Brooklyn’s Bookish Ambition

Landon McGaw, who is 26 and works as a commercial real estate broker, lives on the Upper West Side but works in Brooklyn. He sees the establishment of the Vanguard as a kind of natural evolution of the fruits of gentrification. (As a commercial real estate broker, he only sees fruits.) “There are a lot of young families, a lot of people coming back to the borough,” said Mr. McGaw. “These people are very sophisticated and involved in other charitable foundations, and the question is, what do we offer them as a borough? What is the next step?” Mr. McGaw is also involved in the early planning stages of a young contributors’ group at the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

Mr. Pemberton, if nothing else, is confident; Kelly Beamon, another committee member, who is a senior editor at This Old House magazine, likened his affect to a politician’s charisma.

Janet Offensend, a fixture on the Brooklyn charitable scene for many years whose husband is the chief financial officer of the NYPL, is a library trustee who has helped marshal the Vanguard through its first few months. “It’s just a natural that there would be people like Kevin who love a good party as well as have a real appreciation for the importance of institutions for the life of Brooklyn,” said Ms. Offensend. “Now that many of them are living in Brooklyn, they’re eager to transplant the notion of a young supporters’ group to the major institutions in Brooklyn.”

Yet it does seem a bit odd that the committee has had little success, if they have reached out at all, with the boldfaced names already living in Brooklyn; a cursory lo
ok at the membership of the NYPL Young Lions Committee indicates at least three prominent names who reside in Brooklyn: Ms. Gyllenhaal, former Daily Show producer Ben Karlin and Frank Rich spawn/Paris Review editor Nathaniel Rich. And what about the clubby literary crowd, the Colson Whiteheads, the Jonathan Safran Foers and Nicole Krausses, the Jennifer Egans, the Brigid Hugheses? Hell, not even a Eugene Mirman? He’s everywhere! It should not be forgotten that the power of celebrity—especially literary celebrity—is an alluring gravitational pull, particularly among the Union Hall set.

Mr. Pemberton seems undaunted. “I think of this as a feeder,” he said. “None of these people had been involved in a structure of such a strong institutional brand. It’s something larger than themselves. I wanted to be able to start a cultural institution that would survive me.”