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Inspiring People: Mitchell Silver, Commissioner of the New York Parks Department



You know how you admire someone’s work from afar for years, hear all kinds of wonderful things about them, meet them once, and twice and over and over, and continue to learn more? That’s how I feel about the inspiring person I’ve chosen for this week, Mitchell Sliver, FAICP, Commissioner of the New York Parks Department (and a litany of other things).

This is Inspiring People, the Sunday feature of the The Black Urbanist where I highlight people in the placemaking space who are inspiring and why they are. Before we get back into the meat of the post, just a reminder that The Black Urbanist is powered by Bluehost.  Check them out and they’ll get you started with everything you need about web hosting and blog making. They’ve kept me going right here for the past 4 years and counting.

I first met Mr. Sliver at N.C. State’s wonderful Urban Design conference back in 2011. I’d published the Grist article, been invited to CNU 19 and I was still reaching folks here and there on Twitter and Facebook. One of those people I’d reached was Mary Newsom, who at the time was still writing for the Charlotte Observer on placemaking and is now at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute (and inspiring on her own). She brought me over to meet him and that’s when I found out he was also a black urbanist.

Fast forward to CNU 20 in West Palm Beach. I attended conference sessions and shared meals with Mitch, at his first CNU. After that time, I felt like I’d gained an uncle in the planning space. I cheered him on as he handled the reigns of the American Planning Association. I looked on from afar as he continued to make Raleigh a better place. I heard him give one of his famous speeches at the 2013 NCSU Urban Design Conference. I was sad, but happy, like everyone else as he became parks commissioner of his hometown, New York City, earlier this year. In his official bio, his new mayor has this to say about him:

“He has a passion for fairness and equality, and he brings it to the work of government, and understands that we have to ensure that parks and open spaces are available in every community, and are well-maintained in every community in this city.”

Oh and Mayor DeBlasio called him a visionary.

It is that vision that inspires me and countless other planners, placemakers, park people and others in the space of making place to value his knowledge and his intellect not just for New York City parks and Raleigh but anywhere else he’s worked and taught and spoken.  In addition, he is a shining example of black achievement and proof that despite our small numbers in the field, we still know how to make an impact.

Read his official bio here.

And this nice profile of the work he’s been doing in New York as parks commissioner.

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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