Alan Moss, who during 28 years in the Parks Department under three Mayors held a string of top positions including General Counsel and First Deputy Commissioner, died Dec. 17 at age 87 following a brief illness.
He introduced the first system rating park cleanliness and safety, the Parks Inspection Program, to bring greater accountability, an idea later replicated in other cities including San Francisco. He also oversaw the purchase of thousands of acres of wetlands to protect wildlife and the natural ecosystem.
'A Very Reasonable Guy'
While his boss for much of his tenure, Commissioner Henry Stern, took a dim view of labor and during the mid-1960s was shifted out of a top Parks Department position following a clash with District Council 37, Mr. Moss was known for building relationships with the department's unions.
Alan R. Viani, an arbitrator who for much of Mr. Moss's tenure during the administrations of Mayors John Lindsay and Ed Koch was DC 37's chief negotiator, remembered him as "a very-reasonable guy."
"He had a very-pleasant personality and he was willing to listen to and hear the union's side and accommodate us as much as he could in his management capacity," Mr. Viani said in a Dec. 29 phone interview. "We were able to solve a lot of problems with him, without a lot of rancor."
A graduate of City College who got his law degree from New York Law School, Mr. Moss spent five years in private practice before taking his first job in city government in 1963 as an Enforcement Attorney at the Rent and Rehabilitation Administration, which later became the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Quick Rise at Parks
At the urging of Mr. Stern, who was a fellow activist in the Liberal Party, Mr. Moss was hired by Parks Commissioner Thomas Hoving as one of the agency's first in-house attorneys in 1966. A year later, Mr. Hoving's successor, August Heckscher, promoted him to General Counsel, and then to Deputy Administrator in 1970. In that role, he helped encourage community involvement in the parks.
After Abe Beame succeeded Mr. Lindsay as Mayor in 1974, Mr. Moss left for a job with the U.S. Department of Energy during the days when the Arab oil embargo limited the U.S. supply and created long lines at gas stations. He spent eight years there before returning to city service at the Off-Track Betting Corporation in 1982.
Two years later, Mr. Stern, who had lost his job as a City Councilman at Large when those unique positions were abolished and been appointed Parks Commissioner by Mr. Koch, called him, Mr. Moss would later recall, and said, "Let's get the Dynamic Duo going again."
Mr. Moss was uncertain about returning in a position where Mr. Stern would be his boss, he said, "Because when you work with a friend, it's a sure way to ruin the relationship." But, he said, Mr. Stern reassured him by saying, "Do the right thing." "That's really the only guideline I ever got from him." Mr. Moss recalled.
He went on to serve as Deputy Commissioner for Legal, Revenue and Planning, then held similar jobs overseeing first Capital Projects and later Operations.
Back for 3rd Tour
He left government service in 1993, but the following year, after Mr. Stern—who had not been reappointed Parks Commissioner when Mayor David Dinkins took office in 1990—returned as Rudy Giuliani's Parks Commissioner, he tapped Mr. Moss as his First Deputy Commissioner, the job from which he retired in early 2002.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008 appointed him Chair of the New York City Water Board, where Mr. Moss built a financial program to ensure a funding stream to support a clean drinking-water system before leaving city government for good in 2015.
A former Adjunct Professor of Law at Staten Island Community College, he is survived by his wife, Laura; daughters Anita Sher and Elisabeth Newman; son, Jeremy Moss, and five grandchildren.
A memorial celebration of his life will be held sometime this spring in Central Park.
We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.