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Playground Gates, Green Roof Get UES Preservation Awards

By Amy Zimmer | February 23, 2011 6:16pm | Updated on February 24, 2011 5:09am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — When the Metropolitan Museum of Art added a room in the 1960s to its Beaux-Arts building to house the Temple of Dendur, it razed a playground named after its former president, William Church Osborn.

The bronze gates from that playground — known as the Osborn Gates — were later installed in the back of a playground built in the 1970s across from the Met where they were promptly vandalized and then put in storage for nearly 30 years. 

For bringing the gates, depicting vignettes from Aesop's Fables, back to life and redoing the 1970s-era playground, the Central Park Conservancy is among the six institutions being honored in March at the 28th annual awards of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts.

"They had not been seen in over 30 years," Lane Addonizio, associate vice president for planning at the conservancy, said of the gates sculpted by Paul Manship, famous for his Prometheus at the Rockefeller Center ice rink. "Pieces were broken off and stolen," including a group of deer on the top of the gates.

Tara Kelly, executive director of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, said of the park's restoration, "It's not strict preservation. It provided a new community space."

Other projects weren't strictly preservation either.

The Friends would be awarding the Museum of the City of New York for its online collections portal that features 57,000 pictures of old New York, including 3,000 of the Upper East Side, Kelly said.

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society was being celebrated for restoring the Roosevelt Island Visitor Center Kiosk, a former Queensboro Bridge trolley kiosk that later served as an entrance for the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

"It's a lovely little story of a little building coming back to life ... in a great context," Kelly said.

Regis High School was to be recognized for its 20,000 square foot green roof that it's using to teach sustainability, Kelly said.

Two individuals being honored are Jane Cowan, a former Friends executive director, who has designed curricula to encourage elementary schoolers to appreciate their neighborhoods, and City Councilman Dan Garodnick, who was instrumental in expanding the Upper East Side historic district, Kelly noted.

"In previous years we've seen a lot more straightforward restoration projects," said Kelly. "Maybe preservation is becoming something more broad than your typical townhouse restoration. As a field, it can be considered something more neighborhood focused."