Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Morning on the Upper East Side: Manhattan Boro Historian Michael Miscione Leads Tribute to Andrew H. Green at the Future Andrew H. Green Park

This morning we took the L train two stops to First Avenue and then the fast M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) from 14th Street to 57th Street and walked over to the site of the future Andrew H. Green Park by the East River just north of the Queensborough Bridge and Roosevelt Island tram

for the eighth annual memorial tribute to Andrew Haswell Green,

the brilliant 19th-century civic leader and master planner responsible for so much of what we've taken for granted in New York City for a hundred years.

Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione, who's been on a mission to raise public awareness of Andrew H. Green's seminal role in creating New York City as we know it, led the tribute ceremony for the eighth year in a row.

Green's legacy is everywhere: Central Park, Riverside Park, and Morningside Park; the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library; and indeed, the very five-borough city that exists today.

This annual ceremony was previously held at the Green Bench in Central Park,

but because Community Board 8 approved the final phase of the park project in March, the ceremony was held at the new gorgeous park site instead.

Mike Miscione briefly discussed Green's many accomplishments -- he headed the Board of Education and the Central Park Commission and as Controller, he cleaned up much of the corruption of Boss Tweed and his cronies, but his greatest contribution was his very early (1868) championing of consolidation of all the New York Harbor communities into one metropolis -- and Mike talked about his own campaign to restore Green's rightful place at the center of NYC history.

Then he reported on a recent discovery of previously unknown Green documents that he found at the home of a recently deceased family member.

Next, Thomas G. Lannon, Assistant Curator of Manuscripts and Archives, spoke about what is in some of these documents -- including an account of Green's arduous journey as a 15-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, to the city he'd live in the rest of his life. There was a lot more interesting material he talked about from the documents, and no doubt some of it will be of value to historians.

Tom noted that a visiting researcher from Munich, sitting in the crowd, is one of the first historians to look at the material, but it is open to the public from where its kept, at the NYPL under Bryant Park.

After that, Terese Flores, City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation Manager for Manhattan Districts 6, 8 and the East River Esplanade, described the design plans for the new park site,

which sounds magnificent, although currently things look pretty raw.

It will be part of the grand Pavilion Park, designed under the supervision of Alex Hart, and has been created to fit in with the surroundings. Renderings look spectacular.

Judy Schneider of Community Board 8, was up front in the crowd of about fifty on a sunny, mild day, and spoke briefly about the park and the funding for its construction.

Because of the noise from the FDR Drive traffic, the streets, the harbor, etc. -- a lot of which will be mitigated by the park's design -- hearing the speakers was challenging, although most of us had no trouble. It was surprisingly easy to imagine, given the spectacular view, how beautiful this park will be when it's finally turned into reality.

Terese Flores introduced Mr. Corona and his crew, who got the site into shape for today's ceremony and who will be in charge of the site as it becomes Andrew Haswell Green Park.

As we all got our plastic cups of apple cider to toast the memory of "the father of New York City," former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern arrived. He's gotten older but hasn't changed his style from when we last saw him around 30 years ago, when he was a city councilman, at the ticker-tape parade for the released Iranian hostages, where the crowd cheered him, mistakenly believing that anyone with Henry's thin, rumpled appearance must have been held captive for 444 days.

After Henry gave a brief eloquent tribute to Andrew Haswell Green, we all toasted Green's memory.

The park will be a tribute long overdue.

Thanks to everyone involved in today's event and the creation of the park, and we're especially grateful to Michael Miscione for his great work as Manhattan borough historian.

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