May 23, 1987
Landmark Panel Nominee Quits Over Report Over Report on Park Changes
Alan Finder

A landscape architect nominated by Mayor Koch on Monday for the Landmarks Preservation Commission withdrew from consideration yesterday, following a report that she had been involved in the unauthorized alteration of a landmarked park two years ago.

The architect, Frances X. Paulo, was selected by the Mayor to replace Anthony M. Tung, who was denied reappointment last January because he had submitted an opinion piece to The New York Times. Mr. Tung, who has continued to serve on the panel, has been an outspoken member for more than seven years. The decision to replace him has been challenged by preservationists and some members of the City Council.

Miss Paulo said in an interview yesterday that she had decided to step down after the publication yesterday of a column by Sydney H. Schanberg in New York Newsday. Mr. Schanberg reported that in 1985 Miss Paulo had participated with a private foundation in removing two trees and formal shrubbery and rearranging stone walkways from a garden that was declared a landmark several years earlier.

The garden, between Borough Hall and the county courthouse in Staten Island, was altered to make way for a statute of Miss Paulo's late father, Frank P. Paulo, who served for 27 years as a judge. The changes were not authorized by the landmarks commission, which by law must approve alterations in structures and parks that have been awarded landmark status.

Mr. Schanberg, a persistent critic of the Koch administration, contended that Miss Paulo's role in the alterations rendered her unfit to sit on the commission.

Miss Paulo said she had not read the column, but was aware of its contents. She said the column did not take note of her exact role.

''I was not an individual doing work,'' Miss Paulo said. ''I was just asked to contact the contractor on behalf of the committee.''

Miss Paulo also said she was not an officer of the foundation, established by about 20 friends and professional colleagues of her father, who wanted to create a monument to him.

A 'Verbal Understanding'

She also said she had been told that a ''verbal understanding'' existed between the committee doing the alterations and Lenore Norman, who was then the executive director of the landmarks commission.

Ms. Norman had approved the work because it was expected that the entire park would be remodeled soon after, Miss Paulo said. Ms. Norman, who is now director of intergovernmental affairs at the city's Buildings Department, was out of town on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Both Mayor Koch and Miss Paulo said it was her decision to withdraw. ''I think no one likes to start something at the center of a controversy,'' she said.

Mr. Koch said he did not know the details of the allegations and could not pass judgment on them.

The Mayor criticized the headline on the Newsday column: ''Koch Opts for a Staten Island Hatchet Woman.''

''People who don't serve in government, who come in as volunteers, I think are amazed at the vituperation that they are subject to,'' Mr. Koch said.

The Mayor also said he did not think the incident suggested a failure by a mayoral panel that screens certain nominations. Mr. Koch said he thought the panel, created last year, had been highly effective.

Nominations for the landmarks commission are subject to approval by the City Council.