Fort Tryon Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, November 24, 2000



The Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park, a three acre, 65-year-old, masterpiece of landscape design by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., will soon have its future ensured if generous New Yorkers have their way. Recent gifts and a $200,000 challenge grant are the first steps in building a $5 million endowment to see the garden through good times and lean years.

The Rhodebeck Charitable Trust recently pledged a $200,000 Challenge Grant toward the new Heather Garden Endowment. Matching funds must be raised by September 31, 2001 for the grant to be paid. Also within the past year, the Rhodebeck Trust donated funds to the garden to pay the salary of a part-time fundraiser and fundraising materials, as well as a summer internship program for high school students. These efforts support the Heather Garden restoration project that was started in 1983 and revived by Manhattan Parks & Recreation in 1998.

"The Giuliani administration and Commissioner Stern have made sure this unique public garden and its surrounding park are well cared for," said Adrian (A-Train) Benepe, Manhattan Borough Commissioner. "But we can't count on enlightened stewardship in the future, and we don't want the garden to slip back to the overgrown, dilapidated, and dangerous mess we inherited and have spent the last 15 years restoring."

In 1983 the Greenacre Foundation helped fund an in-house garden restoration. This included planting 2,500 heaths, heathers, and brooms, 1,500 bulbs, 500 shrubs, five trees, and the removal of 50 years of overgrowth opening up sightlines throughout the garden. More than 400 of the removed shrubs were replanted elsewhere in Fort Tryon and other Manhattan parks.

In the hope of maintaining these efforts, an endowment campaign was started. Fundraising kicked off with a direct mail campaign in December 1999. This modest effort sparked the interest of the Rhodebeck Trust and many neighborhood residents. With these contributions, $50,000 from Laurance and David Rockefeller, as well as generous donations from the Kissinger Family Foundation, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and the Friends of Fort Tryon Park, the Heather Garden Endowment is off to a strong start. The future of the endowment looks bright. The successful matching of the Rhodebeck Trust's Challenge Grant will leave the endowment with nearly $500,000 towards the $5 million goal. Supporting New York City's largest public garden without an admission fee, this endowment would generate enough interest annually to ensure that the garden and its surrounding landscapes are fully staffed by skilled and knowledgeable gardeners. It will also fund maintenance of the massive masonry walls, gates, and arches.

The garden, its surrounding park, and the Cloisters Museum were presented as a gift to the City of New York by John D. Rockefeller Jr. He hired the Olmstead Brothers, the leading landscape architecture firm of its day, to design the park and its centerpiece garden. Following six years of painstaking construction, supervised by Rockefeller himself, the garden was opened in 1935; sadly, it fell into disrepair after the 1950s. Now that the garden has been restored according to its original, impeccably engineered design, it is an unparalleled display of horticultural beauty in a setting of the utmost calm and tranquility. John D. Rockefeller's foresight in purchasing the New Jersey Palisades across the Hudson River, have left the garden's views unblemished.

Much of the garden's success can be attributed to its dedicated staff. Jane (Heather) Schachat, Director of North Manhattan Parks, retains oversight of the Heather Garden while care for the specialized plantings lies in the hands of gardeners George Zalewski and Marcia Garibaldi. In addition, restoration of the garden according to its original design would not have been possible without the knowledge and expertise of Timothy (Stonehouse) Steinhoff, a historic landscape design consultant.

Jane (Doe) Rudolph, Chief of Staff to the Manhattan Borough Commissioner, spearheaded fundraising and the creation of the Friends of the Heather Garden. This work will be continued by Katharine (Annabel Lee) McAulay who was recently hired to undertake future fundraising for the endowment.

by Anne (Torrey Pine) Ulevitch

(Friday, November 27, 1987)


Parks has received four grants totaling $5.5 million from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to develop bikeways, acquire parkland and restore a historic mansion, Deputy Commissioner for Planning Diana Chapin announced. The Environmental Quality Bond Act (EQBA), which funds these grants, was passed in a New York State referendum in November 1986. It is a $1.45 billion spending allotment for projects that enhance the quality of the environment.


"The earth is the very quintessence of the human condition."

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

Directions to Fort Tryon Park

Was this information helpful?