NYC Parks and Recreation Appoints Campanella as Historian-in-Residence

Thomas J. Campanella

Campanella under the old Culver Line elevated, now the F train, in Brooklyn. photo / Nancy Borowick

May 19, 2016

Thomas J. Campanella, associate professor of city and regional planning and director of undergraduate studies, has been appointed Historian-in-Residence of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation by Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.

In this volunteer capacity, he will conduct independent research on the development of the city's parks, and assist Jonathan Kuhn, director of art and antiquities, with strategic research projects related to parklands history. Campanella will also help lead a major effort to research, write, and update brief narratives on the design history and cultural significance of several hundred parks, playgrounds, and natural areas in New York City. These will be used for both on-site historical markers as well as the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation website, and will eventually be compiled into an official publication titled A Field Guide to the Parklands of New York City, coedited by Kuhn and Campanella. He will be aided by a team of graduate and undergraduate students who will assist with archival research and drafting of the narratives.

A Brooklyn native who divides his time between Ithaca and Brooklyn’s Marine Park neighborhood where he grew up, Campanella holds an M.L.A. from Cornell and a Ph.D. in the history of landscape and urbanism from MIT. He has taught at MIT, Harvard GSD, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in 2010. He is the recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Rome Prize fellowships, and the author of several books, including Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm (Yale University Press, 2003). He has also written extensively for the popular and scholarly press, including an article on the design history of Marine Park for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and essays for the Wall Street Journal on the Unisphere and how the London Plane became Gotham's iconic tree.

Campanella is currently working on a book about the evolution of his native borough, titled Brooklyn: A Secret History, as well a study of the influential New York landscape architects Gilmore D. Clarke and Michael Rapuano, designers of many of the parks and parkways during the time of master builder Robert Moses.

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