Josue (Josh) Altidor, who graduated with a Master of Design for Sustainable Urban Environments from Northeastern, is now the Director of Maintenance for Boston’s Parks & Recreation Department. In this role, Josh’s priorities are to create a sustainable and an inclusive urban parks system that works for every Bostonian, to develop and implement a comprehensive park maintenance plan, and, with the growth of the City’s population and the impact of climate change and greenhouse gas emission, to build a resilient park system. We had the opportunity to sit down with Josh and learn more about his vision, his inspiration, and what he is looking forward to in the future. Learn more about this Northeastern alumnus below.
Tell us about your responsibilities as Director of Maintenance for Boston’s Parks & Recreations Department!
My hope is to work closely with every department in the city of Boston to help creating and implementing a 21st century park system with the most comprehensive and adaptive design, for all kids and adults to enjoy regardless their physical limitations.
More specifically, my job is to ensure proper care and maintenance of our parks and open spaces throughout the city of Boston’s 217 parks, playgrounds and athletic fields, 17 fountains, 75 game courts, and approximately 125,000 trees, all covering 2,346 acres, 1,000 of which comprise the historic Emerald Necklace.
Adding to what has already been described, I am also responsible for: developing a sustainable, safe, inclusive park system in Boston; maintaining great relationships with stakeholders, friend groups and donors; creating a safe environment for all employees, provide educational opportunities and trainings; envisioning and implementing a diverse landscape system in all city neighborhoods by eliminating the threat of “green gentrification;” implementing a fleet management replacement plan; purchasing more multi-function, efficient equipment; expanding arts, cultural and recreational opportunities; and encouraging the implementation of 21st century play features in all parks and playground.
Your passion for horticulture and the environment is admirable; tell us a little bit about why you wanted to study this field and pursue it as a career.
My passion for the green industry is rooted all the back in Haiti. I remembered as a little boy growing up, every morning rain or shine, my Daddy and I always went to the field; we grew rice, taro, beans, corn, yucca and other crops, and we took care of the cattle and goats together.
My family did not have much money; we had to work in order to survive. Out of the survival lifestyle, I developed the passion for urban agriculture and the environment. I went on to pursue a degree in Agriculture and Urban Forestry and a minor in Environmental Sciences back in Haiti. I moved to the states and went on to complete a few internships with the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
I chose this line of work because this is what I was born to do.
I love being out door in the field, whether is planting my own garden or creating a new design. I am always in my happy place.
As the first person of color in this role for the City of Boston, how does that make you feel?
Being in this position reminds me that hard work pays off, long hours of studying, doing research… it was all worth it at the end. It also tells me that the workforce values education and work ethic, and also values individuals who have the drive and passion for the work they are doing. I pride myself at being all of that – a great colleague, someone with integrity and great work ethic.
I take pride at what I do and I always strive for the best.
I also understand being the first person of color, an immigrant from a third-world country, someone who is English as his third language with a heavy accent, and to be the first Haitian-American Director of Maintenance for Boston Parks and Recreation speaks volume to the City leadership, speaks volume to how much we have grown as a country. This achievement does not belong to me alone; it also belongs to millions of immigrant and people of color from diverse background to know and to believe that nothing is impossible.
Do not limit yourself to the possibility of becoming something greater than which you are today.
Tell us how you stay motivated and/or inspired.
The green industry is evolving, and there is always new information and approaches of doing thing. I challenge myself to stay engaged as much as possible. I recently had the pleasure to be the general keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Landscape Association. I talked about effective leadership, retaining and influencing employees, as well as the importance of attractive, sustainable design and how it relates to climate change, touching on green infrastructure, biodiversity, and climate resiliency. I attend multiple conferences as well; the latest one was the Greater and Greener conference in Denver; the focus was on parks, exploring ways to create an inclusive park system, as well as ways to restore the degraded environment. I feel inspired especially at my talks when I see young people get engaged, they have the enthusiasms and drive to protect the planet.
Tell us more about the direction of Boston’s horticulture – and how your role fits into the future vision.
In no “braggadocious” way at all, the future and direction of the Horticulture Department and the entire Boston Parks Department look bright. We have a strong leadership in place; we also have passionate employees who dedicate their lives to this work.
I am so proud to be part of this department.
We also have some strong partnership with our stakeholders and non-profit organization like the Friends of the Boston Public Garden, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, and other friend groups all over the City. We have the support of the entire Boston community, they love their parks, and they love the creativity in our landscape.
Boston is the second largest city in America that reaches the milestone of having all our resident lives within a 10 minute walk of a public park. As the Director of Maintenance, I want to focus on the quality and safety of our public park. I want Boston to have the best landscape and parks in America. My background makes me the best person to lead the department to the new level we want to reach. I do not compromise the standard of our maintenance and the service we deliver to the people of Boston. I care about the work that is being done but at the same time I understand we have a long way to go. Both my past and present experiences definitely make me the kind of leader I am today and the person to lead this department
My goal is to see a diverse landscape in Boston where people from every zip code benefit from the same service, same quality of park.
I want to re-create the horticulture world in Boston and eliminate the notion of green gentrification. The steps that we are taking a city will eventually transcend to the society as a whole.