A View That Killed For City-Savers

by Michael Gross Photographed by Vladimir Weinstein, The Municipal Art Society of New York and Michael Gross (View)
Tuesday, June 12, 2018

“He said he wants a restaurant where the view is a bonus,” Rocco Landesman was saying about Danny Meyer on the night of June 6th at the 125th Anniversary Gala of The Municipal Art Society of New York, the civic betterment group with a mission to preserve, protect and defend New York’s sidewalks, its skylines, and a lot of what’s in between. 

“I have a ghost-quoter,” Meyer said with a laugh in response, standing in front of the view that will soon fulfill that wish. We were at the Bay Room, an event space on the 60th floor of 28 Liberty Street, the recently re-purposed One Chase Manhattan Plaza, formerly the David-Rockefeller-conceived, Gordon Bunshaft-designed banking skyscraper bounded by Pine, Liberty, Nassau, and William Streets in the Financial District.  Meyer,  whose restaurant empire already extends from the down-to-earth Shake Shack to lofty establishments like Gramercy Tavern and The Modern, will soon open his first event space and another restaurant he’s calling Manhatta on the top floor of that landmarked tower, where the 360 degree views gave gala guests both grand views of the city and spectacular, bird’s-eye proof of the worthof the MAS’s mission. 

At the event, the first public use that space (it is projected to open in late summer), the society presented its coveted Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal–named for the former first lady to honor her work preserving great civic architecture, starting with Grand Central Station–to two couples, Meyer and his wife Audrey Heffernan Meyer and Kathryn and Kenneth Chenault. 

Mrs. Chenault, a board member of The Studio Museum of Harlem, Pratt Institute, and Hospital for Special Surgery, and a former MAS board member, was recognized for her long-term interest in architecture, most recently expressed in her service on the Design Advisory Team selecting the architect for the Obama Presidential Library.  Her husband, now a venture capitalist, spent the last seventeen years as Chairman and CEO of American Express Company, which spent generously on historic preservation under his leadership. 

Audrey Meyer is a patron of Theater for a New Audience, the Whitney Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, and her husband, aside from his 28 James Beard  Awards, is a long-time supporter of myriad groups dedicated to fighting hunger.  Their awards were presented by Mrs. Onassis’ surviving child, Caroline Kennedy, who served as honorary chair of the gala with her (absent) husband Edwin Schlossberg.  She described MAS as “my mother’s partner in preserving our past. She …found an organization that was not afraid to take on the powers that be.”  Concluding her brief but pointed remarks, Kennedy, who appeared on the cover of AVENUE last October, added, “We have a lot to live up to.”

MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein gave additional shout outs to prominent preservation supporters in the crowd: Kent Barwick, Susan Chin, Margot Wellington, Betsy Gotbaum, Adrian Benepe and Agnes Gund, and also to Meyer’s new view.  “Its hard to not admire the city, isn’t it?  Civic beauty is worth fighting for.”

A fund-raising auction followed.”The view will still be here,” directed the auctioneer, Joe Dunning of Sothebys. “Direct your attention to me.”  The only lot, the first private meal at Manhatta “for six people with just you and the view,” opened at $1,000 and sold for $8,500, bringing the evening’s proceeds to just over $1 million. 

The guests, who also included architectural writer Paul Goldberger, Pamela Fiori, Donald Albrecht, Paul Beirne, the Landmark Conservancy’s Peg Breen, Borough President Gale Brewer, Peter and Bridgett di Boneventura, Elizabeth Diller, Paul Gunther of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, Debby Landesman, Mike and Gail O’Neill, Kent Swig, and another AVENUE cover star, David Rockwell, gave themselves a round of well-deserved applause after that, and then headed into a raucous after party.  

Shake Shack french fries were served there, of course.  

















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