To celebrate the successful creation of the 25th Street Pedestrian Plaza, several notable figures gathered to formally cut the ribbon on the project last Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 1 p.m.
Special guests invited to attend and participate in the event included CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, Vice Chancellor Iris Weinshall, Baruch President Mitchel Wallerstein, City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and members of Community Board 6 as well as several current and past Undergraduate Student Government (USG) representatives.
Due to the wintry weather outside, all guests in attendence gathered to commemorate the event in the Multipurpose Room of the Vertical Campus before the actual cutting took place out doors.
The first to speak was Baruch College President Mitchel B. Wallerstein, who began by saying, “I am delighted to welcome our distinguished guests and our students and faculty and staff of Baruch College to this historic event, as we celebrate and inaugurate a much-needed public space in the Gramercy-Flatiron community with the establishment of the interim plaza on 25th Street.”
He went on to point out the cutting-edge achievement that the creation of the plaza symbolizes for New York City and the surrouding community, saying, “This plaza will break new ground as the city’s first public-private partnership.”
“Unlike many of our sister colleges in the CUNY system, Baruch and its students have never enjoyed the benefits of having a campus. Indeed, we are the epitome of an urban, vertical institution,” he continued. “We are surrounded by concrete and asphalt and there is not a blade of grass, nor a tree in evidence.”
He also took time to give praise to current and past USG representatives who have been instrumental in the push for a plaza on 25th Street, especially the most recent USG presidents.
“For years, all three presidents have stood strongly with the college and the local community in support of the plaza,” said Wallerstein. “Former USG President Benjamin Guttmann, class of 2011, former USG President Antonio Alfonso, class of 2012, and dozens of their fellow students joined us at a number of Community Board Committee 6 meetings, and each administration passed resolutions in support of the creation of the plaza.”
The next to speak at the event was CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who is also a former president of Baruch.
He began his speech by highlighting his support for the innovative thinking of former USG President Ben Guttmann and his vice president, Vladomir Lackovic, the team that originally conceptualized the plaza project.
“I have some inside information, which I did not know until fifteen minutes ago,” said the chancellor as an aside to Wallerstein. “You mentioned one of the students, Benjamin Guttmann, but it was his partner, Vladomir Lackovic, who came to you in the early stages of your presidency and said, ‘We oughtta get a plaza done,’ and you said, ‘That’s a great idea.’”
The chancellor then pointed to Guttmann and Lackovic and said, “Invest with these guys.”
“They came to my office a year or so ago and talked to me about a business that they are going to start, and I was absolutely seduced. So I’m waiting to see over the next few months but I’m going to be behind the two of you,” said the chancellor.
Redirecting his focus to the event for which the crowd had gathered, Goldstein said, “This is a great event for us. Public spaces are a critically important component in building a sense of community, and that’s what I think this space is going to do. We have two extraordinary edifices: this particular building [the VC] and the library across the street, but for students that transverse that channel it was always a little hairy because cars would go zooming back and forth.”
When Lawrence Field and Daniel Clivner, Baruch College Fund Board of Trustees members and two of the most generous donors towards both the college and the plaza took to the podium, their banter brought levity to the room.
“What are you going to talk about,” Field asked Clivner, to which he the latter replied, “being two Angelinos, I’m not talking about the plaza, I am talking about the weather.”
Field then asked, “Why don’t you talk about how it takes two guys from Los Angeles to do this?”
“It takes a village,” said Clivner, and Field mischievously shot back, “Not a village, just the two of us,” bringing a hearty laugh out of the bundled crowd.
On a serious note, Clivner said, “On behalf of the Baruch College Fund, we are delighted to be a part of this plaza project, and to commit to you today that this is not just going to be a temporary project, that this is going to be a permanent plaza,” with, as Field pointed out, “real grass.”
Field also asked if there would be palm trees, saying to Clivner while waving a finger, “You promised that there would be palm trees.”
While palm trees may not be part of the finished plaza, plans are underway to create a greener, more inviting nook for students to duck into as they transition from the hectic street noise of the surrounding city into the pocket of lower Manhattan that is home to Baruch.
After the ribbon was cut, each of the notables involved in the project was given a commemorative strip of the ribbon as a symbol of their hard work, and that though the work is not yet finished, their efforts have not been in vain.
As Councilwoman Mendez said earlier in the day, “This is a group effort, and permanent it will be.”