Scene Last Night: High Line’s David, Sarandon, Bronfman, Torrisi

Reading
David Stark Design brings a bit of the High Line to the East Side: a model reads at Pier 36, site of the Friends of the High Line Spring Benefit. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Take a walk on the High Line. What was a weed-choked abandoned railroad track is now teeming with tourists, surrounded by new buildings and trendy eateries.

The Friends of the High Line’s Spring Benefit on Wednesday highlighted the people behind the buildings and the food, including Santina, a glassed-in Italian restaurant below the elevated park.

Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown and a Friends of the High Line board member, with Josh Wechter, co-chief investment officer at Jamestown, and James Siegel. Photographer: J Grassi/PatrickMcMullan.com via Bloomberg
Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown and a Friends of the High Line board member, with Josh Wechter, co-chief investment officer at Jamestown, and James Siegel. Photographer: J Grassi/PatrickMcMullan.com via Bloomberg

Builders first: Matt Bronfman and Michael Phillips, the chief executive officer and president of Jamestown, are creating office space above Chelsea Market, a project that calls for a delicate balance of the new and historic.

“It’s a constant struggle,” Bronfman said at the event, held at Pier 36 on the East River. “We have to maintain the authenticity but at the same time, for the neighborhood to thrive and for there to be the dollars to support the High Line, you need new development.”

Real-estate dollars helped the benefit raise $3 million for Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit that shepherded the conversion of an eyesore into a lucrative landmark, and now oversees it, including creative landscaping.

Among the 750 guests were Rob Speyer, co-CEO of Tishman Speyer and chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, and Jeff Blau, CEO of Related, whose Hudson Yards is going up on the north end of the High Line. (The Whitney Museum of American Art has just opened on the south end.)

“I really enjoy what’s going on with the plants,” said Gary DeBode, who leads Edison Properties. Edison, along with its partners, recently sold a site near the park to HFZ Capital for more than $800 million.

Levine, Plumlee

Ben Levine of Douglaston Development, Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team, and Eric Gioia of JPMorgan Chase. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
Ben Levine of Douglaston Development, Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team, and Eric Gioia of JPMorgan Chase. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ben Levine, of Douglaston Development, which built the residential tower Ohm near Hudson Yards, introduced Eric Gioia of JPMorgan Chase to Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team. Another tall one: Jason Sander, founding principal at SandCap, a capital raiser for mega real estate projects.

Jason Sander, founding principal of SandCap LLC. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
Jason Sander, founding principal of SandCap LLC. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Not every guest was 100 percent chipper about development.

“Some of the buildings are a little bit depressing,” said Sandra Bernhard, the multi-talented performer who has lived in an older building in Chelsea since 2000. “The ones going up on 10th Avenue, they’re hulking, big condominiums that start at $4 million.”

More than 6 million people visited the High Line last year, and that number is “definitely going to be a lot higher this year,” said Catie Marron, co-chairman of the Friends group. Admission is free.

Crudite Basket

On Saturday night, Marron and her family visited the Whitney, ate at Santina, and took a stroll up the High Line where Yutaka Sone’s “Little Manhattan,” a marble sculpture representing the island, caught her eye.

Santina is the High Line’s first sit-down restaurant, which brings us to the food stars of the event: Santina’s creators, the Major Food Group’s Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick, who were honored and also had some input into the menu catered by Bite, family-style, on tables decorated for a picnic with gingham napkins.

Santina's crudite basket was the inspiration for this course at the Friends of the High Line benefit, catered by Bite. Source: Susie Montagna/David Stark Design via Bloomberg
Santina's crudite basket was the inspiration for this course at the Friends of the High Line benefit, catered by Bite. Source: Susie Montagna/David Stark Design via Bloomberg

So there was Santina’s trademark crudite basket, full of carrots and radishes, and there were Carbone, Torrisi and Zalaznick, in the company of their significant others, looking just a bit more relaxed than they tend to appear when they’re talking with gusto about their ventures.

Ana de la Reguera, Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick, Ally Zalaznick, Rich Torrisi, and Maya Neiva. Photographer: Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.com via Bloomberg
Ana de la Reguera, Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick, Ally Zalaznick, Rich Torrisi, and Maya Neiva. Photographer: Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.com via Bloomberg

“It was their entrepreneurial energy that attracted us,” said Joshua David, co-founder of the High Line, who was also honored along with Jamestown and Susan Sarandon. “That’s what made us feel like it was the right fit. A lot of restaurants bid on that space.”

David likes the anchovies and the chickpea pancakes at Santina, though he hasn’t abandoned Hector’s Place, the old-school diner around the corner that was the meatpackers hangout.

“We just did our development director’s birthday party there,” he said.

Joshua David, Sandra Bernhard and Edward Norton. Photographer: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images
Joshua David, Sandra Bernhard and Edward Norton. Photographer: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Donald Mullen, John Mack, Edward Norton, John Blondel and Jane Lauder were also spotted at the party, which brought the High Line indoors by placing models on patches of grass in typical High Line poses -- reading, sunning, chatting with a friend on a blanket.

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