After a four-plus year term as Executive Director of the Open Space Alliance (OSA), the OSA board announced, this week, that Stephanie Thayer would no longer serve in that position nor in her dual role as North Brooklyn Parks Administrator.
Steve Hindy, the chairman of the non-profit—which helps improve and fund new and existing parks in North Brooklyn—indicated that they want a new face for the organization as they move forward.
“OSA needed new leadership to face the challenges in development and some other strategic goals for the organization,” said Hindy. “We are discussing with [the Parks Department] the process, and I can’t comment further on that except to say that Stephanie will serve in a transitional period while we look for a new leader.”
Hindy said they most likely would not name a replacement for another six weeks. He noted that he was pleased with the job Thayer had done in what many in the community characterize as a challenging leadership position.
“Stephanie’s done a great job getting the organization off the ground. We’re in a great place having completed our fundraiser last month and we definitely appreciate what she’s done and wish her well.”
Since taking on the position in 2008, Thayer oversaw significant growth in parks usage and programming, especially in long underserved Cooper, Sternberg and Maria Hernandez parks. She spearheaded several successful fundraising initiatives and oversaw capital projects including the restoring of American Playground and the reopening of McCarren Park Pool.
Thayer’s term also included a fair amount of criticism from the community. She was immediately scrutinized for serving in two seemingly opposing roles as Parks administrator for North Brooklyn and OSA director. This duality created frustration among local residents who claimed that advocating to Parks for the community while representing them was a clear conflict of interest.
“It’s a very complicated job being head of a brand new non-profit and being an administrator for the Parks Department,” said Christine Murray, former co-chair of the OSA Community Committee. “It’s a mighty big job, and I don’t know if Stephanie got all the support she needed to do that job.”
Calls placed to the Parks Department went unreturned.
Thayer also endured criticism from the community over issues ranging from lethargic snow removal to placing barbecue pits in Cooper Park to noise from OSA’s summer concert series. In May, six activists fired off a letter to Hindy demanding that he replace Thayer, citing substandard maintenance in the parks and a lack of communication from OSA. But those who worked with her said she had begun to hit her stride in the job over the past year and that many of the criticisms thrown at her were unfair.
“Stephanie was a dedicated public servant,” said District Leader Lincoln Restler. “She made herself available 24 hours a day. Every park cleanup, grass planting, public arts initiative had one constant, and that was the presence of Stephanie Thayer.”
Some community leaders speculate that Veronica M. White, Mayor Bloomberg’s new appointee for Parks Commissioner, wanted a new face for the North Brooklyn administrator, which led to Thayer’s ouster. Others believe that the OSA simply wanted someone with better community credentials to fill her shoes.
“I hope they get somebody with some real non-profit experience who has a vision they can share and inspire the community to get involved,” said Murray. “I think there are some great examples out there and it’s a big job to fill, and I hope the community gets somewhat of a voice in this.”
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