NEW YORK, NY — Douglas Blonsky, President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, announced today that he will step down once his successor has been named, at which time he will transition to an advisory role to the Board of Trustees. Blonsky has been with the Conservancy for 32 years. He has stewarded Central Park through the most profound transformation of its 160-year history, restoring it to the beloved oasis it is today and positioning the Conservancy for continued, long-term success. The Board is currently conducting a search to replace Blonsky.
“Doug Blonsky was the best hire in the history of the Central Park Conservancy,” said Thomas Kempner, Chairman of the Board of the Central Park Conservancy. “He will leave very big shoes to fill. Because of Doug, the Park has never been more beautiful and the Conservancy has never been so financially sound. Doug makes this announcement after launching Forever Green: Ensuring the Future of Central Park, our most transformative and ambitious campaign to date. In less than a year, it is well on its way to being fulfilled.”
Since 1985, Blonsky has been directly responsible for establishing Central Park as a model of excellence. He was appointed Central Park Administrator in 1998 when the Conservancy formalized its partnership with the City of New York and NYC Parks by signing a historic management contract. He was named Conservancy President & CEO in 2004. Blonsky will also step down as Central Park Administrator; his replacement will be determined by the NYC Parks Commissioner and the Central Park Conservancy.
Blonsky said, “Working to save, restore, and preserve Central Park for more than three decades has been the greatest honor of my life. I'm proud to be part of an organization that sets the standards for and spreads the principles of world-class urban park management and sustainability. Our incredible 37-year partnership with NYC Parks is a model for parks and conservancies around the country and the world. I look forward to helping my successor take over leadership of the Conservancy as I continue to advocate for the preservation of Central Park and other urban spaces for future generations.”
A landscape architect, Blonsky has overseen the successful management of dozens of restoration projects, including many that have received prestigious design awards. Under Blonsky's guidance, the Conservancy has invested nearly $1 billion toward Central Park’s restoration, reviving this most important public space and sustaining its single longest period of consistent care. Restoration of the Great Lawn turned a “Great Dust Bowl” into the lush, green respite that people enjoy every year. Restoration of the Harlem Meer and construction of the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center beautified and activated one of the least visited and most neglected areas of the Park. Other noteworthy projects led by Blonsky include: Merchants’ Gate, the Mall, the Minton Tiles at Bethesda Terrace arcade, Conservatory Water, the Pond, the Pool, the Reservoir fence, Bow Bridge, Oak Bridge, East Meadow, and more recently, the Woodlands: Hallett Nature Sanctuary, the Ramble, and the North Woods. (For more info on all restorations, visit our restoration page.)
During his tenure, several innovative park management and preservation practices were developed and implemented, such as the zone management system — which identified 49 zones in Central Park based on topography and use, equipped each with a dedicated gardener to provide consistent care and accountability for every landscape — and the turf and trash management systems. Such maintenance ensures that Central Park will remain clean and accessible to its more than 42 million annual visitors — New York City residents and visitors to the City.
As a result of the Conservancy’s proven track record in restoration and operations under Blonsky’s leadership, the Conservancy has been entrusted by the City of New York to act as general contractor and project manager for all Central Park restoration projects, including those that are City-funded.
The Conservancy implemented the Campaign for Central Park in 2004 with the goal of raising $100 million to restore the landscapes adjacent to the 20-acre Lake and the landscapes along the east side of the Park from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Harlem Meer, East 85th to 106th Streets. In less than four years, the Conservancy raised over $125 million ($75 million for capital, $50 million for operating). Blonsky was also instrumental in securing a $100 million gift from the Paulson Family Foundation, which was — at the time — the largest ever given to a park. It inspired other, similar gifts to public parks around the country.
In July 2016, Blonsky launched Forever Green: Ensuring the Future of Central Park, the most ambitious fundraising and restoration campaign in the history of the Central Park Conservancy, with the intention of restoring and preserving the original Frederick Law Olmsted/Calvert Vaux vision for the extraordinary landscape of Central Park. The campaign’s $300 million fundraising goal is well on its way to meeting its target. The 10-year spectrum of Forever Green projects, such as the restoration of principal structures and woodlands, including Belvedere Castle, the historic Children’s District, the Loch and Ravine in the North Woods, and more, is well underway.
“It has been a great honor to work with Doug, whose keen foresight and steady leadership reestablished Central Park as one of the world’s great public spaces,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “As President and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy and as the Park’s Administrator he set a global standard for large park management – and generously shared his experience, his insights, and the Central Park Conservancy’s resources with parks across our City. His love for and dedication to Central Park benefited millions of its visitors each year for decades, and will continue to do so for decades to come. I am honored to call him a colleague and friend.”
The Conservancy remains at the forefront of innovation in urban park management; Blonsky has served as its spokesperson internationally for decades. Under his visionary leadership, the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks was established to provide parks around the world with a center for learning world-class urban park management and stewardship practices.
“Institute programs underscore the role urban parks play as cultural and environmental treasures which have extraordinary capacity to educate, enrich, and inspire people in the development of healthy, vibrant urban communities,” says Ira Millstein, former Conservancy Chairman and current Chairman of the Institute for Urban Parks Advisory Board. “This mission is at the core of the work Doug Blonsky has accomplished throughout his extraordinary career.”