The Frick Collection has called off its controversial expansion plan, reports the New York Times. The surprising news comes one year after the museum unveiled a scheme by David Brody Bond to build a six-story addition and fill in its beloved Russell Page Garden. Removing the garden (and replacing it with a new rooftop garden) did not sit well with preservationists who came out swinging against the expansion.
Groups like Unite to Save the Frick (USF), ASLA NY, and later the Municipal Art Society, have all been publicly urging the Frick to scrap its plan since it was announced. Now, all these months later, it seems that their wish has been granted.
“After months of public dialogue and thoughtful consideration and weighing the potential for a protracted approval process against the Frick’s pressing needs, the Board of Trustees has decided to approach the expansion plan in a way that avoids building on the garden site,” said Ian Wardropper, the director of the Frick Collection, in a statement. The Frick’s decision appears to be centered around possible legal issues relating to the elimination of the Page Garden. As AN reported last year, “Citing documents presented to the Landmarks Commission in 1973, USF is accusing the Frick’s leadership of reneging on a promise to make the garden a permanent fixture.”
In a letter to the editor published in AN, Wardropper pushed back on those claims. “The Frick initially planned to install an interim garden on the site as a placeholder until funds could be raised for the addition,” he wrote. “But due to high costs, the museum decided to build a permanent architectural garden instead—not promised, as opponents claim—and a one-story pavilion. In explaining the reason for this change, former Frick Director Everett Fahy, told the Landmarks Preservation Commission on May 21, 1974 that the revised plan for the site was intended to satisfy the ‘foreseeable minimal needs of the Collection for certain interior space.'” Those needs were no longer being met, Wardropper added.
But with the threat of “protracted legal battles,” the museum reportedly decided that it was best to head in a different direction. The board has not officially voted on canceling the plan, but is expected to meet today. USF was expectedly very pleased with the latest development, saying in a statement to the Times that there were “many viable alternatives that would preserve the Russell Page Garden and the intimate house museum experience treasured by so many in New York City and around the world.”
In his statement, Wardropper added that the Frick “will immediately begin to develop a new plan that will help us satisfy our critical needs.”