c. Greg Martin

PPA Profiles: Sue Donoghue

October 22, 2014

Both personally and professionally, city parks have played a central role in the life of Susan Donoghue, the Alliance’s new President and Park Administrator. After earning a Master of Public Administration at New York University, she spent six years at NYC Parks as an Assistant Commissioner, where she spearheaded the agency’s work on important initiatives such as PlaNYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s blueprint for enhancing the city’s sustainability. Through these initiatives, the city has planted more than 900,000 trees, renovated and constructed eight regional parks, and added over 260 new community playgrounds through the Schoolyards to Playgrounds Initiative in all five boroughs.

Yet her passion for Prospect Park goes beyond her work at NYC Parks. As a neighborhood resident and mother of three, the Park is a haven for her family. She brings her children to the Park to play sports, and three times a week takes an early morning jog around the loop. Even her pet enjoys the Park. “I have a puppy,” she explained, “so I’m in the Long Meadow early in the morning.”

Taken together, the role as Alliance President and Park Administrator could not be more ideal. “You don’t always get to combine what you really love with your professional experience,” she said.

Donoghue has a strong awareness of the challenges of running and operating an urban park, as well as what an incredibly vital resource the Park is for such a densely populated borough. One of the biggest challenges is harnessing resources and gaining consensus. Her time in city government was an education in what it takes to bring new initiatives to the fore. “Good communication is essential to help people understand what we do, why we’re doing it, and how it benefits everyone,” she said. “It takes partnering with the community to bring about change and incorporate new ideas.” In her new role, she is highly focused on making certain the Park serves the diverse groups that consider Prospect Park their backyard, and understanding their changing needs.

She also is dedicated to making certain the work of the Alliance in the ongoing care and maintenance of Prospect Park is able to meet the Park’s increasing use. “Parks all over the city are important examples of the city’s renaissance,” she said. “People are coming in droves, which is wonderful, but that can sometimes take a toll on the landscape.” Since the Alliance’s founding in the mid-1980s, Prospect Park has seen a huge increase in visitors, in the past 20 years alone it has grown from 2 million to more than 10 million visits annually.

Ultimately, Donoghue defines success for the Alliance as continuing to attract a wide range of visitors from across the borough by restoring the Park and bringing to fruition new amenities such as Lakeside; while keeping the Park clean, safe and well maintained.