Tuesday, November 6, 2018. A rainy Monday in New York. Not heavy, but sometimes windy where it’s “falling” horizontally. Traffic very heavy. I had a meeting on 37th Street mid-afternoon and finding transportation in that rain was not easy. I walked up Fifth past the Lord & Taylor store which is all decked out with its red banners stating that they’re closing and everything in the store’s got to go. I won’t say it’s sad because it’s life; everything changes, as we are learning more and more everyday. But what I was thinking as I passed by was how this emporium was once one of the great “influencers” of fashion not only in New York but in America. Some great careers were launched and/or rose from inside these walls. The power of the effect was as great then as people like the Kardashians today. I know that sounds like hyperbole but it’s the fact.
The Week Just Past. Last Thursday night in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza (which is “landmarked”) it was the 25th Anniversary of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Living Landmarks evening. This is an annual black tie fund-raising event. The NY Landmark Conservancy is dedicated to “celebrating, preserving and protecting” the great buildings and diverse neighborhoods of the city. The Living Landmarks gala “recognizes” the great variety of not only the landmarked buildings, but also the people of New York.
Many of us have come to New York from all over America and the world. Many came early in their lives, motivated by our dreams and talents. It is the greatest city in the world for the ambitious, the curious, the imaginative and the entrepreneurial spirit. After the cocktail reception, guests moved to the dinner in the ballroom. Once seated, NYLC President Peg Breen talked about how the Living Landmarks has had and continues to have a positive effect on our city and our lives. Just like the Landmark buildings have down through the decades and centuries.
New York is a working town. The men and women who have built it over the past three centuries also worked to make it work for us. In one of his New York Diaries written in 1859, George Templeton Strong, a prominent New York lawyer and diarist who lived between 1820 and 1875, wrote in his diary about making a four-hour, two-mile horse and carriage ride from the center of the city back then — what we now call Downtown — up to the still unpaved corner of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue.
He made the trip with others to see the great hole that had been blasted out of the rocky terrain at the southeast corner of the newly developing Central Park. It was a huge project of what was to become the Great Pond that is located there across from the Plaza Hotel. Strong described the difficult journey over very rocky hill and dale, only to view a barren mess of exploded earth. But, he concluded one day “a century from now it will be a beautiful Park for all New Yorkers to enjoy.”
It’s that kind of foresight that speaks of the nature of this city and its inhabitants who create landmarks. Their efforts in creating this great metropolis indemnify those 20th century popular lyrics: If You Can Make It Here, You Can Make It Anywhere … or … New York New York It’s a Wonderful Town; the Bronx is Up and the Bowery’s down; the people ride in a hole in the ground!
Thursday night’s honorees, “Living Landmarks” were Peter Stangl, Dr. Thomas Sculco, Stephen Lash, Lynden Miller, Ruth Lande Shuman, Michael Sovern, Jeff and Liz Peek. And for the grand finale of introductions — I was the emcee and presenter of the award — I had the pleasure of introducing “that Queen of the 11 o’clock number, the Empress of the Broadway Babies, Miss Chita Rivera!” I’m referring to the the quote because I had such a good time saying it. I felt like I was a little bit on Broadway myself.
The evening is fun. Peter Duchin and his orchestra and vocalist Roberta Fabiano provided the music to give it all some entertainment pizazz and keep the program lively. They raised $1.2 million.
The NYLC is the only private organization providing both financial and technical support in the efforts to preserve buildings in New York. Founded in 1973 it has loaned or granted more than $40 million to help people save their homes and communities, including cultural, religious and social institutions. Those grants and loans in turn mobilized more than $1 billion in more than 1550 renovation projects throughout the city, providing economic stimulus and supporting local jobs. The work of the Landmark Conservancy sustains the city’s architectural heritage.
The Honorary Co-chairs for the evening were Arie Kopelman and Leonard Lauder. The Living Landmarks Alumni Committee was Paul Binder, Daniel Bokulud, Robert Caro, Louise Hirschfeld Cullman and Lewis Cullman, Mayor David Dinkins, Gael Greene, Varetan Gregorian, Joel Grey, Mrs. Henry Grunwald, Agnes Gund, Larry Leeds, Peter L Malkin, Arthur Mitchell, Mitch Rosenthal, Daryl Roth, Brooke Shields, Robert A. M. Stern, Patsy and Jeff Tarr, Tommy Tune, Robert E. Wankel, Bunny Williams.
Cocktails were at 7, dinner at 8. The Awards at 9 and guests were getting up to head home about quarter to ten. The honorees all have wonderful profiles which I am going to share over the next few Diaries, one at a time. It was a good night and a pleasure of an evening.
Photogrpahs by Noel Sutherland (NY Landmarks)