Community People

Vivien Li Departing The Boston Harbor Association for CEO Position at Pittsburgh’s Riverlife

Vivien Li is leaving her longtime position at The Boston Harbor Association to be CEO and President of Pittburgh’s Riverlife (Photo by Matt Conti)

After playing a key role for 24 years in Boston Harbor’s cleanup and the transformation of the waterfront into an accessible public destination, Vivien Li is leaving her longtime position as head of The Boston Harbor Association. At 61, Li is off to new challenges as CEO and President of Riverlife, a public-private partnership looking to revamp Pittsburgh’s riverfront area.

“I am so proud to have worked at The Boston Harbor Association with its extraordinary track record, and to have worked together with many, many residents, community and business leaders, and elected officials in being a part of the renaissance of Boston’s waterfront, and will miss my friends and colleagues here,” Ms. Li said in a statement. “Like Boston, the transformation of Pittsburgh’s waterfront in the past decade has been remarkable,” Ms. Li said.  “I am honored to join Riverlife’s dedicated staff and board, and look forward to sharing lessons learned in Boston with new partners in imagining and helping to realize the next chapter of Pittsburgh’s riverfront redevelopment,” Li said.

The TBHA Board will meet to consider a succession plan in preparation for Li’s departure on October 1st. In 2011, TBHA brought on Julie Wormser as Executive Director, elevating Li to President of the influential non-profit.

Immediately after the announcement of Li’s departure, TBHA and city leaders praised her contributions to Boston Harbor, the Harborwalk and the city itself.

“Vivien Li has been an integral part of the cleanup of Boston Harbor and in fostering the revitalization of Boston’s waterfront for nearly a quarter of a century,” said Richard C. Walker III, Chairman of The Boston Harbor Association.  “Everywhere on the harbor —Deer Island, Spectacle Island, Boston’s HarborWalk, Boston Harbor beaches, Boston’s waterfront parks, Chelsea Creek and the Working Port, and so many more places—has been shaped by Vivien’s vision, leadership, and passion.  We will miss her greatly.”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said, “Vivien has been a valued colleague and friend.  She has consistently offered important insights as co-chair of the City’s 2014 Climate Action Plan Steering Committee, as an active member of the City’s Municipal Harbor Plan Advisory Committee, and as a longtime member and now Chair of the Boston Conservation Commission.  I have seen how her effective advocacy has transformed the waterfront, from making Boston Harbor swimmable to the reclamation of once vacant properties into vibrant waterfront sites with housing, jobs, HarborWalk segments, and open spaces.”

Prior to joining The Boston Harbor Association, Ms. Li served on the senior staff of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, was special assistant to the state’s commissioner of public health, project manager for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and an urban conference manager for the National Urban League.

Ms. Li is actively engaged with a variety of organizations.  She is currently the Chair of MassDevelopment’s Brownfields Advisory Group, Chair of the Boston Conservation Commission, Co-Chair of Boston’s 2014 Climate Action Plan Steering Committee, and immediate past Co-Chair of the Advisory Council, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University.  In September, Ms. Li will receive the national Sierra Club’s 2015 Walter Starr Award honoring former members of the Club’s Board of Directors for continued work on behalf of the Club.

Ms. Li received her BA in environmental management from Barnard College, Columbia University; and a joint master’s degree in public affairs and urban and regional planning from Princeton University.

The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA) is a non-profit, public interest organization founded in 1973 by the League of Women Voters and the Boston Shipping Association to promote a clean, alive, and accessible Boston Harbor.  TBHA is also in the forefront of efforts to promote climate resilient waterfront development.

Ed: I am personally grateful to Vivien Li for her encouragement of and her guidance in covering Boston’s waterfront. Her passion for public access and transparency has been a shining light in the city. Boston Harbor and its waterfront neighborhoods will continue to benefit from her work for decades to come. Always one to move forward, I am not surprised that Vivien is looking for new challenges. My former college hometown of Pittsburgh will certainly benefit from Ms. Li’s talent and expertise. On behalf of myself and, thank you, Vivien.