Monday, November 16, 2020. A rainy, quiet weekend in New York with temps in the low 60s to high 40s in late Sunday evening with more rain. The rains began washing the foliage down to the pavement crowd. It’s like watching Mother Nature painted her autumn finale, mixing all the colors with the harsh and blank colors of the stone of civilization. I love the yellow leaves pasted on the pavement and the hoods and roofs of the cars.
Last night Mother Nature decided wipe the slate about 9 o’clock when a mini-hurricane blew through the area with harsh and heavy rains and sharp winds whistling and slashing. It was a sight to see. Always fascinating to take in while sheltered safe and warm. I was dining inside at Sette Mezzo fortunately when it hit. The first winds were taking half of the exterior tent down and folding some of its exterior metal posts in split seconds right before our eyes.
It was emergency time. The entire restaurant staff were rushing to get the tables, chairs, canvas covers, inside. The suddenness and speed of the storm was alarming just to watch. Everyone was wondering if this was a hurricane or a tornado slashing through, but then it suddenly stopped as suddenly as it started. Even the rain stopped. Almost as if it had come in by a storm-making machine on a movie set and the director yelled “Cut!”
The Covid copy in the past few days has also alarmed a lot of us all over again. Talk about lockdowns only reminds of the still unattended damage of the first lockdown. New York is moving again but it is still far from returning to its center. I haven’t been there to see but Steve Millington of Michael’s told me that it’s empty. The hotels in the area have very very low occupancy and it is now being projected as many as 50% will be going out of business because no one is traveling, unless they have to.
Michael’s was going to open this past week but they have technical problems, besides its apparent lack of customers. On the tech side, during that big riot somewhere in the area a few weeks ago, the rioters — which is a polite name for perps — smashed the front window which had a curved main pane. Replacing that is already a task. It’s been weeks but it’s almost completed. However, yoo-hoo! where are the customers? Sitting a-shiver back in their apartments and houses, worried about everything — if they’re thinking at all. Many of course are finding ways not to think. And not to worry.
However, I came up on these words yesterday when I was looking for something in my files. Whatever it was, I forgot what I was looking for after re-reading the words of Kenneth Clark, The British art historian who became famous with his television series Civilization:
“I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven’t changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must try to learn from history. History is ourselves.
“I believe in courtesy, the ritual by which we avoid hurting other people’s feelings, by satisfying our own egos. And I think we should remember that we are part of a great whole, which for convenience we call nature. All living things are our brothers and sisters.”
Now, back to business on the philanthropic side: From the grand ballroom of The Plaza, guests received a warm virtual welcome to this year’s New York Living Landmarks Celebration from Peg Breen, President of the Landmarks Conservancy, was accompanied by Stephen Lash, longtime Conservancy trustee and former Living Landmark honoree. The evening celebrated New York City, and raised more than $900,000 in donations.
The virtual benefit kicked off with video programming where Peg Breen outlined the Conservancy’s crucial role in the city’s restoration: they’ve loaned and granted more than $54 million, contributing to more than a billion dollars in total restoration projects.
The evening then progressed with intimate conversations from each of the 2020 class of Living Landmarks — Joyce B. Cowin, Gordon Davis, Ronnie Heyman, Leni and Peter May, and Elizabeth Stribling.
Joyce Cowin built the financial literacy program at Teachers College, Columbia University and founded the women’s exhibition hall at the New-York Historical Society. Gordon Davis was Mayor Ed Koch’s first Parks Commissioner and co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Ronnie Heyman is president of the Museum of Modern Art and dedicated philanthropist. Leni May is known for helping save Central Park while husband Peter sits as Chairman Emeritus of Mt. Sinai Health System. Elizabeth Stribling (Libba to her many friends and associates) is a New York real estate pioneer and entrepreneur, longtime Landmarks Conservancy trustee, and chair of the French Heritage Society.
The evening’s tribute also recognized Landmark Heroes for their work on the pandemic frontlines: Max Acosta, School Safety Agent at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists; Det. Tanya Duhaney, 107th Precinct NYPD; Talika Green, Train Operator for the MTA, and Dr. Francesco Rotatori, Chief of Cardiology at Richmond University Medical Center.
Following the inspiring festivities, guests made their way to a Zoom after party. A shared renewal of faith and optimism in our beloved City a topic of discussion.
Board members at the Zoom after party included: Michael Braner, John Cantarella, Gus Christensen, Stuart P. Feld, Thomas D. Kearns, Jonathan Marder, Christine Miller Martin, Sheila Parekh-Blum, Marea Parker, Barrie Ringelheim, Marc P. Shappell, Sandra Faith Warshawsky, Samuel G. White, Karla Renee Williams, Matthew P. Ziehl, and Lloyd P. Zuckerberg.
Residents from all five boroughs closed out the program with an enthusiastic, heartfelt rendition of Frank Sinatra’s New York New York.
New York Landmarks Conservancy has preserved and protected New York for almost 50 years. Their loans, grants, and technical assistance help New Yorkers in diverse communities maintain their homes, non-profits, and religious institutions. Each project creates local jobs and helps boost the City’s economy. Post 9/11, the organization helped damaged buildings in Lower Manhattan and saved the survivors staircase now exhibited in the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Since the “pause” in March, the New York Landmarks Conservancy has made loans and grants of $2.1 million which has leveraged $29.7 million in preservation projects throughout the State.
For more information, visit: https://nylandmarks.org/