Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- On the eve of Election Day, guests at the New York Public Library gala buzzed about the next mayor as they paid tribute to the outgoing one.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg received a Library Lion medal along with composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and writers Junot Diaz, Katherine Boo and Marilynne Robinson.
Guests included New York comptroller John Liu, Boaz Weinstein of Saba Capital Management LP, Christopher Kojima of Goldman Sachs, Henry Kravis of KKR & Co. and “Girls” actress Allison Williams.
“Everybody should vote,” Bloomberg said as he walked around the Rose Reading Room after dessert.
As for the result, “Whoever the next mayor is, they both grew up using the library and they’ve both visited us here,” Anthony Marx, president and chief executive of the library said of candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota. “We look forward to a great relationship.”
Humorist Calvin Trillin, presuming a de Blasio victory, had an idea to get the new mayor comfortable at a library gala.
“Get a lot of tall people,” Trillin said. “Don Marron, for instance.”
Marron, who is 6 feet 6 inches tall and the founder of Lightyear Capital LLC, recently met de Blasio.
“He’s smart,” Marron said. “I don’t agree with everything, for sure.”
An undisputed fact last night was the central role of the public library, a space “where scholars and the homeless” come together, Boo said.
“The city’s been terrific for the library and the library’s been terrific for the city,” said Steve Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone Group LP. “Libraries serve so many people in the middle class and with lower income. They are a core part of what makes New York New York.” Schwarzman is a trustee and also gave $100 million to the library, whose flagship building is named after him.
“Every mayor understands the library is critical to an informed intellect and to a city full of people who will rise above their station in life,” said trustee Gordon Davis, who has seen mayors at library galas as far back as John Lindsay.
It’s not all smooth sailing. In July, de Blasio stood on the steps of the New York Public Library’s flagship asking for a cost audit of the Central Library Plan.
Last night, members of Citizens Defending Libraries and the Committee to Save the New York Public Library stood on the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, to protest -- in front of gala guests paying $2,500 a ticket -- the plans to sell branches and to remove some of the book stacks.
Inside, author Jonathan Franzen said he once relied on a branch library in Jackson Heights, Queens, and appreciates that de Blasio is concerned for smaller library facilities.
“He seems like a mayor who’s going to be committed to the branches and dispersing the money raised at an event like this across the whole system,” Franzen said.
The gala organizers say it supports free services at 91 NYPL locations across the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. (Queens and Brooklyn have their own library systems.) The library depends on both private and public funding.
“The mayor of New York City is our partner,” said trustee Abby Milstein. “There’s no question he’s essential.” Support is required when there is so much discussion about the library’s future, said New York City Council member Dan Garodnick. Catie Marron, former chairman of the library, said the key to making the next major welcome at the gala is “simple: be friendly.”
“Every mayor tries to do the right thing for the city, Schwarzman said. “There’s an election tomorrow and we’ll see who it is.”
Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure as mayor ends Dec. 31. He is the majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
(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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