info 06.10.19

Andrew Haswell Green

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, for many decades, 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 had been preserved by a bench in his honor in a forgotten corner of Central Park, until one New Yorker, Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione, led the fight to get a more deserving tribute to the man from the city: Andrew Haswell Green Park, bounded by the FDR and the East River, from 60th to 63rd.







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