Parks also honors women who actually worked in the Parks Department.
Sutton Place's Clara Coffey Park is named for landscape architect Clara Coffey (1894-1982), who in 1936 accepted a position with Parks as the Chief of Tree Plantings. She supervised several prominent landscaping projects throughout the city, including the plantings on the Hutchinson River and Belt Parkways (1941) and the redesign of the Park Avenue Malls (1970). Coffey's plan for the Park Avenue Malls exemplifies her design philosophy -- understated, practical and accessible.
The project replaced fences and tall hedges with flowerbeds, supplemented existing crab apple trees with kwanzan cherry trees, and displayed seasonal flowers within wood borders. In 1977, Coffey was appointed by Mayor Abraham Beame to the Art Commission as its professional landscape architect in residence. A granite marker dedicated to Coffey was placed in Coffey Park at 54th Street, within a former sandbox converted by the Sutton Area Community Block Association to a lush garden with a decorative urn.
In 1967 Parks Commissioner August Heckscher appointed Doris Chanin Freedman (1928-1981) to the post of Special Assistant for Cultural Affairs, and she was promoted to Director of Cultural Affairs by the following year. Freedman organized a major group exhibition in October 1967, Sculpture in Environment, and the success of this endeavor lead to the subsequent "Sculpture of the Month" program of revolving outdoor exhibitions. Freedman also served as President of City Walls, the Municipal Art Society, and the Public Art Fund. Championing the rights of artists as well as art itself, as chairperson of the Citizens for Artist's Housing, she led the fight to allow artists to reside legally in Soho. In addition, she initiated efforts which resulted in the Percent for Art legislation that requires that one percent of the City's construction budget be spent on art. The plaza named in her honor at the southeast corner of Central Park and bounded by Fifth Avenue, East Drive, and 60th Street was dedicated in 1982. The plaza is now regularly programmed by the Public Art Fund, and shows several pieces of outdoor sculpture each year in keeping with her life's work.
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