In Memoriam: Ann Walker Gaffney
October 12, 2017
Article from Fall 2017 Newsletter
Ann Walker Gaffney, commercial graphic designer, artist, and preservationist who was instrumental in turning Brooklyn Heights into a vibrant community over the past half-century, passed away in August at the age of 79. Although she was born in Washington, D.C., Gaffney adopted Brooklyn as her home and always considered herself a New Yorker. She moved to Brooklyn in the mid-1960s, where she quickly became active in community organizations and institutions, including the Brooklyn Heights Garden Club, the Brooklyn Heights Association, and The Green-Wood Cemetery. “Ann loved to talk about art, and to make the neighborhood and community come alive,” recalled Sam Sifton, a longtime family friend and currently food editor for The New York Times. Gaffney was part of “an early generation of Heights pioneers. Ann and [her husband] Richard were absolutely in the thick of that. She certainly helped in her way to build an incredibly vital neighborhood—very different from the one she moved into when she arrived,” said Sifton.
In the years after her husband’s death, Gaffney’s love of architecture and historic preservation nurtured a relationship with fellow Grace Church parishioner Bronson Binger. An architect by profession, Binger is known for his efforts to preserve Manhattan’s Carnegie Hill, the “old” Metropolitan Opera House, Union Square, and Central Park. They were companions until Binger’s death in 2013. In 2011 the Historic Districts Council honored Gaffney and Binger with its Mickey Murphy Award, named for the community activist who was a moving force in the preservation of New York’s waterfront neighborhoods.