Renovation of Theodore Roosevelt Park to Begin This Month; Another Section Must Be Temporarily Closed, Museum Says

Rendering of future Columbus Avenue facade of the AMNH via Reed Hilderbrand.

By Carol Tannenhauser

After being temporarily halted during the shutdown of 2020, construction of the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) has reached Phase 2. The building is up, and as it is being completed, preparations have begun for the renovation of sections of Theodore Roosevelt Park — the public park in which the Museum is located — destroyed by the construction.

“Now is the time to do it,” Roberto Lebron, senior director of communications for the AMNH told WSR, over Zoom last Friday. “Some of the planting — which includes 22 new trees — must take place in the spring. To plant in the spring we have to start work now.” Zachary Campbell, community liaison for the project, was there to show slides and describe what Phase 2 will entail.

One thing is the closing off of another section of the park — more dark-green, plywood walls, with diamond cut-outs for viewing — this time involving the northwest entrance to the park and the area near the Nobel Monument.

Lebron emphasized, first of all, that access to the park from West 81st Street and Columbus Avenue will NOT be affected. Nor will the path leading to, nor anything else about the Bull Moose Dog Run. Repeat: The dog run will not be affected. It will be open the same hours and entered through the same chain-link gates. The Arthur Ross Terrace will also remain open, but it will temporarily be accessed in a new way.

Phase 2 will close off access to the Nobel Monument. In anticipation, the Parks Department informed us that the annual unveiling of the newly etched names of the 2021 American Nobel Prize winners will take place this Wednesday, 9/15, at 11:30am. The Consul General of Sweden and acting Parks commissioner will be there.

Here is a photograph of the Nobel Monument area now (it is the rectangle in the center), and a rendering of it after the renovation. Images courtesy of Reed Hilderbrand.

Before.

After.

The new fence will also block access to the sweet little shortcut leading to and from West 80th Street and Columbus Avenue — although it is debatable whether taking that winding path is really shorter than bypassing the park altogether.

Phase 2 is expected to start within the month, and be completed by next summer. “We’re going to do the work in the lower user-ship portion of the year, and we’ll try to get it open for the highest user-ship portion,” Campbell explained. “We’ll do the northwest corner in the fall and winter, plant in the spring, and open by the summer.”

Speaking of open…the new landscaping plan, by the landscape architecture firm, Reed Hilderbrand, calls for the opening to the public of the Margaret Mead Green, a wide swath of land running parallel to Columbus Avenue, which has never been open before. In addition to the trees, there will be a multitude of other plantings, many of which will be put in next spring. There will also be new benches and fencing. Below a photograph of the Margaret Mead Green now, and a rendering after the restoration.

Before.

After.

It is remarkable — and worth a walk to the museum (CPW bet. W. 77th and W. 81st) — to watch the Gilder Center coming to be after years of planning, but, also, controversy and legal contention. Mostly, the argument centered on the allegation that the museum was “encroaching on” a quarter of an acre of Teddy Roosevelt Park, which is public land, administered by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The construction also required the destruction of seven towering old trees. A neighborhood group — supported by tennis legend Billie Jean King, whose penthouse overlooks the park — sued numerous times, ultimately, losing in December, 2018. Ground was broken in June, 2019, with an expected completion date some time in 2021. But the pandemic intervened. The museum is getting back to us with a new projected completion date.

”If you have any questions or concerns, contact me,” Campbell said. He can be reached at zcampbell@amnh.org

 

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 23 comments | permalink

LEAVE A COMMENT

Your email address will not be published. Please limit comments to 100 words and keep them civil. We delete comments that don't adhere to community guidelines.




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    1. Truth and Reason says:

      So will the original shortcut be restored once everything is done? The “after” photo doesn’t include one. This sounds minor but can have a large effect on people who live on 78th & 79th who need to make their train.

      Also, does this mean access to the museum fountain terrace will be temporarily (permanently?) blocked?

      • Right and left and up and down says:

        It is convenient, but I doubt that the landscape architect takes the commuting habits of a small group of people into consideration.

    2. sleepless on the UWS says:

      I am surprised to see mention of “opening hours” for the Bull Moose Dog Run. Speaking as someone who lives–and tries to sleep–directly opposite, I can attest to the fact that the barking starts some mornings as early as 6 and goes on to 10pm, 11 pm, even 1 am. The lack of consideration to the human occupants in the hundreds of bedrooms on 81st Street is disgraceful. I hope that this gets stricter supervision in the future.

    3. jenna b says:

      It’s just too much. After all UWS has been through can’t they just keep the park open?? Really upset. That charming little path has kept many of us sane.

    4. uws says:

      Would love to see some coverage of the fact that dog owners have turned all accessible lawns surrounding the museum into leashless dog runs, despite access to the Bull Moose run and the fact that pets are prohibited from being in these lawns per park rules. It occurs most evenings, despite small children and non dog owners enjoying the grass. Undoubtedly the same entitled individuals who allow their dogs to defecate on our sidewalks and never pick it up.

      • jenna b says:

        Completely untrue – most people clean up after their dogs. I love that the dogs are using the lawns. Dogs should be allowed in, they’re not hurting anything. The only people I’ve seen object are boxers who makes a lot of noise ‘play fighting’ in an area which will now be closed by the museum. Maybe they’ll (really one woman who needs to stoke her anger by yelling at dog owners) will now leave us all alone.

        • Elizabeth says:

          I’m also a dog owner. I love the park. I also love dogs, especially my own. You are incorrect. Dogs do damage to the landscaping.

          The section of the lawn that held the tulips got totally trashed last year due to people using it as a dog run. It was so bad that the landscaper decided not to plant anymore new tulips. The tulips that came up were remainders from the year before.

          The tulip garden was one of the prettiest things about the park in early Spring. Thousands of people enjoyed it. During the first year of COVID it provided a sense of normalcy during such a tough time. It was selfish of people to use the area as a dog run.

          The landscaper puts time, energy and money into making the park look nice. As dog owners we must respect the rules of the park, and as dog owners we need to be conscious that not everyone is comfortable around dogs.
          We don’t have a right to take over everywhere. There is a dog park directly across the path.

          Come on. We need to be responsible. We are not entitled to do anything we want. There is a community of people who use this park. We need to share it with those who are not dog people.

          • Charly says:

            I agree; it is really selfish. I’m a dog lover and have two. There are plenty of places to walk them in the neighborhood, and in addition to the dog run, dogs can be off leash in Central Park before 9 am. People should have a place to sit and relax without worrying if a dog has done its business there, especially families with children. The gardener, who has done a terrific job, told me that dogs have ruined other plantings/grass in addition to the tulips. As much as I disliked seeing guards in the park before the pandemic, I wish they would return and continue enforcing the “no dogs allowed on the park’s lawns,” which looked so much nicer before they became dog runs.

      • JS says:

        Was there recently with relative and dog – and shocked to see so many dogs off leash on the grass.

        Horrible to sit on the grass and discover dog poop or pee…

        One thing though….so many new residents now due to Covid rent softening. Wonder if the new folks don’t know dog protocols/rules?

    5. LYJ says:

      Once again, the museum which should have the outmost fiduciary obligations to protect the environment, just continues to destroy the nature. After erecting this new behemoth cement mausoleum on the account of the open green space, the museum will pour more cement to create more paved and seating areas for its additional thousands of visitors on the account of the small leftovers of the park. Hope someone can stop their reckless megalomaniacal expansion. The museum can now officially change its name to the American Museum for Natural Destruction. And then we expect corporate America to reduce CO2 emissions? Very unfortunate and so sad.

      • nemo paradise says:

        This comment’s opening sentence is wonderful. Sets up the bizarre anti-concrete diatribe that follows with admirable elan.

    6. Tea cup sugarqueen says:

      Perhaps we’re all a bit short sighted…money money money!! Once this is completed there’ll be tremendous interest in the museum with a boost to restaurants, shops, cabs, and ,any nearby establishment will benefit! Be patient and it’s gonna be beautiful. I personally can’t wait for all the trees, flowers, paths and most of all new exhibits and programs ! It isn’t all bad! As for dogs and noise… need new windows?????

    7. Brenda says:

      This is/was my favorite park

    8. Steevie says:

      The Nobel Monument looks like a slightly deformed biscuit in the picture. It is much more impressive close up. I guess many years ago there was this huge tract of land from W. 77th Street to W. 81st Street and from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue. Try walking around it and see how long it takes. The fact that it was built on an ad hoc basis without an overall plan gave it a real charm. It may go from charming to too obvious.

    9. I hope the little pathway between W 80th St and the Park remains! Every day I see numerous dog walkers and others use this path – constantly – as do I. It really will make such a difference if this pathway is closed!

    10. Dan says:

      Thank you WSR for clarifying that the dog run will remain open.

    11. Stuart Blumin says:

      A cherry laurel hedge along the Columbus Avenue fence would be a beautiful addition. And, given the slope of the park, it would block some of the view and absorb some of the noise of traffic on the avenue. And why lose that lovely 80th Street entrance?

    12. John says:

      I thought they where getting rid of Ted because he was a racist? They should rename the park to Alfred Charles Sharpton park and Museum.

    13. Josh says:

      Wow, the comments page sound like a kindergarten classroom. Whining about the paths changing, too much concrete, paths being closed, dogs running, dogs not running, trees there, trees not there, combination of buildings good, combination of buildings bad… Look, without the Museum, the park would be an urban blight. The CP Conservanxy does not raise money for it. The beautiful landscaping, in all its glory, is paid for almost exclusively by the Museum. The fact that this little park has a dedicated gardener is testament to the financial backing of the Museum. So for all of your constant complaining, take a moment to thank the Museum, because otherwise your beloved park would be an under-maintained pile of dirt, rather than a little green oasis.

      • Steevie says:

        Hey wait a second. You are saying that NYC gets charity from the museum. I think it is the other way around. It is a great museum, but it receives much of it’s funding from the taxpayer.

    14. Linda says:

      Oh, is that concrete monstrosity the new AMNH addition? I thought it was a nuclear power plant.