Arthur Stoliar, 90, first chairperson of C.B. 2

Arthur Stoliar on a Segway on his 80th birthday trip to San Francisco. He also enjoyed riding a Lambretta motor scooter.

BY LEE STOLIAR DUFRESNE | Arthur P. Stoliar, the first chairperson of Manhattan’s Community Board 2, died peacefully at his Jane St. home of natural causes at age 90 on July 9.

He had Parkinson’s Disease, which made his last five years quite hard for him, but he was staunch, weathering every new difficulty with grace.

Born March 13, 1927, in Brooklyn, Stoliar  graduated from Midwood High School in 1943.  He served in the Navy in World War II, then went on to graduate from City College in 1948, with a master’s degree from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (“Brooklyn Poly”).

Stoliar married Joan Kramer, a book designer, in 1953. They settled first on Bank St. and in 1957 they moved to Jane St., where they eventually bought the building they lived in and remained there for the rest of his life.

He was the first chairperson of Community Board 2, covering Greenwich Village and Lower West Side. Also chairperson of the board’s Waterfront Committee, he was a vigorous and influential opponent of Westway, the highway-and-landfill megaproject.

One of the early members  of the West Village Committee, Arthur Stoliar, along with others, including Jane Jacobs, fought successfully to establish landmarking to protect the historic neighborhood from destructive development.  He was a leader in nurturing the creation of the West Village Houses — low-rise, middle-income housing in the Far West Village.

Stoliar was a founding member of the Jane Street Block Association. He was an active member of the Village Independent Democrats political club and later of the Village Reform Democratic Club, a breakaway faction from V.I.D. whose members supported Ed Koch. He was an ardent supporter of Koch.

Stoliar was an electrical engineer in electro-optics and infrared technology at Sperry Gyroscope — which became Unisys — specializing in Cold War military defense, where he did what he considered to be the most important work of his life, though because it was classified, he never described it. He retired in 1993.

Arthur and Joan were dedicated catch-and-release fly-fishing anglers who traveled extensively to fish throughout the U.S., Canada, South America the U.K. and Europe. They invented the first soft-sided fly-tying kit. Due to high interest among fellow traveling fishers, they put it into production and created a company, The Fly Tyer’s Carry-All, LLC (now The Folstaf Company). Over the years they would invent and manufacture many more items for anglers. Most notable among these inventions was the Folstaf® wading staff in 1970, the first folding wading staff on the market, which is still considered the industry standard. The company has been run by Arthur’s daughter Lee since 1999.

A fervent conservationist, Arthur Stoliar was a longtime board member of the Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, a member of Trout Unlimited, and a founding member of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum. He was director, following the death of founder Joan Stoliar, of Trout In The Classroom, a program in which elementary and high school students at both ends of the New York City watershed learn stewardship of clean rivers and streams by raising trout — which only survive in clean water — from egg to fry in classroom tanks.  Annual year-end field trips to release the fry (with state Department of Environmental Conservation permits) in Upstate streams celebrate the students’ success. Stoliar ensured the program’s continuation by gifting it to Trout Unlimited, a national organization.

In Roscoe and Livingston Manor, N.Y., Arthur and Joan developed Project Access, a volunteer / community-based method of creating switchback pathways to provide access to prime fishing waters to anglers with impaired mobility.

Arthur Stoliar was a patron of the Metropolitan Opera — often riding to performances clad in a tuxedo, his wife in a gown, on their Lambretta motor scooter — as well as the Roundabout Theatre. He loved Woody Allen films and Cole Porter lyrics.

He was a cruciverbalist and an oenophile, an amateur banjo and harmonica player, a pioneering city gardener and award-winning composter, who for years hosted field trips to his backyard red-worm composter by 3- and 4-year-olds from West Village Nursery School, which his grandchild had attended.

Stoliar was an irrepressibly social person and a terrific dancer. He was a member of what The New York Times dubbed “The Beatrice Inn Dining Club,” for years eating there six nights a week (because it was closed on the seventh).  After The Beatrice closed and he was widowed, Arthur became a regular at Tavern On Jane, where he was known to frequently dine with a different woman each night. Other nights he would bring with him a small Tensor lamp that he would plug in so he could work on The New York Times crossword puzzle. Though he lost sight in one eye during a cataract surgery mishap, he read Proust’s “A La Recherché de Temps Perdue” on his Kindle in his 89th year.

Arthur was predeceased by his wife, Joan, in 2000, and his son, Evan, in 2004, and is survived by his daughter, Lee Stoliar Dufresne, son-in-law Leonard Dufresne, and grandchild Abby Dufresne. His memorial service was July 13 at Riverside Chapel, at W. 76th St. and Amsterdam Ave.

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