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The Daily Plant : Monday, April 28, 2008

Neil Calvanese Receives The Thomas Stofka Award

Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

The fourth annual Thomas Stofka Award was presented last month at the Parks Annual Awards Ceremony. It recognizes skilled Parkies who, like Tom, dedicated themselves to New York City’s trees and natural world. Our previous winners were Bill Steyer of Manhattan Forestry, Mike Metivier of Brooklyn Forestry, and Joe Bonkowski of Queens Forestry. This year, we recognized Neil Calvanese, Vice President of Operations with the Central Park Conservancy.

Neil grew up in Brooklyn, and according to myth and the New York Times, was inspired by a beautiful Camperdown Elm in Prospect Park to devote himself to the care, protection and advancement of trees. His education reflects this. Neil has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Arkansas College as well as an Associate’s Degree in Arboriculture from SUNY Farmingdale.

Neil started his career in Central Park over 26 years ago, in 1981, as a seasonal climber and pruner with the park’s tree crew. Through hard and effective work, he moved up the ranks, holding the positions of Tree Care Coordinator, Deputy Director of Horticulture, Director of Horticulture, Deputy Chief of Operations, and Chief of Operations. Now, as Vice President of Operations, Neil manages a staff of about 200 in season, comprised of both Conservancy and Parks employees. He oversees all maintenance and horticulture work in Central Park. This includes daily operations, horticultural projects, tree work, special events, film shoots, and emergency management. He is also Central Park’s official ‘tree expert’.

Having worked with the Conservancy in its early days, and through many of its ambitious restoration projects, Neil has played an active role in Central Park’s renaissance. He has led battles against natural tree threats including Dutch Elm Disease and the Asian Long-Horned Beatle and he has preserved the historic trees of Central Park while expanding tree diversity. Neil has also shared his knowledge and passion for trees with a generation of Parks staff as well as volunteers and supporters of the park. In fact, sometimes they have to pay to hear him talk trees!

A true Parks professional, Neil’s wealth of experience and knowledge are vital to all of us at Parks and to our environmental mission. Neil resides in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in the house he grew up in. He is married to his wife Eileen, who is a gardening foreman at Battery Park City.


“This is like déjà vu all over again.”

Yogi Berra
(1925 - )

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