Gregory Wessner
OHNY’s new executive director
Lives in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

1. Are you a native New Yorker? If not, when and why did you move here? I just celebrated my 20th anniversary as a New Yorker this past summer. I grew up in New Jersey and came to the city for the first time on an 8th grade trip. There was no turning back.

2. Do you have a favorite place/neighborhood in the city? There are a lot of neighborhoods I love, so it’s hard to name just one. But in terms of places, I would say the waterfront parks, especially Hudson River Park. One of my favorite things to do is to walk down the west side of Manhattan through Hudson River Park and then continue through Battery Park City to the Battery. And now it’s getting even better because with a little effort you can keep going and connect with the East River Promenade. Brooklyn Bridge Park is another favorite place of mine. I’ll always remember the first time I walked out onto Pier 1, with the Lower Manhattan skyline on one side of the East River and the Brooklyn skyline on the other. It is an amazing vantage point to see the city. Ellen Ryan, our recently-departed interim executive director would love you for plugging Brooklyn Bridge Park since she worked there before coming to OHNY! I know! I tell Ellen every time I see her how much I love Brooklyn Bridge Park.

3. What does OHNY mean to you? It’s about opportunity. We walk around the city day after day, always wondering what’s inside this building or that building. You never get a chance to go inside. OHNY gives you that rare opportunity to go inside

4. Why is OHNY important to New York City? New York prides itself on being a city of change. But for those of us who live here, change is not always easy. One reason why OHNY is really important is that it gets people out into the city to experience it first hand. OHNY helps us have a more informed conversation about the kind of New York we want for the future. You can’t overestimate how important that is.

5. How and when did you first learn about OHNY? Certainly by the first weekend in 2003. I think the first site I went to was Governors Island in 2004 or 2005.

6. What has been your favorite OHNY site or program? Oddly enough, it is a site I visited this past OHNY Weekend. I went to the Brooklyn Historical Society, which is just around the corner from where I live. I have walked by it everyday for four years and never went inside. It’s open to the public and I could have gone in at any time. But that is what is great about OHNY – it took OHNY Weekend to prompt me to explore even those places that are right in front of me.

7. If OHNY could grant you a New York City all-access pass, where would you go first? My first choice is the (former) Cloud Club at the top of the Chrysler Building, but I know everyone must say that, so my second choice is the Second Avenue subway tunnel. How often does New York City build a new subway? That would be a very cool tour.

8. Who is your favorite architect/designer/artist in the city? Well, I’m certainly not naming any living architects, for obvious reasons! Two of my favorite periods in New York architecture are the decades spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries and then mid-20th century. For a mid-century architect, I would choose Wallace Harrison, who had a hand in Rockefeller Center, the United Nations, and Lincoln Center. He also did the President’s House at Rockefeller University, which I was lucky enough to visit several times and it’s stunning. I think Cass Gilbert is a great early 20th century architect. He designed the Woolworth Building and the Brooklyn Army Terminal–what more do I need to say?

9. It goes without saying that we all love New York City. What do you find most inspiring about the city? The people. New York has incredible architecture and public space, but it’s the people who make New York City what it is. They are committed, enthusiastic, crazy, indomitable–when things are down, everyone pulls together. It’s inspiring. As much as I love architecture, it’s the people who live here that make the city what it is.

10. In one sentence, why should people support OHNY? OHNY opens New York to everyone–to support OHNY is to support New York.

Thanks, Greg! 

 

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