Andrew Haswell Green was a 19th century urban planner, reformer and preservationist who, in a fifty-year civic career that is often compared to that of Robert Moses, transformed Gotham into a world-class city. Central and Riverside Parks, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the street plan above 155th Street, the Washington Bridge and many other public works owe their existence to Green. Most importantly, Green was the mastermind of the consolidation of the five boroughs, a measure that in 1898 expanded NYC from approximately 60 sq. miles to over 300 sq. miles. Green's admirers erected his monument -- a memorial bench surrounded by five elms representing the boroughs -- in 1929 in the green space he worked so tirelessly to create: Central Park. The elms eventually died and the bench was relocated to make way for a compost heap. In 1998 (the centennial of the consolidation) five new maples were planted around the bench, and every year since 2003 (the centennial of Green's death) a band of current-day admirers gather to toast Green's memory.
Historian Kenneth Jackson has called Green, "arguably the most important leader in Gotham's long history," yet this forlorn bench is the only public monument to the Father of Greater New York in all the five boroughs. There isn't even a street named for Andrew H. Green! (There was once a Green [Memorial] Laboratory on the NYU Bronx campus, but it was torn down. There was a statue of him made in 1948, but it was crated up and lost. There is a painting of him in City Hall, but it is off limits to public visitors.) Green does not deserve the obscurity that has befallen him.
His bench matters because it is the one lonely place in all the city where he is not forgotten. Before 1998 the inscription on the bench described trees that no longer existed; thank goodness they have been replaced. Thank goodness, too, that the dilapidated footpath leading up to the bench has been repaved. Sadly, however, the bench and trees no longer reside at the prominent spot where they were originally intended -- a spot that was theoretically dubbed Green Hill, where the composting operation is now situated. The memorial is virtually impossible to find now, and no one seems to care. A homeless man often encamps at the bench, and no Conservancy tour ever visits it -- a disgraceful slight given Green's heroic contributions to the park's creation. The bench and trees should be restored to their original site and the compost operation should be placed elsewhere.
For more information, go to: andrewhgreen.net