In 2010 the Willowtown Association established The Alfred Award to recognize residents of Willowtown who have made a notable contribution to either the immediate or wider community. The award is named for Alfred T. White, 1846-1921, known as “the great heart and mastermind of Brooklyn’s better self” and a lifelong resident of Brooklyn Heights. His main legacy in Willowtown is the innovative Riverside apartment complex built under his leadership at Joralemon Street and Columbia Place in 1889-90. The complex was designed to make life more pleasant, safe and healthy for the working poor. From 1876 to the end of his life the present Alfred T. White Community Center on Willow Place housed a kindergarten of which White was the founder and superintendent. An addition built in 1905 provided more classrooms as well as space for a clubhouse for the children who lived in the Riverside apartments.
Jonathan Marvel, second from left, and Bill Ringler, second from right, receive their Alfred awards from, respectively, Secretary/Treasurer Bill Newbury and former Director Jean Campbell.
The first recipients of The Alfred Award in 2010 were Jonathan Marvel of 25 Willow Place and William “Bill” Ringler of 10 Columbia Place.
Jonathan, principal in the Manhattan architectural firm Rogers Marvel, took on the major challenge of restoring and renovating a brownstone that for more than four decades stood empty and was falling apart. All of his neighbors responded with relief and deep appreciation. His firm’s projects include the hotel and condo complex at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park for which ground is expected to be broken in the summer of 2013.
As president of the Riverside Tenants Association, Bill has also resolutely tackled a major challenge–the Riverside landlord’s persistence to build a 97-car parking garage in the courtyard. The landlord seems never to give up, despite legal rejections of his plan. And thankfully, nor does Bill backed by many other preservation advocates.
The 2011 Alfred Award was presented to Pearl Bowser of 71 Joralemon Street in recognition of her unique collection of historical and contemporary films documenting black film history turned over to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for the collections of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum’s director Lonnie Bunch hailed her “for exhibiting the very best American values–creativity, optimism and ingenuity, just the values our museum is committed to celebrating in the nation’s past, present and future.” She once served as president of the Willowtown Association as did her late husband Leroy, a regional organizer for the Urban League. He died in 1988.After more than 60 years at three houses on Joralemon Street, Pearl moved in May 2012 to a complex for seniors in Battery Park City in Manhattan, The Hallmark.