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Cover for Rescue and Revival

Rescue and Revival

New York Botanical Garden, 1989-2018

Gregory Long


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The renaissance of the New York Botanical Garden is told through dozens of engaging episodes that will inspire readers everywhere, from those who steward nonprofit organizations to those whose lives have been enriched by the beauty and educational impact of this remarkable cultural jewel. An unmissable account of a great success story -- Robin Lane Fox By the late 1980s, the New York Botanical Garden was in serious trouble. The staff were poorly paid and balkanized, endowments were depleted, fundraising was inadequate, and visitation had dwindled to an embarrassing level. The grounds were seedy, many of the historic buildings decrepit, and the great conservatory in need of total rehabilitation. The fundamental concept of a botanical garden as an educational institution and museum of plants had been forgotten by all but a few. The once distinguished place, founded in 1891, was in need of a revival. Enter Gregory Long, a new CEO brought in from outside the botanical world with a mandate to rescue it. This is the story of how he did. Twenty years' experience at four major New York cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York Public Library, together with an extraordinary energy and imagination, equipped Long with a vision for how to turn things around. He set about recruiting new senior staff, rebuilding the board, reengaging employees, and fundraising on a vast scale. The massive billion-dollar program of renewal, modernization, and expansion he and his staff implemented was realized through four successive strategic plans, resulting in the restoration of the historic landscape, creation of new programming, and construction of many new facilities and gardens. By 2018, NYBG had been reestablished as one of the city's major cultural institutions and was recognized as the most important privately funded botanical garden in the world. The account of this decades-long, painstaking yet exhilarating process is engagingly told here through dozens of episodes and many protagonists. As diverse as New York City itself, this cast of characters includes the biologists Edward O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy, philanthropists Brooke Astor and David Rockefeller, author Oliver Sacks, Karen Washington and the urban farmers of Bronx Green-Up, Senator Patrick Moynihan, and performing artists Sigourney Weaver and Jessye Norman. The efforts of these and hundreds of others, staff and volunteers, were critical in the rebuilding of this international institution during what now seems a golden age in New York City history. The renaissance of the New York Botanical Garden is a success story that will inspire readers everywhere, from those who steward their own nonprofit organizations to those whose lives have been enriched by the beauty and educational impact of this remarkable place.

Library of American Landscape History, 9781952620379, 208pp.

Publication Date: June 15, 2022

About the Author

Gregory Long is president emeritus of the New York Botanical Garden, where he served as president and CEO from 1989 to 2018. He began his career in 1969 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he worked as executive assistant to the corporate secretary and president of the board. He then held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society), and through the 1980s he served as vice president for public affairs at the New York Public Library. He is author of Historic Houses of the Hudson River Valley. Gregory Long's awards include Common Cause's NYC Cultural Leadership Award; The Cultural Landscape Foundation's Ten-4-Ten Stewardship Award; The New York Botanical Garden's Founders Award and its Gold Medal; and the Native Plant Center's Acorn Award. He is an Honorary Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and received that organization's LaGasse Medal in 2015. The City University of New York and Fordham University have awarded Long honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters. In 2019, The New York Audubon awarded Long with the Thomas W. Keesee Conservation Award and the Garden Club of America gave him the 2020 Medal of Honor.