Volume 20, Number 48 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 24 - 30, 2010

Photo by Lincoln Anderson

At Ed Gold’s memorial, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, right, presented a Council proclamation honoring Gold to Lynne Brown of N.Y.U., center, and Janine Jacquet of Columbia Journalism School, left.

Reformer, activist, journalist, Edward Gold is remembered

By Lincoln Anderson

With equal parts politics and good humor — both of which were his hallmarks — Community Board 2 elder statesman Ed Gold was memorialized at New York University’s School of Law’s Vanderbilt Hall on Washington Square South on Sunday.

Gold died on Sept. 9 at age 84.

About 150 friends, community board colleagues and political allies filled the school’s Greenberg Lounge to hear speakers share memories of Gold and the early Village Independent Democrats club, of which he was a co-founder; praise his important work as a respected, veteran community board member; laud his skill as an incisive writer of opinion columns and articles for The Villager: recall his “campaigning” vacations on Fire Island; and, last but not least, tell of his renowned tête-à-têtes at his “headquarters,” the former Joe Jr. burger joint on W. 12th St., down the block from where he lived.

Among those in attendance were Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, state Senator Tom Duane, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Scott Stringer and Democratic State Commiteeman Arthur Schwartz.

John LoCicero, an early political ally in the Reform Democratic movement and longtime friend, recalled early political races on which he and Gold strategized. At one point, some club members were urging a challenge against longtime Village Assemblymember Bill Passannante. But Gold counseled against it.

As LoCicero recalled, “Ed said, ‘No one likes Bill Passannante,’” but nevertheless went on to say that Passannante was right on all the important issues, such as civil rights and women’s rights.

Former Councilmember Carol Greitzer, another V.I.D. co-founder, recalled the heady times of activism in the Village in the 1950’s and ’60’s when she was a female Democratic district leader.

“We stopped the road through the park,” she said, referring to Washington Square. “We beat Robert Moses’ slum-clearance project. We saved Jefferson Market Courthouse so it could become a library.”

Gold, as a member of the first public advisory board of the New York Public Library, pushed through a change to allow donors to give their funds to the branch of their choice.

Gold, Greitzer and their fellow V.I.D. members toppled the mighty Tammany Hall and Carmine DeSapio and propelled Ed Koch into office, paving the way for him to eventually become New York City’s mayor.

Noting that the 50th anniversary of Reform Democratic politics in New York City is coming up, Greitzer said Gold “surely would have played an important role” in it.

In the early 1960’s, Gold headed the citywide Reform Democratic movement through the Coalition of Democratic Voters.

“He had total recall of incidents that took place at community board meetings,” Greitzer said of Gold’s vaunted institutional memory — noting, “He would tell them over and over,” prompting laughter from the audience.

Speaker Quinn said she knew Gold for his talking points in The Villager and as an “elder statesman” with “a great sense of humor.”

Gold, who headed Fairchild Publications’ books division, left sizable bequests to both the Journalism School of Columbia — his alma mater and where he was editor of The Spectator daily campus newspaper — and N.Y.U. School of Law. The Columbia bequest will fund a scholarship for students from abroad to study journalism, in the hope that they will return to their countries and spread freedom and understanding through journalism and the power of free speech. The N.Y.U. bequest will establish a fund to develop community lawyers and legal services.

Quinn and Councilmember Margaret Chin issued a Council proclamation honoring Gold “for his outstanding service and contributions to New York City.” Quinn presented the proclamation to Lynne Brown, N.Y.U. senior vice president, and Janine Jacquet, associate dean of Columbia Journalism School.

The proclamation to Gold stated, in part: “For more than 60 years, he promoted good government to make government institutions and the Democratic Party more responsive to community and individual concerns.”

It also noted that for the last 43 years, Gold served in many leadership positions on Greenwich Village’s C.B. 2, “recently filling the roles of elder statesman, historian and voice of reason with a balanced perspective and a great sense of humor. He also oversaw the distribution of 1.6 million dollars to a broad range of community groups that resulted from a benefit he helped win after the federal post office on Christopher Street was transferred to a private developer.”

Also, the proclamation continued, Gold represented the community on a range of issues, such as supporting limits on the number of liquor-license approvals.

Friend Judge Stanley Sklar recalled that when Gold went out to Saltaire, Fire Island, he didn’t jog or go to the beach, but spent all his time visiting and strategizing with other Democratic politicos who were also vacationing in summer houses there.

“The ocean that Ed liked was the one that he could see from Sarah and Victor Kovner’s deck,” Sklar noted. Sarah Kovner went on to serve in the Clinton administration and Victor Kovner became head of the city’s Law Department in the Dinkins administration.

Borough President Stringer said, “I was a reader of Ed Gold’s articles in The Villager and I used to love his way with words and sense of outrage over issues in the city. He wasn’t happy with a lot that was going on — he wrote about it in The Villager.”

Stringer said his young staffers relished meeting Gold for lunch at Joe Jr. and being regaled by his old stories.

“You can’t replace him,” Stringer said. “You can’t get another Ed Gold. But you are going to get people to raise their game to a higher level. That’s the legacy of Ed Gold.”

Ron Schneider, a former Community School District 2 president and a close friend, said he and Gold were such loyal Joe Jr. patrons that they were bestowed with honorary Joe Jr. caps. Gold would wear his when traveling outside the city, Schneider said, and when asked what Joe Jr. was would reply, “It’s an important coffee shop.”

Schneider said he didn’t have the nerve to tell Gold when he was in the hospital that Joe Jr. had closed.

When Schneider finally did break the news to him, he said, “I can’t describe to you the look on his face. It was as if he had lost his best friend — in a way, he had. In one of his last columns in The Villager, he said he hoped the space would stay empty forever — it still is.”

Current C.B. 2 Chairperson Jo Hamilton said Gold’s encouraging her to run for the post gave her the confidence to do it. She praised Gold’s commitment to the community board and to giving the community a voice.

“He loved the community board,” she said. “He was a leader on our board because of who he was. He had a fair mind. He was always eloquent and often persuasive. We listened because Ed knew what he was talking about. If you could convince him that a cause was worthy, you knew you had a good chance of getting C.B. 2’s support.”

Other speakers at the memorial included his cousin Elizabeth Ropers; Miriam Bockman, the first female Manhattan Democratic County leader; Arthur Stoliar, the first chairperson of the planning board that was the predecessor to C.B. 2; and Charles Persell, former chairperson of the Village Nursing Home.

Afterward, recorded by a video camera, people gave more memories of Gold that will be compiled into a video memorial that will be posted on the Web site www.Ed-Gold.com .

The memorial was organized by Gold's companion for the past decade, Judge Diane Lebedeff, who was the concluding speaker at the event.

 

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