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Central Park Leader is Rye Native

Central Park Conservancy Emily Smith

The new head of the Central Park Conservancy is a Rye native. Elizabeth W. Smith, a Rye native who attended Rye Country Day, will be president and CEO of the Conservancy. According to its website, the non-profit funds 75% of Central Park's $67 million annual operating budget and manages the park under a contract with New York City.

The NY Times had a write-up:

"Elizabeth W. Smith grew up in Rye, N.Y., about an hour north of Manhattan, and said her earliest memory of Central Park was from when she moved to the Upper East Side after college. She would go running around the park — not in the park itself, but on the sidewalks just outside the stone walls that surround it.

This was in the mid-1970s. She carried pepper spray.

“Central Park, believe it or not, was a place not to go,” she recalled on Tuesday. “We didn’t think it was scary, but in retrospect it was a scary place. Actually going to Central Park wasn’t on anyone’s radar.”

In time Ms. Smith took a job that put going into the park on her radar — she was an assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation when Michael R. Bloomberg was mayor. And on Tuesday, she was named to a job that will put her squarely on the park’s radar, as one of the park’s top stewards, the president and chief executive of the Central Park Conservancy….

Ms. Smith…  was trained in… finance, beginning in the training program at what was then Morgan Guaranty Trust. She later moved into venture capital and private equity. In the late 1990s she was a senior vice president at Sotheby’s, the auction house. Her father and his father — her grandfather — were executives at Goldman Sachs. On her mother’s side, her great-great-grandfather, Amory Houghton, founded the Corning Glass Works in 1851. Her husband, Richard Cotton, became the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in August.

She joined the Parks Department as the giant art project “The Gates” was being prepared for installation in Central Park in 2005 — she called it a “shocking orange stream going through the brown and white of the park” in midwinter and said it made her look at the park “in a completely different way” — and was involved in planning events in the park…

She talked about the ways the conservancy has reinvigorated the park. One consequence is that she now runs in the park, usually around 6 a.m.

“I feel safe in the park,” she said."


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