- Ackman, J. Tomilson Hill and John Mack also guests at dinner
- Event teases super-reclining benches, offers sunset views
At Harvard’s commencement on Thursday, Marty Chavez, chief information officer of Goldman Sachs, will be wearing a top hat and tails to toast future world leaders in his first outing as a member of the school’s Board of Overseers.
On Monday night, the proceedings were less formal, but the concentration of power no less impressive as Friends of the High Line honored Chavez, filmmaker Wendy Keys and Coach Inc. (represented by Chief Executive Officer Victor Luis), in the company of Goldman’s chief strategy officer, Stephen Scherr, its chief financial officer, Harvey Schwartz, securities division co-head Pablo Salame and former CFO David Viniar, who skipped his weekly basketball game to attend.
Other interesting people to talk to during a family-style dinner for 900 guests in a narrow dining room that spanned from Eleventh to Twelfth avenues were John Mack, J. Tomilson Hill, Jonathan Soros, David Ganek, Bruce Cummings, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, model Sarah Kickuth and internist Rebecca Kurth.
When someone complained it was too loud to hear conversation, Chavez, 52, said he’d trained for the din not at Harvard, where his courses included Literature of the Weimar Republic, but on the trading floor at Goldman. It’s a kind of sound he’s nostalgic for.
"Now it’s quiet -- everyone’s instant messaging," Chavez said.
As his title suggests, he’s embraced the change.
"The possibility of software eating the world -- you can be nervous about it or you can be excited about it. It’s a choice. I’m choosing to be excited about that transformation," Chavez said.
Another transformation: the High Line itself. "When I first heard the idea, I thought it was completely crazy and changed the subject," Chavez said of a long-ago Fire Island dinner-party encounter with Friends of the High Line co-founder, now executive director, Robert Hammond.
Now the High Line is complete but for the Spur, at 30th Street and Tenth Avenue, and last year had 7.6 million visitors. Chavez, a board member, is particularly interested in programming for children (he has a 20-month-old and one on the way).
"There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing hundreds of kids playing with Legos on the High Line, or making art, or listening to poetry, or dancing to the music," Chavez said.
Considering Friends of the High Line raises 98 percent of its annual budget on its own, Chavez also likes new ways for the nonprofit to generate revenue, as it has with the space now hosting the restaurant Santina, where a portion of income from the eatery supports maintenance and operations. "That’s working out amazingly," Chavez said. Another idea is for Hammond and other staffers to do consulting for other cities working on creative re-use projects.
One element that Hammond got right from the beginning is the premise of "attraction, not promotion," Chavez said. "What Robbie has always done, he never pushed the idea of the High Line. He got people excited about it and then people just ran toward it."
Hammond, in a Paul Smith suit and Adidas sneakers, did just that during the cocktail hour on the Spur, when he took Bill Ackman to a certain corner and told him to look up. When the Spur is complete, as Hammond dreamily explained, benches in that spot will lean back to give occupants that same view -- part sky, part overhang attached to 10 Hudson Yards (the building that opens its doors to Coach employees on May 31).
Another great view came as guests walked from the Spur to the Waterfront event space, pausing on a High Line platform to take pictures of the sunset.
Right before making that journey, Chavez said hello to fellow board member Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.
"This is the most successful fundraiser ever in the history of the High Line," said Walker in greeting. (Friends of the High Line’s chair, Catie Marron, said the event raised more than $3.6 million.)
"All of the partners have turned up," Chavez said of his Goldman colleagues.
"All of the partners love you, which must be how all the partners feel about each other," Walker said.