Tupper Thomas, a nationally renowned parks expert who spearheaded the rebirth of Brooklyn's Prospect Park, has been named Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks.
Thomas retired in February 2011 after 30 years as Administrator of the 580-acre Prospect Park and 23 years as the founding President of the Prospect Park Alliance. She was responsible for the ongoing operation of the park and its multimillion-dollar restoration.
She will start at New Yorkers for Parks in early March.
“Not only is Tupper a leading expert on park management and policy, but she’s also a revered figure within the parks community – both in New York and across the country,” said Edward C. Wallace, Chairman of New Yorkers for Parks. “As a new administration takes office with a focus on equity, she’ll ensure that New Yorkers for Parks continues to provide a valuable, and trusted, voice on behalf of neighborhood parks in every corner of the city.”
“New Yorkers for Parks plays a critical role, both in helping to inform park policy through research, but also as an advocate on behalf of park users across the city,” Thomas said. “More than nearly any other city service, parks lie at the heart of neighborhood life in New York City. That fact has helped guide my career, and it crystallized why, with the de Blasio Administration poised to focus on neighborhood parks, I decided to come out of retirement to join the city’s leading independent park research and advocacy organization.”
Community outreach and participation was a centerpiece of Thomas’ work at the Alliance. In the mid-1990s, she formed the Alliance’s Community Committee, which continues to meet monthly and comprises more than 50 local organizations, including community boards and elected officials surrounding the park. The Committee has served as a model for other public-private park organizations across the country.
Prior to Thomas’ retirement from the Alliance, The New York Times noted in 2010 that she “has become a Brooklyn institution and is widely seen as the park’s indefatigable savior.”
“Few are the public servants who deserve credit for personally improving the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers,” The New York Daily News wrote in a 2010 editorial. “Tupper Thomas is one of them.”
During her time at the Alliance, annual park usership increased from 1.7 million to more than 10 million. She oversaw several significant restoration projects within the park, including the Ravine and Carousel, and helped springboard fundraising for the Lakeside restoration project.
For the past 14 years Thomas has served as a board member of the City Parks Alliance, the leading independent national organization that advocates for urban parks. She was a founding member of the group in 2000 and served as its Co-Chair for seven years. She has received numerous awards, including the American Society of Landscape Architects' LaGasse Award, and has been a guest speaker for parks groups throughout the United States and abroad.
Thomas holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from Pratt Institute and a BA from Goucher College.
She takes over for Holly Leicht, who left New Yorkers for Parks in January to serve as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Regional Administrator for the New York/New Jersey region.
“In a field of very distinguished candidates to replace Holly Leicht, Tupper stood apart," Wallace said. "It is a tribute to Holly and the entire NY4P staff that someone of Tupper's stature would come out of retirement to lead New Yorkers for Parks.”