Governance Overview


This section provides an overview of the Central Park Conservancy's governance policies and practices. This section summarizes existing policies, committee responsibilities, and by-laws adopted by the Board of Trustees. This overview applies to Trustees, Committee members, senior officers, and employees of Central Park Conservancy and how they carry out their respective responsibilities.

1. THE ORGANIZATION

a. Organizational Status

Central Park Conservancy is a publicly-supported tax exempt 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

b. Mission

The mission of Central Park Conservancy is to restore, manage, and enhance Central Park in partnership with the public.

Central Park Conservancy aspires to build a great organization that sets the standard for and spreads the principles of world-class park management — emphasizing environmental excellence — to improve the quality of open space for the enjoyment of all.

Central Park Conservancy is committed to sustaining this operating model to provide a legacy for future generations of park users.

Central Park Conservancy, a private, not-for-profit organization, was formed in 1980 by a group of concerned citizens determined to improve Central Park. Today, we manage Central Park under a contract with the City of New York. Over its 160-year history, the Park has experienced a cycle of improvements and decline. The era of decline in the 1960s and 1970s led to Central Park Conservancy's formation. Central Park Conservancy is uniquely qualified to prevent future declines and ensure the Park's care for current and future generations.

Thanks to the generosity of many individuals, corporations, foundations, and the City of New York, Central Park Conservancy has invested nearly $700 million to date into the Park, making it a model for urban parks worldwide. We provide 75% of Central Park's $58.3 million annual operating budget, and are responsible for all aspects of Park maintenance, as well as capital improvements and restorations.

With 40 million visits each year to its 843 acres, Central Park is the most frequently visited urban park in the United States. To manage the Park, Conservancy crews aerate and seed lawns; rake leaves; prune and fertilize trees; plant shrubs and flowers; maintain ballfields and playgrounds; remove graffiti; conserve monuments, bridges, and buildings; and care for water bodies and woodlands, by controlling erosion, maintaining the drainage system, and protecting over 150 acres of lakes and streams from pollution, siltation, and algae.

c. Guiding Principle

Central Park is a masterpiece of landscape architecture created to provide a scenic retreat from urban life for the enjoyment of all and, in so doing, helps to establish New York’s place among the great cities of the world. As the organization entrusted with the responsibility of caring for New York's most important public space, our work is founded on the belief that citizen leadership and private philanthropy are key to ensuring that the Park and its essential purpose endure.

d. Core Values

Commitment:   We value commitment to our mission, Central Park, and the visitor experience.

Excellence:   We value innovation and the highest quality results in every aspect of our work.

Integrity:   We value ethical conduct in our business practices.

Adaptability:   We value adaptability in our response to change and challenges.

Communication:  We value clear, consistent communication, teamwork and an open dialogue both internally and with the public.  
  
Public Confidence: We value the public, and work to earn and maintain their confidence in our role as caretakers of Central Park.


2. BOARD OF TRUSTEES

a. Fiduciary Duties

The Board acts as the fiduciary and the steward of the organization and as a guardian of Central Park Conservancy's mission. All Trustees are fully expected to carry out the following duties:

  • Duty of Care: Acting in good faith, participating in governance, and exercising the ordinary and reasonable care in decision-making that can be expected of all prudent persons in a like position would use under similar circumstances;
  • Duty of Loyalty: Faithfulness to Central Park Conservancy's mission and consistently acting in the best interest of Central Park Conservancy;
  • Duty of Obedience: Acting in accordance with the organization's articles of incorporation, bylaws, and other governing documents, as well as applicable laws and regulations. 

b. Responsibilities of the Board of Trustees

The Board is responsible for oversight of the management of Central Park Conservancy to ensure that the resources, financial assets, and staff are properly and effectively used in support of the mission and in accordance with the organization's articles of incorporation, by-laws, and other governing documents applicable laws and regulations, as well as the Conservancy's agreements with the City of New York. Primary Board responsibilities include:

  • Approving the mission of Central Park Conservancy and setting appropriate strategic goals;
  • Evaluating the President & CEO and Senior Management, and ensuring that an appropriate succession plan exists;
  • Reviewing compensation practices and policies, and overseeing the performance of Senior Management;
  • Reviewing and approving the annual operating budget and capital construction program;
  • Reviewing and approving key financial transactions;
  • Ensuring that general operating procedures and controls are in place;
  • Ensuring that Central Park Conservancy's financial statements are fairly presented and free from material misstatement, including assessing the integrity of Central Park Conservancy's accounting and financial reporting policies and practices; adequacy of Central Park Conservancy's internal controls; and compliance with applicable laws and regulations;
  • Monitoring the management of Central Park Conservancy's endowment to ensure compliance with Central Park Conservancy's Investment Policy and applicable laws, as well as overseeing the real estate, monies, securities and other assets of Central Park Conservancy, with the authority to invest and re-invest the same;
  • Overseeing the activities of the Benefits Committee with respect to matters relating to insurance and other benefits for employees of Central Park Conservancy;
  • Recommending replacements as vacancies occur in committee memberships;
  • Recommending new Trustee candidates and reporting to the Board on the adequacy of the size and structure of the Board and its committees to conduct the business of the Conservancy;
  • Identifying and cultivating individuals willing to contribute to Central Park Conservancy the experience, skills and resources needed by the Board and its committees;
  • Supervising the overall fundraising efforts of Central Park Conservancy, including developing Trustee contacts, assisting in fundraising activities, and cultivating new and existing donors;
  • Reviewing the strategic direction of the organization and participating in strategic planning processes, as needed.


c. Size of the Board

The By-laws provide that there are fifty-two (52) Trustees.

d. Board Composition

  • Four (4) Trustees are Ex-Officio Trustees, and include the Borough President of Manhattan; the Commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation of the City of New York; the President & CEO of Central Park Conservancy; the Central Park Administrator (if a different individual than the person holding the title of President & CEO); and the President of the Women's Committee;
  • Five (5) Trustees are appointed by the Mayor of the City of New York;
  • Forty-three (43) Trustees are “General Trustees," none of whom are employees of, nor hold office in, the City of New York.

A fourth category known as "Life Trustees" are entitled to attend Board meetings. However, their presence is not counted towards a quorum, they are not entitled to vote, nor are they considered Trustees for any other purpose. Life Trustees shall hold office until death or resignation.

General Trustees are divided into two (2) annual classes. Each class serves for two (2) years, and may be re-elected. There are no term limits.

A substantial majority of the Board of Trustees are independent directors, defined as individuals:

  • Who are not compensated by the organization as employees or independent contractors;
  • Whose compensation is not determined by individuals who are compensated by the organization;
  • Who do not receive, directly or indirectly, material financial benefits from the organization, except as a member of the charitable class served by the organization; and
  • Who are not related to (as a spouse, sibling, parent or child), or do not reside with, any individual described above.

e. Officers

The Officers of the Board include the Board Chair; one or more Vice-Chairs; a President & CEO; and a Secretary, a Treasurer, and such additional officers that the Board may from time to time elect. Officers hold office for one (1) year. There are no term limits. No Ex-Officio Trustee shall be an Officer. Officers may be removed with or without cause by the Board.

3. COMMITTEES

a. Standing Committees

  • Audit
  • Development Strategy
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • Investment
  • Nominating and Governance
  • Compensation and Management Development
  • Park and Visitor Experience

b. Special Committees

  • Marketing and Branding
  • Gift Acceptance
  • Strategic Planning
  • Government and Community Relations
  • Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks Advisory Board

c. Committee Composition

  • The Board Chair serves as an Ex-Officio member of all committees. 
  • The Executive Committee consists of the Commissioner; the President & CEO; one (1) additional Ex-Officio or appointed Trustee; the Vice Chair, Secretary & General Counsel, and Treasurer of Central Park Conservancy’s Board; and not less than one (1) and not more than fifteen (15) General Trustees, including the chairs of all the Standing Committees;
  • The Audit Committee consists of the Treasurer and the President & CEO serving as Ex-Officio members, and not less than three (3) General Trustees, each of whom will be an “independent trustee” and at least one of whom will be a “financial expert” as defined in the Committee Charter;
  • The Investment Committee consists of the Treasurer and the President & CEO serving as Ex-Officio members, and not less than three (3) General Trustees, each of whom will be an "independent trustee";
  • The Nominating and Governance Committee consists of the President & CEO, serving as an Ex-Officio member, and not less than three (3) General Trustees;
  • The Finance Committee consists of the Treasurer and the President & CEO, serving as Ex-Officio members, and not less than three (3) General Trustees, each of whom will be an "independent trustee";
  • The Development Strategy Committee consists of the President & CEO, serving as an ex officio member, not less than three (3) General Trustees; and the chairs of any existing Campaign sub-Committees;
  • The Compensation and Management Development Committee consists of not less than three (3) General Trustees, each of whom shall be an "independent trustee"; and
  • The Park & Visitor Experience Committee consists of the President & CEO serving as an Ex-Officio member, not less than one (1) additional Ex-Officio Trustee or one (1) Appointed Trustee; and not less than three (3) General Trustees.

The by-laws do not limit participation of non-Trustees on Committees; therefore Committees may include non-Trustees, as is deemed necessary to expand expertise or Board diversity, familiarize new donors or potential Board members, or include new stakeholders in Central Park Conservancy's work.

4. MEETINGS

The Board of Trustees has four (4) regularly scheduled annual meetings. All scheduled Board and Committee meetings include an agenda, and materials are provided to Trustees and Committee members in advance of such meetings. Trustees are expected to prepare for all meetings by reviewing the materials and to attend all meetings. Standing Committees are scheduled to meet four (4) times annually in conjunction with Board meetings, with the exception of the Audit Committee that has two (2) scheduled meetings each year to coincide with the Conservancy's independent audit. Additional committee meetings are scheduled as needed.

5. VACANCIES

The Nominating and Governance Committee reviews individuals proposed to the Board as candidates for membership, and makes recommendations to the full Board, in addition to reviewing the Board's composition and performance on an annual basis. The Nominating and Governance Committee takes into account the Board's overall composition in relation to the organization's short and long term goals and needs, and considers the presence of appropriate combination of professional experience, skills, knowledge, perspectives, and backgrounds on the Board as a whole. The number of Trustees varies depending on resignations, retirement, or removals, as well as the availability of appropriate qualified candidates. Vacancies of General Trustees are filled by a majority vote of the remaining General, Ex-Officio, and Appointed Trustees. The Chairman, in consultation with the President & CEO, appoints the Chairs for all Committees.

6. EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION AND EVALUATION

The Compensation and Management Development Committee is a committee of the Board of the Conservancy, with overall responsibility for compensation and development of the Conservancy's President & CEO and other officers. The purpose of the Committee is to review and approve the Conservancy's compensation program to: (i) ensure that it is fair, reasonable, and competative; (ii) allows for the attraction, retention, and succession of top quality professionals; and (iii) includes long-term benefits and specific performance measures that relate to the Conservancy's mission and strategy. Additionally, the Committee is responsible for evaluating the Conservancy's succession planning process, with an emphasis on the identification and development of key employees and outside candidates for succession to senior management positions.

7. RELEVANT POLICIES

a. Code of Conduct

Central Park Conservancy is committed to maintaining the highest standards of conduct and ethics, and the organization's success is dependent upon the public's trust that Conservancy trustees, officers, employees will conduct business in compliance with applicable laws, using sound judgment, and in an honest and ethical manner. Central Park Conservancy's Code of Conduct includes guidelines with respect to business ethics, financial accounting and recordkeeping, confidentiality of Conservancy records, anti-harassment, and substance abuse.

b. Conflicts of Interest Policy

Members of Central Park Conservancy's Board of Trustees, as well as Conservancy officers and employees have a fiduciary duty to carry out the mission of Central Park Conservancy and conduct themselves without conflict to the interests of the organization. An actual or potential conflict of interest arises when an individual in a position to influence a decision concerning Central Park Conservancy's operations may result in a pecuniary benefit to that person, or to his or her family. All trustees, officers, and employees have a duty to disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest regarding themselves, as well as other trustees, officers, and/or employees.

c. Gifts Acceptance Policy

Central Park Conservancy accepts unrestricted gifts, as well as gifts designated for specific programs and purposes from individuals, corporations, and foundations that fulfill and further the mission of the Conservancy. "Standard Contributions," which are generally accepted in the ordinary course of business, include cash, publicly traded securities, charitable gift annuities, life insurance and retirement plan beneficiary designations, and matching gifts. "Non-standard Contributions", such as tangible personal property, real estate, closely held securities, remainder interests in property, charitable remainder trusts, and charitable lead trusts are subject to review by Central Park Conservancy's Gift Acceptance Committee prior to acceptance to determine whether (a) accepting the property fulfills Central Park Conservancy's mission, (b) the property is marketable, (c) there are liabilities associated with the property, and/or (d) the property will generate undesirable tax consequences for the organization.

d. Whistleblower Policy

Central Park Conservancy's Whistleblower Policy is intended to encourage and enable employees and others to report fraudulent, dishonest, or illegal conduct. No officer, director, or employee who in good faith reports a violation of Central Park Conservancy's Code of Conduct shall suffer harassment, retaliation, or adverse employment consequences. Reports of improper conduct may be confidentially submitted to Central Park Conservancy through a confidential portal found on the organization's intranet at http://intranet.e-cpc.centralparknyc.org.