For multiple years, it has been my pleasure to serve on the board of the Queens Museum, a gem of a cultural icon hidden in the huge Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, opposite the Unisphere. It has been a sleeping giant in the museum world and is about to have a home to match its quality.
The museum will be reopened in October, having doubled its size and been totally redesigned by world class architects. And last week, I was one of their honorees to help raise the much needed funding required to operate the newly enlarged facility.
Sharing the honors last week was an extraordinary couple, Shelley and Donald Rubin. They fund a museum in Manhattan that bears their name and specializes in Himalayan art. On the balcony overlooking the remarkable Panorama of New York City, our very talented and knowledgeable Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl made the stunning announcement that the couple had donated $500,000 to the museum! What a wonderful surprise to have such generous donors enable us to expand our services as we did our physical plant. What a night!
I was so grateful to have my friends and children with me to celebrate the night, but I missed my beloved Stu, who I knew would have been very proud.
What I especially love about helping the museum is to see so many children have the opportunity to experience the world of art. When my children were little, I still remember taking them to the “drop in” art classes on the weekends. I recently brought my grandchildren to have the same experience. Now there will be many more busloads of schoolchildren who can enjoy the museum. Tom is planning extraordinary exhibits for our first year in our expanded “home.”
I will keep you posted on our fall reopening. You must visit. You, too, will be amazed by the majestic space programs and exhibits made possible through the new design. Watch out, Brooklyn museum…
It’s been decades since I met Heskel Elias and his bright and beautiful wife Janet. We have seen our children grow, and I was delighted to be invited to celebrate his daughter Brittany’s graduation from my alma mater and now hers, NYU.
The party was at a restaurant in Manhattan. On my arrival, he introduced me to one of his guests – the editor of the editorial pages of Newsday. We had lots to talk about since her company also publishes am New York, a daily that is distributed mostly in Manhattan. We talked endlessly about the mayor’s race. Our newspapers are sponsoring a mayoral forum on June 7, so she asked if she could cover it.
But the best treat was the moment I was ready to leave and she asked me to come over and say hello to someone. It was her husband Peter Giannotti, known to Newsday readers as their restaurant critic. But to me he was the heroic reporter I met at a rally in 1973 at a school in Little Neck. The neighbors were enraged that my organization WORC was opening a group home in the community for young people who were being “liberated “from Willowbrook, a disgraced facility on Staten Island where people with disabilities were being warehoused rather than served.
Peter instantly understood our mission and wrote honestly and accurately as a young reporter assigned to cover the hot issue. It was so hot that I had to remove my Schneps license plates because of death threats. But we won the case brought by the neighbors to stop our opening, and he was there reporting it. I was eternally grateful. He always got it right, sadly something the other local newspapers did not do. We had not seen each other for 40 years, but when his wife introduced us, I hugged him with all my might. In an instant, we renewed the bond.
I shared with him that on Monday I was going to the Geraldo Rivera golf outing to benefit LIFE WORC. With a budget of almost $60 million, we now run 39 group homes and 20 day programs for people with disabilities and autism in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties. It’s been 40 years, and Geraldo is still there for us raising funds. And it all started in Little Neck!
You never know who you will meet in this life, and it is a great adventure!
Heskel and Janet Elias with their daughter Brittany and son Brandon.
Rita Cioli & Peter Gianotti of Newsday with their daughters.