Stay Informed! Join our mailing list:

Robert Weinberg

Image(s): 

Sometimes listed as Robert C. Weinberg.

Biography

Robert Charles Weinberg was born December 18, 1901 in New York City. Weinberg received a B.A. from the Harvard School of Architecture in 1923 and a graduate degree in 1931 from the Harvard School of Planning1.

In 1934, Weinberg began work for the Parks Department under Robert Moses. As a young architect, Weinberg clashed with Moses over planning decisions for New York City’s parks. Weinberg believed the Parks Department could better design parks and playgrounds if it took neighborhood preferences into account – an unconventional stance for that time. Moses preferred other solutions, yielding to a model of formulaic consistency over Weinberg’s method of tailoring parks to local needs2.

In 1941, Moses orchestrated Weinberg’s removal from the Department of City Planning3, where he had been working since 1939. Beginning in 1943, Weinberg worked with the Chicago Housing Authority in establishing prefabricated and low-income housing as well with the Cleveland Planning Commission. He returned to New York by the end of the decade, preparing the 1948 master plan for Washington Square – a location he would continue to defend and preserve for the rest of his life.

Weinberg spent the next two and a half decades involved in various aspects of architecture and city planning. Countless letters and editorials attest to Weinberg’s zeal for improving and preserving the city. His seminal work was the 1958 book, Community Planning and Appearance. Though possessing a keen intellect and sufficient personal resources to allow him the time to pursue his extensive civic undertakings, these blessings were frequently undermined by his razor-edge personality4.

In 1968 Weinberg became the critic-at-large of architecture and planning for WNYC, New York’s municipal radio station, regularly giving two talks a week until 1973. He died in 1974.

Offices Held

  • Chaired the Joint Committee on Design Control of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the New York Regional Chapter of the American Institute of Planners (1953)
  • Inducted into the Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (1970)

Fascinated by the role government could play in advancing the beauty of a community’s appearance and concerned with aesthetic regulation, Weinberg was a part of numerous preservation campaigns throughout his lifetime.

A slew of New York City landmarks had Weinberg as their champion, while for other newer development projects he proved a stiff adversary. During 1936, he clashed with Robert Moses over the Henry Hudson Bridge, seeking to protect then-lush Riverdale from being divided by Moses’ highway. He lobbied to preserve Inwood Hill Park, on the Manhattan side, and the Spuyten Duyvil area, on the Bronx side5.

Weinberg was equally vociferous in opposing the 1960 proposal to install a three-tier, 44-lane bowling alley in Grand Central Station – an ultimately successful endeavor. Less successful, but no less hard-fought was Weinberg’s plan to save Pennsylvania Station and its marvelous granite façade in 1962. Weinberg again defended Grand Central in 1968.

Weinberg was incredibly devoted to Greenwich Village, where he lived the majority of his life. This began in 1948 when Weinberg helped prepare a master plan for Washington Square. He also served on the Community Planning Board at this time.

Weinberg was a proponent of the Washington Square Southeast Development in the 1950s. In 1956, while a member of the Municipal Art Society, he engaged in an effort to “consider ways and means of having the Bard Act implemented with respect to New York City.” He also served as editor of “Planning and Community Appearance.” A comprehensive study on civic development and planning, the report was a compilation of observations made by architects and planners who studied governmental influences on community appearance.

Save the Village Zoning AmendmentOn June 24, 1959, City Planning Commissioner James Felt announced that his proposed zoning resolution was not designated to take effect until one year after its passage. The one-year grace period that Felt’s proposal allowed, left areas like Greenwich Village vulnerable to developers, who were in a mad rush to implement new projects while the old zoning rules still applied.

In order to protect the architectural character of the Village during the one-year grace period, Weinberg proposed that the Village attempt to amend the old zoning, in order to ensure protection in the interim6. He drafted an amendment to protect Greenwich Village by limiting the height of future buildings within 100 feet of Washington Square Park until the new zoning laws went into effect in 1961. The emergency amendment was passed with unanimous support by the Board of Estimate in March 19607, effectively sparing Greenwich Village from destruction, until Felt’s new zoning resolution came into effect8.

Throughout his career he was also supportive of a New York City Landmarks Law and a Landmarks Preservation Commission9.

Weinberg fought for the preservation and adaptive reuse of Jefferson Market Courthouse in 1967.

 

Archives, Personal files, and Ephemura

Robert C. Weinberg Professional PapersSpecial Collections Department atLong Island University/ Brooklyn Campus 1 University Plaza Brooklyn, NY 11201-8423 (718) 488-1000 The collection houses 78 linear of papers and over 150 rolls of architectural drawing document the professional work of city planner and architect Robert C. Weinberg.

WNYC ArchivesContact: (212)-669-4685 or e-mail [email protected] of February 2009, WNYC's archives will open at its' new location: 160 Varick StreetNew York, NYFor more information visit:http://www.wnyc.org

Greenwich Village historic district designation report (New York 1969) (signed by Commissioners)Avery Library300 Avery Columbia University 1172 Amsterdam AvenueMC0301New York, NY 10027

  • 1. The New York Times. January 26, 1974
  • 2. Caro, Robert. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (New York: Random House, 1974). Page 488.
  • 3. Albert Fein and Elliot S.M. Gardener, eds., A Guide to the Professional Papers of Robert C. Weinberg. (New York: Long Island University Department of Urban Studies, 1984)
  • 4. Anthony C. Wood. Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks. (New York: Routledge, 2007) p. 136
  • 5. “A Controversial '36 Span Through Dreamy Isolation,” The New York Times. August 10, 2003
  • 6. Owen Grundy, "The Boiling Cauldron-GVA," Villager, October 22, 1959.
  • 7. The Villager, Vol. XVIII, No. 2
  • 8. "Savers Don Old Hats for Hearing," Villager, March 10, 1960.
  • 9. Albert Fein and Elliot S.M. Gardener, eds., A Guide to the Professional Papers of Robert C. Weinberg. (New York: Long Island University Department of Urban Studies, 1984)