The following remarks were given by Amanda Trees, who was born in Alfred T. White’s progressive Riverside Apartments, as part of a rally opening Willowtown’s annual spring fair May 16, 2009. In dedication to Alfred Tredway White, philanthropist, architect and founder of the Riverside Buildings in Brooklyn Heights, a plaque is being placed today on a tree in the Riverside courtyard to commemorate the original principles and ideals of this very special person. His innovative beliefs gave inspiration and reality to many buildings to follow throughout the world.
We are hoping to protect and preserve the healthy trees and foliage in the courtyard, much of which has existed since 1889, and prevent their destruction with attempts to construct a parking garage in their place.
Though it has been claimed that new trees will be planted in the places of these phenomenal, wonderful and gentle giants, it is doubtful they will survive the conditions atop a 24/7 garage with vents, constant motion, pollution and inevitable drainage problems.
Sometimes it is possible for good things to happen and good causes to win. Though often the odds are against us, we cannot help but continue the struggle as the alternatives are heartless and sad.
I remember clearly when I was a baby, sitting in a carriage outside this fountain area in the courtyard and my mother’s singing to me every day. Though we moved when I was still very little, there was a firm memory in my whole being about a magical place I once loved, where something very special and beautiful still lived and I somehow searched to find again.
After years of being in the theater and struggling with the problems facing people in the arts in terms of housing conditions and uncertainties, with the help of friends I came back here to live. My mother then told me this was the place I was born–that magical place I remembered from when I was first starting out in the world, my home. It was still here. So was the courtyard and even the swan statue from that time, though it was kidnaped at one point and replaced with another fountain.
To picture the destruction of this peaceful, growing grove of huge trees and flowers in the wrought iron circle is unthinkable. These giant trees are our friends. They are the friends of everyone who sees them, walks by them or drives by them on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Instinctively I know that building a garage here would shake everything up and make many problems, possibly insurmountable. In the end what would result would be a destroyed haven.
Somehow the garage managed to get by some of the channels. But there’s still hope for us and our wonderful courtyard to be restored honestly and truly, not destroyed.
I hope and pray the energies here today will all converge and create a chain of strength that will transcend all of the obstacles and hurdles we face in the preservation of our homes and peaceful courtyard as originally conceived in 1889 by Alfred T. White.