Name: Mitchell Silver, FAICP


Firm: New York City Parks


Practicing City: New York City


Type of Work: Parks Department (programming, planning, designing, building and maintaining parks and amenities)




How did you first learn about engineering and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?

My first love of the built environment occurred during the 1964 World’s Fair when I saw the Panorama – a scaled model of the entire City of New York. That started my love for buildings. I started drawing buildings at a young age. After high school, I decided to apply to Pratt Institute for Architecture. I pursued a combined degree of Architecture and City and Regional Planning. While I did not become a licensed architect, I did use my degree to become an urban designer and urban planner.


What do you do?

I am currently the commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation. I oversee a park system that includes 30,000 acres of parkland and over 5,000 park assets that include parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, public beaches, concessions, marinas, street trees to name of few. I also oversee a capital projects division that consists of architects, landscape architects, engineers and surveyors that design, plan and supervise the construction of over 100 projects annually.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

Being a guardian of the future. Planning and designing places for people. Also, helping to improve the public health, safety and well-being of present and future generations.


What excites you in the work you do?

Implementing ideas and projects that improve the lives of the people.


Who or what inspires you professionally?

People inspire me. I feel that as a planner I have the unique obligation of being a guardian of the future. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the future. So I try to anticipate emerging issues and trends so I can help the public prepare for the possible implications of those changes.


What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement?

I came up with a vision for the creation of the Harlem Piers Park that was slated to be developed with a large commercial building. The complex would have blocked the community’s only access to the Harlem River. The plan gained momentum with the support of community advocates and elected officials. The park was ultimately built. The park not only is a vibrant public space, but was the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the West Harlem area.


How long have you been involved with nycoba NOMA?

I have had limited involvement over the years. My most active involvement with nycoba was during the 1990s while a New York section director and president of the Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association. During that time organizations held joint meetings and worked on key projects like the Harlem Piers project and diversity initiatives.


To learn more about Commissioner Mitchell Silver, please visit NYC Parks