November 23, 2016

Residents: JOHN MCKEAN

After Fred French and Harry Helmsley, the next most influential person in Tudor City history must be John F. McKean. A resident of the Manor, McKean was the key figure in the long struggle to preserve the community's parks. Here is his story, in bullet points.
John McKean in 1987
* A former real estate executive, McKean retires in 1973, just as Harry Helmsley announces his plans to build on Tudor City's parks. McKean founds the Tudor City Tenants Association in response, and becomes its president. "We need to preserve our two existing pocket parks, indeed what our city needs is more open parkland, not more steel and concrete monsters," he says. And if rezoning efforts fail, "we will go to court and seek an injunction against Mr. Helmsley."

* Suits and countersuits are filed throughout the 1970s, with no resolution. Then, on Memorial Day weekend, 1980, Helmsley dispatches a construction crew to fence in the North Park in preparation for its demolition. McKean grabs a bullhorn and takes to the street. The community rallies to the cause, pulling the fence down. They file a restraining order, and sleep in the parks until it is approved.

* The battle continues for several more years, until Helmsley finally yields in 1985, selling off his interests in Tudor City. The complex ‒ including the parks ‒ is landmarked in 1988.

* McKean remains president of the Tudor City Association until his death in 1993. A plaque honoring his inestimable contribution to the community (below) is installed in the North Park the following year.

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