DOES IT MATTER IF THE BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN TAKES OVER THE TORREY BOTANICAL SOCIETY FROM THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN?
This is a question I have been discussing with others in the field part of the Torrey Botanical Society. Many say it doesnít really matter who controls TBS, but I think it does matter and here is why.
The members of the Torrey Botanical Club were the ones who established the New York Botanical Garden, as the first NYBG president, Nathaniel Lord Britton, often acknowledged. Britton had a great regard for TBC/TBS and wished that the two institutions of NYBG and TBS would always be close and cordial. For NYBG to lose TBS would be a slap in the face to NYBGís historical legacy.
Now some argue that the NYBG president, Gregory Long, only cares about fund raising and has no interest in botany (his educational background being in art history I believe). But how do we really know? I do not believe the TBS council has had any discussions about trying to work out a closer relationship between the NYBG president and TBS. I cannot believe that President Long would be completely indifferent to the institution that was responsible for founding NYBG. I also donít think that President Long knows what has been happening in TBS with virtually all its current officers being directly or indirectly connected with BBG.
Another reason we do not want to see BBG take over TBS is that we do not want to have one person or one institution to have complete control over the larger part of our greater metropolitan field botany. We want to prevent the situation of dictatorship, such as existed once in the New York City park system under Robert Moses, who put himself on so many institutions dealing with the parks that he was able to undo the system of democratic checks and balances in the park system. The BBG has control over the New York Metropolitan Flora Project. BBG also is in partnership with Rutgers University, an institution dealing with restoration ecology in the area. TBS produces a great deal of valuable field data in it field program. BBG should not have control over the field work and data of TBS.
Moving TBS to BBG would also hurt NYBG because it would hurt the special relationship between Lehman University and NYBG. The city system of universities has one main place for graduate studies in botany (called the plant sciences) -- and that is at Lehman. Lehman graduate students can easily commute to NYBG and become members of the TBS Council and attend the lectures there. The movement of the lectures to BBG and away from NYBG would also hurt the prestige and hence the interests of NYBG.
BBG is a place that is not easy to get to, especially compared to the relative ease of getting to the NYBG. Long Island is a traffic nightmare for most people. Moving TBS to Long Island would cut down on the number of participants in TBS activities. It would also hurt TBS field. Most attendees of TBS field trips are from New Jersey with another element coming from the metropolitan area minus Long Island. TBS field members usually do not attend field trips on Long Island. To put the botanical home of TBS on the very island which most TBS field attendees avoid like the plague will further distance TBS from its field participants. Many TBS field attendees have kidded with me that in the near future all TBS walks will be on Long Island.
The BBG has a close relation with the Long Island Botanical Society. It does not need to add TBS to its list of botanical societies with which it has very close ties. This whole affair smacks of empire building on the part of BBG with no real care for our metropolitan flora and TBS field attendees.
Simply put, monopolies are bad. They discourage diversity of perspectives and effort and they deny competition which drives us all to better efforts. TBS should stay at NYBG and in the future a better balance of the TBS officers among NYBG, Lehman, BBG, and Rutgers should be sought.
February 10, 2002
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney