Thursday, March 2, 2017

From Dick Cavett's Long Island Home to a Swamp in New Jersey

It's a story of citizens rising up against the threat of urban development. Back in the 1960s, long before social media could help marshal such efforts.

The one-hour documentary Saving the Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport is based on the book by Cam Cavanaugh about a hard-fought 1959-1968 Morristown, New Jersey chapter.  It was directed by Scott Morris, who previously made From The Ashes: The Life and Times of Tick Hall. That one was all about the rebuilding of a home in Montauk, Long Island owned by Dick Cavett and first wife Carrie Nye.

Actress Blythe Danner recorded the voiceover narration last November, just ahead of the film's premiere in December at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown. Tonight, March 2nd, the film shows again at the Morris Museum.

From a recent report on

Any good story needs heroes and villains, and Saving the Great Swamp has several. The prime villain: Austin Tobin, the late executive director of the Port of New York Authority, who insisted that the Great Swamp was the best place for a new airport, even though it lay just beyond the Port Authority’s jurisdiction.
His push for the airport was premised partly on the flawed notion that jets from Europe would need to land there before continuing across the U.S. One of his prime allies was New Jersey Governor Robert Meyner, who with Tobin continued pushing for the Great Swamp airport even after it appeared to be dead.
"It’s a local story with national implications," said local philanthropist and film backer Dillard Kirby. "It overlapped three presidents. It was the start of the environmental movement and Earth Day as we know it.”

Morris is hoping to eventually get the film on PBS. His son Ben, a graduate music composition student at Rice University, wrote the score. Another musical connection is co-producer Larry Fast, who once toured with Peter Gabriel.

At the film's December premiere, New Jersey U.S Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen said the preservation of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was one of the proudest moments of his Congressman father, the late Peter Frelinghuysen Jr.

[Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge]

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