SI Live Coverage: Lynn Kelly, Snug Harbor

Snug Harbor CEO resigns: What's next for Lynn Kelly? 

September 20, 2016 

By Lauren Steussy 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Lynn B. Kelly is stepping down as leader of Staten Island's largest cultural institution.

Kelly, the president and CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, has announced her resignation, effective late October. She said the decision was bittersweet, but that she's proud to be leaving the 83-acre cultural center in a more stable financial condition.

The Staten Islander has taken a new role with the independent organization New Yorkers for Parks, which works to ensure parks and open spaces are equitably distributed and maintained citywide -- Staten Islanders may know them from the Daffodil Project, which planted the uplifting yellow flowers in parks after 9/11.

"When you grow up in the 'borough of parks' you have an appreciation for green space but you also take it for granted," Kelly, 44, said. "As I got into the rest of my career, I realized that as development continues in NYC -- and it should -- open space becomes that much more precious."

"New Yorkers for Parks has been around for more than 100 years, fighting the good fight, and finding the balance between the changing urban environment and green space."

Kelly joined Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden as president and CEO in December 2010. She was named one of the 50 most influential Staten Islanders in the City and State blog.

The news comes on a high note in Kelly's career with Snug Harbor. In June, she helped secure an additional $400,000 in operating funds every year from the Department of Cultural Affairs.

The budget boost came after years of outcry from Snug's leaders, who last year said the Livingston campus could closeif the city didn't help with operating expenses.

This fiscal year, Snug Harbor will get $1.85 million from the city, after getting a one-time infusion of $199,000 last fiscal year. It meant city agencies would take over care for trees on the grounds, help pave roads, pick up trash and provide security, year after year.

"No matter how tough things got, she never gave up," said Snug Harbor's board chair Mark Lauria. "We had some rough roads with the city, but she never gave up."

Lauria added that Kelly raised the bar at Snug Harbor, especially with her brokering the center's new licensing agreement. He and his board have appointed CFO Jeffrey Manzer as interim CEO as they search for a new leader.

The board hopes to find someone with an arts and culture background, now that the center's financial issues are resolved.

"We're on the most solid footing we've ever been on," Lauria said, adding that now, Snug Harbor has "the eyes and ears" of the city's cultural community.

Kelly said one of the things she's most proud of in her tenure at Snug Harbor is the name recognition the cultural center has gained on Staten Island and around New York City.

"When I'm out and about, people know the name Snug Harbor now, and they can even mention programing that we have, or say the site looks fantastic."

She gave credit to the staff and board who came before her, and helped her work with the city to put Snug Harbor on sounder financial footing. She also thanked the elected officials on Staten Island who stood by her during the center's financial hardships -- "How rare is it that every single elected official was in our corner?"

She said whoever leads the Harbor next will help bring it to its fullest potential.

"It's teed up and now -- someone just has to hit it out of the ballpark," she said.

Prior to coming to Snug Harbor, she was with New York City Economic Development Corporation for nearly 10 years, rising to the position of senior vice president.

Kelly came to Snug Harbor after spearheading the redevelopment of Coney Island. Under her leadership, in 2010 Coney Island saw the highest attendance and most lucrative summer season in over 50 years, according to Snug Harbor.

Kelly earned a BA in Metropolitan Studies from New York University's College of Arts and Sciences and a Masters of Public Administration from NYU's Wagner School of Public Service.

As the leader of Snug Harbor, Kelly took on several city-wide cultural roles: She was appointed to the executive committee of New York City's tourism arm, NYC & Company. She was also tapped to head the organization's Arts & Culture Committee.

Now, she's looking forward to continuing to advocate for Staten Island's public spaces.

"A conversation I would like to broker between New Yorkers for Parks and Staten Island is about what we can be doing to advocate for more projects on Staten Island," Kelly said. "There are a lot of great opportunities for that."

"Today, pressures of density, affordability and equity make sufficient investment in our parks and open spaces complicated and challenging," said Joel Steinhaus, Chairman of New Yorkers for Parks. "Now, more than ever, our city needs a strong advocate for open space, and we believe Lynn can be that voice."

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