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Nancy Brennan to leave top spot at Greenway

Nancy Brennan

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/File 2011

Nancy Brennan

The head of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is stepping down after nearly eight years in charge of the downtown Boston park system, officials said Monday.

Nancy Brennan will leave the nonprofit conservancy Jan. 15 to take a job as chief of philanthropy at the Asian Art ­Museum in San Francisco. Directors of the organization said they will soon ­begin a search for her replace­ment.

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Brennan has led the conservancy since its incep­tion in 2005, helping to create a 1.3-mile string of parks along the route of the onetime Central ­Artery, a space now populated with public art, food trucks, seasonal festivals, and community events. She has also faced controversy over her $185,000-a-year salary, as well as questions about how to fund and manage the park system in coming years.

Brennan said it was her decision to leave. “This is a good time for me to go,” she said.

“My specialty is in the start-up nonprofit world,” Brennan said. “I’ve been here almost eight years, and I can look out the window and see how far the Greenway has come in terms of beauty, animation, and fun things to do. It will be in very good hands.”

The conservancy is in the midst of a major transition from relying mostly on funds from the state government for park operations and maintenance. The organization is now trying to form a business improve­ment district to raise funds from property owners around the parks. Its annual budget is currently $4.4 million.

Georgia Murray, chairwoman of the conservancy’s board of directors, praised Brennan’s work. “Nancy Brennan has been an extraordinary executive director of the Greenway in its formative years,” she said, adding that it is one of the country’s only organically maintained public parks.

Murray said 2013 will be busy year for the conservancy. In addition to finding a new ­executive director, the nonprofit must also renegotiate its lease of the Greenway with the state and come to an agreement on how much, if any, state funding will be available for its programs and maintenance.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has said it wants to eliminate direct funding for the Greenway by fiscal 2018, while conservancy officials have said they hope to continue to receive some money from the state.

On Monday, transportation spokeswoman Cyndi Roy reiterated the department’s goal of eliminating funding but added, “We know the conservancy has taken to heart secretary [Richard Davey’s] suggestion that they look for new revenue-
generating ideas, which we believe they are currently doing.”

The business improvement district would be the largest source of new funding for the Greenway, but its directors have said they hope to raise more revenue from fees on park amenities, such as a new carousel expected to open in 2013.

The conservancy said chief operating officer Jesse Brackenbury will manage day-to-day functions until the board hires a new executive director.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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