Andrew Haswell Green
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Andrew Haswell Green (October 6, 1820 – November 13, 1903) was a lawyer, New York City planner, and civic leader. Considered "the Father of Greater New York," he is responsible for Central Park, the New York Public Library, the Bronx Zoo, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also participated in or led projects including Riverside Drive, Morningside Park, Fort Washington Park, and the protection of the Hudson River Palisades from destruction. His last project was the consolidation of the "Imperial City" or City of Greater New York; he chaired the 1897 committee that drew up the plan of amalgamation.
Green was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on October 6, 1820, one of 11 children. In 1835, he moved to New York, where two of his sisters ran a school for young girls. Green is the brother of Samuel Fisk Green, a medical missionary of the American Ceylon Mission in Sri Lanka.
Green started work in the mercantile trade and befriended a local merchant, who subsequently hired him to manage his sugar refining plantation in Trinidad. Green lived there for about a year, where he kept a daily diary of his thoughts.
Green returned to Worcester for a year or two before returning to New York City to pursue a legal career.
In 1845, Green became a lawyer under the tutelage of railroad attorney Samuel J. Tilden. The two met at a party and became fast friends, along with Tilden's law partner John Bigelow. In 1854, Green was elected to the New York City Board of Education. He soon became its president a year later.
From 1857 to 1870, Green was active in or led the Central Park Commission. The Republican-led New York State Legislature began to institute measures to control the municipal affairs of the largely Democratic metropolitan region; one such act created the Central Park Commission (CPC). Green was appointed to the CPC, eventually becoming its head. A year later Olmsted and Vaux's Greensward Plan for Central Park was chosen by the CPC, thanks largely to Green's influence. The CPC's work would proceed under Green's leadership, despite resistance from resentful local Tammany Hall politicians who have little control of the project.
With Green's coaxing, the legislature began to expand the CPC's authority, transforming it into the city's first comprehensive planning body. In the next decade, the CPC planned and/or proposed improvements in northern Manhattan, the Harlem River, and the Bronx. Projects included Riverside, Morningside and Ft. Washington Parks; the street plan above 155 Street; a widened and straightened Broadway; a Grand Circle at 59th Street and Eighth Avenue, and more. In 1869, Green got approval for the CPC to create the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two public-private institutions.
By 1870, a new home-rule ("Tweed") charter ended the state-run CPC. However, the city's Departments of Public Works and Public Parks would eventually execute most of the CPC's unfinished plans. The Tweed Ring was exposed in 1870, and Green was made New York City Comptroller to sort out the ring's crippling theft and graft. He used his personal credit to obtain funds to cover the city payroll. He cut waste and halted most public works to spare the city from bankruptcy. Critics claimed his retrenchment policy was too arbitrary and severe. Green served until 1876. Later, the Niagara (Falls) Park Commission was created to establish New York's first state park and defend the falls; Green soon became president of the commission and would serve until his death.
In 1886, Samuel J. Tilden died, leaving a fortune to create a public library for New York City, but his will was contested by relatives. The executors, Green and two others, had to make do with fewer funds. Green would propose consolidating the Tilden Trust with the Astor and Lenox Libraries, leading eventually to the New York Public Library.
Sentiment soon built in the business community for municipal consolidation of the metropolitan region to protect the mismanaged port. The state legislature created a commission to explore consolidation, with Green at its head. Green immediately proposed an ambitious consolidation plan that would be rebuffed a number of times, mostly by Brooklynites who call the movement "Green's hobby." In 1894, changing his approach, Green got a nonbinding consolidation referendum on the ballot. Most surrounding municipalities voted in favor of consolidation, but Brooklyn's pro-consolidation majority was razor thin. only about 0.2%. Alarmed by the results, opponents would lobby to thwart subsequent bills by Green and others. Green rallied preservation-minded New Yorkers against the proposed destruction or removal of the New York City Hall building.
In 1895, Green formed the city's first formal preservation and conservation group, called the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. The society created parks and rescue endangered sites throughout New York City and State; it became defunct in the 1970s. Also in 1895, Green became President of the New York Zoological Society, serving until 1897.
Republican Party boss Thomas C. Platt embraced Green's consolidation plan, and pushed the measure through the legislature in 1896; a Greater New York charter was passed in 1897.
Death and memorials
On November 13, 1903, Green was murdered at his home at Park Avenue and 40th Street, in a case of mistaken identity, He was buried in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1905, his family estate in that city was turned into a public park.
Several memorials have been erected for Green. In 1929, a memorial bench was dedicated to him in Central Park; It was surrounded by five elms, representing the five boroughs. In the 1980s, the bench was moved to another hill at Harlem Meer, and new maples were planted in 1998. Bath Island in the Niagara River was renamed Green Island in his honor. In 2010, Andrew Haswell Green Park was named on Manhattan's East Side., overlooking
Green and his extensive contributions to New York City are the subject of a recent biography by Michael Rubbinaccio entitled "New York's Father is Murdered! The life and death of Andrew Haswell Green." Rubbinaccio's book presents evidence that Green, not John Bigelow, was the "founder" of the New York Public Library.
- Andrew Haswell Green at Find a Grave
- Rubbinaccio, Michael "New York's Father is Murdered! The Life and Death of Andrew Haswell Green" (2012)
- New York Preservation Archive Project Andrew Haswell Green
- "Died" (PDF). The New York Times. November 16, 1903. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- ANDREW H. GREEN'S MEMORY IS CLEARED; Flatt Sure Green Was Murdered in Mistake for Him. WOMAN'S LAWYER IS, TOO Civil Order for Hannah Elias's Arrest Issued but Not Served -- Conference in Jerome's Office New York Times, June 2, 1904
- Remembering Andrew H Green Memorial bench
- New York's Father is Murdered! The Life and Death of Andrew Haswell Green (2012) Google Books preview
- Andrew H. Green's Busy Life from The New York Times
- Biography from gothamgazette.com
- Andrew Haswell Green Collection,1843-1911, New-York Historical Society
- Guide to the A.H. Green papers, New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division
- AH Green collection found, to be auctioned Boston Globe September 5, 2010
- John Plimpton Green Letters Jefferson Digital Commons, Thomas Jefferson University
- The "Forgotten" Father of Greater New York: Andrew Haswell Green from the Museum of the City of New York Collections blog