The NoHo BID would like to acknowledge the contributions our founder, Harriet Fields, made to NoHo, after her recent passing.
Harriet Fields and her husband, Richard, moved to NoHo from Great Neck, NY in 1982, right after their two youngest children (of four), twins Jamie and Peter, went off to college.
With her quirky, artistic spirit, Harriet couldn’t wait to get out of the suburbs (or the “country” as she called it) and immerse herself into the gritty hustle and bustle of downtown. She convinced Richard to move to a curious corner of Broadway and Bleecker (“just for a year,” she promised ) – which at the time was definitely not trendy or desirable like it is now – but instantly recognized just how special the burgeoning neighborhood was.
Not too long after moving into NoHo, Harriet formed the Concerns Citizens of Broadway, a group dedicated to addressing issues important to the residents – from cleaning the streets, adding flower boxes, erasing graffiti, and keeping the streets safe with security (many of whom are working with the NoHo BID to this day). In 1996, Concerns Citizens became the NoHo BID, in an effort to professionalize and legitimize the group.
As Founder / Executive Director of the NoHo BID for 18 years, she went above and beyond what one might expect from a BID – sure, she got streets repaved, cracked down on illegal street vendors, made it an enticing neighborhood for local businesses, and more. But she also did things in a way that was uniquely her – creative and truly out of the box.
Tasked with attracting new tenants into empty storefronts that were becoming an eyesore, hanging “for rent” signs were not an option to Harriet. Instead, she tapped into her passion for the arts and decided to hang paintings in the windows to create temporary art installations. She organized Art Walks and parades. Her own painting served as a larger than life billboard ad for the NoHo Bid in the early 2000’s. Most importantly, she helped bring the community together with pride and small-town camaraderie.
As Lizzie Burke, (who, through her involvement with Concerned Citizens and NoHo BID, became a close friend of Harriet’s) put it, “techies we were not, but spirited we were. Harriet spoke from her gut and dressed like a rockstar.”
The small but mighty woman often did what others thought were impossible (like being the first person ever to get a permit to shut down Broadway from 8th Street to Houston), and served as the voice of the neighborhood, championing the local businesses and spearheading efforts to preserve and cultivate NoHo’s culture and DNA.
NoHo wasn’t just a place Harriet lived. It inspired her endlessly – whether it was to paint something new, or to become a businesswoman for the first time in her 40’s. She wore the pride she had for NoHo like she would a fabulous necklace (and she wore many). She knew everyone — the bodega owner, the employees of the new shoe store across the street, the government officials, her neighbors. And they knew her — not just for her teased hair and eye catching outfits. But for how much she cared about and for NoHo. She shopped at National Wholesale Liquidators (on Broadway, now closed) and Blick Art Supply (on Bond) with the same excitement she would at Barney’s. She ate at the (now closed) NoHo Star like it was a 5 star restaurant in Paris.
Her home at 644 Broadway, windows draped with her canvas abstract paintings to provide a little bit of privacy in the floor to ceiling windowed space, was the Fields family place to be for weddings, birthday parties (for their 11 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild) and holidays. It was the space used in the iconic catering scene of Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters movie (Woody Allen’s team came knocking one day asking if they could film and needless to say, Harriet said yes). Ultimately, when it was time to sell the loft, a personality-filled video interview with Harriet and Richard on the Wall Street Journal’s website helped do the trick.
As Harriet got older, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease – something that ultimately forced her to slow down and retire. She was devastated to go, but her retirement celebration in the private room of Lafayette (thanks to Board Member and restaurateur Josh Pickard) was the perfect send off. I hope she’ll long be remembered within the NoHo BID as a creative firecracker that did her very best to improve the neighborhood she loved so much.
Harriet and Richard moved closer to one of their daughters in Long Island City (if she couldn’t be in Manhattan at least she could see her beloved city from their magnificent view across the East River) once Harriet’s Parkinson’s was getting more severe, but their love of NoHo, remained.
Written by Harriet’s granddaughter, Kimberly DeAngelo