New York Botanical Garden president and CEO Gregory Long announced on Thursday, April 20 that he will be stepping down from his position effective June 30, 2018.
“I believe after 29 years, this is the right time for me to step aside because The New York Botanical Garden is stronger than ever,” Long said. “It has tremendous momentum, magnificent assets and I feel very optimistic about the Garden’s future.”
Long has been praised for many accomplishments during his almost three decades at the Garden.
He oversaw three 7-year plans to restore the gardens.
Those plans included garnering more than $333 million in funding for 43 major capital projects which included 15 new gardens and landscape renovations.
Long was at the head of restoration projects for the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, and the Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill.
He also oversaw the construction of buildings such as the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory, the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium and the Leon Levy Visitor Center.
According to a Botanical Garden’s spokesperson, attendance and membership at the Garden has quadrupled during Long’s tenure and endowment rose twentyfold.
Despite all he has accomplished, Long recalls the feeling he first had in 1989 when he learned he was going to be at the head of what would become one of the city’s largest cultural attractions.
“Oh, I was very excited,” he said. “I thought it was the biggest responsibility I would ever encounter in my entire life.”
Long worked as the vice president for Public Affairs for The New York Public Library throughout most of the 1980s prior to his NYBG position.
While Long has contributed many things to the Garden he also explained what the Garden has contributed to him as a person.
“Oh my goodness,” he said, “It’s made a wonderful life for me.”
He continued, “What I love about it is working with all the really fine people associated with the garden. The staff, the scientists, the educators, the teachers, the people who make the Garden beautiful and all the people on the outside who helped us.”
Long recalled some of the struggles throughout his 30-year career – especially in the area of funding.
He said the city used to provide much more funding for the Garden’s daily operations.
However, that funding has decreased yearly for the past several years.
Long also worried about funding for specific projects.
For example, Botanical Garden officials were worried they wouldn’t have enough money for the new Edible Academy which provides hands-on gardening experiences for families.
“It took eight years to assemble the funding for that,” said Long.
“But everything worked out,” he said with a chuckle.
The Edible Academy is set to open in 2018.
Long doesn’t know who will take his place when he leaves 14 months from now, but he did offer some words of advice to whomever will fill his seat.
“Keep it beautiful,” Long continued. “Keep it central, maintain its international stature.”
He added, “Pay attention to your audience, the city has a very wonderful audience.”
Long also stressed that he is not going into retirement, but isn’t sure what he will do next.