Scene Last Night: Schwarzman, Peterson, Icahn, Morrison, Roth

NYPL Centennial Gala
Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and chairman of the Blackstone Group, and his wife, Christine Schwarzman, near the library building column that bears his name. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Stephen A. Schwarzman, in a royal-blue tie that matched his wife’s dress, dined on lobster salad last night at the New York Public Library’s Centennial Gala.

The chairman and co-founder of the Blackstone Group LP, who gave $100 million to the library in 2008, was seated at the head of a long table in the building named for him at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

Schwarzman’s company included architect Norman Foster, who is working on a major renovation of the 100-year-old building that will remove the stacks to make room for people; Blackstone co-founder Peter G. Peterson; and the incoming president of the library, Anthony W. Marx, who will begin serving July 1.

Dessert was a round of petit fours and long-stemmed strawberries, after which Schwarzman and his wife, Christine, walked down candle-lit steps to Astor Hall to dance.

Schwarzman, who has been living in France recently, said, “It’s wonderful to learn about new cultures and to be able to travel easily to so many countries.”

The couple lingered on the steps of the library, near the column where his name is carved in stone. William Close played ambient trance music on the earth harp, an instrument with strings stretching 250 feet across the façade of the library. There were also lions made out of LEGO blocks.

The evening had begun with a reception in the Trustees Room, where the Bank of America was honored for its support.

“I’m happy to say that all of my accounts are at Bank of America,” said Paul LeClerc, the outgoing president of the library. “Before the night is over, Toni Morrison will be a client too.” Nobel Prize winner Morrison chuckled from her seat next to former New York Mayor David Dinkins.

Bank of America

Brian Moynihan, the president and chief executive of Bank of America, was the event’s corporate chairman. His tablemates included Carl Icahn and his wife, Gail.

The celebration of the building’s centennial, which raised $2.4 million, was not only for financiers. Vampire Weekend’s drummer, Chris Tomson; singer/songwriter Josh Ritter; and a host of authors, from Colum McCann to Jonathan Franzen to Philip Roth, were present.

Jay Walder, the chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, introduced himself to author Robert Caro. “I’ve inherited the legacy of Robert Moses. Your book has been such an inspiration over the years,” Walder said, referring to Caro’s “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.”

To ring in the centennial formally, the library held a program in the Rose Reading Room for 850 guests. Staten Island’s P.S. 22 Chorus sang John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir and New York City Gay Men’s Chorus also performed. There was a procession of trustees and then remarks.

‘The Best of Everything’

“What distinguishes the library,” said Morrison, “is that it has only the finest, the best, the best of everything.”

Novelist Uzodinma Iweala had a slightly more irreverent take on things. “As a result of spending so much time here, I’ve been on four dates with people I’ve met here,” he said.

Later, on the steps of the library, where guests had gathered to enjoy the new illumination of the building unveiled last night, Iweala elaborated.

“I was on my way out of the reading room, and she was walking in and our eyes caught.

“You can’t talk in the reading room, so I wrote her a little note and slipped it to her. I realized she was reading Norwegian but she understood,” he said.

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

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