Born to Lead

Students from American Ballroom Theater's Dancing Classrooms Program perform at New York Restoration Project's fifth annual Spring Picnic.

More than 400 New Yorkers along with a star-studded crowd helped Bette Midler celebrate the renovation of historic Highbridge Park on Amsterdam and 173rd Street in New York City. Joining Midler, Founder of NYRP, were Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Honorary Chairpersons, Oscar and Annette De La Renta; Event Chairs, Marcia Diamond, Glenn Dubin, and Henry Swieca; actresses Susan Sarandon and Candice Bergen, and Nathan Lane who served as emcee of the evening’s festivities.

Highbridge Park BEFORE NYRP began restoration efforts in 1995.
AFTER NYRP cleaned tons of tires, garbage and debris from the same spot in Highbridge Park.

In acknowledging the generosity of the guests and explaining her passion for beautiful open spaces, Miss Midler said, “My whole life had been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God's presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap.”

“Spring is here and gardens are blooming all over town,” added Midler. “Now what we need to keep our focus on are the gardens and public open spaces that are not yet blooming. And the ones that are not faring well - we need to think about how we are going to care for those places.

Young dancers from the American Ballroom Theater’s (ABrT) dance program, under the direction of Pierre Dulaine, entertained the capacity crowd. Dulaine, teacher and inspiration for the films, “Mad Hot Ballroom” and “Take The Lead” also provided teachers to instruct the guests in the art of meringue, a traditional dance of the Dominican Republic.

Dulaine, hailed as a “dancer extraordinaire” by The New York Times took ballroom dancing out of the studio and into the streets with his community outreach program, “Dancing Classrooms.” Now in more than one hundred and twenty NYC schools, “Dancing Classrooms” helps over 12,000 elementary school children gain social awareness, confidence, and self esteem—crucial life skills as they move into young adulthood.

Highbridge Park derives its name from New York City’s oldest standing bridge, the High Bridge, built in 1848 to carry the Old Croton Aqueduct over the Harlem River.  The High Bridge was once part of the first reliable and uninterrupted water supply system in New York City.

The Old Croton Aqueduct was the first of its kind ever constructed in the United States. The innovative system used a gravity feed, running 41 miles into New York City through an enclosed masonry structure crossing ridges, valleys, and rivers. The High Bridge soars 138 feet above the 620 foot-wide Harlem River, with a total length of 1450 feet. The bridge was designed with a pedestrian walkway atop the Aqueduct and was not used for vehicular traffic.

Highbridge Park is also home to one of New York City’s most picturesque landmarks, the water tower that has looked over old High Bridge and the Harlem River since 1872.

NYRP reclaims, restores, and develops under-resourced open spaces in New York City’s five boroughs. As “the conservancy of forgotten places,” NYRP rescues public parks and community gardens that are most threatened by the challenges facing underserved communities. Since 1995, NYRP has steadily “cleaned and greened” some of New York City’s most blighted public areas by removing over 80,000 tons of garbage and debris from project sites. It has created Swindler Cove, a gorgeous new park out of an illegal dump on the Harlem River; saved and revitalized more than 100 Community gardens; taught hundreds of at-risk children about the environment; built the first boathouse on the Harlem River in over 100 years; and transformed acres of parkland from scary to merry.

A sailboat built by children in NYRP's boatbuilding program. A live auction raised over $128,000 for this and other NYRP programs

The tent decorated by Zeze Flowers

Cocktail hour scene

Matt Nye

Benjamin F. Needell, Bette, and Adrian Benepe

Clockwise from above: The landmark Highbridge Tower; Guests enjoyed cocktails in Highbridge Park; Youth Dance Company performs.
Christine Ebersole

Judy Gold and Bette Midler


Bette Midler and Susan Sarandon

Nathan Lane

Glenn Dubin and Henry Swieca

Oscar and Bette

Annette de la Renta, Bette, and Jann Wenner

Glenn and Eva Dubin

Bette and Marcia Diamond

Christine Ebersole takes to the dance floor

Jann Wenner and Candice Bergen

Martin von Haselberg and Annette de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta charms the gals

Mayor Mike and Bette

Al Kahn and wife Patsy

Peggy O'Dea

Oscar de la Renta and Candice Bergen

Arrien and Robin Schiltkamp

Three weeks ago, Susan Schulz, Editor-in-Chief of CosmoGirl!, the best-selling teen magazine in the category, Susan Schulz held the first of a planned series of Round Table lunches at the Four Seasons, honoring Karenna Gore Schiff and her book Lighting the Way, Nine Women Who Changed Modern America.

Among the guests were Helen Gurley Brown, author and founding editor of the modern Cosmopolitan magazine; Delia Cohen, Director of Communications for the Clinton Global Initiative; Justin Rockefeller, Co-founder and National Program Director of Generation Engage; Alek Wek, Sudanese model and social activist; Silda Wall Spitzer, Executive Director and founder of Children for Children and wife of NY Attorney General and Gubernatorial hopeful, Eliot Spitzer; Susan Toffler and Amy Sewell, documentary filmmakers, Mad Hot Ballroom; Eric Gaskins, fashion designer; Cecily Williams, high-school friend of Karenna's and part of the legal team at Hughes Hubbard in the Clinton White House, who formerly worked in the Clinton White House, Sarah Bianchi health care consultant with the Eton Park Group and Karenna's college roommate; Debra Shriver, VP and Chief Communications Officer, Hearst Corporation; Shawn Sachs, Executive Vice President, Ken Sunshine Consultants; Ann Shoket, Executive Editor, CosmoGirl!; Kristine Welker, VP and Publisher, CosmoGirl!,JillEllyn Reilly, Karenna's editor at Miramax books Hyperion and Katie Finch, Director of Marketing at Miramax Books; Kate Solomon, Director of Marketing, Redken and a friend of Karenna's; and Sara Vass, Sara Vass PR and Consulting, who helped coordinate the lunch.

Debra Shriver and Silda Wall Spitzer

Sarah Bianchi, Justin Rockefeller, Karenna Gore Schiff, and Kate Solomon

Alek Wek

Sara Vass, Susan Schulz, and Ann Shoket

Debra Shriver and Kristine Welker

Susan Schulz and Cecily Williams

Amy Sewell, Susan Toffler, and Ann Shoket

Delia Cohen, Ann Shoket, and Justin Rockefeller

Sarah Bianchi, Shawn Sachs, Karenna Gore Schiff, and Eric Gaskins

Jill Ellyn Reilly, Ann Shoket, and Katie Finch

Cecily Williams, Kate Solomon, Sarah Bianchi, and Karenna Gore Schiff

Karenna Gore Schiff, Helen Gurley Brown, and Susan Schulz

Rosie O’Donnell  presented Fran Drescher with the City of Hope Cancer Center’s Spirit of Life Award at the May 9th luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria. As a cancer survivor, the actress and author is an outspoken healthcare advocate who has made it her mission to make women’s healthcare more accessible and reliable.

The East End Chapter/Jeanne Kaye League “Woman of the Year” Luncheon is an annual event where City of Hope’s most prestigious honor, The Spirit of Life Award, is presented to a woman of high achievement and leadership who has made notable contributions to both her community and profession. Past honorees include Kelly Ripa, Cindy Crawford, Paula Zahn, Mary Tyler Moore and Katie Couric. This year’s luncheon featured a showing of the Fall/Winter 2006 collection from Carmen Marc Valvo.

The National Cancer Institute reports that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children under age 15. City of Hope Cancer Center is at the forefront of some of the most promising cancer research in the nation, and City of Hope’s advanced research and treatments have helped boost survival rates of children with cancer to 80 percent today, from just 10-20 percent 20 years ago. And, local communities benefit through City of Hope’s active research collaborations with regional medical centers and academic institutions.

City of Hope is one of the world’s leading research and treatment centers for cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Named by U.S.News &World Report as one of America’s best medical centers for cancer treatment, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and genetics. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a Comprehensive Cancer Center, the highest designation bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. For more information, visit City of Hope...Where the Power of Knowledge Saves Lives ®.

Nadine Drescher, Rosie O'Donnell, Fran Drescher, and Donna Dixon Aykroyd
Rosie and Fran
Nancy Cohen, Cindy Levine, and Robin Haber

Anne Levine, Fran Drescher, Honey Cook, Carmen Marc Valvo, and Lisa Fuld

L. to r.: Lissa Goldberg, Marci Waterman, Carin Borris, and Lauren Bloom; Jim Fuld, Lisa Fuld, Ryan Fuld, Jonathan Gray, Jordan Gray, and Bonnie Gray.

Guests in the Grand Ballroom get ready for the ...

... Carmen Marc Valvo fashion show

Photographs by Mia Matheson(NY Restoration); Sherly Rabbani & Josephine Solimene (Born to Lead).


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/