Mayor Bloomberg today presented the 2012 Doris C. Freedman Award to Actress, Singer and Founder of the New York Restoration Project Bette Midler. Through her work with the New York Restoration Project, Bette Midler has worked in partnership with national and community-based organizations to revitalize, support and advocate for New York City’s public parks, community gardens, green space and urban forest.
The Doris C. Freedman Award was established in 1982 by Executive Order by Mayor Edward I. Koch to recognize an individual or organization for a contribution to the people of the City of New York that greatly enriches the public environment. It is dedicated to the memory and vision of Doris Chanin Freedman (1928-1981), the City’s first Director of Cultural Affairs. Mrs. Freedman also served as President of the Municipal Art Society, founded the Public Art Fund, and worked to establish New York City’s Percent for Art legislation. Mayor Bloomberg presented the award at Gracie Mansion where he was joined by First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, and members of the Freedman Family including daughters Karen Freedman, Nina Freedman and Public Art Fund President Susan K. Freedman.
“New York simply wouldn’t be the greatest city in the world without the love, care, support and generosity of some amazing friends, like Bette Midler,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Bette’s commitment and dedication to our parks and open spaces exemplifies and honors the great work of Doris Freedman, a passionate advocate who believed that all New Yorkers deserve the chance to interact with their city in fresh and constantly surprising ways. MillionTreesNYC will permanently change the landscape of our City, and we couldn’t have a better partner in our mission than the New York Restoration Project and Bette Midler.
“How fabulous to receive the Doris C. Freedman Award, one of the highest our city can bestow,” said Bette Midler. “I am both honored and humbled. Doris was an extraordinary visionary and relentless advocate for Art and Beauty in the public realm; a woman after my own heart! I am very touched that the city acknowledges and values the contributions that NYRP and I have made for the last 17 years. I'm thankful to all of our supporters who continue to make our work possible, and especially to Mayor Bloomberg - a mayor who really cares - and the best partner a tree lover like me could have.”
“How fitting that Bette Midler has received this award in recognition of her commitment to the belief that green spaces are the oxygen of our City, providing communities with sanctuaries to explore, enjoy and tend,” said Susan K. Freedman. “Like my mother was, Bette is a force of nature. She has enlisted people across the City to join her in the greening of New York and through MillionTreesNYC has literally infused our public spaces with life and promise. She is an inspired choice for this award, and I am proud and grateful to keep alive the memory of Doris Freedman by bestowing this award upon a kindred spirit, the Divine Miss M.”
Bette Midler began her career as an entertainer in 1965, and for the past 44 years she has been a major force in all aspects of the entertainment industry. In 1995, she founded the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a non-profit organization dedicated to reclaiming and restoring New York City parks, community gardens and open spaces. Working in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, NYRP has planted hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers to support the restoration of New York City’s parks and community gardens; restored and maintain six New York City parks; and removed more than 2,000 tons of garbage from parks and open space. In 1999, Midler and NYRP saved 114 community gardens from commercial development and established the New York Garden Trust to ensure NYRP’s precious plots of land are public gardens in perpetuity.
In October 2007, Midler and NYRP joined forces with Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York to launch the nation’s most aggressive urban reforestation campaign, MillionTreesNYC, which sets the goal of planting and caring for one million new trees throughout the city’s five boroughs by 2017. To support the initiative’s tree planting, stewardship and education programs, NYRP and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City work together to seek the financial and in-kind support of individuals, corporations and foundations. With over 589,000 trees planted to date, the target planting goals have been exceeded by 17 percent, putting the City one year ahead of schedule in planting one million trees. MillionTreesNYC is a 10-year initiative to plant and care for one million new trees throughout the City’s five boroughs and a key aspect of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC to create a healthier, more livable city. MillionTreesNYC will ultimately expand the City’s urban forest by 20 percent, provide New Yorkers important health, economic and environmental benefits, and create a more sustainable urban environment. Since its launch, public, private and non-profit organizations have rallied over 22,000 citizen volunteers to plant trees in what has become an unprecedented tree planting campaign and citywide environmental movement.
Past recipients of the Doris C. Freedman Award, include: Friends of the High Line, 2010; Olafur Eliasson and the Public Art Fund, 2008; City Parks Foundation, 2007; Barry Benepe and Robert Lewis, founders of the Greenmarket, 2006; Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 2005; Richard Kahan, 2004; Edward I. Koch, 2003; The Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority, 2002; The J.M. Kaplan Fund, 1992; Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts and its Founder, Halina Rosenthal, 1991; Dancing in the Streets, 1990; Richard J. Haas, 1989; Studio In A School, 1988; Mark di Suvero, 1987; Margot Gayle, 1986; The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 1985; William H. Whyte, 1984; and Ronay Menschel, 1983.