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Rescue and Revival
New York Botanical Garden, 1989–2018

Gregory Long
Foreword by Robin Lane Fox

Rescue and Revival  Cover Image

About the Author


Gregory Long

Gregory Long is president emeritus of the New York Botanical Garden, where he served as president and CEO from 1989 to 2018. He began his career in 1969 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he worked as executive assistant to the corporate secretary and president of the board. He then held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society), and through the 1980s he served as vice president for public affairs at the New York Public Library. He is author of Historic Houses of the Hudson River Valley.

Rescue and Revival
New York Botanical Garden, 1989–2018

Gregory Long
Foreword by Robin Lane Fox

Library of American Landscape History

ISBN: 978-1-952620-37-9 Page Count: 208
Price: 30.00 | Cloth Forthcoming: 05/10/2022
Pre-Order Online

By the late 1980s, the New York Botanical Garden was in serious trouble. The staff was poorly paid and balkanized, endowments were depleted, fundraising was inadequate, and visitation had dwindled to an embarrassing level. The grounds were seedy, many of the historic buildings decrepit, and the great conservatory in need of total rehabilitation. The fundamental concept of a botanical garden as an educational institution and museum of plants had been forgotten by all but a few. The once distinguished place, founded in 1891, had reached its nadir. Enter Gregory Long, a new CEO brought in from outside the botanical world with a mandate to rescue it. This is the story of how he did.

Twenty years’ experience at four major New York cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, together with an extraordinary energy and imagination, equipped Long with a vision for how to turn things around. He set about recruiting new senior staff, rebuilding the board, reengaging employees, and fundraising on a vast scale. The massive billion-dollar program of renewal, modernization, and expansion he and his staff implemented was realized through four successive strategic plans, resulting in the restoration of the historic landscape, creation of new programming, and construction of many new facilities and gardens. By 2018, NYBG had been reestablished as one of the city’s major cultural institutions and was recognized as the most important privately funded botanical garden in the world.

The account of this decades-long, painstaking process is engagingly told here through dozens of episodes and many protagonists. As diverse as New York City itself, this cast of characters includes the biologists Edward O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy, philanthropists Brooke Astor and David Rockefeller, author Oliver Sacks, Karen Washington and the urban farmers of Bronx Green-Up, Senator Patrick Moynihan, and performing artists Sigourney Weaver and Jessye Norman. The efforts of these and hundreds of others, staff and volunteers, were critical in the rebuilding of this international institution during what now seems a golden age in New York City history.

The renaissance of the New York Botanical Garden is a success story that will inspire readers everywhere, from those who steward their own nonprofit organizations to those whose lives have been enriched by the beauty and educational impact of this remarkable place.

“Gregory Long’s legendary leadership of the New York Botanical Garden over nearly three decades transformed a venerable but struggling institution into an internationally admired jewel. In this highly engaging account of his years at the helm, Long invites us all backstage as he and his talented staff and board surmount enormous organizational challenges through a strategic planning process so innovative and successful that it is now taught in management schools across the country. We should all be deeply grateful to Long both for his extraordinary public service and for sharing in Rescue and Revival how he and his colleagues accomplished so much—and had a wonderful time along the way. It is an inspiring and exciting story.”

Victoria Johnson, Pulitzer Prize Finalist for American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic

“A frank and honest account of turning around the fortunes of an important but sleepy institution, Rescue and Revival is a wonderful manual of how to run successfully or revive a botanical garden or any other cultural institution. It is so useful that Gregory Long has taken the time to record his thirty years at the helm of the New York Botanical Garden in this most readable and fascinating book.”

Sir Ghillean Prance FRS VMH, Former Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

“This is a fascinating transformation tale of how a fading historic site in the Bronx was transformed into one of the greatest of all botanic gardens in the world and a leading scientific institution—as well as an education center and community asset. Gregory Long, the inspirational leader of what is far more than but also a great ‘outdoor museum,’ engagingly tells the story of how for three decades he was the right man in the right place to inspire, cajole, goad, persuade, collaborate, and work tirelessly to bring all the forces of horticulture, finance, engineering, science, art, and society together in creating the remarkable cultural and natural realm that is the New York Botanical Garden today.”

Laurie Olin, author of Essays on Landscape and Be Seated

“Through visionary strategic planning, deep relationships with talented and generous people, and a real sense of drama, Gregory Long transformed NYBG over his thirty-year tenure into a vibrant world-class institution, having an absolutely wonderful time along the way. This is an inspirational story of a man’s total commitment to one of the country’s most important and beloved cultural institutions. A treat to read.”

Betsy Smith, President and CEO, Central Park Conservancy

“Gregory Long reveals what it takes to manage and safeguard a key public institution . . . how to be a maestro . . . and a fascinating insight into leadership.”

Thomas E. Lovejoy, Senior Fellow, The United Nations Foundation

“Each of Gregory Long’s many achievements as president of NYBG is impressive on its own, but brought together in Rescue and Revival, they make for a remarkable tale of taking a venerable but shaky institution leaps and bounds toward its full potential of greatness. Through these captivating personal stories he teaches us how a cultural institution can become more valuable to both its local and international communities, inviting visitors, students, and scholars to learn plant biology, save biodiversity, and find out how plant research can mitigate climate change.” 

Gloria Coruzzi, Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor, NYU; Member, National Academy of Sciences

About the Author


Gregory Long

Gregory Long is president emeritus of the New York Botanical Garden, where he served as president and CEO from 1989 to 2018. He began his career in 1969 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he worked as executive assistant to the corporate secretary and president of the board. He then held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society), and through the 1980s he served as vice president for public affairs at the New York Public Library. He is author of Historic Houses of the Hudson River Valley.