National Geographic : 1964 Jul
you ask for something, they are sorry, this cannot be had in France. But New York has everything, if you'll only look for it." Before long, Jean may be looking for a new studio. His building is listed for demolition. Newbold Morris is a tall and distinguished New Yorker who, like the sentimental Mrs. Petersen, worries about old buildings. An English ancestor of his bought land here in 1670; another signed the Declaration of In dependence. Morris, formerly President of the New York City Council and acting Mayor, is now Commissioner of Parks. Together we inspected his domain of 35,700 acres-two and a half times the area of Manhattan. "Two million trees," said Mr. Morris. "Lots of sycamores; they can stand the smog." We drove over the Henry Hudson Bridge into Riverdale-to Wave Hill, a stately home along the Hudson. A Morris had lived here; also Theodore Roosevelt and Toscanini. "This estate was to make way for apart ments," said Morris, "but the owners gave it all to the Park Department instead." Parks Endure Vandalism and Soot En route to Van Cortlandt Park we stopped at a stone fountain. It had been deliberately smashed. "Just look at this mess," Morris said. "Vandals destroy $400,000 worth of park property a year." The Van Cortlandt mansion, built in 1748, is now a museum, but Morris was at home here too. A Morris had married a Van Cort landt. Caretaker Hagop Yacoubian, an Arme nian who came six years ago from Lebanon, talked eagerly about the mansion's past. Morris was delighted: "He knows more about the place than I do! It doesn't matter when you came, but what you do after you get here." We moved on. Carl J. Schiff, Mr. Morris's Director of Horticulture, joined us and rhap sodized about trees: "Trees relieve eye strain. Trees absorb sound. Trees give off moisture, and this moisture cools the air...." Now we were driving through the narrow "shoestring parks" that line Eastern Park way, en route to Forest Park and Cunning ham Park in Queens. Mr. Schiff said: "Just think what our trees must put up with! The ashes and soot in the air contain sulphur dioxide. Moisture mixes with it and forms sulphuric acid...." He shuddered. Then we were on the Park Department golf course at Douglaston. Greenery ranged as far as the eye could wander. It was dark when we crossed Queensboro Bridge back to Manhattan. Headlights of cars moving along East River Drive gleamed like endless strings of pearls, pulled by some in visible hand. Then across the East Side, past new apartment towers, past elegant three story townhouses, and across Park Avenue to Fifth Avenue. And into open country again Central Park!* After that day's driving I used my car of ten. I found that from Elmhurst I could turn north and be on the Grand Concourse in the heart of the Bronx in 25 minutes. If I turned south, I would just as quickly be in the new Civic Center in Brooklyn. The Belt Parkway let me circumnavigate *See "Central Park: Manhattan's Big Outdoors," by StuartE.Jones,NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, December, 1960. Phalanx of waiters serving a banquet at the new Americana Hotel bears snowball desserts on glowing bases of colored ice. International soiree, the United Nations Day Ball finds delegates from more than 100 nations and other distinguished guests din ing and dancing in the Grand Ballroom of the renowned Waldorf-Astoria.