SAT-B08 The Tale of Two Parks on New York City's Two Rivers

Matthew Urbanski, ASLA
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
Brooklyn, NY 
United States
Matthew is a Principal of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates where he has worked for over two decades. Collaborating with Michael Van Valkenburgh, he was a lead designer of Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, New York, Segment 5 of Hudson River Park, Alumnae Valley at Wellesley College, and Teardrop Park, among others. In addition to his work as a designer, Matthew is an Associate Adjunct Professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and is co-owner of Red Hill Nursery, which specializes in unusual species, varieties, and forms.
Adrian Benepe
The Trust for Public Land
New York, NY 
United States

Adrian Benepe has worked in a leadership role on park and public space conservation, design, construction, and operation, and in the realms of city planning, arts and culture, historic preservation, as well as landscape and urban design, all in the public and non-profit sector, his entire career. Much of that work was done at the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, where he served as Parks Commissioner for eleven years under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. He now serves as Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land, a national organization founded in 1972 to protect land in and around cities, and to pioneer new land conservation techniques. Over the years, its work has expanded to include projects from inner city to wilderness, and this broad experience has made the organization a national leader and innovator in city park creation, state and local conservation funding, and using GIS for conservation and park planning. In his capacity at The Trust for Public Land, Benepe oversees the urban work of more than thirty offices across the United States, whose projects include parks, playgrounds, gardens, and greenways.

Born and raised in New York City, Benepe graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, after which he became a member of the first corps of NYC Parks & Recreation’s Urban Park Rangers in 1979.   He then served in several positions at NYC Parks, including Director of Public Information, Operations Coordinator, Director of Natural Resources & Horticulture, and Director of Art & Antiquities. From 1990 to 1993, Commissioner Benepe was the Director of the Annual Fund & Major Gifts for the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  From 1994 to 1996 he served as Vice President for Issues & Public Affairs for the Municipal Art Society, working on planning, historic preservation, and other civic programs.  

After six years in the non-profit sector, he returned to NYC Parks & Recreation in January 1996 as the Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner.  He served in that position until he was appointed Commissioner of Parks & Recreation in January, 2002. In this role he oversaw one of the nation’s largest and most complex urban park systems, including over 29,000 acres of public park land, with nearly 5,000 properties encompassing more than 1,000 playgrounds, 600 athletic fields, 600 tennis courts, 63 swimming pools, 35 recreation centers, 14 miles of beach, and over 2.5 million street and park trees, with an annual expense and capital budget of over $1 billion. 

In addition to a B.A. in English Literature, Benepe holds Master's Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, where he was awarded a Pulitzer Fellowship. In 1987, he participated in the Mayor's Top 40 Program, and in 1992 he was selected to participate in Leadership New York, a program of the Coro Foundation.

Thomas Balsley, FASLA
Thomas Balsley Associates
New York, NY 
United States
Thomas Balsley, FASLA, specializes in urban landscape architecture. His more than 100 NYC public spaces include Balsley Park on 57th Street. He lectures throughout the US and abroad and is featured in numerous publications, including the monograph "Thomas Balsley: The Urban Landscape" from Spacemaker Press. His award-winning parks and waterfronts include Riverside Park South, Gantry Plaza State Park and Capitol Plaza in NYC, Baltimore’s Westshore Park, Dallas’ Main Street Garden, Cleveland’s Perk Park, Tokyo's Gate City and Seoul's Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.
Sat, 11/16: 1:30 PM  - 3:00 PM 
Education Session 
Boston Convention and Exhibition Center 
Room: 258 
PDH Credits: 1.5 
Two parks, two rivers, two boroughs, one common goal: transform a post-industrial riverfront into a multi-layered public amenity. This is the fascinating story of how two design firms navigated through complex public processes and political currents to deliver New York City's most successful waterfront parks.

Learning Objective

1) Learn how overcoming challenges inherent in the public process can result in better-designed public open spaces.
2) Understand how public-private partnerships generate funds on the front and back ends of large-scale projects.
3) Understand the environmental and infrastructural challenges and constraints that come with designing post-industrial waterfronts.
4) See how historical narratives are used as the basis for 21st century park design. 


Education Credits


Primary Topic

Urban Design / Downtown Revitalization