Council honors Doris Diether

Doris Diether.

Doris Diether.

BY TEQUILA MINSKY  |  City councilmembers, community activists and neighbors gathered around Doris Diether in City Hall’s Council chamber on Tuesday as she was recognized for her five decades of volunteer service on Community Board 2.

Councilmember Margaret Chin, along with Corey Johnson and Rosie Mendez, led off a tribute to the Village’s longtime activist, who is an original member of C.B. 2.

“Doris Diether was appointed to Community Board 2 in 1964 and has served C.B. 2 for 50 years,” Chin began as she presented Diether with a proclamation from the City Council.

The three city councilmembers collectively represent all of Lower Manhattan below 14th St., the area where Doris, 85, lives — near Washington Square Park — and where she has employed her great energy and talents.

Chin noted how Doris took on bad landlords, rapacious developers, and played a key role in helping defeat Robert Moses’ plan for a cross-town expressway through the Village.

“Doris Diether is a true community icon for the Village,” Chin said.

Doris Diether, second from left, was honored in the City Council on Tuesday by, from left, Rosie Mendez, Corey Johnson, Margaret Chin and Public Advocate Letitia James.   Photos by Tequila Minsky

Doris Diether, second from left, was honored in the City Council on Tuesday by, from left, Rosie Mendez, Corey Johnson, Margaret Chin and Public Advocate Letitia James. Photos by Tequila Minsky

Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito were also among those paying homage to the storied community activist.

The proclamation notes Diether was appointed chairperson of the tenants committee of Save the Village in 1957. Her involvement in numerous civic advocacy efforts included protecting the poet E.E. Cummings from eviction. 

Also known affectionately as the “Zoning Maven,” she has authored articles on zoning and taught classes on the subject at the Municipal Art Society, among other places. Her courses are accredited from the American Institute of Architects, and the City Planning Commission acknowledges her expertise and welcomes her editing of zoning materials.

The proclamation also notes that she’s in the Remington Registry of Outstanding Professionals, and that her grandmother emigrated from Finland.

The proclamation recalls that she “once walked a pig around the governor’s office to protest greed and corruption.”

(Diether previously told The Villager that she gamely took the pig’s leash after no one else wanted to do it.)

In short, the proclamation concludes, Diether is “a passionate advocate, public figure, land use expert and an inspiration to community activists and puppeteers alike.”

(Of course, Diether is the model for Ricky Syers’s phenomenally popular “Little Doris” marionette, which Syers can often be seen making dance or feed peanuts to squirrels in Washington Square Park.)

Chin concluded, “It’s my pleasure to present this proclamation, alongside my colleagues, to Doris Diether for her incredible commitment to her community.”

Diether accepted the honor with a short, gracious speech and her trademark chuckle.

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