The Open Space Alliance of North Brooklyn (OSA) hired Ed Janoff as their new Executive Director last week, bringing their six-month search for new leadership to a close. Janoff – an urban planner with experience designing pedestrian plazas for the Department of Transportation (DOT) – will begin his new job by mid-March, according to a spokesperson at the Parks Department.
Janoff has spent the past five years as the Public Space Operations Manager for the D.O.T. Before that, the NYU graduate worked for nearly five years at the Bryant Park Corporation, focusing on public space programs like the Citi Pond ice rink. He has been a resident of Greenpoint for years.
The OSA is different from other New York City park groups like the Prospect Park Alliance or the Central Park Conservancy in that – rather than aligning themselves with a single park – the organization is responsible for all open space in North Brooklyn’s Community Board 1. That approach gives the organization great influence, but also enormous goals that can be difficult to meet.
“I think we’ve had some success in raising money for parks other than McCarren Park in North Brooklyn,” asserted OSA Chairman Steve Hindy. “Councilmember Diana Reyna earmarked $2.3 million to improve Cooper Park and we developed a community charrette program to plan on how to spend that money. I think the idea of focusing on more than one park is a more democratic approach to this kind of public-private partnership, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Janoff replaces community member Stephanie Thayer at the helm of the organization.
“Stephanie was a good manager, and it’s a tough job because there are scarce resources and the money OSA is able to provide is nothing compared to the needs of our parks, so I thought she did well with what she had,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who also extolled her successor’s energy, experience, and commitment to civil service.
“[He] is a perfect choice to lead OSA, and I am certain that he will deepen [their] involvement in our community and be a great partner in leading our parks,” added Lincoln Restler, a community activist and former district leader.
One of the problems the community had with OSA pertained to their fundraising tactics. Because resources in the Parks Department are so scarce, the OSA is largely responsible for infusing North Brooklyn parks with resources. They’ve used a series of outdoor concerts to raise those funds in the past, prompting some neighbors to complain about the noise. Hindy, however, says those concerts won’t likely stop anytime soon.
“The concerts are a very important source of funding for us,” he says. ”We’ve applied for numerous grants, but honestly, grant money is very tight these days. We did just get $15,000 from State Parks, which Assemblyman Lentol got for us. And each member of the board commits to contributing $5,000 per year. So the board contributes money, [but] we’re looking for money wherever we can find it. It’s not an easy time.”
Nevertheless, both Janoff and his future colleagues are optimistic about the future of open space in the neighborhood. Said Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey, “We are enthusiastic about the selection, and look forward to working with Ed to make North Brooklyn even greater and greener.”