The Ford Foundation today announced the appointment of Maria Torres-Springer as its next vice president for US programs. She will join the foundation in May, succeeding Xavier de Souza Briggs, who has served as vice president for five years and plans to leave the foundation in late 2019.
In close to 15 years of public service with the City of New York, Torres-Springer has led three agencies with over 3,000 employees and approximately $2 billion in annual operating budgets, addressing some of the city’s most significant challenges and opportunities. Throughout her tenure in government, she worked to create powerful partnerships among neighborhoods, businesses, and the agencies she has led in pursuit of expanded economic opportunity and more equitable communities for all New Yorkers.
Torres-Springer currently serves as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the nation's largest municipal housing agency. She has led the implementation of Housing New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s five-borough, 12-year plan to create or preserve 300,000 affordable homes and apartments—the largest effort of its kind in the country. During her tenure, she steered the financing of approximately 60,000 affordable homes, more than any two-year period in HPD’s history. She focused on the production of housing for the city’s most vulnerable communities, including seniors, the formerly homeless, and the lowest-income New Yorkers, while launching programs to protect tenants’ rights.
“I’ve known Maria since she was chief operating officer at Friends of the High Line and I was on the board, and have watched with admiration as she has grown into one of the most impressive social justice leaders around,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “She is a creative leader and manager who understands how to pursue justice within complex systems, and that’s a skill we need more than ever.”
Earlier, as the first woman to serve as president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Torres-Springer led the implementation of the new Citywide Ferry service and made major investments in key sectors of New York City’s economy—including technology, life sciences, and modern manufacturing. Marshaling the energy and drive of community leaders, she spearheaded several neighborhood revitalization plans, including for Downtown Far Rockaway, Inwood, and Hunts Point.
As commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services, Torres-Springer prioritized efforts to raise wages and support women and immigrant-owned businesses. She also launched Women Entrepreneurs NYC and, with the innovative Tech Talent Pipeline program, worked to prepare New Yorkers for 21st century jobs.
“No one has been more important in our fight to make New York the fairest big city in America than Maria Torres-Springer. Whether advancing rezonings or developing a record number of affordable homes, I have turned to her time and again to tackle the toughest issues facing our city,” said Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City. “The Ford Foundation—and the country—are lucky to have her where she’s going.”
Torres-Springer also served previously as the executive vice president and chief of staff at NYCEDC during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as chief operating officer for Friends of the High Line.
“I am deeply honored to join the Ford Foundation at this critical moment in the organization’s work throughout the United States,” said Torres-Springer. “Across eight decades, the foundation has invested in the people, ideas, and institutions that fight every day to reduce poverty and injustice. I look forward to contributing to this mission and joining the immensely talented team at Ford.”
Torres-Springer joins the foundation with the mandate to oversee all its US programs. When she succeeds Briggs this summer, Torres-Springer will work alongside Martin Abregú, vice president for international programs, and report to Hilary Pennington, executive vice president for program.
“I am thrilled to welcome Maria to the foundation and to this critical role,” Pennington said. “Her expertise leading large, multi-faceted organizations and creating collaborative teams of issue experts is an asset that will make our US programs more impactful. And with our program strategies fully in place, this is the perfect time for a leader of Maria’s skill and experience to help us build deeper connections and synergies across our work in the United States.”
Torres-Springer earned her bachelor's degree in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University and a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she received the Barbara Jordan Award for Women’s Leadership. She is the recipient of the Spirit of ABNY Award, Crain’s 40 under 40, New Yorkers for Parks City Leadership Award, and Asian Americans for Equality’s Pioneer Spirit Award.
Having led both domestic and international teams during his tenure at Ford, Briggs will leave the foundation later this year and “return to the frontlines of social change,” Walker noted. “We’re excited for Xav to follow his star once again, and I know the field will be stronger for it.”
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at Ford during one of the most extraordinary and demanding historical moments for America and the world,” said Briggs. “I'm very excited about my next chapter and the freedom to do creative work in a variety of roles that serve the field, and I could not be more pleased to be leaving the work we’ve built over the last five years in Maria’s capable hands.”