Goldman’s Gary Cohn, Google’s Eric Schmidt for High Line

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn was in the hot seat last night at the Friends of the High Line Spring Benefit, supporting the park built on elevated railroad tracks along Manhattan’s far West Side.

On stage to accept an award on behalf of the company, Cohn was seated right behind the lectern. This meant that whenever someone spoke, he, too, was captured on the giant projection screens around the room, in his gray suit and pink tie with sea horses on it.

While Occupy Wall Street protests were taking place across the U.S. yesterday, Cohn managed to smile and look interested through speeches by Sarah Jessica Parker and Darren Walker, an officer at the Ford Foundation who spoke of the importance of High Line programs for the 5,000 public-housing residents who live next to the park.

Artist Jeff Koons talked about his expensive idea to suspend a real, working train car vertically above the High Line. He was in the right room to court a funder for the project, with guests including Pershing Square Capital Management founder Bill Ackman and David Rockefeller, board chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Cohn, for his part, said Goldman and its people have given more than $6 million to the High Line and more than $1 billion to philanthropic initiatives in the past five years.

Pier 57 Menu

Most of the 1,000 guests gathered at Pier 57 talked through the remarks, distracted by the succulents decorating the tables courtesy of Bronson van Wyck, and the family-style meal courtesy of the caterer Bite. Among the offerings were spiced fried chicken with ginger watermelon skewers, shaved black kale with hen-of-the-woods and slow-braised short ribs. Parker House rolls and pats of butter seasoned with thyme and sea salt accompanied.

Another diversion was the people-spotting: film director Spike Lee, actor Ed Norton and New York City Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden were all present.

Later, Cohn and Koons sat together at the head table with Google (GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, whose date was his daughter Sophie, and former chairman and chief executive of Morgan Stanley, John Mack, whose companions were his children Jenna and Stephen.

Cohn said his favorite conversation of the night was with Barry Diller, chairman and senior executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp. (IACI)

“We talked about the world and the regulatory environment,” he said as the party wound down, around 11 p.m.

The benefit raised more than $3 million. The party favor was an umbrella with a rendering of the “Train” project by Koons.

Playing Safe

An umbrella was also the giveaway at today’s Central Park Conservancy benefit, where the total raised was $3.5 million and one corporate sponsor of note was JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Mary Erdoes, chief executive, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, announced the firm’s $3 million donation to “Central Play,” the conservancy’s campaign to renovate Central Park playgrounds.

So far the conservancy has renovated five playgrounds for safety, accessibility, sustainability and fun, said the park’s chief administrator, Douglas Blonsky. The work at 16 other playgrounds will take place over the next seven years and cost about $30 million, he added.

The luncheon under a tent in the park’s Conservatory Garden was a fashion playground for 1,200 guests. Erdoes wore a gray Roland Mouret dress and Abigail Aldridge hat purchased at the Hat Shop on New York’s Thompson Street.

Albee’s Bark

Edward Albee made his presence known last night at the PEN American Center’s 90th anniversary gala.

“You’re going on too long!” the author of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” barked at fellow playwright Tony Kushner under the blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History.

At the podium, Albee accepted the PEN Literary Service Award and recounted his youthful misadventures as poet, novelist and short-story writer. He also improvised a brief interview with a tyro reporter, playing both roles, before praising PEN for championing freedom of expression for writers, editors and publishers around the world.

The value of PEN was made clear by the others honored.

Imprisoned Publisher

The 2012 Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award went to Turkey’s Ragip Zarakolu, whose Belge Publishing House has translated and published Turkish editions of works by Armenian, Greek and Kurdish writers on such subjects as the Armenian genocide and the repression of the Kurdish minority.

His children Seref and Zerrin Holle accepted the award. Zarakolu is in prison for allegedly endorsing terrorism.

Eskinder Nega, a jailed Ethiopian journalist and blogger on trial for terrorism, received the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. He is being held in Maekelawi Prison in Addis Ababa, and may face the death penalty if convicted.

His wife, Serkalem Fasil, traveled to New York to accept the award on her husband’s behalf.

“Prison has been Eskinder’s home away from home for the past two decades,” she told the audience.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Today’s Muse highlights include: Manuela Hoelterhoff on architecture, James Pressley on “What Money Can’t Buy,” and Jeremy Gerard on Broadway.

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Gary D. Cohn, president and COO, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Valentino D. Carlotti, a partner at the firm.

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Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Gary D. Cohn, president and COO, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Valentino D. Carlotti, a partner at the firm. Close

Gary D. Cohn, president and COO, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Valentino D. Carlotti, a partner at the firm.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Jeff Koons, the artist who wants to suspend a train over the High Line, and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google. Close

Jeff Koons, the artist who wants to suspend a train over the High Line, and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Karen Ackman, a landscape architect on the board of Friends of the High Line, and Bill Ackman, founder and CEO, Pershing Square Capital Management. Close

Karen Ackman, a landscape architect on the board of Friends of the High Line, and Bill Ackman, founder and CEO,... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Darren Walker, center, of the Ford Foundation, with Jessye Norman and Sarah Jessica Parker. Close

Darren Walker, center, of the Ford Foundation, with Jessye Norman and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Annemarie Darling and Jennifer Padovani of Goldman Sachs Inc. Close

Annemarie Darling and Jennifer Padovani of Goldman Sachs Inc.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ed Norton, the actor and early champion of the High Line, and Adam Flatto, president, Georgetown Co. Close

Ed Norton, the actor and early champion of the High Line, and Adam Flatto, president, Georgetown Co.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Catie Marron, a Friends of the High Line board member and past chairwoman of the New York Public Library, with J. Tomilson Hill of Blackstone Group. Close

Catie Marron, a Friends of the High Line board member and past chairwoman of the New York Public Library, with J.... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Robert Hammond, co-founder and executive director of Friends of the High Line, and designer Diane von Furstenberg, who with her husband, Barry Diller, last year gave $20 million to the High Line Close

Robert Hammond, co-founder and executive director of Friends of the High Line, and designer Diane von Furstenberg,... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

John Shaffer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with Kim Huchro and Paul Huchro of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Close

John Shaffer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with Kim Huchro and Paul Huchro of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Frank Drury, a banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Aileen Dresner, a fashion consultant. Close

Frank Drury, a banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Aileen Dresner, a fashion consultant.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Paola Antonelli, design and architecture curator at Museum of Modern Art, David Rockefeller, board chairman, Rockefeller Foundation, Susan Rockefeller, filmmaker and Todd Bishop, MoMA director of external affairs. Close

Paola Antonelli, design and architecture curator at Museum of Modern Art, David Rockefeller, board chairman,... Read More

Photographer: Sara Cedar Miller/Central Park Conservancy via Bloomberg

Anne Harrison, president of the Women's Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, Mary Erdoes, CEO, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Thomas Kempner, executive managing member of Davidson Kempner Management LLC and chairman, Central Park Conservancy, and past president of the women's committee Gillian Miniter. Close

Anne Harrison, president of the Women's Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, Mary Erdoes, CEO, J.P. Morgan... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Guests put their gift umbrellas to use at the Central Park Conservancy luncheon. The umbrellas were blue in honor of event sponsor Tiffany & Co. Close

Guests put their gift umbrellas to use at the Central Park Conservancy luncheon. The umbrellas were blue in honor of... Read More

Photographer: Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center via Bloomberg

Edward Albee at the 2012 PEN Gala. Close

Edward Albee at the 2012 PEN Gala.

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