Fort Tryon Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Parks Mourns The Loss Of Stan Michels

Stan Michels, friends and family at naming ceremony
Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

Stanley E. Michels, a City Council Member from northern Manhattan for 24 years, passed away at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center last Friday, August 1. He had fought cancer for three years.

A week prior to his passing, on July 24, Michels joined Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe at a ceremony where the promenade at the Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park was named in his honor. Also attending were former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, City Council Members Robert Jackson and Gale Brewer, Assembly Members Adriano Espaillat and Herman D. Farrell, Jr., Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Guillermo Linares, former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, hundreds of people from the community and family members. Recreation Supervisor Jackie Rowe Adams sang a very moving rendition of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. Michels was the closing speaker, thanking his family, colleagues and friends, including longtime aide Steve Simon, now the chief of staff for Manhattan Parks.

Stan Michels served in the City Council from 1978-2001, representing a district in northern Manhattan that covered Washington Heights, Inwood, West Harlem and parts of Central Harlem and Morningside Heights. He first won election in 1977 and was re-elected six times by overwhelming margins.

“Stan Michels’ vision and the funding he provided over the course of 24 years in the City Council have been crucial to the revitalization of the parks and communities of West and Central Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood,” said Commissioner Benepe. “Thanks to his leadership, the annual Medieval Festival, one of the largest and best events in New York City, was revived at Fort Tryon Park. His contributions to Fort Tryon Park as a member of the Fort Tryon Park Trust board were all the more reason for us to name the Heather Garden promenade in his honor. He will be missed deeply.”

Besides adjoining the incomparable Heather Garden, the Stan Michels Promenade overlooks one of the most spectacular vistas in New York, encompassing the Hudson River, the Palisades and the George Washington Bridge.

“Stanley was deeply touched that Parks bestowed this honor upon him. It was also wonderful that so many people turned out to show him how much they loved and respected him years after he left office,” said Manhattan Chief of Staff Steve Simon. “I will always be grateful that he allowed me to work with him, not just for him, as he accomplished all that he did.”

While in the City Council, Stan Michels served as both chair of the Manhattan delegation in the Council and of the Committee on Environmental Protection. His legislative record is notable for his outstanding work fighting on behalf of tenants, for the expansion of the city’s recycling and waste reduction programs, protection of our water supply and cleaner air, and against childhood lead poisoning, smoking in public places and excessive noise.

His strong advocacy for his district was demonstrated by his securing tens of millions of dollars in the city budget to build new schools and additions, rehabilitate parks and libraries, and support a wide variety of community programs. His support for parks was particularly impressive. During his years in office, he allocated over $50 million for parks projects in his district. Not a year went by that he failed to obtain needed funding for parks. As a result, every park in his district was improved, virtually every playground was renovated, and the parks in northern Manhattan rebounded from the deterioration caused by the lack of maintenance in the 1970s.

Fort Tryon Park benefited greatly from his support. He provided regular funding for the park, including the critical funds that enabled Parks, through the efforts of former North Manhattan Parks Administrator Jane Schachat, to restore the Heather Garden to its original Olmsted design. In the early 1980s, he played a key role in reviving the annual Medieval Festival, a hugely successful event co-sponsored by Parks and the Washington Heights-Inwood Development Corp. that draws tens of thousands of people to the park every fall.

A lifelong resident of Washington Heights, Stan always lived within a few blocks of Fort Tryon Park. He grew up about a block east of the park before his family moved to Castle Village, a few blocks south of the park. He and his wife Molly also raised their children – Jeffrey, Shari and Karen – in Castle Village. (Shari spent two summers as an intern in the Parks press office and at Olmsted.)

It is appropriate and fitting that the promenade adjacent to the Heather Garden permanently bear his name as his contributions will never be forgotten.

Information provided by Henry J. Stern & Steve Simon


“It’s wonderful what we can do if we’re always doing.”

George Washington
(1732 – 1799)

Directions to Fort Tryon Park

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