As part of our Q&A series, Morningsider brings you exclusive interviews with neighborhood “Insiders.” This week, we interview Brad Taylor, secretary of Friends of Morningside Park.
With a Masters in Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Taylor is an experienced architect by design, as well as a seasoned non-profit administrator. Aside from Friends of Morningside Park, Taylor has been a chair for the Historic Harlem Parks Coalition and is also currently first vice-chair of Community Board 9 Manhattan, where he co-chairs the Waterfront, Parks & Recreation Committee.
Taylor has lived with his family within a block of Morningside Park for nearly two decades and has been active in Friends of Morningside Park since 2000, first becoming a member of the board in 2004. Taylor has held several roles in the organization including vice president in 2004, president from 2005-2007, and currently, secretary.
All residents of 88 Morningside, the development that The Morningsider is associated with, will receive a free 2012 membership to Friends of Morningside Park in order to support the organization and the community.
1. Tell us about Friends of Morningside Park.
Friends of Morningside Park (FMP) is an all-volunteer advocacy group dedicated to the revitalization of Morningside Park. Our organization was founded 30 years ago by Tom Kiel, a Columbia University undergraduate. The goal of the group was to restore the park in keeping with the historic design of Frederick Law Olmsted, Calvert Vaux and their associates. Our group is especially proud that a few years ago the park was finally recognized as a Scenic Landmark of New York City. It was the first such designation in over 25 years and in making the designation the Landmarks Preservation Commission noted that it was long overdue. Today Morningside is the only Harlem park to be so designated. Morningside Park is Harlem’s Scenic Landmark!
I am an architect and had long admired the work of 19th Century designers such as Olmsted and Vaux. I moved to Morningside Heights in 1992 and was amazed that such a masterful park design could be so neglected and that the park’s reputation could be so poor. In the Friends of Morningside Park I found a group that was doing something about it and by joining I felt I could really make a difference in my own neighborhood.
3. What kind of fundraisers and events can we look forward to this year?
We organize a number of events throughout the year. The next one will be our annual tree lighting celebration which will take place on Wednesday Dec. 14 at 4:30pm. We schedule this event during the week and earlier than most tree lightings so that children in the park afterschool program at 123rd Street can participate; it is an event that they look forward to every year. We discuss various holiday traditions, sing songs, serve free refreshments and of course light the tree! We light a tree in the park at 121st Street that is clearly visible from the neighboring buildings including 88 Morningside Ave! The tree stays lit throughout the holiday season.
We also act to facilitate and sponsor events by others in the park. For many years now we have helped sponsor NYCKidsfest, a family festival in June. Over the summer we bring films to the park and collaborate with Jazzmobile and Sundae Sermon on musical events in the park.
In the fall we have our own family festival – Common Ground, with free entertainment. This year we held the festival in late October.
In addition to our annual fundraiser at Cathedral House on the campus of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, I would like to see us have additional fundraisers in collaboration with local businesses. We have recently joined the Harlem Park to Park merchants association and look forward to working with them more closely in the coming year to help raise awareness of the park with local residents and businesses. The park contributes greatly to the appeal of the neighborhood and we look forward to getting residents and local businesses involved in our efforts to make sure the park continues to flourish. In these times of slashed public budgets, community involvement is all the more important.
My favorite aspect of the park is the fact that its users are mostly local residents and these residents come from very diverse backgrounds. Morningside Park really is common ground for residents who one might think would not have much else in common. The park, with its rugged topography, ball fields and basketball courts is perfect for active recreation and exercise but its lawns and overlooks also serve as communal backyards for family gatherings, picnics and sunbathing.
My favorite comments from park users are those that are not only tolerant of this diversity but embrace it for the richness it brings to the park.
5. Aside from Morningside Park, what is your favorite place to relax in Harlem?
I am a big fan of the new and established businesses on 8th Avenue and try to patronize and promote them at every opportunity.
6. How can folks volunteer with Friends of Morningside Park?
7. Anything else you would like to add?
The park has come a long way but to really bring it to the next level it needs the sustained and dedicated support of all those individuals, businesses and institutions that benefit from the park. I encourage everyone reading this article to think about where this neighborhood would be without a revitalized Morningside Park and to visit our website at http://morningsidepark.org to contribute in whatever way they can to ensure that the park continues to flourish.