Rose Harvey, who for eight years helped transform the state’s parks system by making it more accessible, upgrading its facilities and connecting it with entities like Major League Baseball and the PGA, is resigning to spend more time with family, she said Friday.
But Harvey, commissioner of the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said she has no plans to slow down, as she hopes to play a bigger role in the kind of deal-making that made the grand plans she and her staff implemented a reality.
“I’m not going to retire,” she said, adding that she is not quite sure what she will do next. “But I may want to get a little closer to the deals, actual hands-on involvement — but I don’t know. I haven’t figured out what I will do because I’ve got much here to finish.”
For years, critics have said the state’s 180 parks and 35 historic sites were starved of funding, becoming dilapidated shells of the grandeur created by founders including Robert Moses.
State officials credited Harvey with breathing new life into a neglected resource.
“She oversaw the largest capital infusion in state parks in generations. She helped implement the Empire State Trail,” said Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “Both those things helped drive up tourism in every part of the state, helped foster a new generation of New Yorkers who love the outdoors.”
When finished, the Empire State Trail will stretch 750 miles from New York City to Canada and from Buffalo to Albany, according to the state website. The continuous, multiuse trail will be the nation’s longest. It is expected to be completed by 2020, the website says.
Harvey said she is ready to move on because she exits with the agency’s constellation of parks and historic sites in good shape and its caretakers with a proven plan to continue improvements.
“I love this job,” she said. “I feel that from a work perspective we’re on the way and we’ve breathed into the system a plan and there is much more to do on that plan . . . I think we have a roadmap for connecting the land and the people.”
Cuomo, whose third term begins in January, plans to have invested $900 million in public and private funds in state parks by 2020.
There are 27 state parks on Long Island and two historic sites.
“It’s just been an amazing run under, and starting with, the leadership of the governor,” Harvey said. “He gave us the support. He gave us resources and he constantly checked back and helped us get things done.”
The exact timing of Harvey’s exit was not immediately released but she said she will be staying through the transition into Cuomo’s third term.
Harvey's is the third departure announced since this month's election. Also resigning are Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.