Re: The New York Clock Tells Time, Sept. 18.
You have no idea what it took to make it possible. We set out on this journey ten years ago on the 30th anniversary of the Northfield Museum. It was as a solitary project. Almost none of us knew each other, the three of us sitting on the bench where we were assembling, 25 feet to one side. It was pretty incredible. No strangers to the moment, we had no idea what to expect. Now we had a plan and we were determined to do it right, so much so that we were down to just two men and two women. On the third anniversary we had a discussion. Each of us started to name pieces. Only one person was singularly responsible for the clock, and that’s even though my wife, Nancy, and I were married 36 years. She’d said some things about, me, before but none seemed to apply to her as we talked about it. I am not ashamed to admit that I found her performance especially weak (it was her first night, after all), and I know that she probably felt bad. Our topic was a commitment to five minutes, and thus some mystery was left. It didn’t take a lot longer before we set out on the final stretch, on a red bike, stopping only once at Parkside Cemetery, where, all by itself, this sculpture of an iris and a lone flower with a dinosaur’s tail, if it was a dinosaur, was made in 1893.
There was resistance of course, from civil rights activists of the time, who protested the fact that this sculpture was white and Protestant. But at least the community welcomed it as we approached it on our bikes with open arms, and we were eager to be by the cemetery. It was the right thing to do. But, perhaps, you saw this from another angle.
I really don’t think we ever had an idea what we were doing when we set out on that final journey. It was so beautiful, and so much better than the previous thirty years. It seemed to me that we accomplished a great purpose. I really think we were determined to accomplish something special in this town, this place, and to create something together. And every goal was a tribute to the residents of the city of New York. To me, this is the only museum in America that is actually celebrating and preserving art by painters, sculptors, builders, industrialists, arias and everything else. So many wonderful things have been created, and, great, so many people are now enjoying it.The Northfield Museum in Union Square
So why the appointment as honorary patron of the City of New York? Because it was an honor to have New York as a collaborator on a monument to freedom that millions of people around the world have already come to celebrate in their public places. It is a monument of tolerance. As William and Margaret Mead put it in their book, “No Air, No Sea, No Mud.” The new name implies that we all agree that the world is now our oyster, and New York City is our oyster. The idea of honoring that legacy would be a gift that will encourage even more unity, make us less bogged down by division, and make the world a better place. It would be a gift that New York will cherish the rest of our lives.