Park’s late champion to be honored for service

Rosalee Isaly, who died last July from cancer, helped revitalize Stuyvesant Square Park after a period of decline.

By Sabina Mollot

Last July, Stuyvesant Square Park lost its top overseer for half a century with the death of Rosalee Islay, the longtime president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, from pancreatic cancer at age 81. This year, the organization for which she volunteered will honor her posthumously at its annual benefit gala. The theme will be “Sowing the Seeds for the next 50 Years.”

“We’re honoring Rosalee for all she achieved over the decades,” said Phyllis Mangels, a board member of the SPNA. Additionally, going forward each year’s event will be named for Isaly though the name hasn’t yet been established. Miriam Dasic, the organization’s vice president, joked to Town & Village that with a name like Rosalee, the potential for flower puns are endless, though she promised “nothing too corny” after this reporter suggested “Everything’s coming up Rosalee.”

Meanwhile, the flowers that bloom consistently in the park today are there in large part due to Isaly’s efforts, which involved starting — and later expanding — volunteer gardening events. They’re now held around the year at least twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Work ranges from cleanup to planting to making sure bushes are kept at safe heights for visibility purposes.

The gardening program was part of a larger effort spearheaded by Isaly to revitalize the park after a long period of decline. This also included implementing free summer programming like tango classes and jazz concerts and pushing for years to see a multi-million project to restore the park’s historic wrought-iron fence restored.

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Rosalee Isaly, president, SPNA, dies

Rosalee Isaly with a plaque from Dvorak’s former home

By Sabina Mollot

Rosalee Isaly, the longtime president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, died at the age of 81 on July 24.

Isaly, who’d been involved with the civic group for nearly as long as it’s been around, recently hosted a 50th anniversary gala for the SPNA at the historic church overlooking the park.

However, less than a month after the event, she learned she had pancreatic cancer, and according to her son Jason, Isaly died 16 days later. She died while staying with family members in Chicago, where she was born and lived before moving to New York City’s Stuyvesant Square neighborhood. Her family held a funeral service for Isaly at the St. Barnabas Church in Chicago and she was buried in Interment Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Under Isaly’s leadership, the SPNA worked to preserve local historic properties as well as revitalize Stuyvesant Square Park after a period of decline. This included implementing free summer programming like tango classes and jazz concerts and pushing for years to see a multi-million project to restore the park’s historic wrought-iron fence restored. When Isaly joined the group, it was to protest razing of neighborhood brownstones by Beth Israel, which was then scooping up properties to expand the hospital’s footprint. Continue reading

Neighborhood not on board with nixing Stuyvesant name

Following the Confederate monument controversy in Charlottesville and other Southern cities, debate has been swirling around New York City statues that could be considered symbols of hate, including The Peter Stuyvesant statue in Stuyvesant Square Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

While states in the South wrangle with whether or not to remove statues of Confederate soldiers, the controversy over monuments has moved closer to home for New Yorkers, with a group of Jewish activists advocating for the removal of Peter Stuyvesant’s name and monuments from city property because the former director-general was anti-Semitic. However, residents of Stuyvesant Town and park-goers in Stuyvesant Square this week weren’t having it.

“It’s all a waste of time,” said longtime Stuyvesant Town resident Don Burkett. “It’s all of this politically correct nonsense. All the problems in the country and they’re worried about a statue.”

The New York Post along with a handful of Jewish media outlets reported last week that the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center is demanding the mayor remove all mentions of Stuyvesant from city property in a bid to remove “symbols of hate” from the city.

“It would be like if they wanted to rename Gramercy,” said Peg Reilly, an artist who has been living on Avenue C for the last 20 years. “Who cares at this point? It’s history.”

Residents of Stuyvesant Town and park-goers in Stuyvesant Square alike said they weren’t even aware of Stuyvesant’s anti-Semitic proclivities.

Stuyvesant was said to have resisted Jewish refugees from Brazil from settling in New Amsterdam, and was also known to have been against additional religions other than his own, the Dutch Reform Church, such as Quakers and Lutherans. He also wouldn’t allow Jews to fight in the volunteer militia but then taxed them to have someone else fight in their stead.

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