Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunny and fair

Sunning on Park Avenue. 2:45 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Yesterday was sunny and fair in New York with temperatures in the high 50s.

Busy weeks leading up to the holidays. The Police Athletic League hosted its 23rd annual Women of the Year luncheon at the Pierre, convening at quarter to noon. The honorees this year were Dolly Lenz, Vice Chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman; Liza Minnelli, who needs no introduction, and Tara Stacom, Vice Chair of Cushman & Wakefield. Diana Taylor was chair of the event. Co-chairs were Carmen Anderson, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Margo Catsimatidis, and Pamela Newman.

The Police Athletic League, known as PAL, for 97 years has played a crucial role in the lives of New York City children. It offers academic, artistic and athletic programming throughout all five boroughs all year round. PAL now serves 50,000 boys and girls through 16 youth centers and 61 summer programs, challenging and inspiring them to realize their full potential as productive members of society. Robert M. Morgenthau is Chairman of the Police Athletic League. Commissioner Raymond Kelly is Honorary President.

Last night at the Stephen Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the Board of Trustees hosted their annual "Library Lions" dinner, which honored authors Jonathan Franzen, Tony Kushner, Ian McEwan, Stacy Schiff, Isabel Wilkerson and poet and recording artist Natalie Merchant.

The Library Lions gala is a fundraiser for the library and although I don't have the final tally for last night's, I believe last year they raised close to $3 million. The library's new president Anthony Marx opened the evening by presenting the medals to the honorees. He then introduced City Council president Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg, who had a special gift (a book of memories) for Catie Marron, who has served with great distinction as Chairman of the Library. She is succeeded by Neil Rudenstine, literary scholar and former President of Harvard University.

This annual dinner holds a very special place on the calendars of a lot of the city philanthropists and citizens active in civic institutions. The list of its Gala Co-Chairs provide a clue: Mr. and Mrs. Oscar de la Renta, Ms. Antoinette Delruelle and Mr. Joshua Steiner, HRH Princess Firyal of Jordan, Mr. and Mrs. John Hess, Mr. and Mrs. Donald (Catie) Marron, Mr. and Mrs. John Paulson, Mr. and Mrs. Felix Rohatyn, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Schwarzman, Mr. James Tisch and the Honorable Merryl Tisch.
The Library Lion, as topiary for last night's dinner.
Guests entering the Rose Reading Room for dinner.
The tables, set with the first course.
Pre-dinner service. Dinner is served.
DPC's place.
The first course revealed.
As you can see, the Main Reading Room is specially decorated for the dinner (last night's guestlist had 560 names). This is the work of David Monn with the assistance and consultation of Gayfryd Steinberg. The two, who are good friends, have been wowing the guests at this dinner for several years now with their stunning decors.

The menu provided by Sean Driscoll's Glorious Food started with Shrimp Louis and Celeri Remoulade (in that hollowed out pumpkin); Coq au Vin with Mashed Potatoes; Pumpkin Mousse in a Chocolate Shell and Chocolate Dipped Candied Ginger. All served with Matthew Fritz Chardonnay, Russian River Valley 2010, and Erath Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2009.

In his speech, President Marx informed the audience that the Library is actively involved in putting the content of its multi-million book collection on digital so that users of the library's 90 branches will have access to all of it. After the speeches, Natalie Merchant sang a song of a poem set to music from her double album Leave Your Sleep.
The Library's new president, Anthony Marx, having succeeded Paul LeClerc.
Mayor Bloomberg holding the special gift for Catie Marron, with Councilwoman Christine Quinn, at the podium talking about working with Mrs. Marron.
Catie Marron thanking everyone for her gift.
After the speeches, presentations and performance, the guests dined and visited with their dinner partners. This is one of those evenings in New York where the Institution is the entertainment, so to speak. The Library Lions draws the elites of the community, among others. Just to be there at this black tie affair, in these magnificent rooms, elegantly decorated for the occasion, is its own special thrill. There is nothing else quite like it in New York.

After the dinner, there was a dance party for the junior members of the library in the Celeste Bartos Hall. The goodie bags were a trove of good books – works of the honorees. A great evening had by all, and over shortly after ten (always good news for this crowd that goes out a lot).
The honorees: Jonathan Franzen, Natalie Merchant, Stacy Schiff, Ian McEwan, Isabel Wilkerson, and Tony Kushner.
Princess Firyal of Jordan. Lewis and Louise Cullman chatting with Gayfryd Steinberg.
Hilton Als and Kathy Rayner.
Renee Fleming. David Monn and George Farias.
Gil Scharf and Christy Ferer.
Alexandra Schlesinger. Cetie Ames (right).
David Monn and Gillian Miniter.
Ellen Chesler and Elizabeth Rohatyn. Caroline Weber and Bill Mayer.
Gay and Nan Talese with Toni Goodale.
Gayle Atkins. Kathy Sloan.
Councilman (from 26th District in Queens) Jimmy van Bramer, with with Rachel Harrison.
Cecile David-Weill. Charlotte Moss.
Kathy and Joe Mele with Elyse and Michael Newhouse.
Christine Schwarzman and Ethan Hawke.
The guests exiting the library at 10:30.
Last night over at the Mandarin Oriental, the Carter Burden Center for the Aging celebrated their 40th Anniversary with a gala: "Change the Face of Aging; A Salute to the Theater." Honorees were Frank D. Gilroy, John Kander and Stephen Sondheim. There was also a Special Guest Performance by Karen Akers.

Carter Burden was a two term City Councilman beginning in 1969, in what was then known as the Silk Stocking District on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He came into the public forum with a lot of media attention as he was young (28), handsome, a Harvard graduate, and a Vanderbilt scion.

Carter Burden at the time he was Councilman, by Andy Warhol.
Susan Burden.
He ran a strong campaign (this writer was one of his many volunteers, working the neighborhoods door to door.) These were the last days of the Kennedy mystique and some of it was shone on the man who was a big supporter of Bobby Kennedy.

At the beginning of his political career Carter Burden was going places (like, maybe the White House one day). But after serving for several years, he got out of politics. I was told by someone working closely with him that he had become disillusioned with the endless stumbling blocks of corruption in politics.

Carter Burden's district at that time was still composed of many old neighborhoods in the 60s through the 90s, from Third Avenue to the East River, saturated with four and five story tenement buildings, many of which were inhabited by men and women often widowed and living alone.

He became aware of this constituency early, and their plight and needs, isolated as they often were by illness, poverty and loss of family. He opened an office in the East 80s, where people over sixty could go for assistance, advice, and help with personal matters. The objective, which is still carried out successfully daily, was to support the efforts of older people to live safely and with dignity.

Carter Burden himself died early of heart failure when still in his mid-fifties in 1996. However, his Center not only outlasted his councilmanic career but is now a leader in the community, an important contribution to the lives of thousands of people over the years.

A couple of years ago we ran a piece on the daily lunches the Burden Center serves in the basement of the Jan Hus Church on East 74th Street, feeding hundreds of people weekly with excellent warm meals. Not only does it make a good, ample meal available – for free – daily, but it gives many of our neighbors the opportunity to escape their isolation and also make friendships.

Today, under the watchful eye of Carter Burden's widow, Susan Burden, the Center is flourishing. One of the many programs that has been developed is the Cultural Connections, which provides a means for seniors to participate in the cultural life of the city through tickets to concerts, museums and theatre. Participants in the program have attended revivals such as "Chicago" and "A Little Night Music," works of two of last night's honorees. To learn more about the center and its programs and activities, visit: www.carterburdencenter.org.

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