After three decades of working for the New York City Parks Department in all corners of the city, Michael Dockett has come home.
The agency veteran is the new Queens parks commissioner, keeping a watchful eye on green spaces in the borough where he grew up.
“To focus on just one borough is very exciting,” said Dockett, 55, whose previous job was assistant commissioner for the Urban Park Service.
And like his predecessor, retired Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, Dockett started his career as an urban parks ranger.
It was a flyer strategically placed outside the chemistry lab at York College in Jamaica, where Dockett was a student in 1984, that caught his eye. It featured mounted park rangers with a message that the Parks Department was hiring for the summer.
“The work they described was everything I had been doing in scouting: camping, fishing, nature,” said Dockett. “I just thought it was so cool.”
During that first summer in Queens, he created a pow-wow celebrating Native American culture at Brookville Park and a tour of North American animals at the Queens Zoo. The following summer, he worked as a ranger again, this time in the Bronx based out of Crotona Park, a vital inner-city green space.
“There was a boathouse and we created a display with terrapins and snakes and fish,” Dockett recalled. “The kids would come by every day.”
As the lure of working in city parks reeled him in, plans of being a hospital administrator floated away. Dockett jumped at the chance of a full-time job at the Parks Department.
His accounting degree from York and master’s degree in business administration from St. John’s University ended up helping him as he navigated a number of positions at the Parks Department that required him to tap into his field work, recreation and administrative experience.
It didn’t hurt he had been a longtime Boy Scout and even reached the rank of Eagle Scout.
Dockett’s resume is as varied as it is lengthy: stints as a ranger supervisor, director of central communication, park and recreation manager, overseeing Green Streets.
As assistant commissioner for the Urban Park Service for the last 10 years, Dockett has overseen Parks Enforcement Patrol, central communication and emergency management, which includes workers and officers who educate the public and enforce park rules and regulations.
Along with those chops, he brings a lifetime of personal experiences to the job. He grew up in Queens Village, spending lots of time in the P.S. 34 playground and Wayanda Park. His preferred sport was handball.
“As a teen, I spent a lot of time in Rockaway,” Dockett said, recalling the old red line buses that travelled there from Jamaica and homemade lunches that always ended up being sprinkled with sand.
He now lives in nearby Laurelton and enjoys the various parks with his wife, Anne-Marie, children Michael and Adrianna and a dog named, Titan.
“There are 250 active capital projects going on in Queens,” Dockett said. “My focus is going to make sure these projects are done.”
He is also starting to meet with civic groups to craft closer working relationships.
“Parks that thrive the most are ones where active users have banded together,” he said. “People need to take ownership of them. These are their parks and they can do a lot.”