April 19 - May 2, 2007
New ‘Friends’ Leader
Stakes Out Vision for VC Park
By KATHRYN MOLINARO
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
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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