NYC and Rodgers Family Will Renovate and Rename Bandshell in Composer's Childhood Park

News   NYC and Rodgers Family Will Renovate and Rename Bandshell in Composer's Childhood Park New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Aug. 21 a $5 million renovation of a bandshell in Marcus Garvey Park which, known as Mt. Morris Park in Manhattan, had been a favorite spot for Richard Rodgers (1902-79) in his childhood. Rodgers provided the original funding for the performance space 38 years ago, but in recent years the venue has fallen into disrepair.

The morning announcement, which took place in Marcus Garvey Park, located at 120th Street and Fifth Avenue, included Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation; David Rivel, executive director of City Parks Foundation; Mary Rodgers, daughter of Richard Rodgers and an executive board member of The Rodgers Family Foundation; and Valerie Jo Bradley, co-founder and secretary of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

Rodgers, once of 120th Street, would become the famed composer of Broadway musicals including Pal Joey, Babes in Arms, Oklahoma!, Carousel and South Pacific (which is currently enjoying a Tony Award-winning revival). Rodgers' early lyricist Lorenz Hart grew up nearby, on 119th Street, as well.

In addition to the city's $4 million toward the renovation/restoration, it was also announced that the Rodgers Family Foundation has pledged $1 million toward the project (to the City Parks Foundation), making the total price tag $5 million.

At the announcement, Lincoln Center Theater South Pacific star Kelli O'Hara sang "A Wonderful Guy," accompanied by Ted Sperling.

Mayor Bloomberg said, "The renovation of the Marcus Garvey Park bandshell is part of a multi-year investment we have made to return this park to its rightful place as a treasured, vibrant public resource for people to enjoy the outdoors and to celebrate the arts. The City is grateful to The Rodgers Family Foundation for continuing its historic commitment to this bandshell, this park, and to the entire neighborhood that Richard Rodgers himself expressed his devotion to almost 40 years ago." In 1970, Richard Rodgers — who lived at 3 West 120th Street in Manhattan in his youth — provided $150,000 for building a bandshell at what was then Mt. Morris Park and renamed Marcus Garvey Park in 1973.

The 2008 gift of $1 million by The Rodgers Family Foundation to renovate the facility will be acknowledged by renaming it The Richard Rodgers Bandshell upon the project's completion.

The bandshell currently hosts City Parks Foundation's Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, CityParks Concerts and CityParks Theater festivals, as well as dozens of other performances and community events every year, like the Dance Harlem Festival.

According to a statement, "While it currently serves as a vital resource for the community, the bandshell's facilities require significant renovation to allow for longer-term and larger-scale productions, as well as to maximize the space as an educational and community resource."

The architectural firm, Cooper, Robertson and Partners, has been retained by City Parks Foundation to design the bandshell's renovation and "has already begun meetings with numerous stakeholders to gather community input for the design."

Mary Rodgers, the elder of Richard Rodgers' two daughters, stated, "My sister Linda and I are delighted that The Rodgers Family Foundation will continue to support the legacy established by our father when he gave a bandshell to New York City in 1970. He loved this park as a boy, and I know he would have loved the fact that a brand-new, 21st century bandshell in Marcus Garvey Park will guarantee the sound of music — everyone's music — for many years to come."

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Since 1998, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has devoted over $2 million for numerous renovations and capital projects to improve Marcus Garvey Park, including renovation of the park's recreation center roof, restoration of the park's paths and stairways, significant new landscaping, and rehabilitation of the park's baseball diamond.

The Rodgers Family Foundation, formerly known as the Richard and Dorothy Rodgers Family Foundation, was established in 1952 by Richard Rodgers and his wife Dorothy Feiner Rodgers to support worthy charitable, scientific, artistic and educational causes.

Kelli O
Kelli O Photo by Bert Fink/The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization
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