Bette Midler – Founder

Bette Midler began her career as an entertainer in 1965, and for the past 44 years she has been a major force in all aspects of the entertainment industry. Her numerous awards include Grammy®, Emmy® and Golden Globe® Awards; a Tony Award® a People’s Choice Award and a TV Guide Award; an Oscar nomination and her proudest achievement – breaking box office records for her continually sold-out concert performances. And, she is once again breaking box office records with her critically acclaimed production, “The Showgirl Must Go On,” currently playing at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

Midler is one of the few performers who is instantly known by her first name, “Bette,” and regarded by all as “The Divine Miss M.” There is no doubt in the minds of her millions of fans worldwide that she reigns as the self-proclaimed “Queen of Trash,” which actually foreshadowed her second passion and equally profound endeavor – one she says is the most important work of her life.

As the founder of one of New York City’s leading green non-profits, Bette created New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995 when she and her family moved back to the city, only to find her beloved parks, community gardens and open space in disrepair. The streets were filthy, the green spaces neglected and, most distressing of all, no one seemed to care!

Refusing to sit idly by, Bette – a force of nature on many levels – immediately mobilized friends and community leaders and gave NYRP its start by rolling up her own sleeves and picking up garbage in Upper Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, a neglected city park that had become a dumping ground for everything from cars to refrigerators, and worse.

Today, Bette and NYRP’s 100-member staff and team of AmeriCorps members partner with environmental and community organizations, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, a corps of community and corporate volunteers and concerned and caring New Yorkers across the five boroughs to green New York City’s parks, community gardens and open space – focusing on underserved and economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Bette continues to be a true pioneer in the now popular and vital green movement that is spreading across the country and throughout the world. Under her leadership, NYRP has planted hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers to support the restoration of New York City’s parks and community gardens; has restored and helps maintain six New York City parks; and has removed nearly 2,000 tons of garbage from parks and open space. In 1999, Bette and NYRP saved 114 community gardens from commercial development and established the New York Garden Trust to ensure NYRP’s precious plots of land are public gardens in perpetuity.

NYRP is also responsible for transforming an illegal dumping ground along the Harlem River into the five-acre Swindler Cove Park and building the adjacent Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse – the first community boathouse on the river in over 100 years. And, NYRP is continually expanding its educational programming and community events to serve thousands of families and at-risk youth throughout the city’s five boroughs.

In 2001, Bette established the acclaimed New Leaf Restaurant & Bar in Fort Tryon Park – transforming a dilapidated park concessions building into a celebrated fine-dining establishment and raising the level of hospitality, quality of food service and design excellence in both the park and the immediate neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood. Most important, the restaurant’s profits support NYRP’s ongoing work to beautify the city’s public parks and community gardens.

In October 2007, Bette and NYRP joined forces with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and launched the nation’s most aggressive urban reforestation campaign, MillionTreesNYC (MTNYC). As NYRP’s most ambitious program to date, MTNYC sets the goal of planting and caring for one million new trees throughout the city’s five boroughs by 2017. That’s 100,000 trees a year! To accomplish this monumental task, Bette and NYRP have not only partnered with the New York City’s Parks Department to plant the trees, but they have also teamed up with the city’s 8.2 million residents, greening and environmental organizations, block associations and community gardening groups, and major corporations, foundations and individual philanthropists – all of whom are proud to call New York City their home and to ensure that Bette’s and Mayor Bloomberg’s shared vision becomes a reality.

For her pioneering work in cleaning and greening New York City, Bette was recognized in 2008 with the National Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award. Inspired by Carson – whose ground-breaking 1962 book, Silent Spring, helped launch the modern environmental movement – the Rachel Carson Award is the nation’s premier recognition of women who have demonstrated great leadership and commitment to conservation. Bette is a previous recipient of both the United Nations Environmental Programme Influential Women of The Environment Award and American Institute of Architects Foundation Award, and is an honorary member of the American Institute of Landscape Architects.

While Bette is devoted to NYRP and its mission of greening New York City one block at a time, she is also an activist in many other areas that impact the social fabric of our society. She performs regularly for causes that she believes in and contributes in many ways to help improve the quality of life for all people.

Bette is married to Martin Von Haselberg and has a daughter, Sophie. They currently reside in New York City and Las Vegas.