NOVEMBER 9, 2022—The New York Public Library’s Board voted unanimously that, effective today, Abby S. Milstein will succeed Evan R. Chesler as its next Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Milstein, an attorney and founding partner of the law firm Constantine Cannon, has been a member of the Library’s Board of Trustees for 25 years, most recently serving as both Vice Chair and Chair of the Executive Committee since 2014. Her appointment was confirmed at today’s Board of Trustees meeting, held at the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
A longtime supporter and advocate of the Library, Milstein has held key positions on numerous Board committees, setting the direction of the system, and has provided leadership of benefit events, such as NYPL’s annual Library Lions Gala and the Library’s Literary Luncheon, which she chaired or co-chaired for 15 years. With her husband Howard, her generous and longtime philanthropic support led to the creation of the Milstein Research Stacks, providing optimal storage, security, and access for the Library’s extraordinary research collections. She continues to steward the Milstein legacy at the Library through the Irma and Paul Milstein Division and the children's room at 96th Street Library, which were named by Howard's parents.
“The New York Public Library has a magnificent mission: inspiring lifelong learning, advancing knowledge, and strengthening our communities,” said Milstein. “We freely share our treasures and we proactively encourage engagement. I am greatly honored to have this opportunity to work with dedicated fellow trustees and staff to fulfill this mission for the benefit of all.”
Milstein sits on the Board of the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation and for 13 years was a Commissioner on the New York City Public Design Commission. She was Co-Chair of the New York State Regents Commission on Library Services and has served as a member of the Cornell University Library Council. She is also an inaugural member of the Cambridge University Library Advisory Committee. Formerly, she was an Assistant Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs and Director of Legal Writing and Moot Court at Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School, where she was an adjunct professor. She was Chair of the Board of the New York Legal Assistance Group for 18 years, served as a Trustee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York Fund, Inc, and has been Secretary and Chair of the Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. She also chaired the Governor’s Judicial Selection Committee for the 1st Judicial Department of New York. Milstein was an inaugural member of the Poverty Justice Advisory Board, as well as a trustee at the National Humanities Center and a member of the Cornell University Arts and Sciences Advisory Council.
A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University (Radcliffe), where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School—Milstein has served for many years on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Harvard Law School and was a member of the Law School Visiting Committee and the Visiting Committee for the University Libraries.
The Board of Trustees also named trustee Raymond J. McGuire as Vice Chair and Chair of the Board’s Executive Committee. A member of the Library’s Board of Trustees since 2006, Mr. McGuire left his role as Vice Chairman of Citigroup and Chairman of Citi’s Banking, Capital Markets and Advisory business to pursue public service in 2020 as a candidate for the mayoralty of New York City. During his tenure at the Library he has provided key board leadership and core support through its Annual Fund and yearly benefit events and has served on many Board committees, including his most recent role as Co-Chair of the Nominating Committee from 2014 - 2021.
“I am deeply honored to serve in a leadership role of an institution whose impact across New York City and its neighborhoods has been and will increasingly be profound and critically necessary,” said McGuire. “I am excited about my partnership with our Chair, Abby Milstein who has the breadth and depth of experience and judgment to lead the Library forward.”
McGuire has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to cultural and education institutions, presently serving on a number of boards including the American Museum of Natural History, the Hotchkiss School, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In addition, McGuire currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Hess Corporation, Vornado Realty Trust and KKR & Co., Inc. He is a graduate of Harvard, where he also received his A.B., M.B.A. and J.D. Mr. McGuire was recently presented with the W.E.B Du Bois Medal by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, the highest honor given by Harvard in the field of African and African American studies.
At the meeting, the Board also voted to create a prestigious new category of Trustees, the Board of Advisors, who provide essential counsel, advocacy, and support for the Library. The inaugural class will be chaired by Trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman.
Milstein succeeds Chesler, who will now serve as Chair Emeritus and has been a member of the Library’s Board of Trustees since 2009, becoming Chair in 2014. Under Chesler’s leadership the Library navigated a period of profound change, including a worldwide pandemic and the ongoing recovery. Chesler also steered the Library through the creation of its Midtown Campus, a nexus of learning anchored by the reimagined Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) and the transformation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. During his tenure, the Library vastly increased the breadth and reach of the physical and digital materials available through the Research Libraries, including doubling the number of research volumes available to patrons through the ReCAP partnership with Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard; expanding access to digital collections and launching a scan-and-deliver service during the pandemic; acquiring archives belonging to luminaries such as Tom Wolfe, Martha Graham, James Baldwin, and many others; as well as opening the Library’s first-ever permanent exhibition, the Polonsky Exhibition of the New York Public Library’s Treasures.
Also over this time, the Library’s branches underwent a remarkable transformation: strengthening and growing educational offerings for all ages, most recently, expanding spaces and services to teens with the City’s support; eliminating late fines in 2021; building the Library’s own e-reading app, SimplyE; and, over the past 8 years investing more than $1 billion in capital improvements system wide, including the construction of new branches as well as extensive renovations of several historic locations. Furthering his commitment to children and teens, Chesler, with his wife Barbara, have made an investment to support the development and success of young patrons at Allerton Library, his childhood branch.
“It has been a singular honor to have chaired the board of the New York Public Library for the past eight years, the Library is one of the brightest stars in the constellation of extraordinary cultural institutions that we are so fortunate to have in New York,” said Chesler. “I am confident that Abby Milstein will be a wonderful board chair and that Ray McGuire will be an invaluable partner as they, along with Tony Marx and his leadership team, take this great institution to yet greater heights in service to the people of New York.”
“The Library has experienced a remarkable period of transition—offering enhanced access and support for New Yorkers—and Abby, Evan, and Ray have provided extraordinary guidance and leadership throughout this time of change,” said Anthony W. Marx, President of The New York Public Library. “I am deeply grateful to Evan for his incredible service to the Library and our City. For the past eight years, he has been an insightful and collaborative partner and it has been an honor to work with him. I look forward to continuing that legacy and spirit of partnership with Abby and Ray, and I am excited by the wonderful work we have and will accomplish together.”
About The New York Public Library
For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With over 90 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.