On The Avenue

A Park To Bette On

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Steven Ferdman/PMC
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Everything came up roses last night as the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) held its 16th annual Spring Picnic. Founded in 1995 by the actress Bette Midler, the non-profit is “driven by the conviction that all New Yorkers deserve beautiful, high-quality public space within ready walking distance of their homes.”

The NYRP has spearheaded the restoration of public parks throughout the city, and last night’s gala was held at one of them. Thanks to the NYRP, Sherman Creek Park in Inwood has gone from being one of the grimiest spaces in the city to one of the most beautiful stretches of waterfront in New York. President Deborah Marton recalled that when Midler and City First Lady Donna Hanover visited the park in the late 1990s, they saw garbage, abandoned cars and a man trying to steal a nearby school’s electricity. The evening was both a celebration of the work that the NYRP has done and a reminder of the work left to do, as Midler, Martin and local politicians formally broke ground on the park’s last two undeveloped acres.

But none of that should distract from Midler’s most impressive achievement: getting a bunch of Upper East Siders to trudge up to Dyckman Street in the middle of a torrential downpour. Although most of the attendees had probably rarely ventured above 96th Street, there was something about Midler and her mission that seemed to have inspired them. “Thank you for coming so far uptown,” the Broadway legend said to the guests. “I know some of you think you’re in Connecticut, but you’re not.”

And Midler inspired more than just the guests. About halfway through the evening, the rain stopped, the clouds scattered and a rainbow appeared over the Harlem River. “Miss Midler,” said Venetia Lannon of the Mayor’s office, “I know that was you.”

The evening also featured a musical performance by Tituss Burgess and speeches by Darryl Pardi, Jason Sheets and Donte Taylor of the NYRP.


R.I.P. Mario Buatta, 1935-2018

The Prince of Chintz has died after a life of loveliness and laughter.

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