As performances for Shakespeare in the Park are announced, lets take a look at the man who almost stopped them from happening. This NYC institution was started by Joe Papp in Central Park on the lawn in the 1950s, but in 1959, Stuart Constable (1900 – 1979) went up against the event in the park.
As the 1959 Shakespeare In The Park season was set to begin and Robert Moses, Park Commissioner, was on vacation, leaving decisions to Stuart Constable, his right hand man in all matters park. Constable was violently anti-communist. Upon hearing that Joe Papp had been called before the House UnAmerican Activities Council and refused to say whether he was communist or not, Constable started charging the theater for use and clean up of the park and insisting that they charge an entrance fee to the plays. This made it impossible for the theater to run as it ran on a small budget and couldn’t afford the fees. Papp felt the free plays were as valuable to the city’s populace as public libraries and often the only time many had to see live theater or hear Shakespeare.
Constable had the backing of his boss, Robert Moses. Moses was the most powerful unelected official in NYC. Papp took Constable, Moses and the Parks Department to court and eventually won after an appeal.
He started as Chief Designer of the Park under Moses 1936 -1955 and acting Commissioner from 1950 – 1960. He also worked with Moses on the World’s Fair in 1966 as Operations Manager. He was also involved in the building of the United Nations and Jones Beach. After the World’s Fair, he moved to Florida with his wife
(October 6, 1820 – November 13, 1903) was a lawyer, New York City planner, preservationist and civic leader. He is considered “the Father of Greater New York,” and is responsible for Central Park, the New York Public Library, the Bronx Zoo, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also participated in or led significant projects including many parks and the joining together of the 5 boroughs of New York into one city.
In 1835, he moved to New York, where two of his sisters lived and taught from Massachusetts. He began working with a merchant and lived in Trinidad working in the sugar importing and exporting business for a year before returning to the city. He eventually returned to Massachusetts to pursue a law degree and worked with Samuel Tilden, future presidential candidate. He returned to NY and in 1854, Green was elected to the New York City school board. He became its president a year later. For 13 years he was involved in the Central Park Commission and in many other park projects throughout the city and New York state until his death in 1903.
Mr. Green was shot 5 times outside his home in a case of mistaken identity. You can find a memorial to him in Central Park overlooking the Harlem Meer and surrounded by five elms, representing the five boroughs. Green and his extensive contributions to New York City are the subject of a recent biography by Michael Rubbinaccio titled “New York’s Father is Murdered! The life and death of Andrew Haswell Green.”
Edward Sibley Barnard is an editor, writer, and photographer specializing in fully illustrated how-to and nature books for adults and children. He lives and tree-watches in New York City. His most famous book is New York City Trees. The book is a must for tree lovers in NYC and is dedicated to the idea that every species of tree has a story and every individual tree has a history.
Mr. Barnard worked with Ken Chaya and the Central Park Conservancy to put together the Definitive Illustrated Map of Central Park. The map covers not only the trees in the park in amazing detail, but the bridges, statues, buildings and paths that make the park a highlight of any visit to NYC.
Edward Sibley Barnard currently resides in New York City and was born in 1936.