On The Avenue

Hat’s All, Folks

by Debbie Bancroft Photographed by Owen Hoffman/PMc, Aria Isadora/BFA.com, and Michael Gross
Thursday, May 3, 2018

As if on cue, Mother Nature streamed our first spring sunshine down on the 1,200 Park loving souls that attended The Women’s Committee of The Central Park Conservancy’s 36th Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, hereafter to be know as the much more nimble, ‘Hat Luncheon’. And hats there were–leashed topiary pups, risqué political messages (see the photo gallery–oh my!), but mostly glorious brims and fascinators, bursting with flora, fauna and feathers.

One guest wondered if the absence of the beloved little man in the blue jacket (RIP Mr. C.) would diminish the photo frenzy. Not remotely. And did I detect a Melania influence? It seemed there were fewer nubbly pink suits and more form fitting dresses with intimidatingly airborne bottoms and tops. Poor Michael Bloomberg, more popular, for good reason, than ever, was positively chaffed by the selfie taking fans. I would catch his eye from time to time, roll my eyes, chuckle and even did a nose finger wiggle, but he maintained his mayoral composure and grace, and ignored me.

Susie Aijala, the brilliant President of The Women’s Committee, has wisely replaced the inaudible and endless speeches of yore with a crisp video featuring the honorees. Judy and Russell Carson have supported the Park for over 30 years and recently made the restoration of the North Woods possible.  He told us he wakes up every morning, looks at Judy, then the Park, and does the same every night. He made every other husband look pretty bad.

They also honored Doug Blonsky, former President and CEO of the Conservancy, who, in his 33 years of stewardship, created the partnership between The Conservancy and the City of New York, and among other accomplishments in tandem with The Women’s Committee, restored the beloved Balto, The Safari Garden and The Conservancy Garden. Tom Kempner, Chair of the Board, and Mitchell Silver, Commissioner of the Department of Parks were thanked heartily, and Betsy Smith, the new President of the Conservancy, was introduced. JP Morgan Chase was the corporate sponsor.

The Luncheon raised a whopping $4million dollars and helping in that effort were Founder Norma Dana, Co-Chairs Amandine Freidheim, Elyse Newhouse, Jenny Price and Marie Unanue and guests and Committee members including: Katie Coric, Beth Dozoretz, Lise Evans, Sharon Jacob, Amelia Ogunlesi, Eleanora Kennedy,  Christine Schwarzman, Marcia Mishaan, Fiona Rudin, Jenny Paulson, Carol Sutton Lewis, Stephanie March, Martha Stewart, Karen LeFrak, Alexia Leuschen, Yesim Philip, and Lela Rose.


It wasn’t so much a matter of who was there, because pretty much everyone was there: Margo Nederlander, Ann Colley, Meg Braff, Joan Hornig, Muffie Potter Aston, Fe Fendi, Nina Griscom, Gillian Miniter, Betsy Pitts, Alexia Hamm Ryan, Blaine Trump, Ann and John Pyne, Renee Rockefeller, Mary Katherine Navab, Judy and Rod Gilbert, Debra Black, Emily Blavatnik, Alice Michaels, Patty Smyth-McEnroe, Claude Wasserstein, Simone Levinson, Caryn Zucker, Wendy Carduner, Jamee Gregory, Ala Isham, Katie Ridder, Kitty Sherrill, Judith Giuliani, Bettina Zilkha, Thorunn Wathne, Marlene Hess, Elaine Langone, Clemence von Mueffling, Shirin von Wulffen, Tracey Huff, Cameron Silver, Tom Gold, Eliza Bolen, karin Luter, Alexandra Lebenthal, Steven Stolman, Serena Boardman, Melanie Charlton, Tabitha Simmons, Libbie Mugrabi, Julie Macklowe, Dana Creel, Hilary Dick, Sasha Lazard, Richard Gilder, Marina Rust Connor, Lily Band, Betsy Barlow Rogers and Patti Harris, and on and on into the Whispering Angel-soaked afternoon.

Though we luckily didn’t need the traditional Wathne umbrella exit gift (it was only raining rose wine), we happily accepted. My seatmate, Peg Claghorn said, ‘My husband keeps stealing mine!” Not this year. They were pink. Very pink.



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