Vol. 20,  No. 8

April 19 - May 2, 2007


New ‘Friends’ Leader Stakes Out Vision for VC Park


Since joining the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park in 2000, Christina Taylor has seen a lot of changes. Involvement in the Friends’ environmental internships has increased, areas of the park are being reforested and, of course, in 2004, the city chose Van Cortlandt Park as the site for a controversial new water filtration plant.

Now, as the new executive director of the non-profit organization, Taylor is ready to preside over more changes to improve the park, the city’s third largest, and those who use it.

“I have a vision for the Friends,” Taylor said.

Taylor, 30, previously served as the education coordinator for the Friends. She became interim executive director in November, when Paul Sawyer stepped down from the position, and she became the official director at the Friends’ March 8 meeting.

A Rochester native, Taylor is most excited about the Croton extension trail. The Friends have re-created the path, which runs along the Croton Aqueduct from the corner of West Gun Hill Road and Mosholu Parkway to the Allen Shandler Recreation Area within the southeastern section of the park. The Friends are also working on improving the condition of the trees and plants in that part of the park, which experts called the unhealthiest part of the Van Cortlandt Park forest.

“I’m really dedicated to changing that,” Taylor said of the forest’s diagnosis. “This project is very dear to me.”

Her vision also includes securing capital money to make restoring trails and plant life easier. In the past, interns and volunteers have worked on improvements, but Taylor wants professional help for some of the bigger tasks of reforestation.

Taylor, the only full-time staffer of the Friends, also wants to hire a new education coordinator and a development person to focus on fund-raising, a constant challenge for the group.

“I know if I want to raise capital funding it will take up a huge chunk of my time,” Taylor said.

She is looking forward to the opening of the Sachkerah Woods playground at the corner of West Gun Hill Road and Jerome Avenue, especially because so many children live near that part of the park, even though it came as the result of a political deal brokered to site the filtration plant, a project the Friends fought in court.

“I’m just excited there’s going to be a new space for them,” Taylor said.
A graduate of SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry, Taylor originally wanted to be a field biologist. She had several jobs after college before coming to the Friends, a position she heard about from a co-worker when she was an urban forest ranger.

“I knew I would always work outdoors,” Taylor said.

But many outdoor jobs are temporary and require a lot of moving, which makes her new stable gig that much more appealing.

“I like being settled and having a home,” Taylor said.

In that home in Dobbs Ferry, Taylor lives with her husband of one and a half years, Stan, their cat Molly, and a turtle named Murph.

Stan works for the Department of Environmental Protection, the organization the Friends sued in 2004 in an effort to keep the water filtration plant out of the park. But Taylor said there was no tension in the relationship during that period because Stan works out of White Plains.

“He’s not at the level that makes decisions about that,” she said.

As Taylor and the Friends prepare for a busy spring full of programs and fund-raising, Taylor has a spot chosen in the park where she can get away from it all. With the exception of a few golf carts, Taylor likes the seclusion and quiet of the bridge on the John Kieran Nature Trail.

“You actually forget that you’re in the city,” she said.

Ed. note: For more information on the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, or to volunteer, call (718) 601-1460 or visit

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