‘Landmarks Lion’ Jack Taylor dies

June21 SPNA Jack Taylor and Rosalee Isaly

Jack Taylor with Rosalee Isaly, then-president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, who presented him with an award for his preservation work in the neighborhood last year (also now deceased) (Photo by Andrew Garn)

By Sabina Mollot

Jack Taylor, a historic preservationist and resident of East 18th Street in Gramercy, died last Thursday, February 7, in his sleep. He was 94, and had suffered some health problems, including with his leg in recent months, making it hard for him to get around.
For decades Taylor was known for his efforts to save buildings slated for the wrecking ball in the Gramercy, Stuyvesant Square and Union Square neighborhoods and to get them landmarked.

He was involved in numerous civic groups, including the Gramercy Park Block Association, the Union Square Community Coalition, the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association and the Historic Districts Council.

He’d been retired since the 1980s, when he served as managing editor for Family Circle for several years. After retiring, he still did some freelance editing work.
His legacy of preservation began when he was inspired by the loss of Luchow’s restaurant, according to a transcript of a 2004 forum he participated in held by the New York Preservation Archive Project. The place was over a century old when Taylor learned it was at risk and got involved with an informal group aimed at saving it, headed by the USCC. The “born and bred” Manhattanite noted he had been born in Greenwich Village, not far from Luchow’s.

“Was it an architectural landmark? Was it a cultural landmark? Just what was it?” Taylor had mused at the forum. “It didn’t matter to me then, because I didn’t know the ropes very much. But it just seemed to be something that the city of New York would be the worse without. Regardless of the food, which had plummeted in the meantime. It was the philosophy of the thing.”

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Preservationists say it’s too late for landmarking of Union Square Park

Union Square Park on a recent afternoon (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Union Square Park on a recent afternoon (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

As the Landmarks Preservation Commission began addressing decades worth of backlog last Thursday, representatives for preservation groups expressed surprising opposition to the designation of Union Square Park as a city scenic landmark.

Jack Taylor, speaking on behalf of the Union Square Community Coalition, and Kelly Carroll of the Historic Districts Council opposed the proposed landmarking.

Taylor said in his testimony that landmarking the park as it is today would be a “historical travesty” and he noted that the idea would have had much more support if the LPC had followed through with the landmarking after a public hearing in 1977.

Since then, though, the park has been modified to the point that Taylor said it doesn’t resemble the location of various historical events, including the first Labor Day that was celebrated there in 1882. He said that in 2005, there was a deliberate effort on the part of the city and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg that drastically changed the nature of the north plaza.

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