Cynthia Nixon Backs Local News Radio, Not Sex and the City OperaBy
New York Public Radio CEO announces $10 million grant at gala
Centerview’s Blair Effron, Cary Davis of Warburg Pincus attend
Cynthia Nixon has probably heard some crazy ideas for bringing back Miranda, the hard-charging lawyer she played on “Sex and the City.”
On Monday night, soprano Renee Fleming suggested another: turning the show into an opera.
“That would be incredible, but I don’t sing” Nixon told Fleming (who’d make a great Samantha) as they emceed New York Public Radio’s annual gala at 583 Park.
Just as well: Nixon, who recently won a Tony for her performance in Lillian Hellman’s "The Little Foxes," has some other things on her mind, like President Donald Trump as a product of television, not radio.
“I sometimes wonder,” Nixon said, “if we had to listen, and only listen to the sentences he is trying to form, to the baldness of his agenda, to the incoherence of his thought, would people at last hear how small and mean the things are that he is offering us.”
Assuring guests she wouldn’t get too political, Nixon switched gears to the focus of the event: supporting the newsroom at New York Public Radio’s WNYC.
“The free press is democracy’s best friend and protector when the loudest voices are trying to divide us,” Nixon said. “We need to meet vitriol with reason and deception and secrecy with truth. That’s what the people in this room do every day.”
Some of WNYC’s best-known voices -- Brian Lehrer, Jad Abumrad, whose podcast “More Perfect” looks at the Supreme Court -- were in the room, as were some of its biggest supporters.
Christina McInerney, chief executive of the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, found a quiet corner of 583 Park’s cloak room to share news that would be kept a secret until the short rib was served: The foundation is giving $10 million to New York Public Radio to enhance local journalism, expand digital offerings and produce events in the Jerome L. Greene Space.
The gift brings the foundation’s total investment since 2006 to more than $30 million. It previously helped build the Greene Space, bring the classical music station WQXR into the fold, and expand podcasting.
“Laura is very flexible,” McInerney said of New York Public Radio’s CEO, Laura Walker. “She’s proven that in this rather chaotic marketplace, she’s been able to find a focus and have the organization grow. She’s also trying to meet the needs of bigger, younger and more diverse audiences. She’s not elitist.”
Walker announced the grant during dinner as she noted the recent shuttering of Gothamist and DNAInfo. With local news struggling for a business model, she sees an opportunity and responsibility to step in.
“What do we do when it’s easier to find news about our president’s social media habits than our own communities?” Walker said. Examples of the work she wants to pursue are WNYC’s “We the Commuters” series and an investigative report that uncovered that 117,000 Brooklynites were wrongly dropped from voter registration rolls.
The evening honored the Thompson Family Foundation and raised $1.6 million, with help from Cary Davis of Warburg Pincus and his husband, John McGinn; Blair Effron of Centerview Partners and his wife, Cheryl Cohen Effron; Russ Carson, chairman of Rockefeller University and his wife Judy; Robert Millard, chairman of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his wife Bethany; as well as Peter and Susan Solomon and Danny and Audrey Meyer. Peter Shapiro, the independent concert promoter, brought Eugene Hutz of the Lower East Side gypsy punk bank Gogol Bordello.
To listen to at the gala: Yekwon Sunwoo, a gold medalist in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and Fleming, who performed two songs from "Carousel," which she’ll star in on Broadway next year.