CaVaLa no more; park renamed for local legend


BY John Bayles

There was a full dais and a full audience last Thursday at a small, triangular oasis in Tribeca. Set in one of the busiest intersections in the city, amidst a steady hum of traffic, CaVaLa Park was officially renamed in honor of the late Albert Capsouto.

A Community Board 1 member for roughly 20 years, Capsouto chaired the board’s Tribeca Committee, played a major role in the park’s creation and was also instrumental in the rezoning of the neighborhood and the resurgence of small businesses post-9/11. At that time, Madelyn Wils chaired C.B. 1 and she joined a roster of speakers Thursday morning to pay tribute to the park’s new namesake.

She recalled when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agreed to turn the destitute lot into a park. An early design of the waterfall that now exists in the park was said to symbolize tears streaming down a face and was to serve as a memorial to 9/11.

“Albert said ‘We are not a community that wants to look back.’—This park,” said Wils, “is Albert.”

The push for park’s renaming began after Albert’s death last January and was led by a C.B.1 task force headed by Bruce Ehrmann, one of Albert’s longtime friends. Ehrmann called Albert a “mentor” and noted that it was he who taught Ehrmann how to integrate activism into the community board in order to make real change happen.

“I know Albert is very, very happy, wherever he is, looking down on us,” said Ehrmann.

Albert’s brothers Jacques and Samuel were in attendance and both spoke. Jacques, who seemingly could not stop crying during the entire ceremony, made a brief speech and said public speaking, was always his brother’s forte.

“I never liked writing speeches,” said Jacques. “I didn’t like to cross the ‘t’s.’ I didn’t like to dot the ‘i’s.’ Albert did it for me. He was very meticulous.”

Albert’s other brother, Samuel, approached the podium and chose to speak directly to Albert. Looking up to the sky, he said, “Your friends are here, your family is here. Your colleagues are here.”

Then, with tears in his eyes, Samuel said, “Albert, you did a good job.”

Albert Capsouto died at the age of 53, last January, from a brain tumor.