Good News coming in

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The Callery Pears in full bloom on Fifth Avenue. Photo: JH.

Thursday, April 2, 2020. It was a sunny day yesterday in New York. Temperatures hovering in the mid-50s under that bright Sun made it warmer. People were out walking, with their dogs, or their children or partners or alone. The Promenade drew many to take in the warmth of the Sun. This is innate hopefulness.

Good News coming in. Guardians all. An email we received:

David and Jeff: We work with a group of influential Palm Beachers with strong NYC connections (Margaret Duriez and Lily Holt Dillon) who are spearheading a fantastic initiative called Farm to Family, which pays local farmers for their produce (keeping them in business) and provides the produce for free to families in need during this pandemic.

The program is in collaboration with Boys & Girls Club of Palm Beach County and they’ve had tremendous success so far, feeding more than 4,000 in the first two weeks. They are currently in need of donations to keep to the program thriving and expanding via their Go Fund Me page,

Then Anne Ford sent us this:  Yesterday the Ford Motor Company announced it is partnering with GE Healthcare to produce 50,000 ventilators in Michigan over the next three months. Production will start the week of April 20th with three shifts of 500 United Auto Workers who will build the devices with a goal of producing 100,000 in 100 days. Anne told me that this is what the Ford Motor Company also did in World War I and World War II.

Willow Run Assembly Plant in Michigan, where Ford Motor Company produced one B-24 Liberator airplane every 63 minutes during the Second World War.

Here on the Upper East Side I learned from my friend Joy Ingham that The Butterfield Market has received an overwhelming number of inquiries and orders from their loyal customers and neighbors wanting to donate meals to the neighborhood physicians, nurses, hospital staff and administration who are on the front lines treating patients with Covid-19. 

So they partnered with Lenox Hill Hospital, Metropolitan Hospital, New York-Presbyterian #HealthcareHeroes Initiative and other local medical centers to produce and deliver individual packaged meals to the neighborhood hospitals’ frontline staff. The cost of feeding a staff member is roughly $10 per meal. 

If you want to donate to help feed our heroes, click here. If you would like to make a donation to a particular hospital or unit, please reach out to Joelle Obsatz at

100% of your contribution goes to supporting our frontline heroes and will cover the cost of producing and delivering the meals –ingredients and team members’ wages. By making a contribution, you will also be supporting Butterfield’s family run business (three generations since 1915).

Otherwise, it was a day like all days in New York in this thing called a pandemic. I didn’t leave the house today except to walk the dogs who were ever so grateful (anything to get out of the house for five minutes). “It’s very boring here, Dave …” That’s the complaint I hear.

Keeping the goods a-coming.

Almost everyone I see is wearing some sort of face mask. When  worn with a cap, the face is unrecognizable and the individual looking like everyman. Or woman, although a lot of the women look like everyman also. During a nice day like yesterday, there were always a few people on the sidewalks, although very little  auto traffic. There is also always one or more walking in the middle of the road which is frequently empty of cars and vans. The sidewalks are often mainly empty also. It occurred to me that the “road walking” must be to keep a distance from everyone. I guess.

The safe distance walk.
Walking in the streets.

There was an ambulance in front of my building yesterday afternoon. And another one two blocks south. This isn’t unusual as there are several thousand residents along this way (at least when everyone’s in residence — many have second houses for vacations and summertime). But now an ambulance is a reminder to everyone of something both mysterious and present. In my case, I later learned it was a neighbor who fell. Did not need the ambulance fortunately.

Today we’re running a classic John Foreman Big Old House piece of a house at 9 East 91st Street. The mansion was a wedding gift to Emily Vanderbilt Sloane (a great-granddaughter of Commodore Vanderbilt)and John Henry Hammond from Emily’s father W. D. Sloane. One of the newlyweds’ children would be John Henry Hammond Jr., later known to the world simply as John Hammond.

9 East 91st Street.

Mr. Hammond, who was born in 1910 grew up to become a record producer and talent scout (as well as a prominent Civil Rights activist). His ear for talent at Columbia Records was legendary as were the talents he “discovered.” He discovered or was instrumental in the musical careers of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Benny Goodman (who later married Hammond’s sister), Harry James, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Pete Seeger, Aretha, George Benson, Leonard Cohen, Big Joe Turner, Charlie Christian, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many other major forces in the popular music business.

There’s a legend, possibly true, that it was in that house on 91st Street that young John was introduced to the music that would become the popular music of the American 20th Century.  The boy showed interest in music very early in life, starting with piano lessons at age four and the violin at age eight. His mother Emily was a serious woman who used her time focusing on helping those less privileged. Her domestic staff was almost entirely African-American.

John’s mother at the piano.

Mrs. Sloane also loved music. She was an accomplished pianist and often held musical evenings in the mansion. It was during those times when the young John would spend it with the staff in the kitchens below stairs. In their spare moments, while Mrs. Sloane’s guest performer upstairs might be Enrico Caruso, down below in the servants’ quarters and the kitchen, men on staff were playing the popular (for them in those days), what they called “gut bucket jazz,” the foundation of American jazz. The boy was there at the inception. It became the foundation of our cultural heritage.

In the meantime, speaking of music and boys — in this case, a little boy, maybe two and half or three — yesterday JH received this video of a maestro-in-bloom. At first you might think the little one is animating like a two-year-old. But then, you see that perhaps it’s a lot more than that. Someone said he was Zubin Mehta’s grandson. Sounds good but I don’t know if that’s so. I was left wondering what John Hammond would have thought about the maestro as prodigy, maybe genius as cute …

And then, to stay on the same plane of joy and wonder, the Paris Opera & Ballet has provided a streaming performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” originally choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, available to view through April 5th. Click below to watch the POB at its best.

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