Events & News

Battle for Bryant Park, 25 Years On

March 8, 2012
6:00 PM
Neighborhood Preservation Center

The Archive Project joined forces with the Historic Districts Council (HDC) and the Neighborhood Preservation Center (NPC) to host a discussion with former Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Anthony Tung on the 25th Anniversary of the divisive Battle for Bryant Park. Jeffrey Kroessler—author, professor, and HDC board member—gave a brief introduction, explaining how a January 8, 1987 New York Times article launched the controversy. The article reported that “a four-year-old plan to build a restaurant behind the New York Public Library has been dealt a surprising setback, with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission [LPC] warning that it would consider ‘absolutely untenable’ any structure that would make it difficult to view the library’s west facade.” The author of this warning by the LPC was Commissioner Anthony Tung. Five days later, on a Sunday, a New York Times editorial called for the replacement of every member of the commission. By Monday, Anthony Tung had been fired, but it took eighteen turbulent months for Mayor Koch to finally unseat him, every step of the process documented by the press. Twenty-five years later, Anthony Tung joined Kroessler and Anthony C. Wood to re-examine the battle that sent energizing currents through the entire preservation community. The animated discussion examined—through press coverage, personal reminisces, and a question-and-answer session—how this episode reflected the inner workings of the LPC and its relations with the city as a whole. It was an evocative look at a key moment in preservation history that has significant implications for the field today.

Neighborhood Preservation Center
232 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10003
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Above: Bryant Park and New York Public Library from Sixth Avenue, ca. 1948; Courtesy of John M. Fox and Shorpy