At a reception for potential donors to the Phoenicia Library building fund, library board members announced that the structure on Main Street will be named in honor of the late Marilyn Dershowitz, whose husband, attorney Nathan Dershowitz, has made a substantial donation to the planned construction. Marilyn was a devoted library patron for four decades, visiting the library on weekends when her family drove up from New York City to their second home in Woodland Valley.
Donations will go to the proposed renovation and expansion of the library building that was gutted by fire in March of 2011. The board is seeking final approval for the project from the Shandaken planning board on Wednesday, March 13, and hopes to start construction in mid-May, although a lawsuit by the building’s neighbors threatens to derail the process.
Marilyn’s daughter, Rana Dershowitz, an attorney like many other members of her well-known family, remarked, “To know that I can come back here, and there will be a permanent recognition of my mom — it means a lot.” Marilyn was hit by a postal truck while bicycling in Manhattan in July 2011.
Nat Dershowitz is the brother of high-profile attorney Alan Dershowitz and has participated with him in many prominent cases, defending O.J. Simpson, Leona Helmsley, Mike Tyson, and other celebrities. Marilyn was a judge, a special referee who handled cases that did not involve jury trials. Rana is general counsel for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and her brother, Adam, said Nat, “is literally a rocket scientist.”
Board member Rebecca Ffrench, who hosted the reception in her Woodland Valley home, said Nat approached the board last year asking how he could help, just four weeks before the application deadline for a substantial matching fund grant. His donation, along with his fundraising efforts among friends and family, enabled the library to apply for the state grant, which will, if received, put the library just $200,000 away from its goal of $800,000.
Rana told the guests at the reception, “My parents first brought me up here when I was one year old. From day one, Mom would bring us to the library. We didn’t have TV. We came in and read books. It would have been easy to buy books, but Mom loved having books that aren’t yours, that are shared with the community.”