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Checkin’ in with: New Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher

Green king: Martin Maher will take over as head of Brooklyn parks.
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Brooklyn has a new parks czar — Windsor Terrace resident Martin “Marty” Maher, who just took over as borough parks commissioner after Kevin Jeffrey retired last year. We caught up with Maher about his new gig.

Lauren Gill: So what does the borough parks commissioner actually do?

Martin Maher: The borough parks commissioner is sort of the [New York Parks] Commissioner Silver representative in the borough. We deal with elected officials, community groups, partner organizations in parks, and oversee the maintenance and operations and recreation and keeping parks safe and clean.

LG: What’s your background?

MM: I joined as sort of an accident 32 years ago when I was in the U.S. Coast Guard — I was working my way through college and my friend gave me an application. I came in in cutoff shorts and a T-shirt and turned in the application and met two gentlemen who interviewed me the same day. I started as a ranger and parks enforcement officer, was also a supervisor, I worked at Coney Island for many, many years, was chief-of-staff for 18 years, and now I’m delighted that Commissioner Silver has given me the job.

LG: What’s your favorite park in Brooklyn?

MM: In the summertime, the world’s biggest air conditioner is Coney Island. If you’re a lover of history Fort Greene, Washington Park. If you like playgrounds, Robert Venable Park. I’m in Prospect Park the most.

LG: What’s the worst park?

MM: I’m going to know it soon because we’re going to be working on it. We always kind of do the worst first. There isn’t anywhere that’s really deplorable, there’s just some that need an uplift.

LG: The city just bought the last piece of land needed for Bushwick Inlet Park, but a group is already trying to push an idea called “Maker Park” for part of it that many community members hate. Where do you stand?

MM: I don’t have something in front of me right now but I’m always open-minded, as is the city, to ideas. We engage the community, involve them in the decision making process. In my 32 years, we’ve never said “This is what we’re doing,” we rely on community input.

LG: Should public parks be privately funded?

MM: Free money is our favorite kind. We always want parks to be the best they can for people and so we have a number of different models where it works. We have elected officials providing funds, the mayor, borough president. Occasionally you get private resources. It takes a lot to sustain parks.

LG: What about Brooklyn Bridge Park 2 — the crumbling slab of concrete next to York Street station in Dumbo? It has been slated for a revamp for years and the Jehovah’s Witnesses finally agreed to provide enough cash to make it happen a year ago. So when is that going to actually happen?

MM: It’s sort of been a long process. Hopefully in the next year we’ll re-engage the community. We want to make sure we have the freshest ideas. We want to make sure we’re as current as possible when we build the park like that. It’s certainly a park in need and we’ll work with our planning folks and the community to meet its wants.

LG: How do Brooklyn parks compare to those in the other boroughs?

MM: Hands down, we have it far and above any others. My colleagues in the other boroughs work hard and someday they’ll have nice parks like Brooklyn does too.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 12:53 am, January 26, 2017
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Reasonable discourse

Dom from Brooklyn Heights says:
Congrats on your new job!

Perhaps you can explain how permits to various organizations (Patriots Soccer, AYSO, St. Francis Youth League, 78th Precinct Youth Sports, etc.) are granted? These organizations have a strangle hold on public parks and operate like a mafia with little or no contribution to the upkeep of the parks.

How about the DiMattina Park at the end of Hicks Street? Who controls that? It's locked down by an unknown local. Do the taxpayers pay the light bill or does the local capo with the key. Why isn't the don of DiMattina required to maintain the park?

Same with Van Voorhees. Permits belong to a local who runs a softball league for yuppies and the 78th Precinct who run baseball and football for profit.

Since you've been on the payroll for 32 years, you must know how these deals work.

Shed a little light and work to improve the parks.

Answer the questions or I'll keep asking.

PS to the reporter - softballs are for parks.
Jan. 26, 2017, 6:35 am
Robert from Windsor Terrace says:
I don't see another group helping clean the Parade Grounds. Yep been a monopoly especially Ayso as there is no board of directors advisors or elections like other Aysos. its empowered by the few. Even Nepotism exist . The swertoff has even his kid running soccer camps even Red Bull tkts and no NYCFC. The Patriots are non existent in the Parade grounds.
I think the parks dept ie PPAliance should step in and advise Ayso to breakup the "old Boys network". Also look at expanding the use of Van Voorhees to others. But you are right these organization have monies to fix the parks and Parade grounds.
Jan. 26, 2017, 1:39 pm
Scott kearney from marine park says:
"I’m always open-minded, as is the city, to ideas". "Free money is our favorite kind. Occasionally you get private resources. It takes a lot to sustain parks" January 26, 2017

I was not encouraged or get the cooperation that I had hoped for by approaching his office that I expected from his quotes.
Can you help me? I made a proposal to generate revenues to return to the urban park Rangers by holding wedding ceremonies in the marine park salt marsh nature center.
Aug. 10, 2017, 10:34 am

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