With the New York charity circuit on hiatus, here is how some philanthropists and society figures are spending their time and resources during the pandemic.
Occupation: equestrian show jumper, young adult novelist, philanthropist
Where have you been sheltering?
We were in Wellington, Fla., just west of West Palm Beach until the end of April. We spent the summer in North Salem in Westchester., N.Y. I breed horses there. In some ways, lockdown didn’t feel very different for me. We were lucky to be spending time outside. Other than trips to the grocery store, we usually kept to ourselves. When the pandemic started to clear up, Jasper, my 6-year-old, and I returned to our apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
What made you return?
Jasper is in school five days a week. He needs to live life. He isn’t super-anxious. But then, I think kids have handled this crisis probably better than we do as adults. We are so blown away that they will wear masks all day in school. Jasper doesn’t even have to be asked.
What about parenting has been most challenging?
You always feel you’re doing something wrong. There were days I would think that I wasn’t cautious enough. Other times, I thought I was being too cautious. You have to find a balance between scaring your kids and making sure that they are respectful of the situation. You don’t want them to worry, but you don’t want them making jokes or trivializing things.
You were chair of the Humane Society’s annual gala on Nov. 14. Did going virtual change its impact?
There were challenges, obviously. People like getting dressed up, socializing, having a glass of wine, raising their hands to bid. In previous years, the event would raise $3 million. This year it was $2 million. On the flip side, Audra McDonald entertained. That was worth tuning in for on a Saturday night. Another advantage: Online you may be paying more attention. There is no one sitting next to you chatting in your ear.
Has this election swayed your thinking?
Obviously, there were a lot of things on a deep level that I didn’t agree with in the Trump administration. I’ve traveled a lot, and have become more sensitive to political differences in the country. To change somebody’s mind, you have to understand where they’re coming from.
Has your social life suffered?
It’s been tricky. I have a lot of friends who don’t think like I do, who I love on a personal level — some of them, including Eric, Lara and Ivanka, are members of the Trump family. I know it’s hard being the child of a politician. Everyone assumes you believe the exact same things they do. But you’re not the one in office, doing the things that are being done.
Do you relate on a personal level?
My father and I disagree on a lot of things. But I’m my own person with my own beliefs.
You once said, “Having the last name ‘Bloomberg’ sucks.” And now?
I did think that at the time, I own it. But I was 19. Hopefully I’ve matured since then.
I’m in the Chelsea Hotel. I have a nice outlay there, four apartments all together. One of them belonged to Janis Joplin.
How are you filling the hours at home?
There is that side to the pandemic when, even though you’re stressed about things, you find you have time on your hands. I did the kitchen, put in a new sink, countertop and cabinets. I could never have gotten all that together before the pandemic.
Is the kitchen your happy place?
Yes, I’m doing lots of cooking. The tough thing during the worst part of the pandemic was that there was no flour. Now I can get organic white flour to bake Zopf — it’s a braided Swiss bread that looks like challah.
What other bright spots are there at home?
I’m looking to the closet more. I’ve been pulling out shoes and handbags, and sporty things from Y3. I’m doing more day looks. I’m living the 9-to-5 life now, versus the 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. life. I’m decorating. I’ve got some cool things I found in the cupboards: a letter from Leigh Bowery, a lot of pictures that I’ve had lying around. There are two by Mr Pearl, original drawings of outfits — corseted styles — that he made for me.
This month you hosted the after-party for a virtual gala benefiting the Ali Forney Center. How did you become involved?
These Ali Forney kids, they are teenagers. I had done their prom on Zoom. I fell I love with them. By the end of that prom, I had them dancing on the tables. The center saw our work, so they asked me to do the after-party this year. We had a couple of “Drag Race” girls, along with Yasmine Petty and Amanda Lepore. We all dressed up like we do in real life. I wanted to give people a platform to express themselves.
You are known as the queen of New York City night life. Has the pandemic turned your life upside down?
I’d been doing the Bartschland Follies parties every Friday night for two years. I miss these nights so much. For me it’s a massive shock not to be with people.
Have you adapted to Zoom?
At real-life parties you are giving people a moment, like theater. It’s just magical, all that energy and electricity people give to each other. At first, I had a really hard time thinking how to give that energy on these little Zoom squares? I felt like I was talking to myself, yelling at people, “Shake your booty,” and there was no one who could hear me. But it got easier.
What have you learned?
As crazy as this time is, and as difficult financially, it forced me to try things I haven’t done before. All these things that young people have been doing forever, I’m doing them finally. We’ve got to keep kicking. We’re the old guard. We’ve got to show them how it’s done.
Occupation: chef, restaurateur
Where have you been sheltering?
We are in Manhattan, in the apartment on the Upper East Side where I have lived since 1992 and now share with Katherine — my wife — and two of our children, who are 6 and 3.
Who does the cooking?
Katherine does a lot of the cooking for breakfast and lunch. I definitely participate in dinner when I’m at home. I like a one-pot meal, things that cook together. I would rather make a chicken casserole than a roast chicken. It all depends on how practical it is, and how much time we have.
How are your restaurants faring?
We reopened Daniel on East 65th Street and Bar Boulud. There is a sidewalk cafe; we had to build cabanas for privacy and safety. At the same time, we are providing 25 percent seating inside. There is also Café Boulud in Lenox, Mass., in the Berkshires, where we spent the summer. As little business as we are doing, we are still trying to bring back staff. But another lockdown would be devastating for our industry.
Have you found ways to give back during this crisis?
When we could not gather in person for our annual gala at Daniel, Citymeals conceived More Than a Meal, our first virtual benefit, which was held on Nov. 18. The idea was to share our work and the stories of our homebound meal recipients with a wider audience. Sterling K. Brown, Tina Fey and Sarah Jessica Parker are some of our supporters who read letters from recipients.
Which stories stand out in your memory?
There is Barry, who is a former chef living with Parkinson’s disease, who tells tales of what used to go on in his kitchen. We talked to a former dancer with the American Ballet Theater, as well as musicians and bus drivers — all these people who for a long time were part of the fiber of New York City.
You provide these New Yorkers with chef-prepared meals. But what is your idea of comfort food?
To me it can be something braised that takes a little bit of love and time. Now that winter is coming, I like a pot de feu or something with boiled meat or chicken with vegetables. You get this broth that makes the apartment smell wonderful. Comfort food is about a smell, a taste and a look that soothes. It has to be something everybody loves. It could be a wonderful pizza. But if I am celebrating, maybe I will have a little bit of truffle to slice over my comfort food.