Oh, oh oh-oh oh, oh oh oh-oh oh, oh oh oh-oh oh, oh oh — oh my gosh!
Gowanus park activists threw a glitzy, 1920s-themed benefit party in the toxic neighborhood on Saturday and mixing it up in the dapper crowd of 100 was R & B icon Usher, who organizers say made them wanna … thank him for coming.
“[Usher] was just so gracious,” said Sue Wolfe, president of advocacy group Friends of Douglass-Greene Park, which organized the fund-raising extravaganza.
“He was willing to have his picture taken with everybody — it was really nice.”
The hydraulic-legged heartthrob is, according to Wolfe, a friend of the Michelle Karshan, who planned the “Great Gatsby”– inspired gala at the Gowanus Ballroom off of Ninth Street, and he was not the only A-lister on hand for the occasion. Actress and “American Splendor” star Hope Davis ventured out from her Boerum Hill home to the venue between Smith Street and Second Avenue, steps from the fetid Gowanus Canal, to help come up with money for activities at the neighborhood’s Thomas Greene Playground and the adjoining Douglass-Degraw Pool.
The party included a costume competition, a buffet with an assortment of fare from local eateries, including Runner and Stone and Madiba, and skateboarding and rock climbing demonstration by staffers from Homage Brooklyn skate shop in Cobble Hill and Gowanus’s Brooklyn Boulders. There was even a Charleston contest, which Wolfe won, perhaps but not necessarily because the artist also known as Usher Raymond IV did not enter.
“There was a lot going on,” said Wolfe.
All proceeds from the bash went to the Friends of Douglass-Greene Park, which says it will use the cash to enhance the group’s programming for the park and pool. The six-year-old group also hosted its first-ever awards dinner at the party to recognize people who have helped to revamp the green space, including Councilman Steve Levin (D-Boerum Hill), and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Cobble Hill), who showed up to receive their honors, and Public Advocate and Democratic mayoral nominee Bill DeBlasio, who did not.
A $900,000 renovation of the Third Avenue side of the park was completed in April thanks to funds allocated by DeBlasio, Borough President Markowitz, and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky, according to Wolfe, whose group is pushing the city to finish the job.
Friends of Douglass-Greene Park is also leading the effort to protect the neighborhood’s popular Double-D pool from being torn up so that a raw sewage-catching holding tank can be buried beneath it as part of the federal government’s Gowanus Canal cleanup plan.