info 03.2.11

Andrew Haswell Green
Walking Off the Big Apple

Andrew Haswell Green is unquestionably one of the greatest New Yorkers of all time. And if you asked, "Who?"—it's no wonder. He's been overlooked by a city that managed to give operetta composer Victor Herbert a statue in Central Park but could only find room to give Green a bench.

He was born in 1820 in Worcester, Mass. into a prominent family, moving to New York when he was 15. He worked as a store clerk before studying law under Samuel Tilden (who was later a governor of New York). His sister, Lucy, ran an elite finishing school for girls at 1 Fifth.

Central Park wouldn't be as we know it today if it weren't for AHG. While he drove Olmsted and Vaux nuts with his tight control over the financing of park construction, he was also tireless in his protection of their vision as the park developed between 1857 and 1871.

After Boss Tweed's profligate use of city funds, Green was brought in to return the city to fiscal responsibility and solvency (he even used his own money to cover police payroll). In 1898, after achieving what many consider his most important legacy—that of consolidating the five boroughs—Green was thereafter known as the "father of Greater New York."

Not bad if it stopped right there, but Green accomplished much more: he was a major reason we have the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the New York Public Library, and the Bronx Zoo. Riverside Park? Morningside Park? Ft. Washington Park? AHG was behind them all—truly the Greening of New York.

For the many new institutions and public spaces linked to him, he was, (unlike that Moses person, with whom he is sometimes compared), an ardent preservationist. Green fought to keep Niagara, the Palisades, and City Hall from, as they might have said at the time, ruination.

Green came to a bad end twice. The first was his murder outside his home at 91 Park Avenue at the age of 83, a case of mistaken identity. The second bad end is his nearly vanished renown. For his trouble, Green's memory has been preserved by a bench in his honor in a forgotten corner of Central Park. There's a big whoop for you.

One New Yorker, Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione, has long led the fight to get a more deserving tribute to the man from the city. And in 2012, Miscione's advocacy will pay off: Andrew Haswell Green Park opens, bounded by the FDR and the East River, from 60th to 63rd.









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Cultural and literary notes, plus self-guided walks, courtesy of Walking Off the Big Apple, a strolling guide to New York City.


At The Skyscraper Museum

According to the instructive exhibition, Vertical Urban Factory, on exhibit through June at The Skyscraper Museum, thousands of factories and hundreds of thousands of factory workers once kept New York City humming to the sound of machines. In our day, those numbers have considerably dwindled. The enormous shift from a roaring manufacturing city that made, shaped, or assembled material goods to a high-tech city that creates and manipulates symbols constitutes one of those most important undercurrents in the contemporary life of the city.

Tall buildings that once housed teams of workers running integrated factories now accommodate fashion designers, artists, public relations professionals, and digital entrepreneurs. As factory production shifts overseas, most notably to China where urbanization is hurrying along at breakneck speed, New Yorkers must explore the possibilities of creating new types of sustainable industry within the city. Vertical Urban Factory, curated by architectural historian and critic Nina Rappaport, explores the architectural designs of past and present city factories to address these challenges. [Continued]


AMNH (from 2009)

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