BBPC Prexy Quits

On a day where community leaders are questioning the financial plan for Brooklyn Bridge Park, one of the leaders in making the park a reality announced she’s leaving the fray. Marianna Koval, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy since 1999 will be leaving in June. The full press release after the jump.

Caps a Decade’s Worth of Leadership and Accomplishment

BROOKLYN, March 4, 2009 – The board of directors of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy today announced the resignation of Marianna Koval, its successful long-time president. Koval has expressed her desire to board leaders to move on to new challenges after ten years of service to Brooklyn Bridge Park. She has been the chief executive officer of the organization since 1999 and will leave her position in June 2009.

Under Koval’s leadership, the Conservancy moved successfully to promote and advocate for the waterfront park. Construction began last month on Pier 1 and this portion of the park is scheduled to open at the end of this year. Koval transformed the organization from one that had focused initially on generating public and government support for Brooklyn Bridge Park to one that has helped make that dream a reality. It was during her tenure that the park plan grew to include the waterfront between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, including the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park and what has become the city’s Main Street park. By adding this land to the park, the City became a partner in the project with the State and has now contributed over $160 million to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

It was during Koval’s tenure that effective Conservancy advocacy helped the city and state decide in May 2002 to fund and build Brooklyn Bridge Park. With total commitments of $150 million ($85 million from the State and $65 million from the city) the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Empire State Development Corporation, was created to design and build the park. An additional $80 million was added by the city in 2008.

Over the past ten years, Koval brought imaginative and popular programming to the future park site. This included most notably the annual outdoor film series “Movies with a View,” the Floating Swimming Pool at Brooklyn Bridge Park Beach in 2007, and last summer’s “Pop-Up Park” on Pier 1. Working in partnership with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and numerous community groups, the Conservancy has facilitated free public programming enjoyed by more than half a million visitors since 1999 in the beginnings of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Under Koval’s leadership, the Conservancy raised over $10,000,000, which has supported free public programming in the park as well as advocacy, park stewardship, and maintenance. With Koval at the helm, the Conservancy’s budget has grown from $88,000 in 1998 to over $1,100,000 in 2008.

In announcing Koval’s departure, David Kramer, chair of the Conservancy’s board of directors, said, “We are saddened today to inform all those for whom Brooklyn Bridge Park has become an interest and a cause that the board has reluctantly accepted the resignation of Marianna Koval. While many people have played a role in the realization of Brooklyn Bridge Park, it is only because we have followed the leadership and vision of Marianna. Her indefatigable pursuit and infectious spirit helped the organization, the community, the city and state to make possible the building of Brooklyn Bridge Park. We will miss her leadership, but thank her for a decade of immeasurable contributions.”

Explaining her decision, Koval said, “It is the right time to begin a new chapter in my life after ten wonderful years working on this extraordinary project. Park construction has begun under the effective leadership of Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation President Regina Myer, and the Conservancy board and staff are committed, strong, and primed to continue providing invaluable support for Brooklyn Bridge Park. A park is finally, truly growing in Brooklyn, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to help make it happen.”

“Marianna has been the soul of Brooklyn Bridge Park. She has provided a voice for the myriad groups who will use it in years to come, and ensuring that a lively and diverse set of activities have been available to people using the park today,” said Tensie Whelan, current vice chair and former executive director and chair of the Conservancy. “Working day and night, Marianna has rallied enormous public support for the vision of a joyous, active, and iconic park that will be a wonder of the world when completed.”

“When it comes to the world of civic improvement, there are typically two types of people: ‘doers’ and ‘dreamers.’ Marianna Koval, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, embodies both characteristics splendidly,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “She’s a ‘hands-on’ lady who can both commandeer the park’s annual film series with military precision and shepherd the hugest of ideas to fruition—no one will ever forget the magic of the Floating Pool! Marianna is a true Brooklyn original. We are so very thankful for her leadership over the past ten years and wish her all the best on her future endeavors.”

“Over the past decade, Marianna has brought the community together to advocate and work for the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Thanks to her vision and hard work, our neighbors enjoy the beginning stages of the park, as well as a host of cultural, educational and recreational programs. We will follow in her footsteps to realize the dream of bringing a world-class park to Brooklyn’s waterfront,” Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said.

“New York is grateful to Marianna for her decade of service and devotion to Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “As a tireless advocate, Marianna’s vision has brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Brooklyn waterfront and led the way to the creation of New York City’s next great park.”

“As President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, Marianna Koval has demonstrated incredible dedication to her community. For years Marianna led the charge to transform our Brooklyn waterfront into one of the greatest parkland escapes in the city. She truly turned this park from a dream into reality. Our community is indebted to her, for her perseverance and unparalleled commitment to this project and our borough,” said New York City Councilmember Bill de Blasio.

“Marianna Koval has been one of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s staunchest supporters,” said Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation President Regina Myer. “Marianna has been a driving force in advocating for this park, demonstrating her enduring commitment to revitalizing Brooklyn’s waterfront through dynamic leadership. Under her guidance, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy brought engaging and innovative programming such as the Floating Pool at Brooklyn Bridge Park Beach and the Summer ’08 @ Pier 1 project to all New Yorkers. We are incredibly appreciative of Marianna’s dedication to this project.”

“Marianna Koval has led the civic efforts to get Brooklyn Bridge Park from the realm of fantasy to actual construction,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “With her leadership, the Conservancy created and sponsored a huge variety of events that brought cultural offerings and tens of thousands of visitors to the emerging Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront. Ms. Koval can be very proud of all she has accomplished, and how well the table has been set for the future of Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

“The Conservancy recognized Marianna’s passion for Brooklyn Bridge Park from the first day we hired her,” said John Watts, former chair of the Conservancy. “Over the past ten years Marianna has proven to be a visionary leader and advocate, building an extraordinary organization with a strong board and staff. By bringing thousands of people to an under-utilized waterfront, Marianna has been instrumental in building the political support to fund and build Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park’s construction has now begun; Marianna has played in a critical role reaching that goal.”

The Conservancy’s Board will soon announce its plan for the transition to new executive leadership.

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About the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy has worked for more than twenty years to ensure the creation, adequate funding, proper maintenance, public support, and citizen enjoyment of Brooklyn Bridge Park through partnership with the public sector, development of programming, and active promotion of the needs of the park and its constituents. Since 2000, more than half a million visitors have enjoyed the Conservancy’s free, public programs in the beginnings of Brooklyn Bridge Park. For more information, visit

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  • Nancy

    That park will be finished when Brooklynites drive levitating airships and go to the moon for a weekend of casino gambling.

  • nicky215

    She has been a divisive leader whose organization served only itself. They have tons of money that should have been used for the park- not to feather their own nest. By all metrics Ms Koval and her organization are a failure. There is no park and the source of funding for the future is housing that will never be buit in our lifetimes. The only thing the conservancy conserved was themselves.

  • Reality Bites

    Anyone know the real reason Koval quit just as work on the park is finally starting?

  • Jeff

    “Feather their own nests”? Um, have you *seen* the Conservancy’s offices? They’re about as nice as the interior of the (sadly departed) used bookstore on Montague Street.

    Old carpet, water damage stains on the ceiling. 5 year old computers. Network wiring taped down in the corners.

    I suppose one could say that the salaries they paid themselves is what you’re referring to, but pretty much every one of the employees — including Marianna — could have taken a private sector job for twice what they currently make. They work extremely long hours for very little pay — I think instead of hurling insults and mockery we should be saying thank you for their hard work and earnest efforts.

  • nicky215

    Long Hours… in the summer… very little to do the rest of the year but write proposals, hob nob with the electeds and go to a meeting or two. Also lets not forget Koval used her contacts to raise funds and have dinner parties among the select few for her favorite politicans.. Again by any metric
    Koval and the Conservancy are a failure…

  • DB

    Maybe under new leadership that organization will start advocating for a REAL park instead of a luxury high-rise housing development.

  • http://deleted Parker

    Koval’s work is done. She did the deed for the Heights high and mighty – she got them the luxury housing they wanted to “protect” the park, she got them the landscaping that will improve their views, she got barriers to those trying to get into the park, and most significantly, she made sure there would be no active recreation (nothing for people to do in the park, no reason for them to come to it). Creating the base canard that those people fighting for recreation and against housing wanted to turn the place into Disneyland, she created fear among people who don’t have time to understand the truth. So she was successful. But like others who do dirty work for the high and mighty, she was the first person to be fired once the dirty deed was done. Too bad she couldn’t figure out how to advocate for the real park residents have fought so hard to get. Housing in public parks is and always will be the wrong way to go. She should have done the right thing but she didn’t and now she is gone. Next.

  • Nancy

    The Brooklyn Bridge Park project has turned into a public/private fiasco. There is no park south of the Bridge and yet it has engendered a civil war among residents of our neighborhoods. The wasteful spending of public funds has raised all kinds of red flags. The process has embarrased practically everyone associated with it. So rather than an amenity, it has turned into a curse for the area. No one should feel proud about that.

  • nate

    This is a public fraud. There is no park, there never will be a park. It is all a giant lie. The property will probably eventually be sold off and privately developed. We should all wake up and smell the coffee. We have been lied to repeatedly by all involved for over fifteen years. Out and out lies. How many times have I heard: “the first part of the park will start to take shape by year’s end”. Yet after all these years and many, many millions of dollars, not a single permanent portion of the park has been built. Repeat: not a single permanent portion of the park has been built. Fulton Ferry State Park exists, but there is no Brooklyn Bridge State Park and there never will be. It is the EDC version of Bernie Madoff’s business model. it’s a big lie. I only hope someone goes to jail for this massive public fraud.

  • Joralemon St Resident

    To Parker and Nancy and the other critics who’ve written here:

    Give it a rest already with your rants against the “Heights high and mighty” – the evil cabal you suspect of ruining the park. Do you really, honestly believe that no one will come to a green area with breathtaking river and lower Manhattan views because there is no “active recreation” (whatever that means)? Last summer’s pop-up park attendance puts the lie to your nonsense. I would argue that once there is any type of landscaping at all and one tiny entrance at Old Fulton, any incremental attendance based on the amenities in the park or other access to the park will be negligble. Sure, there are Columbia Heights and Joralemon Street NIMBYs, but let’s be realistic – the things that both you and the NIMBYs are arguing about (other than the housing/hotel debate) are really going to have little effect.

    Now the housing issue is a different. With different state leadership it would be nice to have a recognition that a park is a valuable taxpayer expense that doesn’t need to be “self-funding.” (As an excuse to give away land to developers.) Unfortunately the current economic environment will make it difficult for now to change the status quo.

    As you can see, I’m against housing, but I disagree with your other points and especially in your tactics and rhetoric. I also put it out there that the vast majority of Heights & Hill residents feel as I do, and resent your polarizing arguments just as much as those coming from the small group of NIMBYs.

    Nate: do we live in the same neighborhood?? Do you think all of the demo work they’re doing on the piers now is just some paranoid scheme to clear the land for some big condo development? Give me a break.

  • BklynLifer

    To Joralemon St resident:

    You wrote, “the vast majority of Heights & Hill residents feel as I do, and resent your polarizing arguments just as much as those coming from the small group of NIMBYs.”

    Sez who?

    The Heights and Hills residents actually DID speak up — it’s called an election. We had one of those last fall, and 55% of the Heightsers and 77% of the Hillsers threw out one of the bums who made the deal to put housing in the “park.”

    Do you ever leave Joralemon St? Do you think $350 million tax dollars should go for a “develo-park”?

    As for tactics — aside from saying you’re “against housing,” what else did YOU do to stop it from happening?

  • heavy flo

    Still waiting to hear about all those alternate financial plans to maintain the park. Love the incremental tax financing plan of Squadrons. Right – you’ll all support that in the next zoning resolution..

    Joralemon ST Resident – Active recreation means Chelsea Piers style indoor recreation. How about that at the end of your block? Better would be something like that in YMCA up the block, perhaps in one of the residences.