Where are your favorite places ‘around town’?
Bob Townley is a self-confessed workaholic, community organizer and, in his words, “a large person in love with his 84 year old mom Anita Townley, his wife Veronika Korvin and his two children, Robert and Kate.”
As the Founder and Executive Director of Manhattan Youth, Mr. Townley oversees the after-school and summer camp activities of some 5,000 kids throughout Manhattan and a staff of 900.
In a few weeks, he’s going to Puerto Rico (with two Manhattan Youth staffers) to deliver much needed money and supplies to groups devastated by Hurricane Maria.
While he was preparing for the trip we were able to ask a few questions about what makes him tick.
What drew you to Lower Manhattan and when did you arrive?
Since I come from a divorced family, I have had residences in Manhattan, Jamaica, Queens and Brighton Beach simultaneously. I have lived on and off in Manhattan all my life. City life for me is the key.
How best to describe yourself?
I’m a workaholic and community organizer. I started a computer company in the eighties and bought a building. I could have been a tech guy or a developer. But when it’s all said and done, caring for the next generation, protecting life and the planet is, for me, what God wanted me to do. Or maybe be a singer. I am not done yet. With the support of dearest friends and dedicated staff, we built Lower Manhattan’s first community center.
How do you spend your days at Manhattan Youth?
I work! I supervise staff and play with kids or go to the gym. Most days, I have staff meetings, talk with parents, and work on organizational stuff like approving, hiring, compliance and budgets.
How much time is spent between screen time and people time?
That’s tough. Three hours with people, four hours on the computer and, depending on the day another three hours in meetings.
All around town! But I have to say that raising my family in Battery Park City was a blessing. It’s damn beautiful.
What are your favorite restaurants and shops downtown?
Tribeca Kitchen, Gee Whiz and Salaam Bombay. On special occasions, to the master David Bouley.
What do you think about downtown retail?
What do you do to ‘relax’?
I work on weekends. Also, listen to music…big time. On the way back from our trip to Puerto Rico, I am stopping to see the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett in Miami- I am so psyched, I love music concerts.
And your family?
We take care of 5,000 kids daily with a staff of 900. That’s a family!
And I have two of my own!
What’s your favorite place in Lower Manhattan?
The Hudson River.
Where do you shop?
I don’t. I leave that to others.
What do you read?
The Atlantic, The New York Times and of course, The Broadsheet.
What are your favorite cultural things to do downtown?
Go to a Manhattan Youth Play. We do about 20 a year in many schools.
Yes, I never use it.Do you own a car?
How do you get around?
Walk …..how else do you get around?
I don’t like Uber, if I need a car, – I go yellow.
Concerning life Downtown… what’s your biggest pet peeve? And how might you solve it?
The rent is too dam high. Solving it is complex.
What are your suggestions to make life Downtown better?
Pedestrians should be safer. The right turn crossings on West Street into Battery Park City and the crossing of the street from Whole Foods can be repaired and made much safer. I want to help members of the community and the Department of Transportation define remedies and improvements.
Years ago you were the guy with the Iguana on Pier 25.Tell us more.
Well, Pier 25 and the development of Hudson River Park has been one of my favorite things to do. Bringing Bob Wade’s Iguana downtown after it was on the Lone Star Café canopy (5th Avenue and 12th Street) was amazing. It is just been so much fun.
You’re raising money for Puerto Rico?
Yes, we are traveling to Puerto Rico to deliver more aid. Two staff members and myself are paying our own way and delivering money to community groups there. Folks, don’t forget Puerto Rico. Head to the Island!
If you haven’t donated yet, get some money out for our kids in Puerto Rico. www.youcaring.com/Manhattanyouth
Finally, what do you think of the future? Are you an optimist?
I have to be positive I know people are wigging out. I think people need to be active. Not on the computer, but doing stuff. Our business and governmental programs need better management. They seem inefficient.
And everyone should be happy, no hating !
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