CHAPTER IX. GREGORY R. LONG AND THE NEW POLITICS OF FUND RAISING
Hester resigned as NYBG Director in 1989. This set off the search for another director. This was no longer a clear-cut search, for things had changed.
Something terrible began to change in the American political climate in the 1980's. With the election of Ronald Reagan as the president of the United States the tax revolt came to full fruition. The anti-governmental attitudes of the conservatives led to a slashing of many of the public services and public institutions that used to get ready support. Also new tax policies were introduced that favored the wealthy over the more common man. And especially for New York City, the influx of thousands of poor immigrants, often people of color, and the flight of many middle-class people, many of them white, to the suburbs meant a shortage in tax revenues for New York City. This meant a triple crunch on our public institutions in New York City: the government denied money to the institutions, the city had fewer funds to take up the slack, and the common man felt that he did not have much money to give to support the institutions. As a result, many of our public institutions had to go a-begging for funds from the wealthy of the United States.
In this crisis of funds a new emphasis began to appear in our public institutions. The emphasis suddenly fell on the need for fund raising and fund raisers to acquire the new missing funds. Traditionally, the NYBG was run by a man with a background in botany. But now the need was for someone who had a background in running large public institutions. And it did not matter whether the person had an actual background in the subjects with which the public institutions dealt. What was important was the business acumen to acquire funds.
That this trend was taking place in all of New York City's non-profit institutions is seen in Grace Glueck's article (New York Times, Dec. 9, 1997:7) "What Matters in the Board Game: Skill, Money and Glamour." The non-profit institutions suddenly became the place for the old and the new rich to mix and mingle in the City. At the top of the elite tour were the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Public Library. But in the second rung of institutions operating as a place for the rich to hobknob was the New York Botanical Garden. The articles states that for a mere $50 to $100 thousand dollar annual contribution you too can consort "with the likes of Brooke Aster, Henry Kravis, Annette de la Renta, Sid Bass, Bill Blass, Henry Kissinger, Harold Prince, and other trustee superstars." But the second rung of nonprofit institutions "are also glamorous firmaments for risen and rising starts, and their social events are perfect turf for the elite to meet and greet."
In this world of events for the social and monied elite, there has occurred an increasing prominence of paid presidents. The Gleuck article mentions that just two examples of "once-lusterless" institutions dusted off and given generational turnarounds due to the dynamism of their respective presidents were the New York Botanical Garden and the American Museum of Natural History.
From 1989 to the present, Gregory R. Long has been the chief executive officer of NYBG. He was 43 years of age when he took over. Unlike many who have charted the Garden's directions in the past, Long is not a scientist. He was trained as an art historian at New York and Columbia Universities. He worked for the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the latter starting in 1969). Then for 16 years he successively headed the development efforts of three other respected institutions, the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Zoological Society and the New York Public Library. At the latter, he is credited with much of the success of a $300 million capital campaign.
Gregory Long was the Development Chief at the New York Public Library under Vartan Gregorian, a former history professor at the University of Pennsylvania (see Cox 1986). Long worked with Gregorian to help rehabilitate the NYPL in the 1980's. When Gregorian took over as the president of NYPL in 1981 the institution was in deep decline, devastated by the city's fiscal crisis. Gregorian was able to turn the situation around by making the NYPL "the trendiest charity in town." Indeed, its fund-rasing parties became so "chic" that Vanity Fair magazine referred to the NYPL as "the Studio 54 of culture." The charge for attendance was a mere $25,000 dollars a table for dinner and dancing. The article also mentioned that Gregorian had gained 30 pounds because of all the party dinners he had to attend.
Some of the first actions Long took at the NYBG was to ban cars on internal roads, dogs, sun-bathing, and ball-playing. Before Long, on Saturdays and Sundays the Garden looked like Orchard Beach with all the myriad blankets laid out on the grounds everywhere one looked. It was actually hard at times to see the plants because of the many "picnickers." This was a needed change and a welcome one indeed to anyone interesting in actually viewing the plant displays.
Not making the job any easier, on June 27, 1991 the Wall Street Journal reported that Mayor David Denkins was seeking a 47 percent cut in cultural spending in the City. At the time the NYBG received $5 million dollars from the city annually. (And it cost NYBG $400 thousand dollars just in liability insurance.)
From an endowment in 1992 of $22 million dollars and an operating annual budget of $32 million dollars, Long increased the endowment to $77 million dollars and the budget to $32 million dollars (Lubow 1998:26). He mentioned that "We have to generate 90 percent of our income from scratch every year. Only 10 percent comes from the income on the endowment." In 1998 the city was only providing 18.5 percent of the annual budget (compared to 28.4 percent in 1990).
It used to be that the TBC would receive reports from the Delegate to NYBG. For instance in the 1960's the Club would receive reports from delegate Lela V. Barton of the Board of Managers. This ended at the time of David Fairbrothers's resignation from the Board.
RECENT TORREY PRESIDENTS
In 1989 Alice Belling was president of the TBC. The Editor of the Bulletin was H. David Hammond, while Richard Stalter was Chairman of the Local Flora and Vegetation Committee.
In 1990 Paul Mankiewicz was the president of TBC, while Crockett became the historian.
Mankiewicz became the president of the Gaia Institute. The Gaia Hypothesis investigates the role of organisms in the regulation of local to planetary environmental conditions and in the transformation of the earth's surface. Put forward by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in 1972, the fundaments of the Gaia Hypothesis were first framed by Russian biogeochemist Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863-1945) around the turn of the century.
The Gaia Institute explores, through research and development, design and construction, through integrated wastes-into-resources technologies, how human activities and waste products can be treated to increase ecological productivity, biodiversity, environmental quality, and economic well being.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine features a service called the "Blessing of the Animals." At one of the services, among the animals led down the aisle to be blessed at the altar, were an elephant, llama, camel, a python, a bowl full of worms, and algae (brought by Paul Mankiewicz, director of the Gaia Institute).
Recently, the Gaia Institute has been working with the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality in the Bronx. They are fighting the placement of a huge filtration plant in the north central Bronx. They want more protection of our natural areas around New York City Watersheds instead of massive filtration plants. And the Gaia Institute has developed methods and approaches for conserving, enhancing and reconstructing the natural systems within the watershed to increase filtration (AKA: biogeochemical filtration).
In 1991 Dennis Stevenson became the president. He was a professor at Barnard College. He worked at the Harding Laboratory of the NYBG. On October 3, 2000 Dr. Stevenson at the NYBG presented a talk on "Trouble in Paradise: Cycads, Chemistry, and Weevils." Dr. Stevenson is the Director and Senior Curator of the Plant Research Lab at NYBG. His research focuses (in part) on the evolution, reproductive biology, development, conservation and all-round bizarreness of cycads.
In 1992 H. David Hammond (of NYBG) became the president of TBC. He was for many years the editor of the Torrey Bulletin.
On March 22, 1992 Arthur Cronquist died working on a manuscript for Intermountain Flora in the herbarium at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. His death marked the end of a period in systematic botany when a handful of men and women dominated much of the intellectual thought, not only in taxonomy, but in much of botany.
In 1993 Thomas E. Jensen of Lehman College became the TBC president. One of the outstanding professors at Lehman, Dr. Jensen works on cells (he discovered new suborganelles with EM work on blue-green algae).
Because of the growing maturity, stature and independence of the programs of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, on September 17, 1992 the New York Botanical Garden's Board of Managers authorized the Institute to become a new and independent corporation. The Institute became an independent not-for-profit corporation on February 19, 1993.
A good question is: "Did the successors of Dr. Hester jettison all of his applied science objectives and return to a more insular position? Did they return to a conservative position that does not ask questions about ecology and the green-house effect?"
In 1994 Margaret R. Basile of Lehman College was the president of the TBS.
In 1995 Steven Handel, a professor at Rutgers, was president of the TBS. He got his A.B. from Columbia College in 1969, his M.S. from Cornell University in 1974, and his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1976.
In 1996 Dominick V. Basile of Lehman College became the president of the TBC for a second time.
In 1996 Mary A. Leck (Rider College of Trenton, NJ) became the TBC president. Mary Allessio Leck began her botanical career in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. She received her B.S. in Botany in 1962 from the University of Massachusetts where as a senior she studied the seed bank of a series of successional plots at Harvard Forest. For her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 1966 she compared germination of three alpine populations of Polygonum bistortoides. These were followed by field studies in New Zealand and Barrow, Alaska.
Her academic career began at Rutgers University - Newark; she moved to Rider University in 1970 where she has been for thirty years. She has taught courses at The New Jersey School of Conservation in Branchville, at Blue Ridge Assembly near Asheville, NC, and currently is involved in leading field trips and teaching short workshops for teachers at the Hamilton - Trenton Marsh.
Maryšs research over the years has focused on seed germination ecology of tidal freshwater wetland species, soil seed banks (Arctic tundra, tidal wetland, and upland succession). She is currently documenting vegetation colonization and seed bank development of a constructed wetland on Duck Island, part of the Hamilton - Trenton Marsh complex.
At present Mary teaches the botany component of the freshman biology course, Field Natural History, Marine Botany, and Modern Plant Biology at Rider University. As with many academic botanists, she finds that plants are not an integral part of the landscapeš of many students, but occasional successes and the advances in botanical studies makes botany a pertinent, exciting field.. Mary has been actively trying to reach elementary teachers via the Field Natural History course, but also in the development of several botanical lesson plans for a Hamilton - Trenton Marsh Teacheršs Manual and Resource Guide which is available to teachers in Central New Jersey.
As president of TBS, Mary feels that her primary contributions were updating the By-laws and Constitution and organizing a retreat for the Council where discussions for the Societyšs future took place. She and her husband continue to lead TBS field trips, primarily at the Hamilton - Trenton Marsh.
In 1997 Steven Clemants of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was president of the TBS. Dr. Steven E. Clemants was born on 22 July 1954 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended the University of Minnesota (B.S. 1976, M.S. 1979) and the City University of New York/New York Botanical Garden joint Plant Systematics program (M.Ph. 1983, Ph.D. 1984). He served as the New York Natural Heritage Program Botanist from 1985 to 1989. During his tenure with this program he developed, the botanical component of the Natural Heritage Database; surveyed New York for rare plants; worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service on recovery plans and status reports for federally endangered and threatened species; and worked with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to write the endangered and threatened species regulations for New York.
Since 1989 Dr. Clemants has been on the staff of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden serving as Taxonomist, Coordinator of the Metropolitan Flora Project and Director of Science. He is former Chair of the New York Flora Association, former President of the Torrey Botanical Society, and former Vice President of the Long Island Botanical Society. Currently he is Chair of the Local Flora and Vegetation Committee for the Torrey Botanical Society and the Long Island Botanical Society, a council member of the New York Flora Association and a board member of the Black Rock Forest Consortium, the Metro Forest Council, the NYS Forest Practices Board (Region 2) and the NY Soil and Water Conservation Technical Committee.
Dr. Clemants has contributed treatments of the Juncaceae and the Chenopodiaceae and Amaranthaceae for the Flora of New York State, a treatment of Juncus for the flora of Minnesota and Juncus for the Flora of North America. Currently, he is preparing treatments of Chenopodium and several genera of Amaranthaceae for the Flora of North America, Chenopodiaceae and Amaranthaceae for the Flora of Japan and Juncus for the Flora of China. Other research interests include the systematics of Juncus and Chenopodium throughout the world.
The new Torrey Botanical Society constitution set the Presidential term as two years and the first president under this new constitution was Dr. Scott Mori from NYBG. He was president in 1999 and 2000. Dr. Mori earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1974. He worked at the Institute of Systemic Botany at NYBG. He later became the Director of the Institute of Systematic Botany and Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany at NYBG. He has spent countless hours perched in the tops of flowering Brazil nut trees documenting their pollination and figuring out how pollinators have custom-designed the unique Brazil nut flowers.
Scott Mori has studied flowering plants in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, Peru, and Brazil. He is particularly interested in the co-evolution between plants and their pollinators and seed dispersers. For this research he performs taxonomic studies on the Brazil nut (Lecythidaceae) family. In addition to this work, Dr. Mori has performed studies where he selected geographic areas of high species diversity in the Lecythidaceae for a detailed study of ecological relationships. The results of this work have given him a better understanding of the evolution of the family, as well as allowing him to make recommendations for the conservation of lowland, neotropical trees. Dr. Mori is preparing a vascular plant flora of Central French Guiana. Thus far, he has collected 2,035 species, 67 of which are new to science.