Bronx Parks Commissioner: Hector Aponte
Hector M. Aponte, who has been the Bronx Parks Commissioner for 10 years, retired on January 30.
As a Parkie for 19 years, he enjoyed regularly mentoring people coming up in the agency and is fondly known for his love of motorcycles and skiing. During his career in Parks, he has managed thousands of acres of parkland and worked on the improvement of facilities.
Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Aponte moved to the Bronx at the age of three. Growing up in the Bronx he would swim in the Bronx River and play in Soundview Park. He graduated from Morris high school and earned an athletic scholarship to study at the University of Puerto Rico (Mayaquez) where he studied civil engineering.
After returning to New York, he worked for various engineering companies designing bridges, highways, sewers and playgrounds. During this time he also served as Chairman of Community School Board 3, where he advocated for bilingual education. He also served on Manhattan Community Board 7 and the Metropolitan Hospital Advisory Board. As the Chairman for the Mid-West Side Community Corporation, he helped in the development of the West Side Urban Renewal Area.
These experiences with community involvement inspired him to move to the non-profit sector where he worked for many major Puerto Rican institutions including: the National Puerto Rican forum where he served as a Program Director; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico where he directed job training programs; ASPIRA of New York, where he served as Executive Director and PROGRESS (Puerto Rican Organization for Growth, Research, Education and Social Services) where he served as deputy director.
Aponte first entered government service with New York state parks in 1987 as the Assistant Regional Director for New York City. He began his parks career in 1995 as Park Manager and director of requirement contracts. During that time he oversaw Manhattan park facilities by supervising construction. In 2004 he became the Acting Deputy Chief of Operations for Manhattan and was responsible for the borough’s technical shops and monitored income received from donations and grants and coordinated approximately $3 million in park renovations. He has also worked as the Chief of Operations for Staten Island where he coordinated the delivery of maintenance, operations, technical services, forestry, recreation and capital projects.
In November of 2004, Aponte became the Bronx Parks Commissioner and has been responsible for the maintenance and operation of approximately 7,000 acres of parkland and 780 park properties. As the Bronx Commissioner he advocated tirelessly for the improvement of facilities and programming in the South Bronx. He has reexamined business processes for the optimization of customer service and throughout the years Aponte has been an invaluable mentor and teacher for all staff.
Among his greatest joys as Bronx Commissioner has been completing the Yankee and Macombs Dam Park and the development of the new passive recreation space in Soundview Park which added new pathways and entrances, seating, and renovated ballfields. He is proud to have been able to come back to the borough where he grew up and work towards making it a better place.
Over the last several years he has overseen the implementation of over $600 million dollars in capital projects, including the implementation of the Croton Filtration Project Mitigation program, transfer of the Pelham Landfill to Parks, the replenishment of Orchard Beach’s sand and coordinated the Community Parks Initiative in the Bronx.
As a Parkie, he has enjoyed building a Parks team, getting the job done and having fun along the way. In his retirement Aponte is looking forward to traveling with his family and to hit the roads of the U.S. on one of his motorcycles. He also looks forward to the prospect of volunteering at a cultural institution.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow