THE UPPER WEST SIDE NEEDS ITS “OBSTINATE, NEUROTIC FIGHTERS”

By Maria Gorshin

If you call the Upper West Side home you had eight reasons to celebrate last night when Landmark West! honored, awarded and even serenaded The Unsung Heroes of the Upper West Side. The lively event took place within one of the most vibrant, elegantly-designed public spaces in New York, the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. Cocktails and canapés circulated throughout the evening as guests chatted under ascending ceilings and vertical gardens – but it was the sense of purpose mong all who attended that really made the event soar.

“Active, involved and civic-minded,” is how Kate Wood, Executive Director of Landmark West! described the Upper West Side honorees last night. Humility was another characteristic shared by each local hero.

Photo by Elisa Rodriguez.

Before the awards were presented, Suzanne Braley was happy to stand aside from clusters of guests, eager to deflect questions about her tremendous contributions to New York as a curator and chronicler of its history. Takushi Yoshida, the architect singled out for praise during the evening for his critical role in the restoration of “The Amsterdam Avenue Castle”, 891 Amsterdam Avenue, referred only to the teamwork and group effort involved in the building’s restoration when asked about the project. Margarita Curet was surrounded by supportive family, friends and her extended family of neighbors before the official start of the ceremony. Even though she has 40 years of triumphs to share she preferred to celebrate the contributions that friends like Emma Eerie and Police Officer Steven Rodriguez have made to transform Amsterdam Houses into what many residents now cheerfully call “Amsterdam Gardens.”

Each honoree was generous, good-humored and clearly “dedicated to the idea of making the Upper West Side the most remarkable part of New York City,” said Robert White, the acclaimed American tenor and longtime West Sider. You could “weep with appreciation” for their selfless contributions. Mr. White presented the evening’s awards.

Kate Wood opened the award ceremony with inspiring words for the recipients, Upper West Siders who work tirelessly “not for glamour or glory” but to improve their communities. She also shared a quote that drew good-natured laughter and served as a call to continuing action on the preservationist front: “We’re known to be obstinate, neurotic fighters…this is no time to lose that reputation.” Each Upper West Side hero then took the stage, one by one, to receive awards for making our “small town within a big city” one of the finest places to live. Toward the end, a surprise: an opportunity for all in attendance to join in honoring the 2011 heroes with a sing-a-long. They were serenaded with a “West Side’s the Best Side” rendition of “The Sidewalks of New York” then it was as Kate Wood had declared earlier, “Unsung heroes, unsung no more.”

Below, a complete list of last night’s award recipients:

Exterior Preservation
American Youth Hostel, 891 Amsterdam Avenue/
Cutsogeorge, Tooman & Allen Architects
A model partnership to restore a West Side architectural gem

Community Steward
Margarita Curet
Amsterdam Houses tenant leader
and all-around “Force to Be Reckoned With”

Future Generations
Samantha Deutsch
5th-grade teacher and partner in preservation education
at P.S.145, The Bloomingdale School, West 105th St.

Preservation by Design
Milton Glaser
Graphic designer of “I [heart] NY,” New York magazine,
and LW! logo fame

Preservation Advocate
Roberta Brandes Gratz
Former Landmarks Commissioner, award-winning journalist,
urban critic, and author

Archival A-Team
Office for Metropolitan History
Christopher Gray & Suzanne Braley
Curators and chroniclers of New York’s architectural history

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