Waterfront park president to set sail for new job


By Albert Amateau

The Hudson River Park Trust announced on Wednesday that Connie Fishman, president of the state/city authority that is building the 5-mile-long riverfront park, is leaving her post after 11 years with the Trust, seven of them as president.

Fishman — credited with shepherding the park to its current 80 percent completion — will leave the Trust in February to become senior vice president for real estate of the YMCA of Greater New York.

“Everyone who loves Hudson River Park and cares about New York City owes a huge debt of gratitude to Connie Fishman,” Diana Taylor, chairperson of the Trust board of directors, said in the Jan. 5 announcement. “As the Trust’s president for the past seven years, she has steered the Trust through countless minefields, building eight new public piers and acres of spectacular landscapes, not to mention an enduring relationship with the public we serve,” Taylor said.

Taylor did not indicate who might succeed Fishman, but as chairperson of the Trust, Taylor will probably be consulted in the process, which will involve New York State’s newly inaugurated Governor Andrew Cuomo and also Mayor Bloomberg.

“It will be an interesting search,” said Arthur Schwartz, a former chairperson of the Hudson River Park Trust Community Advisory Council and present chairperson of the Waterfront Committee of Community Board 2, which covers Greenwich Village. Schwartz noted that former Governor Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, appointed Republican Taylor, the girlfriend of Mayor Bloomberg, as chairperson of the Trust.

“I don’t suppose Hudson River Park is at the top of Governor Cuomo’s agenda, but his administration will have a month to figure it out,” Schwartz said.

Fishman’s connection to the waterfront park dates back to when she was an aide to Deputy Mayor Fran Reiter under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In 1995, she was Reiter’s liaison to the Hudson River Park Conservancy, the predecessor organization to the Trust. A year after the state Legislature passed the Hudson River Park Act, creating Hudson River Park, Fishman, in 1999, was named executive vice president of the Trust, under Robert Balachandran, the Trust’s first president.

Schwartz said that since Fishman became Trust president in 2003 she has been very good at bringing community boards and advocacy organizations, like Friends of Hudson River Park, together.

“She really listens — she doesn’t just go through the motions,” he said.

“Since joining the Trust in 1999 Connie has been largely responsible for turning our dream of an accessible waterfront park into a reality for New York City,” said Douglas Durst, co-chairperson of Friends of Hudson River Park.

“Connie has been wonderful to work with and always appreciated the independent and supportive role of Friends in advancing Trust plans,” said A.J. Pietrantone, executive director of Friends.

Fishman and the Friends formalized the relationship between the Trust and the Friends this year, under which the Friends have become a designated fundraising partner to help secure private funds needed to operate and maintain the park.

“I’m sorry she’s leaving as president of the Trust,” said Ross Graham, co-chairperson of the Friends, “She was a terrific leader. But I hope her new job will allow her to do more things with Friends of Hudson River Park. I spoke with her awhile ago and she said she wanted to be active in park advocacy.”

“When she took the job as Trust president, she committed herself to completion of the park. I think it’s evident — 80 percent of the park was completed in 2010 — that she fulfilled that pledge,” said John Doswell, a member of the Friends and of Community Board 4, which covers Chelsea.

“When you look at the Lower West Side of Manhattan, you can see firsthand the beautiful park space, waterfront access, bike paths, piers and other recreational activities that all New Yorkers can enjoy, and that is a testament to the Trust and the community who worked so had to make this a reality,” said Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1, which covers Lower Manhattan south of Canal St. “Connie was able in very arduous economic times to raise the money to ensure that the park was 80 percent complete, and Community Board 1 thanks her for her years of service,” Menin said.

In a letter to the Trust staff, Fishman said, “The past 11-plus years working together to build Hudson River Park have been the most rewarding of my 23 years in public service. The Trust and its board have realized a remarkable achievement: the nearly complete transformation of the far West Side of Manhattan. The process of creating the park was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — one for which I will always be grateful.”