In Memoriam: Tom Goodkind

Tom Goodkind

Tom Goodkind

Lower Manhattan has lost a leader, an advocate, an artist, and a renaissance man. Tom Goodkind died on Thursday morning, after waging a long battle against chronic illness. He was 65 years old.

A longtime resident of Gateway Plaza, in Battery Park City, Mr. Goodkind also served for decades on Community Board 1 (CB1), where he was a persistent, passionate advocate for housing affordability, and booster of local public schools. In service of each cause he cared about, Mr. Goodkind became known both for dogged perseverance and impish wit.

An accountant by training, Mr. Goodkind served for years in executive leadership positions at large financial services and real estate organizations, such as the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America(where he oversaw that retirement fund’s property investments) and the Rosen Group, a real estate development and management consortium specializing in shopping centers and office buildings.

But his true passions were music and Lower Manhattan. In recent years, Mr. Goodkind had become a familiar sight to local residents, in his red-and-white drum major’s uniform, conducting outdoor concerts of the TriBattery Pops, the community band he founded in 2004. In an indicator of the impresario’s wide and eclectic circle of friendships, the band’s logo was designed by comic book demigod Stan Lee, who was a neighbor in Mr. Goodkind’s youth. (He also counted as friends Allen Ginsberg, Billy Crystal, Abbie Hoffman, and Robert Duvall.)

Tom and his TriBatteryPops at a recent recording session

The TriBattery Pops were only the most recent chapter in Mr. Goodkind’s musical arc, however. In the early 1980s, he co-founded the Washington Squares, a “neo-beatnik folk revival music group,” modeled after early 1960s ensembles like The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. The successful act toured and recorded for more than a decade.

Tom (seated) with the Washington Squares

Mr. Goodkind returned to these roots when the Washington Squares headlined a sold-out reunion concert in 2018 at City Winery, with Peter Yarrow. He also had a hand in creating or managing multiple legendary New York music venues, such as Irving Plaza, the Peppermint Lounge, and Roseland.

Moving to Battery Park City during the community’s early years, Mr. Goodkind was quickly drawn to activism. As a member of Community Board 1, he was a determined gadfly who strove constantly to make the Battery Park City Authority more responsive to the concerns of residents. For many years, he was also a stalwart member of Downtown Independent Democrats.

At CB1, he also focused intently on the cluster of issues surrounding housing affordability, ranging from rent regulation throughout Lower Manhattan, to ground lease costs for condominium owners in Battery Park City. As chairman of CB1’s Housing Task Force, he authored multiple, comprehensive guides to the Downtown community, spotlighting subjects like rent stabilization, and resources for seniors.

In recent years, he waged a quiet campaign to designate the Five World Trade Center parcel at 130 Liberty Street (the location of the former Deutsche Bank Building) as a site for affordable housing, with set-asides for creative artists, based on the model of the Westbeth Artists Community, in Greenwich Village.

CB1 chair Anthony Notaro reflected that, “I will always remember Tom leading the TriBattery Pops, with his iconic hat and uniform. He was a rare combination of folk-singer, rock star, CPA, community advocate and husband and father. He made all those things work and we loved him for it. A life well lived, but a loss for all of us.

Former deputy mayor Ninfa Segarra, who chaired CB1’s Battery Park City Committee for three years when Mr. Goodkind served as a member, said, “Tom was a unique personality. He brought a very different perspective that made you stop and think. His voice will be missed in the battle for affordable housing. Our small town is a better place for his years of service. May his family and friends find comfort knowing that Tom’s contributions will not be forgotten.”

Tom at the Battery Park City Block Party

Fellow CB1 member Bob Schneck remarked, “he was so aptly named — a man both good and kind. A remarkable man whose mind was as unlimited as a universe.”

Lisa Ecklund-Flores, founder of the Church Street School for Art and Music, recalled that, “Tom was a one-of-a-kind person — really smart, a really talented musician and really funny. He was very passionate, both about the things he liked and the things he didn’t like. Anything Tom wanted to do in life he did. I can’t even believe I’m talking about him in the past tense — a big loss for the community he loved so much.”

CB1 member Dennis Gaultremembered, “I, like so many others in Lower Manhattan, knew him as a neighbor, a mentor, and above all, as a friend. Tom Goodkind was a true renaissance man — gifted in so many areas. He was brilliant; he had a great intellect. He was, above all, a dedicated family man. We became good friends in the days and months following the September 11th attack. Our families were displaced together at the same hotel. Tom demonstrated great courage and resiliency despite the horror. That was such a chaotic time, but Tom was a leader with grace and dignity — truly remarkable. What I liked most about Tom was his spirit of resilience and his dynamic sense of humor. His witticisms were brilliant and perfectly timed.”

Glenn Plaskin, former president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA), said, “Tom was a neighborhood legend — a tough community activist, a musician, and a warm-hearted family man who brought his effervescence everywhere he went. He was a great supporter of the GPTA, a firm believer in the value of being a fully involved in the neighborhood. We will miss him.”

Tammy Meltzer, the current chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, said, “Tom was an amazing man whose larger-than-life personality and mind often moved at the speed of light.  But to remember only his intellect or music is a great disservice. Tom was a husband, father, neighbor, friend, entertainer, advocate, statistician, fighter, leader, comic …and these are but a few of his talents. His passion for life and sharing stories made our neighborhood a better symphony; we have lost a high note.”

Manhattan Youth founder (and CB1 member) Bob Townleyobserved that, “Tom Goodkind was as Downtown as they come. He singlehandedly resurrected Battery Park City from the boring neighborhood it could have become. He, as much as anyone, created a neighborhood vibe. Over 30 years ago, when I started Manhattan Youth and Ollie and Nicki (he and Jill‘s two daughters) attended, he wrote a song about me. I still remember the words. Then he wrote a song about Manhattan Youth. We still sing it. Forming the TriBattery Pops was just part of his extensive life’s work. He will be really missed. This is a hard one.”

Broadsheet publisher Robert Simko recalled, “I knew him first as a fellow father raising two kids in early Battery Park City. Those were the early days of growth for the community, and Tom was always there at meetings, offering well thought-out reasoning and wise judgment to the issues.

Mr. Simko continued, “most people don’t know this story, but for many years a portion of sidewalk along South End Avenue would always flood. It was downward sloped but not enough to run off into the gutter, and so a huge puddle would form after each rain. This went on for years. At one point, Tom took it upon himself to research the City codes and pestered the Department of Buildings and other City agencies. And finally, after more than a year of work, he managed to get the City and the landlord to cooperate to fix the sidewalk. And ever since that day, wherever it rains, I think of Tom and his efforts to get that sidewalk repaired. He was a man who believed in good, and worked to achieve it.”

But perhaps the most fitting epitaph is a last word from Mr. Goodkind himself. His final email to the Broadsheet (he was a frequent correspondent, demanding attention for all of the issues he cared about) highlighted a resolution slated to be considered by CB1 at its February meeting. The measure called upon State lawmakers to renew and strengthen rent stabilization laws — a cause dear to Mr. Goodkind’s heart. “I write from my hospital bed,” he noted.

Friends and family will gather for a service at noon on Sunday (March 3) in Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn. This will be followed by refreshments and shiva at the Goodkind household
Matthew Fenton
photos and video © Robert Simko /The Broadsheet

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