Edward Kirkland, who helped preserve historic Chelsea, dies aged 96

And once he was convinced, Mr. Kirkland’s support. “Ed was a passionate advocate for thoughtful urban planning and the best interests of a community dear to him at every step of the High Line’s adaptive reuse,” said Mr. David.

Tom Fox, the founding president of the Hudson River Park Conservancy, Mr. Kirkland credited with defending Chelsea Waterside Park and the entire four-mile Hudson River Park, which was approved by the state in 1998, a strategy, Mr. Fox said, “which is becoming increasingly rare in this current age of advocacy that is increasingly self-serving.

“He was a persistent community advocate, knowledgeable, hot-tempered, but flexible with a good sense of humor,” said Mr. Fox. “He was instrumental in the creation of the park.”

Simeon Bankoff, a former executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said Mr. Kirkland “always thought of himself as a planner before becoming a doctrinal conservation expert” and “wanted to preserve all the many historical aspects that still survive, while wanting space for new development that respected the historic forms of a neighbourhood.”

Edward Stevens Kirkland was born on June 15, 1925, in Providence, RI, to Edward C. Kirkland, an economic historian, and Ruth (Babson) Kirkland. He grew up in Rhode Island and Maine, where his father taught at Bowdoin College.

He served in the military during World War II and was a prisoner of war in Germany, received a bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth, where he studied French and mathematics, and received his PhD from Yale. He taught French at Williams College and worked as a computer programmer when he moved to New York. He also subsisted on a modest inheritance.

Through his heritage work and community administration service, from which he retired in 2012, he built a reputation for Old World gentility in a neighborhood more accustomed to excessive name-calling.