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Thomas Paulo, Retiring After 17 Years




Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-HammelThomas Paulo, right, takes a turn on the Carousel for All Children in Willowbrook Park with Borough President James Molinaro.

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Long-time Staten Island Parks Commissioner Thomas Paulo, who helped transform the Island into the Borough of Parks, spearhead the creation of the Greenbelt and develop a park and carousel for children with disabilities, will retire July 30th.

''I hope I have made Staten Island a better place for people to enjoy,'' said Paulo, 63, of Livingston, a trained landscape architect who held the Parks post for more than 17 years. He is believed to be the longest-serving Parks commissioner in borough history.

Paulo, who informed New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benape last month that he wanted to step down in July, said in retirement he will pursue personal interests in horticulture, landscape design, fine arts and travel. With several big projects completed, but several more in the offing, Paulo called it a ''good time for me to separate.''

There is no immediate timetable for his replacement to be chosen, Parks sources said.

Benape hailed Paulo for having ''revitalized the green and waterfront open spaces in Staten Island.''

With his background in both law and landscape architecture, and his personal connection to and knowledge of the borough as a lifelong and fourth-generation Island resident, Tom has played a key role in turning Staten Island into 'the Borough of Parks,' working with a generation of park-loving elected officials.






In 1996, he is seen with then Borough President Guy Molinari and then Deputy Borough President James Molinaro, discussing improvements for South Beach.


''I hope I have made Staten Island a better place for people to enjoy,'' - said Paulo, 63, of Livingston, a trained landscape architect who held the Parks post for more than 17 years. He is believed to be the longest-serving Parks commissioner in borough history.

''We upgraded every existing Parks facility and improved almost every existing playground we have. We created the first playground for all children, Jennifer's Playground, and the Carousel for All Children with Alice [Diamond, wife of late Advance Publisher Richard E. Diamond and mother of current Advance Publisher Caroline Diamond Harrison]. There was South Beach and Midland Beach and the boardwalks with the help of Borough Hall.''

''We have two new nature centers, the Blue Heron and Greenbelt Nature Centers, and the Greenbelt recreation center. The Conference House Park was totally renovated. On the North Shore there is the waterfront promenade. In the process, Staten Island became known as the Borough of Parks.''

Paulo called it ''all extremely exciting and challenging.'' He also extended kudos to his staff of 200, calling them a ''wonderful workforce.''






Borough Parks commissioner Thomas A. Paulo announced funding for the John D'Amato Athletic Field in New Dorp in 2008.


A fixture in the borough's parks and environmental scene for decades, Paulo was appointed to the post of Island Parks chief in March 1993 by then-Mayor David Dinkins and then-city Parks Commissioner Betsy Gotbaum. Prior to that, from 1984-93, Paulo served as the Island's first Greenbelt administrator.

''When the tire hit the road, he was always there for Staten Island,'' said Molinaro, standing on the boardwalk at South Beach before a recent press event. ''Without him, what you see here today would not look the way it does. He had to fight city bureaucracy, too, and he was always on our side.''

Paulo's sister, Fran Paulo Huber, CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center, recently announced she would retire later this year.

The son of the late Surrogate Frank Paulo, Paulo grew up in Grasmere, where he and Mrs. Huber ran a small landscape design business when they were just starting out. After graduating from the former Augustinian Academy, Grymes Hill, and earning a bachelor's degree in history from New York University, Paulo returned to NYU to get his law degree and pursued a legal career in private practice in Brooklyn for two years.

But his love of landscape architecture won out, with Paulo obtaining a graduate degree in the field from the College of Forestry at Syracuse University, a subject he went on to teach there from 1974-80 before returning to New York City to become a senior planner in the city Planning Department from 1980-84.


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November 20, 2019, 2:03 pm PDT

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