January 23, 1987
Landmarks Commission Member Losing Post
David W. Dunlap

Anthony M. Tung, an outspoken member of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission for more than seven years, will not be reappointed because he submitted an opinion piece to The New York Times, the panel's chairman said yesterday.

The chairman, Gene A. Norman, said he had ''very reluctantly'' decided not to recommend the reappointment—which he had endorsed less than a month ago—because he ''felt that Commissioner Tung could cause confusion as to who the official spokesperson was by that action.'' Mayor Koch said he would not reappoint Mr. Tung.

Mr. Tung submitted the article, which discussed his philosophical reasons for opposing development plans at Bryant Park, on the evening of Jan. 8. The next day, believing that his action had been ''ill-considered,'' Mr. Tung asked The Times to withdraw the piece, before it could be considered by the editors of the Op-Ed page. Before he withdrew the piece, Mr. Tung told Mr. Norman he had submitted it.

In a public hearing earlier that week, Mr. Tung had composed a motion—adopted unanimously by the commission—saying that the panel would consider ''absolutely untenable'' any new structure on the upper terrace of Bryant Park that would obscure views of the New York Public Library. A plan to build a restaurant at that location has been advanced by the Koch administration, and the panel's vote, although only advisory in effect, was greeted by a storm of protest inside and outside City Hall.

Of Mr. Tung's subsequent article on the subject, Mr. Norman said he had not read it but that its contents were not at issue. ''It's a case of making sure that when the commission does issue a statement,'' he said, ''that it comes from an official spokesman only.''

'Confusion' About Panel's Position

Otherwise, he said, an article by one of the nine other commission members might lead a reader to think, ''This is the way the chairman has chosen to get his point across.'' He said Mr. Tung's public pronouncements had been an issue in the past, ''causing confusion about the commission's position.''

Mr. Tung acknowledged that he spoke out frankly and frequently against major development projects that would alter or destroy landmarks, even when the projects would contribute to the city's economic well-being.

''Sometimes,'' Mr. Tung said, ''when you say no to something, you're saying no to a group of people who have contributed to every member of the Board of Estimate. There is pressure. Nobody talks about it, and it is more through the absence of discussion that the power exerts itself.

''I have said that I will try to speak out even when it gets frightening. That means I've always put myself in a position of jeopardy. I knew that that jeopardy was growing, was accruing.''

Mr. Tung also said the blocking of reappointment—effectively, his removal from the commission—was prompted by more than the newspaper article. ''I suggested to the chairman,'' he said, ''that I didn't find it credible that in balancing eight years of public service, he would suddenly lose so much confidence in me in regard to an action that I didn't take—because I retracted the piece.''

Mr. Tung, who is 39 years old, lives in St. George on Staten Island. He was trained in architecture at Cooper Union and is a design and management consultant.

He was appointed to the commission in 1979 to fill a vacancy and reappointed in 1980. In 1983, he was reappointed to a three-year term that expired last June. Commissioners traditionally continue to serve after their terms lapse until reappointed or replaced. Except for the chairman, the landmarks commissioners are unpaid.