By Al Barbarino
The real estate community will hold a fundraiser dubbed Broadway in Bloom on June 20 to say “thank you” to the Broadway Mall Association, an organization that beautifies and maintains the “malls” that line the center of upper Broadway.
For the last quarter century the BMA has taken care of the 10.6 acres of medians that stretch from 70th Street to 168th Street. The 25th anniversary of the not-for-profit group’s efforts is the perfect time for the real estate industry to show its appreciation, organizers of the event said.
“Our main objective and goal is to raise money to take care of the malls,” said Jeffrey Rothstein, an EVP and director of sales and leasing at Prudential Douglas Elliman who has lived on the west side for 35 years, is co-chairing the event and is also a BMA board member. “The Broadway Malls are so beautiful and attractive all year round. It gives the neighborhood a sense of pride.”
The once grassy pedestrian walkways are today lined with multi-colored flowers, shrubs, shade trees, gardens, end beds and benches, meant to provide New Yorkers with respite from subways and city life, and to unite the diverse neighborhoods of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Washington Heights.
Rothstein formed a committee made up of ten other real estate professionals to organize and run the event, with a goal of racking up $25,000 to keep the malls looking sharp. Many of the committee members, like co-chair and fellow gardener Barbara Good, an EVP at Halstead Property, have lived and worked in the neighborhood for decades and remember a time when the west side wasn’t quite so pretty.
“I’ve lived on the west side for 40 years and I remember what those malls used to look like, with garbage and beer bottles scattered all around,” Good said. “When I first moved here my friends from the east side literally wouldn’t come over. Now everyone wants to come.”
It doesn’t just look pretty. It has boosted demand and property values on the Westside, attracting businesses and tenants, creating a major shortage of real estate, as the neighborhoods that line Broadway now rival their Eastside counterparts, organizers said.
“I got involved with Broadway Mall because I felt like as a real estate professional our Broadway should be just as beautiful as Park Avenue,” Rothstein said. “Today everybody wants to live here and it’s partially because of the malls. We have such a shortage of properties over here compared to the eastside.”
Tickets for the benefit, which will be held at the Mamajuana Café at 570 Amsterdam Ave. (88th Street), start at $30, with a 150-person limit. Sponsors can donate anywhere from $250 for two “host” tickets to $10,000 for a corporate sponsor package, which includes ten tickets, a bench on a mall and a recognition banner.
Main sponsors include Wells Fargo, Douglas Elliman, Warburg Realty, and a number of individuals. While many of the building owners and residents along the stretch have gotten involved, as well as staples of the west side, like Zarbar’s and Westside Market, smaller businesses need to join the effort.
“The fact that it goes from 70th to 168th Street is amazing, but the maintenance of it is expensive so I think everyone should participate,” Good said.
Other real estate professionals on the committee include Marci Williams, Sally Musikantow and Gene Vezzani, with Douglas Elliman; Kathy Berkowitz, with Halstead; Karen Burman, with Argo Corporation; Marisa Dichne, with Corcoran; Lisa Chajet, with Warburg Real Estate; Hank Orenstein, with Rubicon; and Joseph Edwards, with Brown Harris Stevens.
BMA contracts with landscape professionals and community partners to plant annuals in spring, bulbs in fall, and to provide maintenance. From Thanksgiving through the end of February, the group uses donations to illuminate the malls’ trees, celebrated during the Light Up the Nights family event each December.
In concert with the Department of Parks & Recreation, community groups, artists and galleries, BMA hosts art exhibitions, which have featured the work of artists like Boaz Vaadia, Chakaia Booker, Tom Otterness, Carole Eisner and Manolo Valdés. The current 15-sculpture exhibition was created by Peter Woytuk, starting with “The Falling Apples” on 72nd Street and culminating with the “Bulls” at 168th Street.
“It’s been so fun to look up and down Broadway and see elephants here, birds here and bulls there,” Good said about artwork. “A couple of weeks ago when the tulips were blooming, it was awesome. This is our way of saying thank you.”