The Man Behind Riverside South Passes Away

The business-like, tall skyscrapers of Trump City were transformed into a softer and lovable environment for the New Yorkers in town. This nicer neighborhood is called Riverside South, and the man behind this, Paul Willen, passed away at age 93. He died in Berlin, Vermont, due to heart failure.

His vision brought families and work together, creating a balance of sustainability and livability for his fellow New Yorkers. Born in Manhattan, his father was involved with the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and his mother was a human rights activist. As Willen grew older, he received a master’s degree in history and Russian at Columbia University in 1953. He later returned to school to receive a master’s degree in architecture from Pratt Institute in 1962. The first job he received as an architect was the Whitney Museum project where it had blockish and bold architectural design. Then, Willen’s portfolio progressed and he later worked on the city’s waterfronts in the mid-1960s as the project director. He wanted to create a welcoming design in the southern areas of Manhattan and interweave both housing and commercial space.

One of his projects was River Road. It was located in the west side of Manhattan and has a suburban feel. The area had a lot of greenery and plenty of space for people to exercise and bike around the premises. Initially, the officials thought this was a bad idea due to the extensive cost commitments in this area that would disrupt the consistent look of the city, but eventually, Willen did partner with an urban reformer, John Belle, to make this project happen.

Returning back to Willen’s vision for Riverside South, this area was supposed to be Trump City. Donald Trump wanted extravagant skyscrapers, large shopping malls, and television studios. The community didn’t like this idea because it would disrupt the natural environment that already existed. So, they invited an urban planner named Daniel Gutman to review this strip of land before making any amends to it. From here, Willen proposed a different idea that includes buildings of different heights and an expanded parkland. The local community preferred Willen’s idea more. Donald Trump accepted this initiative to continue building the plan for Riverside South, but the area was a bit more denser and the buildings were taller than planned.

Not everything of Willen was fulfilled. He wanted to move the highway to create a better space for parks and recreation. Even after his passing, he hopes that one day the mayor would move forward with his plan that promotes inclusivity with the environment and the people who reside in it.

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