Charles is a Senior Consultant based in the New York office.
Charles McKinney is inventing a practice as a Practical Visionary, solving longstanding problems, envisioning new futures and finding ways to weave motivated community members into park and community development plans. His methods are illuminated in his 2016 TEDx talk “The Embracing City.”
Recently he has tackled projects for Biederman Redevelopment Ventures that advance community aspirations for innovative programs and responsive park designs throughout the United States. For the Kaplan Fund he has analyzed the Brownsville Brooklyn community and made recommendations that will change the sad trajectory that leads to the incarceration and poor employment prospects for many young people.
He is co-chair of City as Living Laboratory, the organization founded by artist Mary Miss, it pairs artists and scientists to make environmental issues visceral, and generate change. One project is the daylighting of Tibbets brook, south of VanCortlandt Park in the Bronx. This will eliminate the largest source of pollution in the Harlem River and create a functioning river ecology.
As the former Principal Urban Designer for NYC Parks, Charles led the preparation of major park master plans including Northern Manhattan, VanCortlandt and Riverside Parks. Under his direction, the Department explored responses to the design imperatives of the 21st century; web based planning tools and communication, as well as the role of planning in creating community.
Previously, as Chief of Design at New York City Parks, he more than doubled the production of the design program. More innovative park buildings and landscapes, were created under his direction than under any of his predecessors or successors. The award-winning Design Manual for 21st Century Parks was prepared under his direction in collaboration with the Design Trust for Public Space. These accomplishments earned him honorary membership from both the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects.
He uses the skills of design thinking and drawing, leadership without authority, design with the land and for the people that he acquired as a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design 1994. His has successfully built on the knowledge and skills that earned him a Bachelor’s of Architecture from the University of Arkansas and a Masters in Urban Design from City College.
When he was Administrator of Riverside Park from 1984 to 2001, he implemented the master plan he created for the restoration of the 316-acre landmarked park, a 110-slip marina, and Fort Washington Park, 146 acres of woodland, meadow and Hudson River shoreline. He managed the capital projects as well as the park operations teams providing maintenance, restoration, and recreational services for 2.5 million visitors per year.
He helped form the Riverside Park Fund and worked with it on their strategic plan that led to the City’s most effective volunteer stewardship program. This partnership led to many fruitful years of park operations enhancement as well as project collaborations including the creation of the memorials for Eleanor Roosevelt and Ralph Ellison.
His broad technical and managerial skill set enabled him to tackle a limitless range of problems, including taming and restoring the 79th Street boat basin, creating continuous bike routes, and the city’s first synthetic surface sports field. When he returned from his Loeb Fellowship, he was determined to address the needs of adolescents; he worked with a cadre of them to design and construct the City’s first skate park. These and his many other accomplishments made Riverside Park a hub of community involvement and a landscape of national distinction.