Scene Last Night: Henry Cornell, Robert Reffkin, Fred Armisen

Citizens Committee
Vanessa Cornell and her husband, Henry Cornell, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and chairman of Citizens Committee for New York City. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Henry Cornell, a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., boiled down the purpose of last night’s gathering.

“We support helping neighborhoods, one block at a time,” Cornell said as he kicked off the annual gala for the Citizens Committee for New York City, which he has served as chairman for nine years.

Among the 500 guests at Gotham Hall were Kenneth Rosh, a partner at Fried Frank, who counts Goldman Sachs as a client, Rodge Cohen, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, musician Paul Simon and Robert Reffkin, a vice president at Goldman Sachs. Reffkin is also a board member of Citizens Committee. The event raised $1.2 million, including $65,000 in text pledges.

The organization gives grants to block associations, community gardens and other small community groups throughout New York City. According to a study by Deloitte & Touche LLP, 80 percent of these groups would have nowhere else to go for funding, “because they’re too small and they’re not part of the philanthropic mainstream,” said Peter Kostmayer, chief executive officer of Citizens Committee.

Among last year’s 231 grant recipients: the Inwood Canoe Club, the Young Gents Society of East New York and the P.S. 149 PTA in Jackson Heights.

Peeks’ Eye Exams

The gala honored several individuals.

Jeff Peek, vice chairman of investment banking at Barclays Capital Inc., and his wife, Liz Peek, a writer and former head of the National Association of Petroleum Investment Analysts, have funded eye exams for third graders and the MillionTreesNYC initiative.

Bob Humber started the M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden on the Lower East Side. He used his first Citizens Committee grant to buy noisemakers to keep drug dealers out.

Lorne and Alice Michaels, in addition to making us laugh with “Saturday Night Live”, which Lorne created, and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” which Alice has produced, support such nonprofits as the Robin Hood Foundation and the American Museum of Natural History.

Fred Armisen, of “Saturday Night Live” and IFC’s “Portlandia,” described how Lorne creates a sense of community in the workplace.

“He does it very physically,” Armisen said, as waiters put down plates of beef and risotto. “Whenever we have pitch meetings, it’s in his tiny, cramped office.”

Bank of America’s New York City market president, Jeff Barker, received the Corporate Citizen Award. The bank funds Citizens Committee Green Grants.

Favorite Vegetable

Barker’s presenter was 11-year-old Jada Nicole Young, who tends the Padre Plaza Success community garden in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, where she likes to grow broccoli, her favorite vegetable.

“Bank of America does lots of good things for New Yorkers that people don’t even know about,” Young said at the lectern.

“I think we’ve found the next Bank of America spokesperson,” Barker replied.

Barker has some work to do yet: Jada’s college savings account is at Citibank, said her dad, Michael Young, a carpenter. “But we could always use another.”

(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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