Friends of the High Line
Executive Director, New York, NY
FRIENDS OF THE HIGH LINE ORGANIZATION
Friends of the High Line (FHL) was founded in 1999 when a group of New Yorkers with a bold idea created a citywide movement to stop the demolition of a historic elevated rail track on Manhattan's West Side. Together, they built a partnership with New York City and transformed the High Line into an innovative public space where nature, art, and design intersect. This collective effort inspired new infrastructure reuse projects in cities around the world, reinforcing how urban parks can contribute to a thriving, sustainable, and equitable public realm.
With the same conviction that the High Line brought to saving and reimagining a forgotten piece of industrial infrastructure, FHL is committed to sustaining a place where diverse communities of neighbors and visitors feel a sense of belonging and engagement, where they encounter the unexpected, and where they connect with each other and the city around them.
Pre-pandemic, this internationally recognized landmark welcomed 8.3 million visitors annually. Today, through work with communities on and off the High Line, FHL is devoted to the needs of a rapidly changing West Side and New York City.
While the City of New York owns the 1.5-mile-long High Line structure, Friends of the High Line maintains, operates, and programs the park pursuant to a license agreement with the Department of Parks & Recreation. In its capacity as the city's nonprofit partner, FHL raises nearly 100 percent of the park's annual $19 million operating budget through private support.
Governed by a 37-member Board of Directors, FHL has a year-round team of 115 employees, which increases to 165 in the busy spring, summer, and fall seasons. FHL is currently engaged in a new special fundraising effort to bridge from the High Line's remarkable founding through this transitional moment and into the future.
Learn more at https://www.thehighline.org/.
The High Line is as multidimensional as the city it serves. It seeks a visionary, mission-focused, and tested Executive Director to shape and lead in this moment of institutional and urban transformation.
Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will lead a world-renowned park that is central to New York City's public life and provides uplifting experiences to millions of visitors each year. The Executive Director will steward this extraordinary public asset through meticulous care of its innovatively designed park features and horticulture; supportive leadership of its staff; a creative, inclusive, and celebratory approach to its programs; and a commitment to the people it serves. They will ensure that the High Line is always financially resourced to meet its potential, thereby fulfilling FHL's commitment to its city partners and the public at large.
As an anchor institution of New York City's West Side neighborhoods, the High Line serves a broad set of stakeholders, from local neighbors, city residents from the five boroughs, local businesses and their workers, and visitors from around the world. The High Line's integrity and promise rests in its ongoing commitment to delivering a welcoming and unforgettable park experience to each of them. In close partnership with the City of New York and alongside a dynamic staff, the Executive Director will uphold this core promise while ensuring FHL's mission to reimagine the role public spaces have in creating connected, healthy neighborhoods, and cities.
The Executive Director will lead with an entrepreneurial spirit at a moment when growth and organizational maturation are equal priorities for ensuring a successful, stable, and sustainable future for the High Line. They will possess a passion for innovative urban design that centers local communities, environmental resilience, and equitable community development. They will have conviction for activating civic open space, and lead with knowledge and experience on contemporary urban and social issues. Operating across a complex ecology of public and private needs, the Executive Director will be a confident, trusted public figure and convener who will guide and support FHL's diverse constituents as the High Line rises to meet this moment in New York City's history, thereby laying the foundation for the institution's next chapter.
Embracing the core values of the High Line as a people-focused, collaborative, equitable, and inclusive organization, the Executive Director will be a compassionate leader, dedicated to aligning institutional strategies with appropriate resources. The ability to creatively execute a distinctive program that optimizes resources from private and public funding sources, while identifying and expertly addressing potential revenue challenges and opportunities, will be a hallmark of this leader in this moment.
STRATEGIC VISION AND LEADERSHIP
Convey commitment to and passion for what the High Line is, has achieved, and can be.
Strategically lead and confidently direct the FHL to seize opportunities and manage risks that continue to elevate the institution's civic impact and excellence as a public green space.
Steward and advance the High Line's reputation for leadership excellence in park operations and innovation in urban development of public green spaces.
FUNDRAISING AND RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
Serve as the lead fundraiser and compelling primary public spokesperson to garner private and public support for operations, capital, and endowment.
Champion FHL's role in resourcing this public asset by cultivating a sense of mutual fulfillment in being part of a model collective.
Partner with an active Board of Directors to collectively lead the financial health of the High Line, ensuring long-term stability and sustainability; continue the successful fundraising campaign now underway for physical, programmatic, and endowment needs.
Identify and assess values-aligned partnerships to realize new revenue models.
Invest in and steward the human, physical, reputational, and financial assets of this unique organization.
Prioritize the primacy of the park's physical maintenance and sustainability.
Operationalize diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) as a critical framework for FHL's mission and operational success, both internally and externally.
Actualize visionary planning goals through short- and long-term budgetary practices and strategic resource development.
Responsibly grow, manage, deploy, and sustain all financial assets including operations, capital, reserve funds, and endowment.
Partner with the City of New York to ensure governmental support and care for the maintenance of the historic structure and to champion the mutual goal for the High Line to be a safe, free public space for all.
Cultivate close working relationships with neighborhood stakeholders and among broad private and public constituents residents; nonprofit, cultural and community-based organizations; real estate and commercial partners; and government agencies and officials building consensus with diplomacy.
Plan, negotiate, and execute complex, high-aesthetic capital projects on time and on budget while working with architects, owners' reps, vendors, governmental agencies, and residential and commercial neighbors.
Learn the history and partnership relationships of the real estate entities and development on the Far West Side and the future expansion plans that will impact the High Line experience.
Invest in the long-term health of the Board, assisting in the cultivation of new Directors.
PROGRAMS AND PARTNERSHIPS
Elevate the dynamic programmatic core that attracts, connects, and engages the communities surrounding the High Line and the broader public.
Advance and elevate the High Line's signature public programs of sustainable horticulture, exceptional art, and outstanding design.
Foster new and deepen existing connections through programs that build upon the long-standing commitment to education and the High Line's expanding Teens program.
In partnership with the Neighbor's Council, invest in building the knowledge and capacity to create mutually supportive community-based partnerships.
Seek and support programmatic partners who align with FHL's mission and values, and who accelerate collective impact for the neighborhood with a commitment to sustainable and systemic outcomes.
Engage the High Line Network to support its national peer-learning community of 37 infrastructure reuse projects that seek to create vibrant and equitable public spaces.
INSTITUTIONAL ETHOS AND CULTURE
Develop and model a collaborative, participatory, equitable, and inclusive culture both internally and externally.
Foster and demonstrate a culture of care for the park, the staff, the visitors, the partners.
Lead the development and implementation of DEIA policies and guidelines for systemic and structural impact both internally and externally.
Invest in leadership, managerial, and professional development across the organization, acknowledging the indispensable value of each employee's role to manifest the mission of the High Line, making the work culture as extraordinary as the experience of the High Line itself.
Visibly serve as an organizational ambassador at public events and in the High Line's communities.
The Executive Director will embrace the mission and values of the High Line and the city and will be or have the following experience and qualifications:
A decisive, and forward-looking institution builder possessing compelling leadership skills, a taste for challenge, and the strategic ability to take well-considered and tenable risks to attain objectives.
Empathic understanding of and commitment to the values of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice with an ability to manifest these values in programs and operations; lived experience a plus.
Demonstrated effective managerial experience; familiarity with operational best practices, especially as they pertain to organizational culture, clear objectives, communications, effective delegation, and overall excellence in execution. A multitasking self-starter who comfortably listens to, leads, delegates to, recruits, and retains professional staff.
An appetite for and proven success fundraising; familiarity with the nuanced New York City landscape a plus.
Ability to see, map, and work with all members of a vast, diverse, and dynamic public.
A practiced advocate and community-savvy ambassador who enjoys enlisting the public and the public's investment in a shared mission; eager and able to connect to the High Line experience in and beyond the High Line community.
Expertise in one or more areas of the mission or program of the High Line; ability to identify and enlist partners; and the ability to select, evaluate, pursue, and program works in and relevant to the High Line mission.
Commitment to and proficiency in working on behalf of a public-service mission; able to align disparate individual objectives to attain collective wins.
The appetite and ability to serve as spokesperson and ambassador for the High Line, with outstanding verbal and written communications skills; a practiced listener and communicator who conveys information readily and often to ensure broad investment.
Experience with government relationships, public-private partnerships, and complex external relationships is helpful.
A sense of humor, perspective, and purpose are helpful and strongly preferred.
The High Line is guided by a series of values through which we make decisions, including hiring. These values include proactively creating access points for all people, regardless of race, income, country of origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. They also include seeking out a diversity of experiences; in listening, respecting, and learning from multiple voices, perspectives, and modes of participation. As part of our commitment to living up to these values and advancing equity within our organization and through our work, we are committed to an equitable hiring process. Hence, we strongly encourage applications from people from a broad range of lived experiences, including members of historically marginalized communities.
Applications and nominations are welcome and should be sent to the attention of Sarah James and Becky Klein at HighLine@phillipsoppenheim.com.