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BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | The Battery Park City Authority announced Tuesday a new head for the neighborhood’s parks after the controversial ouster of Tessa Huxley as its leader last month.
Huxley, 62, who apparently is being forced out, will continue temporarily as executive director of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, which she steered and led for 27 years. The authority promoted Bruno Pomponio to director of parks operations and he will become the conservancy’s leader after Huxley’s departure some time this fall, according to the Aug. 18 release.
Anthony Notaro, chairperson for Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee, said he has known and worked with Pomponio and “he is an excellent person for the job.”
However, Notaro does not see him as a replacement for Huxley, whose position is executive director and who helmed the conservancy. Pomponio will be director of operations, Eric “T” Fleisher is the director of horticulture and Abby Ehrlich is the director of parks programming along with her longtime deputy Craig Hudon.
When asked about the difference in titles and positions, authority spokesperson Kevin McCabe said in an email, “The leadership team we now have in place is the perfect combination to continue the important work of B.P.C. Parks.”
He did not respond to a request to speak with Pomponio and Huxley, who has made no public comments since news of her departure broke at the end of July.
Notaro questioned what the actual structure of the conservancy is and the strategy going forward.
“It is not clear what the future of the conservancy is,” he said in a phone interview.
The authority said this week that Huxley is retiring, but late last month, two sources told Downtown Express that Huxley was being forced out, subsequent to a New York Post article reporting the same thing. The authority claimed to have announced Huxley’s departure at its July 29 board meeting, but board members made no mention of her during the public part of the meeting, and their chairperson, Dennis Mehiel, did not answer most reporters’ questions about her status after the board’s private executive session the same day.
Many within the community were upset that Huxley was leaving and praised her stewardship of the neighborhood’s parks. C.B. 1 passed a resolution asking that the authority explain their decision to change leadership. Notaro said the authority has not responded to that resolution.
“I’m disappointed that there wasn’t transparency in this whole process,” said Dennis Gault, who has lived in Battery Park City since 1996 and has been a C.B. 1 member for ten years. “It’s disappointing when we have leaders who ignore the will of the people.
In a phone interview, Gault said that he saw firsthand the work Huxley did and the parks, along with the schools and the community itself, are one of the main reasons people reside in Battery Park City.
Tammy Meltzer, C.B. 1 member and Battery Park City resident, said in an email, “Tessa is an amazing person and has been a great asset to the community. Her knowledge of horticulture, her hand in the development of the area as well as her team have been a testament to why this is such a prized area of beauty. She will certainly be missed by those that know her and those that have enjoyed the beautiful horticulture of Battery Park City.”
According to the release, Pomponio has worked for the conservancy for 18 years and has led its parks maintenance division since 1999.
Pomponio, in a statement, said, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead our dedicated staff and serve the community in this new capacity. I look forward to working closely with leadership and staff as we preserve our pristine parks and innovative sustainability practices.”
Shari Hyman, president of the authority and conservancy, in the same release said: “We have a remarkable team in place who have all played a significant role in creating a world class park system over the years. Their comprehensive experience has created an urban oasis in Battery Park City for all to enjoy. We are lucky to have them continuing in their leadership roles.”