Park in lower Manhattan on March 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

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Mayor Bill de Blasio, vowing to address "the inequalities in our parks," Friday appointed a Brooklyn-born urban planner working in North Carolina to oversee the city's 29,000-acre Parks and Recreation Department.

Mitchell Silver, Raleigh's chief planner, has also worked as a deputy planning director in the nation's capital and business administrator for Irvington, N.J.

"I can tell you -- I don't use the word lightly -- he is a visionary," the mayor said. "He's someone who has devoted his career to thinking about where we need to go, and then finding ways to get it done."

Silver, 53, assumes control of an agency in charge of 14 percent of New York City land, consisting of more than 5,000 properties, including Central Park, Coney Island's beach, Prospect Park, pools, recreation centers and numerous community gardens.

De Blasio said the administration is mulling over a proposal by State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) to redistribute 20 percent of donations received by well-endowed park conservancies, such as Central Park's, to other parks that are in a state of disrepair.

Silver said the idea is worth "a conversation."

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"There are probably many ways to get there, but I think we all agree that to have a successful parks system in our city, it has to be a great parks system throughout the entire city," he said.

One of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's parks commissioners, Adrian Benepe, last year likened the plan to "stealing money from nonprofit organizations."

City Council Parks Committee chairman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) lamented what he called "a two-tiered park system" and praised Silver's appointment as an antidote.

"This is clearly a man who understands the principle of equity," Levine said.

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