BY LINDA CRONIN-GROSS |
“Death is the only pure, beautiful conclusion of a great passion.”
— D. H. Lawrence
So wrote longtime Village resident and activist Ben Green’s favorite author.
But Lawrence could have been talking about Ben Green himself, who died Fri., May 17, in New York City at age 73, after living his own life of great passion.
From early childhood in Nashville, Tennessee, Green was always on the go, always doing things for others. He was one of the most popular guys in his high school, playing football until he wrecked his arm, captaining the debate team and editing the yearbook.
At one point, he even considered going into the ministry and he participated in missions to Mexico, building orphanages and serving the needy during summers. It was clear, even then, that making the world a better place was simply in his DNA, and that he would be a fighter for justice wherever he went.
In his early 20s, after graduating from Vanderbilt University, Green decided that the place to be was New York City, specifically Greenwich Village. At that time, the Village was the beating heart of various rights movements and of a generational push for progressive change.
He found his forever home on Christopher St., where, according to friends, he was a great neighbor and a caring citizen. His apartment was often a gathering spot for other tenants in his building, or for those who simply wanted to know what was happening.
His sister Alicia recalls strolling with him through the Village with many, many residents stopping Green and greeting him. One lady even commented to her, “I hope you do as much for your community as your brother does for his!”
Ben Green had a special place in his heart for the arts and for preserving and protecting his community, both its people and its places. And that passion is reflected in his eclectic achievements as a professional and as an activist over the last 50 years.
Among his many accomplishments were being director of community affairs for former Assemblymember William Passannante; executive director of the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port; chairperson of Community Board 2 from 1994 to 1996; founder of the Christopher St. Block Association; co-founder of the Christopher St. Patrol; president of the board of directors of the Westbeth Center for the Arts; director of public relations for the Museum of the City of New York; public relations director for Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater; director of the SHARE Alternate AIDS Care Facility from 1987 to 1990; and a member of the advisory board for the Hudson River Park Conservancy, the predecessor to the current Hudson River Park Trust.
The Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port fought against the current plan for Hudson River Park, instead favoring a very open, undeveloped park without any commercial aspects.
Green also had the special honor of being entered into the 1996 “Who’s Who in New York” for his work as a tenant activist, gay rights advocate and historic preservationist.
Forced to retire due to health issues, Green nonetheless continued to be active and decided to devote more time and energy to his life’s passion, writing a play about his beloved D.H. Lawrence. His incredibly thorough research took him all over the American Southwest and extensively through Europe, including Russia. He was even able to deliver a paper he wrote about the author to the D.H. Lawrence Society in Italy.
He loved his family, and, although none of them lived in New York City, they visited often. “Uncle Ben” was always encouraging the interests of his nieces and nephews — and, later, their children — and sent relevant books, and shared museums and other cultural aspects of his beloved city with them. Green’s sister found out, a little too late, that one of the bonuses of visiting Uncle Ben was — no rules, no curfews! He was concerned for each and every one of them and they soaked it in.
He leaves behind his sister Alicia and her husband John Maniatakis, of California; niece Michelle Kastner and husband Chris, and their children Natalie and Brendan Kastner, of Virginia; niece Stasha Clark and children Megan and Donny; nephew George Maniatakis and wife Deja, and children Raegan and Mila Maniatakis, all in California, and many more extended family in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
Green was not only adored by his family but by friends and the community, and will be sorely missed.
“Ben had such strength in his soft-spoken and kind demeanor,” one friend reflected. “A true Southern gentleman. Ben loved local politics, the theater, his neighbors and most importantly, living in New York City. And New York City loved him.”
A memorial for Green will be held in Tennessee at a date and time to be determined.
Donations can be made in Ben Green’s name. Please send to: N.Y.U. Langone, Development Department, One Park Ave., fifth floor, NY, NY 10016. Please note on donation: “Honoring Benjamin Green, GU Oncology-Dr. Arjun Balar.”
People can also give online. Please remember to note that the donation is to honor Ben Green, as shown above: http://NYUlangone.org/give/funds/perlmutter-cancer-center