The Daily Plant : Wednesday, March 19, 2003
CONGRATULATIONS TO PARKS ANNUAL AWARD WINNERS
In a classic case of the best being saved for last, on Friday, March 14, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe ended his presentation of "The Greenprint" with the Parks Annual Awards. Five parks employees were honored for their exemplary work for Parks & Recreation, and hearing about their careers at Parks was one of the most inspiring parts of the parts of the morning. For those who did not attend the 13th Annual Awards on Friday, what follows is a brief summary of the winners and their accomplishments.
Rookie of the Year went to Laura Sullivan, Director of Operations and Management Planning. Laura joined Parks on June 17, 2002 as an Assistant Director in Operations & Management Planning. Promoted to Director in October, Laura has capably managed a team of inspectors and analysts and helped to expand the Park Inspection Program which now conducts nearly 5,000 inspections per year. She has spearheaded improvements to the Parks section of the Mayor’s Management Report; is helping to develop a new RecStat program; and is working to incorporate GIS, geographic information systems, into all aspects of our information management program. Organized, smart and perceptive, Laura has quickly assumed a senior role, achieving at a level that is quite remarkable for someone in her first year.
Michael Schmiedel, a Supervisor of Parks Maintenance and Operations in Staten Island’s District 1, was awarded Employee of the Year. Michael began with Parks as a seasonal Filter Plant Operator in 1979 at Lyon’s Pool, joining Parks full-time in 1981. He worked as a Park Service Worker at Staten Island’s golf courses until being promoted to Associate Park Service Worker in 1983. In 1987, on the day before his wedding, he was promoted to Park Supervisor. For fourteen years, he served as a Brooklyn Park Supervisor and then Principal Park Supervisor. In 2001, Michael made the move to Staten Island’s District 1, inheriting a district achieving respectable overall conditions ratings of 91% in Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001. Where others might have rested on their laurels, Michael directed a focused effort to bring ratings even higher. In Fiscal Year 2003, overall ratings are now 97%, among the best of any district in the city. Michael is also helping to beautify Staten Island with new greenstreets and gardens. A Staten Island resident, Michael is married to Barbara. Friday, March 14th—the day Michael received his award—was their 16th wedding anniversary.
The winner of the Davis Award, given to the employee who best exemplifies a career in public service, was Raymundo Gomez, Bronx Team Leader in Parks’ Capital Projects Division. Ray first came to the Parks Capital division in December of 1984. Over the years, Ray has served in many capacities at Capital including Borough Supervisor for Bronx and Queens, Director of Construction, Director of Management Systems, Director of Consultant Procurement and Contracts, and Deputy Chief Contracting Officer. In 2002, he brought his vast experience to the new role of Bronx Team Leader. Ray now manages nearly $40 million of Bronx capital projects, start to finish. This includes planning, budgeting, design and construction. Ray is overseeing a number of exciting projects such as the construction of a new $3 million greenway at Lafayette Avenue, the installation of a $2 million modern synthetic surface track in Pelham Bay Park, and the development of parks along the Bronx River. Born in Puerto Rico, Ray is very active in the Parks Latino Society, serving as treasurer and vice president. He has been married for ten years to his wife, with whom he has a son, Justin, and daughter, Adena.
The Manager of the Year Award went to Karen Gripper, Center Manager of Brooklyn’s St. John’s Recreation Center. Karen started volunteering with Parks in 1984, and began her career on June 24, 1985 as a recreation specialist at St. John's. For many years, Karen worked with the "cities in schools" program running day camps and after-school programs for Brooklyn and Manhattan. In the early 1990s, Karen moved to Brownsville Recreation, where she organized pre-school, after-school, and summer day camps. She also managed our revenue and membership programs. Karen completed her tour of Brooklyn centers by serving as Deputy Manager at Brownsville & Von King Cultural Arts Center until 2000. In July of 2000, she returned to St. John's, this time as Center Manager. Karen has led a major turn-around at St. John’s. Since her arrival, membership has increased by over 75%, with 11,000 participating members. The center has also developed new programs in sports and arts, maintained high levels of customer service, and upgraded its recreational equipment. Karen gave up her own office to establish a computer resource center, and trained herself to maintain pools and ballfields so that all St. John's athletic resources would be kept in good shape. As accomplished at home as she is at work, Karen is a mother of four: Jalysa, Jasmine, Joshua and Jahmel. She lives in an old home that she is personally renovating. Karen also volunteers as PTA President, Activity Coordinator of the "I Have A Dream" Program and as a Den Mother for Cub Scouts. A great leader and stalwart of city recreation, Parks is proud of Karen's eighteen years of service to New York City.
The Commissioner’s Award was given to Joshua Laird, Parks’ Chief of Planning. Born and raised in Manhattan, Joshua began at Parks as a college intern in 1986 and 1987, working with Assistant Commissioner Joanne Imohiosen in Revenue. He joined Revenue full time in 1988. For four years, Joshua helped expand Parks’ concession program and develop new service arrangements at Parks. After leaving Parks in 1992 for a four-year stint with Nehemiah Plan Homes, Joshua returned in 1996 to work as Deputy Chief of Management Services at Capital. In the fall of 1997, he was appointed as Director of Planning. Joshua's five years at Planning have been busy. He has helped attain tens of millions of dollars in Federal funding and coordinated the development of greenways in all 5 boroughs. Notably, Joshua and his staff are now leading the multi-agency effort to implement the Mayor’s goal of creating a 34-mile path around Manhattan. He is also playing a critical role in the transfer of nearly 50 waterfront acres at Fort Totten to Parks from the U.S. Army, and has spearheaded the agency’s involvement in the development of Hudson River Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Most recently, Joshua has been involved in the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. A Parkie at home and work, Joshua met his wife of almost 3 years, Gail Wittwer, at Parks. They have a baby boy, Maxwell, and another child on the way. Wise and calm beyond his years, Joshua is an extraordinary talent at Parks and an exemplary public servant.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one we have."
Emile Auguste Chartier