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Success Story Sunday: Toni Pollak

This week Preservation Massachusetts wants to take the time to highlight a different kind of success story. Straying from the successful preservation of buildings and sites across Massachusetts, we want to hail the successful efforts of one powerful and driven woman in the public service field. Toni Pollak has been the longest serving Parks Commissioner for the city of Boston and gave over 15 years to the city and the land that compliments it.

Appointed to the Public Facilities Commission in 1997, Ms. Pollak was named Director of the City’s Environment Department in 1999 where she administered City of Boston historic preservation, conservation, air pollution control, archeology, and wetlands regulation. In addition, she was in charge of oversight regarding environmental issues surrounding the Central Artery Project, served as the City’s National Trust liaison, and was appointed by Mayor Menino to the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority in 2000.

The achievements that Ms. Pollak accomplished while serving the City are essential to how beautiful and significant the city is today.

-She developed public policy for a broad range of citywide issues including preservation, environment, development initatives, and tourism in tandem with cultural and educational institutions throughout the city.

-Ms. Pollak oversaw $110 million in capital investment in over 148 parks.

-She improved playgrounds, athletic facilities, natural areas, and historical landscapes in all of Boston’s neighborhoods.

-Ms. Pollak was responsible for guiding and permitting programming in City parks that included such highlights as ParkARTS events and workshops, Shakespeare on the Common, Wednesday night concerts on City Hall Plaza, holiday celebrations such as the annual Boston Common Tree Lighting, and the Mayors Garden Contest and Neighborhood Coffee Hours.

-She assisted in the reclamation of Boston Harbor’s Spectacle Island from a landfill into a major hub in the Harbor Island park system.

-Ms. Pollak was part of restoration and conversion projects such as the Men’s Comfort Station and Brewer Plaza on the Boston Common and the Stony Brook Gatehouse in the Back Bay Fens.

-Ms. Pollak believes that preservation of Boston land and sites gives us a sense of timelessness and remind us of those came before. “Boston is so very lucky to have a wonderful mix of these neighborhoods and green spaces to live, work and play in. Preserving the best of these resources has been worth fighting for; from historic theaters to Olmsted’s Franklin Park, we are a more vibrant City because they are still here.”

Her experience working with all levels and areas of government was critical to the success of several major capital projects undertaken during her years as Parks Commissioner. We are thankful, not only for her dedication to the preservation and restoration of land throughout the city of Boston, but also for her recently joining our Board of Directors here at Preservation Massachusetts. We hope that her positive influence on preservation will resonate with the city of Boston for years to come.

Congratulations, Toni, on receiving the Codman Award for Lifetime Achievement from Boston Preservation Alliance.

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