Brooklyn Boro

Longtime Brooklyn preservationists among those honored by Historic Districts Council

Cadman Park Conservancy, Ann-Isabel Friedman recognized

June 20, 2024 Mary Frost
Cadman Park Conservancy and supporters: (Front row from left) Board members Agnes Djaha, Cheryl Moch, (President) Doreen Gallo, Myriam Victoria, and NYC Parks Department’s Diana Olaizola. (Back row) HDC Executive Dir. Frampton Tolbert, Rick Brown, Cathy Becker, Bob London, and NYC Parks Department Anil Chandrakumar. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
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The Historic Districts Council celebrated the work of grassroots preservationists from around the city on Tuesday at an outdoor ceremony and party at Saint Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery in Manhattan.

Honored with 2024 Grassroots Preservation Awards were Brooklyn’s Cadman Park Conservancy, Friends of the Lower West Side and Metro Area Governors Island Coalition (M.A.G.I.C.). 

Singled out for the Mickey Murphy Lifetime Achievement Award was Boerum Hill resident Ann-Isabel Friedman, who has directed the Sacred Sites Program at The New York Landmarks Conservancy for more than two decades.

The crowd at the Historic Districts Council’s 2024 Grassroots Preservation Awards on Tuesday, June 18, at Saint Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery in Manhattan. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Two students — Weijie “Christina” Sun and William Dunsmore — were honored with the inaugural Jeffrey Kroessler Student Research Award.

“We represent all five boroughs, and every single landmark application. And more importantly, we support districts,” said John Bacon, board chair of HDC, who introduced the event. 

“We are pleased to celebrate the many individuals and organizations who actually do the work of preservation,” said Frampton Tolbert, executive director of HDC. “These honorees show true dedication in their work to preserve New York’s irreplaceable historic cultural and architectural neighborhoods.”

Cadman Park Conservancy President Doreen Gallo on her way to accept the HDC’s 2024 Grassroots Preservation Award on Tuesday, June 18. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Cadman Park Conservancy

Cadman Park Conservancy is an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to Cadman Plaza Park, 10-plus green acres at the intersection of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn. 

The Conservancy had a hand in many of the transformative improvements to the park in recent years: the recent reconstruction of the northern grassy Oval, with a new underground watering system, walkways and grass turf; new synthetic turf on the southern playing field; the creation of Juneteenth Grove, designated on June 19, 2020; and recently, a native plant pollinator garden. The organization also sponsors programming in partnership with other cultural organizations.

The organization is also spearheading efforts to restore and reopen the historic Brooklyn War Memorial. The 1951 memorial is dedicated to the more than 300,000 heroic men and women of the borough of Brooklyn who served in World War II. This past year the Conservancy helped complete ADA access to the memorial including elevators, ramps and bathroom capital projects, with an eye toward reopening the space.

Accepting the award was Conservancy President Doreen Gallo, a dedicated preservationist who is also known for her work in leading the designation of DUMBO as a historic district.

She urged Conservancy board members and Brooklyn Parks Department staff to join her on the platform. “It’s such an honor to be recognized, but the most important part is this team of people behind me,” she said. “The success of the Conservancy is what I call a very successful public-private partnership. I have an enormous amount of respect for Brooklyn Park’s Commissioner Martin Maher and his incredible park staff that partners with us in every way.” 

Gallo also gave a shout-out to former Councilmember Stephen Levin and current Councilmember Lincoln Restler, and called for 1% of the city budget to go towards parks for their care and maintenance.

Ann-Isabel Friedman accepts the HDC’s Mickey Murphy Lifetime Achievement Award on Tuesday, June 18. In rear is HDC Executive Director Frampton Tolbert. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Ann-Isabel Friedman: Mickey Murphy Lifetime Achievement Award

Since 2001, Boerum Hill resident Ann-Isabel Friedman has directed the Sacred Sites Program at The New York Landmarks Conservancy. The program has directed millions in grants to hundreds of religious institutions to help fund repair and restoration projects. (She also co-chaired the Boerum Hill Association’s Historic District Committee from 2016-2018.)

Friedman initiated a city-wide survey of historic religious properties in 2004 to better identify New York’s important historic structures, and has spent the intervening decades guiding congregations and organizations through the intricate process of navigating preservation law, getting funding support and matching religious sites with preservation professionals.

Friedman recalled that when she began her work at The Landmarks Conservancy, “I promised I would stay at least two years — that was 23 years ago.”

Ann-Isabel Friedman, honored with the Mickey Murphy Lifetime Achievement Award, with Angel Ayon, preservation architect and HDC Board of Advisors. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

“The Conservancy board has been unwaveringly supportive of the budget of the Sacred Sites program through all its ups and downs,” she said. The program also has the backing of foundations “who value the special character of religious landmarks, and who understand that without watertight roofs and windows and walls … churches can’t host food pantries, or provide migrant support services or host HDC’s annual Grassroots Preservation Awards.

 “A lot of what we do is match-make. I am not just the Jewish church lady, I am a yenta,” she said to laughter. “We pair the institutions with the right consultant or contractor for their specific project and for their budget. And try not to just say no to a poorly planned project, but redirect them in a direction where we can say yes.”

HDC Executive Director Frampton Tolbert at Tuesday’s award ceremony. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Friedman broke the news that Colleen Heemeyer, her “extremely well-organized and efficient deputy” for 17 years, will be the new Sacred Site’s director “when I finally step down this fall.”

The Mickey Murphy Award is named for the Brooklyn community activist who was a moving force in the preservation of New York’s waterfront neighborhoods. A member of the Brooklyn Heights Association, Community Board 2, she was also a columnist who contributed to the Brooklyn Eagle’s sister publication, the Brooklyn Heights Press.

Also honored were Friends of the Lower West Side, Metro Area Governors Island Coalition (M.A.G.I.C.) and two inaugural awardees of the Jeffrey Kroessler Student Research Award: 

Weijie “Christina” Sun (Columbia University, GSAPP) and William Dunsmore (Bard Graduate Center). Visit hdc.org for full details and photos.


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