Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the appointment of Victor Calise as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Commissioner Calise has served the disabled community for over 15 years, most recently as Accessibility Coordinator for Department of Parks and Recreation where he oversaw accessibility compliance at city parks and in Parks Department programming throughout the five boroughs. Commissioner Calise fills the vacancy left by the City’s first Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Matthew Sapolin, who passed away in November 2011. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities functions as a liaison between the disability community and City government. The office works collaboratively with other agencies to assure that the rights and needs of people with disabilities are included in all City initiatives by fostering greater cooperation, communication and coordination of functions and services in New York City. Jason Mischel has served as Acting Commissioner of the Office since Sapolin’s passing.
“Our City has made significant gains to improve the lives of people with disabilities,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Over the past ten years, former Commissioner Matthew Sapolin helped our City to break down barriers that keep people with disabilities from fully participating in all that our great city has to offer and increase accessibility for all New Yorkers. Victor Calise has the skills and experience to continue and expand on that progress and assure that the rights and needs of people with disabilities are included in the development and delivery of City services and programs. I would also like to thank Acting Commissioner Jason Mischel for his commitment to the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.”
“I am honored to be selected by Mayor Bloomberg to lead this office and serve New Yorkers with disabilities,” said Commissioner Calise. “It has been a privilege to work with the Bloomberg Administration to help make our City parks more accessible for New Yorkers. Improving the quality of life of individuals with disabilities and working to ensure our City is accessible for all New Yorkers have been important goals of this Administration. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of former Commissioner Mathew Sapolin, we have made great strides towards those goals. I hope to follow his lead and continue making New York a great city to live, work and visit.”
“Victor Calise’s successful spearheading of innovative accessibility initiatives at the Department of Parks and Recreation and his work on behalf of disabled New Yorkers have prepared him to lead the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities,” said Deputy Mayor Carol Robles-Román. “As commissioner, he will make New York City more accessible for the millions of people with disabilities who live in or visit our great city.”
As Accessibility Coordinator at the Parks Department, Commissioner Calise focused on ensuring that City parks, programs and services provided by the Department are available to New Yorkers of all abilities in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Calise provided technical assistance in the design of parks and developed a training curriculum to familiarize Parks employees with accessibility issues. During his tenure, Calise established an Accessibility Advisory Committee within the Parks Department, the committee provided community input on the development and evaluation of new facilities, programs and services. Calise also implemented a transition plan that indentified and provided remediation for current barriers to accessibility throughout New York City Parks and facilities.
Prior to joining the Parks Department, Commissioner Calise held several positions at the United Spinal Association, a non-profit organization focused on disability rights that aims to improve the quality of life for Americans living with spinal cord injuries. As the Director of Sports Marketing, Commissioner Calise coordinated nationwide adaptive sports programs for United Spinal members and organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society. These programs included adaptive field days, wheelchair softball, hand-cycling and sled hockey programs. Through these programs people with disabilities improved their health and well-being through physical activity. During his time at the United Spinal Association, he established four children’s teams in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area and founded the Major League Wheelchair Softball Tournament in conjunction with the New York Mets and Wheelchair Sports Federation that is held yearly at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens. Commissioner Calise began as Recreation Coordinator at the United Spinal Association where he provided recreation opportunities for disabled veterans in the VA Hospital System in the tri-state area.
Commissioner Calise began his work with disabled New Yorkers as coordinator of the Spinal Cord Injury “DO IT” program at Mount Sinai Medical Center where he worked with spinal cord injury patients to facilitate the transition from the inpatient hospital stay to the outpatient setting in their journey to reintegrate successfully into their community.
An avid athlete, Commissioner Calise was a member of the USA Paralympic Sled Hockey team and represented the USA in the 1998 Winter Paralympic Games in Nagano, Japan. He volunteers for the Wheelchair Sports Federation and is frequently a guest speaker on the topics of spinal cord injuries, physical therapy and adaptive sports.
Commissioner Calise earned his B.S. from St. Johns University and his M.A. from Queens College. He lives on the Upper West Side with his wife and two daughters.
The replacement search was led by Nathan Leventhal, Chairman of the Mayor’s Committee on Appointments, and Andrea Shapiro Davis, Special Advisor to the Mayor.
High-Resolution Photos Are Attached & Additional Photos Are Available on the Mayor’s Office Flickr Page at http://www.flickr.com/nycmayorsoffice