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Obituary: Christiane Crasemann Collins (1926-2018)

by Sam Roberts | May 09, 2018

Christiane Crasemann Collins, a historian of urban planning who helped make a moment in history herself by defying a bulldozer bent on converting a West Harlem park site into a Columbia University gymnasium, died on Friday at her home in West Falmouth, Mass. She was 92.

The cause was a stroke, her son Nicolas said.

In 1968, Mrs. Collins figured prominently in a turf war that evolved into a humble but symbolic civil rights struggle: a campaign by a coalition of black community groups and mostly white students and faculty to keep neighboring Columbia from impinging on two of Morningside Park’s mostly craggy 30 acres.

Mrs. Collins and her husband, George, a Columbia art history professor, were among those in the academic community who opposed the planned gym, to be built on parkland that was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and that the city had agreed to lease to the university as long before as 1955.

“It’s outrageous what they’re doing to this park,” she told The New York Times.

Mrs. Collins and her husband had long been involved since in defending the neighborhood against encroachment by Columbia’s expanding campus and what local residents regarded as the university’s hauteur.

SAH's George R. Collins Fellowship is named for her husband.  

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