Parks Salutes Its Employees Of The Month (Part II)
John Hutchins is the Public Programs Employee of the Month.
John began his career at Parks as a seasonal Swim Instructor in June 1974. Since 1980, John has served as the Director of Citywide Aquatics.
John’s responsibilities include designing, implementing and supervising recreational and instructional aquatics programming citywide in both indoor and outdoor pools. These programs include Learn to Swim, Swim for Life, the NYC Parks Swim Team and Adaptive Aquatics.
In addition, he trains and supervises four year-round staff as well as a seasonal staff of 151 Aquatic Specialists. John also serves as a liaison to Community Boards, other agencies, and the public.
John has cultivated a highly adaptable staff that is capable of handling a variety of Aquatics programming. His staff’s ability to react to change has been critical to the Aquatic Division’s success, especially since instructional swimming programs have expanded to serve infants, children, youth, adults, older adults and special needs individuals.
Under John’s leadership, in FY2012 the Aquatics Division served a record 44,639 individuals including more than 1,000 youth participants in the NYC Parks Swim Team which trains swimmers for organized competition. John is no stranger to innovation as he has been instrumental in the development and implementation of Swim for Life at Parks’ indoor pools as well as partner pools including 15 YMCA sites, City College, the Asphalt Green, and the Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. Since January 2011, Swim for Life has served 14,385 NYC second graders. As Swim for Life continues to expand in pools outside of NYC Parks, John’s team will reach more than 12,000 participants each school year. These programs that John has designed and implemented will ultimately save the lives of children throughout New York City.
John is currently designing new age-friendly initiatives that will encourage older adults to participant in Aquatics programming and based on his track record, we are confident in his capacity to meet and exceed the new goals being set for the Aquatics Division.
In his spare time, John always remains close to the pools, devoting a great deal of himself to getting others to enjoy aquatic activities. He has received numerous awards from the Special Olympics Committee, the Leukemia Society, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as well as Catholic Charities.
For his constant dedication and passion for Aquatics at Parks, John was nominated by Assistant Commissioner Annika Holder and Deputy Commissioner Robert Garafola.
Myra Sylman is a Commissioner’s Employee of the Month.
Myra Sylman is the Secretary to the Commissioner and has been with Parks since April 1984, marking her 29th anniversary with Parks this past spring.
Myra began her Parks career as an Office Aide in 1984, became an Office Associate in 1987, and a PAA in 1990.
Myra has played a critical role in keeping the Commissioner’s Office running smoothly. Myra is well-known and appreciated for her calm and collected presence on the third floor. Over her tenure, she has developed great working relationships with divisions throughout the agency, other city offices, and key park partners. She is diligent in her attempts to keep the Commissioner on time and on schedule and she ensures that he is well prepared for meetings and events. She juggles hundreds of scheduling requests and phone calls, handles complaints from constituents, and handles difficult and unique situations that arise throughout the day. Myra’s patience, her positive demeanor, and unflappable style in the face of a chaotic office environment are the stuff of legends. Despite a hectic workload, Myra never complains and is always the last person to leave the office at the end of the day.
Myra is extremely well-respected both inside and outside the agency not only for her outstanding work ethic but also for her approachable manner and can-do attitude. On the rare occasions when Myra is not at her desk, she is likely spending time with her daughters Teisha and Erika, and her six-year-old grandson, TJ, who often makes surprise visits to the office to surprise his grandma.
First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh is a Commissioner’s Employee of the Month.
Liam is the First Deputy Commissioner and marked his 30th anniversary with Parks in December of last year. He began his Parks career in 1981 as an assistant to then Borough Commissioner Julius Spiegel. He has since ascended the ranks at Parks and served the agency in a number of critical roles, including Director of Forestry for Brooklyn, Deputy Chief of Operations for Brooklyn and Manhattan, and Chief of Operations for Manhattan.
In 2002, when Commissioner Benepe was appointed, he knew that Liam’s deep knowledge and experience in operations would be crucial at a citywide level and asked him to join the senior management team as Deputy Commissioner for Operations.
Over the years, Liam’s thoughtful leadership and vision have helped Parks achieve great success in so many of the ways we serve the public. His intense focus on our park performance utilizing the PIP ratings and other performance measures has resulted in a park system unequaled on a national or even international scale. His dedication and perseverance have resulted in a steady improvement in our beach and pool operations as recognized by the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks. Each year he oversees the recruitment and operation of a record number of lifeguards, including our International Brigade, and has improved the level of service to over 2 million pool users and countless beachgoers.
Throughout his tenure, Liam has demonstrated a true commitment to our urban forestry and horticulture program. Not only has Liam helped us weather many storms in recent years and been a staunch defender of the trees in our green realm, but he has also leveraged valuable partnerships with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the New York Botanical Garden to create unique, specialized training opportunities for our staff. Approximately 300 Parkies have completed the Master Gardener and Advanced Master Gardener programs, and 100 forestry and capital staff have benefitted from the Urban Tree Care classes at the NYBG. Our recent membership in the Black Rock Forest Consortium has further opened the door for research and training possibilities for Parks.
Liam has been influential in shaping long-term policies and goals for the agency and the City. Much of the work of the Strategic Land Use Group, affectionately known as SLUG, of which Liam was a key member, formed the basis of what we now know as PlaNYC. Liam’s innovative work set the stage for the Parks’ remarkable Million Trees Program and Schoolyard to Playgrounds Program. From ForMS to AMPS, Liam has also embraced the development of new technology as an important tool to help us better know, understand and manage our daily work.
Liam is well-respected both in and outside the agency for not only his outstanding work ethic but his approachable manner and positive attitude. Even on those rare occasions when he takes time off, he never seems far from parks. Liam has joined the annual service trip to New Orleans, organized by Brian Aucoin, a number of times, battling invasive Chinese tallow trees in NOLA’s (Not Nolita) City Park. On the weekends, Liam can be found at parks all around the city, often times with his granddaughter Chloe in tow.
“It still holds true that man is most uniquely human
when he turns obstacles into opportunities.”
(1902 - 1983)