Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy elects Mark Baker Board Chairman
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy announced today that Mark Baker has been elected Chair of its Board of Directors. Baker succeeds Nancy Bowe who has chaired the Conservancy’s board since 2011. Baker will lead the Conservancy in its ongoing efforts as the lead nonprofit citizens group working in support of the world-class park on the Brooklyn waterfront. Focusing on public programming, community outreach, stewardship, and philanthropic support, the Conservancy works in partnership with Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation to ensure that Brooklyn Bridge Park reaches its full potential as a dynamic and vibrant public space for Brooklyn, New York City, and beyond.
“Mark Baker will lead the Conservancy through its next exciting phase with enthusiasm, vision, candor, and wisdom. His expertise, experience, and interests suit our future,” said Nancy Bowe, outgoing Chairman of the Conservancy. “I look forward to even more wonderful educational, recreational, and cultural programming in the Park as Mark leads the Conservancy’s top-notch staff, board, members, and volunteers.”
As the longest serving member of the Conservancy’s Board of Directors, Baker has been instrumental in the organization’s advocacy efforts for Brooklyn Bridge Park. He incorporated the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition in 1990 and has served as a leader of that organization (now the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy) for over 25 years. During his tenure, Baker has guided many of the Conservancy’s initiatives, including the establishment of the Conservancy’s offices on Furman Street, interim uses of the site before the Park was built, and leading the organization’s current strategic planning efforts.
Baker began his career at the Dewey Ballantine law firm in Manhattan, where he specialized in corporate law and served as Hiring Partner and Chair of the Capital Markets Group. His clients included DHL International, the Walt Disney Company, Home Box Office, and numerous venture capital and investment banking firms.
At Dewey, Baker developed his two great interests—the emerging field of biotechnology, where his commercial legal practice came to be focused, and parks and open space in New York City, in particular around its harbor, where his pro bono legal efforts were concentrated.
After twenty years as a lawyer, Baker moved to the business side, working with the environmentalists Tom Fox and Douglas Durst to create New York Water Taxi. Baker was Chief Business Officer of Water Taxi and was responsible for creating the highly popular Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City. What was initially a bid by Baker to increase ridership by bringing truckloads of sand to the water taxi stop quickly gained a life of its own, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to its lively waterside location.
Following the successful launch of the Water Taxi business Baker joined his former legal client, the biotech company Progenics Pharmaceuticals, becoming Chief Executive Officer. At Progenics Baker has led the development of numerous drugs for cancer. Baker has spearheaded the concept of using targeted imaging agents to diagnose and guide the treatment of prostate cancer.
“I am so pleased and honored to have been selected by the Directors of the Conservancy to serve as their Board Chair,” said Mark Baker. “Having had the pleasure as a Director of working over the years with every previous Board Chair, I know the high bar that has been set for me as I take on this assignment. In particular, the incredible work of Nancy Bowe as Chair as she guided the growth of the Conservancy over the past five years will be tough for me to match. Before Brooklyn Bridge Park could be built, we had to first build a community to support the Park. An unexpected pleasure for me over the 28 years I’ve been involved in the Park effort has been being part of this vibrant and resourceful community. I know that in my new role I’ll have to call once again on your generosity and ingenuity as we forge ahead to the finish line of completing the Park and making its programming the envy of the world.”
A native of Buffalo, New York, Baker lives in Brooklyn Heights with his wife of 39 years, Diane Price Baker, and his three teenage sons, Jack, Benjamin, and Zachary Baker.
“The Conservancy has been an integral part of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s incredible success,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development and Chair of Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, Alicia Glen. “As the Park has steadily expanded, the Conservancy has supported its growth and extended outreach across the community. I’d like to thank Nancy Bowe for her service to the community and I look forward to working with Mark Baker and Nancy Webster to ensure the future of this wonderful destination.”
“Under Nancy Bowe’s guidance, the Conservancy has played a vital role in establishing Brooklyn Bridge Park as a destination for diverse programming and environmental education, and I am excited to see this success continued with Mark at the helm,” said Regina Myer, President of Brooklyn Bridge Park. “I look forward to having the Conservancy’s continued support as we build this amazing place and continue to offer even more to the people of New York.”
“As a community, we greatly appreciate Nancy Bowe’s contribution as chair of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy,” said New York City Council Member Stephen Levin. “Throughout the years, she has exemplified the spirit of community service with her dedication. She has always approached her work with great joy and a spirit of collaboration, and we are very appreciative of her service.”
“I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from Nancy Bowe for nearly 20 years,” stated Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “Her tenure as chair of the Conservancy board is a testament to her vision, dedication, and commitment to its educational and other public programming. How fortunate Brooklyn is that she will be succeeded by Mark Baker, himself a visionary with a long history of commitment to Brooklyn Bridge Park. I look forward to working with him as we continue to make Brooklyn Bridge Park a world-class park for all.”
“I thank both Nancy Bowe and Mark Baker for their years of service to the Park, Conservancy, and community,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I look forward to continuing to work with Mark, Nancy Webster, Nancy Bowe, and the Conservancy in continued efforts to make Brooklyn Bridge Park a great destination for the community, the borough and beyond.”
“It’s hard to believe five years have passed since Nancy Bowe took the helm of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy board,” stated Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “In that time she has greatly expanded events and activities in the Park. I thank her for her tireless work and contributions. I’m also happy to see Mark Baker, the longest serving member of the board, will succeed her. We’ve come a long way in the 27 years since he got the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition incorporated to advocate a waterfront park. It is a testament to Mark, Nancy, and all those who served that today’s Conservancy is attached to a real park. Today, that park is growing at every turn, and is actively used by people from not only Brooklyn, but also the City and around the world.”
Spurred by the Port Authority’s plan to sell the piers along the Brooklyn Heights waterfront for commercial development, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition (now Conservancy) was born in 1985. Based in citizen activism around a desire to revitalize the Brooklyn waterfront and turn the piers area into a public park, an advocacy effort led by the Coalition encompassed more than 60 civic, community, and environmental groups, and resulted in a memorandum of understanding between the State and City committing a total of $150 million to build the park.
Over the past twenty years, the Conservancy has brought imaginative and popular public programming to Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Park’s interim sites, which have been enjoyed by over 1.4 million visitors. The Conservancy has raised over $21 million, which has supported free public programming in the Park as well as advocacy and Park stewardship.
Over the past five years under the leadership of Nancy Bowe, the Conservancy has greatly expanded its reach and activities in the Park. Working closely with Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which has built and operates the Park, the Conservancy facilitates over 500 free events and activities serving over 190,000 park visitors including the annual outdoor film series “Movies with a View,” kayaking, a fitness series and field days, playground enrichment activities, family festivals, and performances. The Conservancy oversees a robust volunteer program with 3,100 individuals contributing over 13,000 hours of service, including park clean-up and horticultural activities as well as a park greeter and docent program. In September 2015, the Conservancy opened its Environmental Education Center, which serves as the home base for the organization’s extensive education program that welcomes over 12,000 schoolchildren a year for environmental education classes that use the Park as a living laboratory. Fundraising initiatives under the leadership of Ms. Bowe include the launch of the Park’s Eileen B. Dugan Memorial Run, the fall Oyster Shellebration, and the Brooklyn Black Tie Ball.
Bowe will remain on the Conservancy Board.
“Nancy deserves our overwhelming thanks for her leadership of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy over the past five years,” said Nancy Webster, Executive Director of the Conservancy. “Under her tenure, the Conservancy’s public programming, volunteer and stewardship efforts, community outreach and philanthropic contributions have grown significantly, helping to create a vibrant, thriving Brooklyn Bridge Park.”