Photo by Liz Ligon
After more than a decade at Friends of the High Line, Executive Vice President Peter Mullan is moving on. Peter has been instrumental in the High Line's success, and he will be greatly missed.
As sad as we all are to see Peter go, we are delighted about his next role: CEO of the Waller Creek Conservancy, the non-profit that is developing Waller Creek in Austin, Texas, in conjunction with the City of Austin. An existing urban riparian zone, Waller Creek will become a chain of parks and trails running through downtown Austin. It's an exciting and transformative project for Austin, one for which Peter's prodigious talent, experience, and buoyant personality are perfectly suited. Please take a few moments to learn more about Waller Creek and enjoy a video tour of this unusual space.
Peter's relationship with Friends of the High Line began in 2000, when he began as a volunteer in the effort to stop demolition of the High Line structure. In 2004, Peter left Polshek Partnership Architects (now Ennead Architects) for a full-time position at a fledgling FHL—a bold move, as the High Line had not yet been secured, and FHL couldn't guarantee any real job security. "Peter left his stable position at an established architecture firm and joined the High Line purely out of his passion for, and commitment to, the idea of the High Line and its possibilities," says High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond. High Line Co-Founder Joshua David echoes this sentiment. "Peter was one of the people who took a risk," recalls Josh. "He was a pioneer."
One of Peter's first responsibilities was to oversee the planning and design of the High Line, serving as FHL's primary liaison with the design team, comprising James Corner Field Operations (Project Lead), Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf, a process conducted in partnership with the City of New York. "He was FHL's main point person, and so much of what people see on the High Line is due to Peter's work," says Josh. He also played a key role in saving the High Line at the Rail Yards, which was "a six-year effort, requiring multiple rezonings and negotiations—as well as the occasional tussle," recalls Robert. Against the odds and most expectations, the High Line at the Rail Yards opened to the public this past fall.
Emeritus Board Chair John Alschuler said of Peter, "His sensibilities, passion, and intelligence embody the values of the High Line. Many designers can incorporate a client's values into their design. Others bring their vision to provide order and purpose to buildings. Peter needn't do either as his sensibility – urban, elegant, democratic, experimental – was the sensibility of the High Line. The symbiosis between designer, design and structure was organic and complete. I will miss Peter while I am comforted by knowing that he leaves 1.45 miles of himself for us to experience."
In addition to the park itself, Peter led FHL's effort to build the organization's headquarters, the Diller – von Furstenberg Building, and worked with our City partners to craft FHL's agreements with the Parks Department that define our operating relationship with New York City. Through two different mayoral administrations and three city council administrations, he was a passionate advocate for the High Line.
Peter has also been an exceptional colleague and friend to our community and neighborhood partners, working collaboratively with Community Boards 2 and 4 over many years. A great steward to our board and donors, and a frequent speaker at lectures and on panels, Peter has become a leader in New York City's design and urban planning community and "has always been a forceful champion of the High Line," says Josh.
And Peter is so much more than that. "Peter is a beloved member of the broader High Line family," says Josh. He's an unstoppable dance machine at office parties, and is a highly sought-after High Line Shop model. We have many years of photographs of Peter that we'd love to share, but we have narrowed it down to a few highlights below.
Peter and wife Melanie at the 2005 High Line benefit. Photo by TKE Productions
Future Board Chair John Alschuler, Josh, and Peter at the 2005 opening of The High Line at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition featured design renderings and a 20-foot model of the High Line. The exhibition brought the High Line, which wouldn't open to the public for another four years, to a much wider audience. Photo by Friends of the High Line
Peter was an ardent champion for the High Line at the Rail Yards. Due to his advocacy work, this section of the High Line was saved in 2012. It opened to the public this September. Here, Peter leads a tour of this section in 2007. Photo by Friends of the High Line
Peter talks with High Line planting designer Piet Oudolf in this photo from 2008. Photo by Barry Munger
Tara Morris, Peter, Sanaya Kaufman, and Patrick Hazari at the 2008 FHL staff holiday party. We can only imagine that Peter returned to the dance floor immediately after this photo was taken. Photo by Friends of the High Line
Wearing a "Save the High Line at the Rail Yards" t-shirt, Peter speaks at a 2010 community input meeting on preserving this final portion of the High Line structure. Photo by Friends of the High Line
Peter on the opening day of the High Line's second section in June 2011. Photo by Friends of the High Line
After years of advocacy work, Peter's dream to open the High Line at the Rail Yards comes true. Here he is marching in the opening day procession on September 21, 2014. Photo by Josiah Lau