After growing up in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan and attending Haverford College briefly before attending Northwestern University for 2 ½ years, Manheim left to volunteer for the U.S. Army peace-time draft between the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Next he went to the Columbia Undergraduate School for General Studies and moved to Brooklyn Heights in March of 1960.
“I wanted college to be like a nine-to-five job,” he said, “so I moved to Brooklyn Heights because it reminded me of Gramercy Park, where I grew up.”
Manheim went on to join several local civic organizations – he became president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, along with Chair of the Planning Committee and vice chair of the Parks and Transportation Committees at Community Board 2.
That's when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approached him about a plan to shut down piers one through six under the Brooklyn Bridge.
“We thought the best thing to do with [the land] was to make a park,” he said.
However, Manheim's idea of a park follows that of turn-of-the-Century landscaper and public administrator Frederick Law Olmsted, which is not always the same as the city's vision.
“There's been a great momentum to create an urban waterfront park and we're yet to see that happen,” Manheim, who now sits on the community advisory council for the city-owned Brooklyn Bridge Park entity, said. “Lawns and running tracks and bike paths are really not what an urban park was intended to be.”
One of the greatest challenges while working with the park, he said, is fighting the city's push use the area's fertile land for housing purposes.
“A respite from the noise and stress of the manmade environment by having a natural place of quiet or poise or sort of things you can find in nature,” are qualities a park should have, Manheim said – which is what he fights for.
“There should be a significant component of that, and there is not.”