The Brooklyn Public Library Foundation’s
annual fundraising gala had a bumpy takeoff when the gala’s theme
"Taking Flight" was deemed inappropriate by the fundraising
chairpersons in light of the recent attack on the World Trade
The library threw out their invitations, designed long before
Sept. 11, and started from scratch with simple announcements
and a modest event held in the Central Library on Thursday night.
Gala guests, attired in their finery, entered at Grand Army Plaza
along a runway of sorts - the library’s grand staircase, lit
with small white lights and fall foliage. Instead of the grand
white party tent of previous galas, the guests mixed and mingled
in the children’s wing, which was as crowded as an airport lounge
- though the patrons were decidedly better dressed.
And who could complain about a few less floral arrangements when
they were rubbing elbows with first-class choreographer Eliot
"I am happy to be here because public libraries are important,"
said Borough Park-born Feld. "Especially when I was a kid
- though as a child I also had great anxieties when books were
overdue. You know I gave [the Brooklyn Library] a wrong address.
I’m afraid they’re still after me!"
Feld escorted dancer Patty Tuthill of Ballet Tech, Feld’s 4-year-old
dance company that recruits many of its dancers from the New
York City Public School for Dance and prepares them for professional
dance careers. Feld began his career as a dancer with the American
Ballet Theatre and Tuthill, also from Brooklyn, began hers in
the fifth grade, dancing with Ballet Tech’s school.
The guests arrived at the Nov. 1 gala to pay tribute to the honorees,
including Feld, and to support the library, which has recently
decided to close many of its branches on Sundays in response
to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s request that city-funded institutions
go ahead and cut their budgets by 15 percent in anticipation
of hard times ahead for the five boroughs.
Famed Brooklyn illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon, residents of
Cobble Hill for 38 years, were two of the library’s honorees.
The Dillons have twice been awarded the prestigious Caldecott
Medal ("Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African
Tale" and "Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions").
They took their moment at the microphone to gripe that the library
has already been cutting services since the 1980s - including
the research librarian telephone number, which they used to help
them research their illustrations when they were working against
a deadline. As an example, the couple said the now-defunct service
allowed them to get an almost immediate answer when they called
to ask, "What were the color of George Washington’s eyes?"
- info they needed for a poster they were designing.
"Librarians are a part of our careers," the Dillons
told GO Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Heights illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg, who donated
one her illustrations, "Fish," to the library’s silent
auction, gave The Brooklyn Papers an interview about her new
book "Supermarket" (look for story in an upcoming Brooklyn
Papers edition) and a sneak peek under her gown. The illustrator
was wearing chunky black boots under her dress - her "power
boots," she told us.
Former two-term Gov. Hugh Carey did not reveal anything under
his clothing, but he did make a splash with former Mayor Ed Koch
last week when they teamed to endorse Mayor-elect Mike Bloomberg.
"Koch convinced me [Bloomberg] is a man who can bring jobs
to New York," Carey, another gala honoree, told GO Brooklyn.
(The former guv is still proud of his Brooklyn beginnings. He
was born at 13 Park Place and said all 14 of his children were
born in Brooklyn Hospital.)
CNBC anchor-producer Maria Bartiromo raised eyebrows with her
positively plunging neckline. The Dyker Heights native consoled
the crowd, "I know these are extraordinary times, but the
truth is, this is what we should be doing now - unified and patriotic,
stronger than ever."
Novelist-screenwriter Gloria Naylor, author of "The Women
of Brewster Place," the 1983 National Book award winner
and a graduate of Brooklyn College, dedicated her award to her
mother, who she credits with sparking her love of books.
BPL Executive Director Martin Gomez -a good sport about announcing
the Yankee-Diamondbacks score during Game 5 of the World Series
that night - estimates the library was able to raise $250,000
for the library’s collections.
"There will be a reduction in our services for the short
term," Gomez told the gala patrons. "But we’re going
to bounce back."
Borough President-elect Marty Markowitz, one of the gala guests,
said he was on the library’s team. "It’s one of the institutions
I will support," he said.
The fifth annual gala event, emceed by Jo Ann Allen of WNYC’s
"All Things Considered," was catered by Manhattan’s
Glorious Food and the Shedrick Mitchell Quartet - Brandon Owens
on bass, Rodney Green on drums, Jaleel Shaw on sax and Shedrick
Mitchell on keyboard - provided the groovy tunes.
Brooklyn Arts Exchange
The Brooklyn Arts Exchange’s first annual gala was attended by
150 people in Sal Reale’s new club, RedHookBlue. Awards were
given to Regina Hawkey, Greg McCaslin, Sandra Stratton-Gonzalez,
Steve Gross, Mikki Shepard, Peggy Shaw and Hank Smith.
"We’re not done with the final tally, but we’ve made good
progress in meeting our [financial] goals," BAX Executive
Director Marya Warshaw told GO Brooklyn. Warshaw says that even
her Park Slope non-profit arts organization has been negatively
impacted by the events of Sept. 11.
"It’s a very real situation. We had hoped for more people
than those who came, and it’s directly attributable to what’s
going on," said Warshaw.
"Yet we are incredibly gratified by the number of people
who did show up and the energy that they had. In that way the
event was successful," she said. "And the awardees
- what they do is of tremendous value, but invisible. It was
nice to spotlight the work they do."
Among BAX’s gala attendees was Emmy Award-winning TV host Meredith
Vieira of ABC’s "The View."