Frank Gilbert, a preservationist who assisted help save Grand Central Terminal from being ravaged by a 55-tale skyscraper and in the mid-1960s incubated New York City’s pioneering landmarks legislation, which undergirded preservation actions throughout the nation, died on Could 14 in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 91.
The result in was pneumonia and complications of Parkinson’s sickness, his wife, Ann Hersh Gilbert, claimed.
Mr. Gilbert, a lawyer who experienced been New York City’s legislative lobbyist in Albany, experienced been instrumental in drafting the city’s belated barn-doorway-closing statute following the demolition in 1963 of Pennsylvania Station, the Beaux-Arts railroad hub created by McKim, Mead & White on Manhattan’s West Side.
The laws, handed by the Town Council and signed by Mayor Robert F. Wagner in 1965, declared that the city’s international standing “cannot be preserved or increased by disregarding the historical and architectural heritage of the metropolis and by countenancing the destruction of these kinds of cultural property.”
The law made the Landmarks Preservation Fee and empowered it to designate buildings that have been at least 30 years aged and had possibly historical or architectural advantage, and to spare them from development or demolition.
Mr. Gilbert served as the to start with secretary of the recently minted fee from 1965 to 1972 and then as executive director by 1974. All over, the destiny of Grand Central loomed huge for him.
“I was anxious since the chairman of the landmarks commission experienced reported to me what took place to Penn Station must not happen to Grand Central,” Mr. Gilbert recalled in an interview with the New York Preservation Archive Task in 2011.
“I guess from the incredibly commencing, my occupation was seriously to make guaranteed that we abide by because of method and did not slip on a banana peel,” he added. “I recognized how severe the situation was. My primary assumed was truly to be very mindful, and be prepared for a pretty challenging predicament.”
The failing Penn Central railroad corporation hoped to make a skyscraper higher than Grand Central Terminal, which it owned, and to use rents from the offices to subsidize the company’s deficits from declining prepare travel.
But the fee declared the terminal a landmark in 1967 and made a decision that all of Penn Central’s proposed layouts for the skyscraper would eclipse the terminal’s architectural distinction.
Penn Central sued. Thoroughly 9 several years later, a State Supreme Court docket justice voided the landmarks designation, ruling that protecting against the bankrupt railroad from earning the revenue it would acquire from the business tower would induce “economic hardship” and as a result amounted to an unconstitutional getting of its house.
Mr. Gilbert and other defenders of Grand Central rallied aid from a large spectrum of preservationists, which include well known architects and boldface names like Jacqueline Onassis, to uphold the landmark designation as the town pursued appeals in better courts.
In 1978, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the city’s authority to maintain a landmark. The court found that the landmark designation did not interfere with Grand Central’s use as a railroad terminal, and that the company could not declare that building of the business office developing was essential to retain the site’s profitability. The railroad had conceded that it could make a profit from the terminal “in its existing point out.”
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 final decision cited an amicus transient drafted by Mr. Gilbert, who by then was assistant normal counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington. His quick pointed out that scores of cities across the place, together with New Orleans, Boston and San Antonio, experienced previously authorised landmark preservation rules modeled on the New York statute.
Paul Edmondson, the president and chief government of the National Trust, characterised Mr. Gilbert as “a giant in the discipline of preservation law.”
“Beyond his significant job in acquiring and defending New York City’s landmarks preservation regulation,” Mr. Edmondson reported in a assertion, “he was responsible for the security of 1000’s of historic properties and neighborhoods across the nation by means of his perform in supporting communities build historic districts.”
Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, an early appointee to New York’s landmarks commission and its longest-serving member, said of Mr. Gilbert in an email: “Always seeking to do the proper issue, he worked to balance the intricate demands of all functions — assets house owners, the community, the push, developers and preservationists.”
Frank Brandeis Gilbert was born on Dec. 3, 1930, in Manhattan to Jacob Gilbert and Susan Brandeis Gilbert, the two legal professionals. His mom was the daughter of Louis D. Brandeis, the United States Supreme Court justice.
Right after graduating from the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, Mr. Gilbert earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard College in 1952, served in the Army from 1953 to 1955, and graduated from Harvard Legislation School in 1957.
From 1973 to 1993 he was chairman of the graduate board of The Harvard Crimson, the scholar newspaper. Earlier this thirty day period, he was among the Crimson alumni who signed a letter supporting Harvard’s Jewish group and condemning the paper’s editorial endorsement of the so-identified as Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement versus Israel on behalf of what it named a free of charge Palestine.
“The BDS motion claims to search for ‘justice for the Palestinians’ — a intention we share — but, basically, it seeks the elimination of Israel,” the letter reported.
Mr. Gilbert joined the authorized division of the General public Housing Administration in Washington in 1957 and went to function for New York’s metropolis scheduling office two a long time later on. He married Ann Hersh in 1973. She is his only quick survivor.
From 1975 to 1984, Mr. Gilbert was the landmarks and preservation regulation main counsel for the Countrywide Rely on for Historic Preservation. He served as the trust’s senior subject agent until 2010.
He advised condition and community governments on preservation legislation and on concerns about the designation of precise landmarks and the establishment of historic districts, like these New York Metropolis had made in SoHo, Brooklyn Heights, Greenwich Village and Chelsea.
Mr. Gilbert recalled in the Archive Task interview that when the fledgling commission officially picked its initially batch of landmarks, The New York Herald Tribune’s headline declared, “Twenty Buildings Saved!”
“My response at that position,” he mentioned, “was, ‘20 properties specified,’ and we had a large amount of get the job done to do on these 20 buildings before they have been saved.”
He was proved prescient by the ten years-extensive legal struggle then approaching about Grand Central and the disputes with the authentic estate industry and with personal builders more than extending the commission’s powers to designate as landmarks the interiors of buildings as well as whole neighborhoods.
By the commission’s 50th anniversary in 2015, it experienced selected 1,348 specific landmarks, 117 interiors and 33,411 homes in 21 historic districts.