Hudson River Park Trust Picks a New Leader

Updated, 6:33 p.m. | Madelyn Wils is trading the Coney Island boardwalk and the body shops of Willets Point, Queens, for the green patches and esplanades that line the Hudson River waterfront in Manhattan.

Ms. Wils, a longtime resident of TriBeCa, is leaving an executive position at the New York City Economic Development Corporation to become the president and chief executive of the Hudson River Park Trust, which manages the public lands along the river below 59th Street. Ms. Wils succeeds Connie Fishman, who left the trust in February to oversee real estate for the YMCA of Greater New York.

In her new job, Ms. Wils will have to devise ways of increasing revenue from the waterfront property to help pay for the continued development of piers that make up much of the park. A critical question is what to do with Pier 40, which houses a parking garage that provides more than one-third of the trust’s annual revenue.

The trust, which has spent about $400 million to redevelop the crumbling vestiges of the city’s maritime past into recreational spaces, takes in about $16 million a year. Its managers have repeatedly been frustrated by community opposition to plans for commercial uses of some of the piers, including Pier 57 at the edge of Chelsea. That pier is supposed to be turned into a cultural center, after a previous proposal was scrapped when the developer backed out.

Ms. Wils has plenty of experience trying to balance the dreams of developers against the hopes of neighborhood residents. She was involved in contentious negotiations to develop housing in the Seward Park section of the Lower East Side and to relocate auto repair businesses from the blocks around Citi Field in Queens. Before that, as a board member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, she helped plan the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site.

“She comes from the community and she knows the waterfront,” said A.J. Pietrantone, executive director of the Friends of Hudson Park, a group that raises money for the park. “The park now is approaching completion so it’s more expensive to operate. It’s a very complex and strategic agenda that needs to be coordinated well and I think she’s well suited for that.”

Ms. Wils, 55, said she would start at the trust on June 20, after overseeing the launch of ferry service on the East River, which, like the reimagining of Coney Island, was one of her projects at the development corporation.

“It’s a big switch, but the waterfront has always been my passion,” she said in an interview. “We have to look at stabilizing the park both structurally and financially. It’s going to take a lot of work.” But, Ms. Wils added, “I’m attracted to challenges.”

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