Reflections On New York Billionaire David Rockefeller Sr., From His Granddaughter Ariana

Susan Rockefeller, David Rockefeller Sr., Ariana Rockefeller and Agnes Gund. The Museum of Modern Art Party in the Garden © Photo by ddp USA/REX/Shutterstock (5701806ai)
Susan Rockefeller, David Rockefeller Sr., Ariana Rockefeller and Agnes Gund. The Museum of Modern Art Party in the Garden © Photo by ddp USA/REX/Shutterstock (5701806ai)
On the night of the NYBG’s Winter Wonderland ball back in December, I sat down with Ariana Rockefeller to discuss her grandfather, David Rockefeller Sr., and the importance of carrying on family tradition.

The evening entertainment was just starting to heat up after dinner and Ariana was mingling with her (very glamorous) friends in a floor-length shimmering black gown. Rather than become annoyed at the prospect of chatting with an unknown journalist, she drifted off the dance floor to discuss her philanthropic grandfather, David Rockefeller Sr., and his connection to New York City’s greatest garden.

“My grandparents [David & Peggy Rockefeller]…have had an ongoing relationship with the New York Botanical Garden” said Ariana that evening.

Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, New York Botanical Garden © Kristine Paulus/ Flickr

Peggy was known to be an avid horticulturist and conservationist, with a particular penchant for roses, and in 1988, Mr. Rockefeller had the Rose Garden dedicated to her soon after she passed away. “My grandfather still has his birthday lunch every year in the garden,” Ariana said. “As a 2nd year chairwoman of the ball, the Botanical Garden holds wonderful family traditions, particularly the love of gardening and the educational programming,” she added.

The Rockefeller influence couldn’t be missed inside the ball either: one of the most beautiful structures inside the holiday show was actually a miniature replica of the Rockefeller Center. “There’s such an attention to detail in these mini-structures,” Ariana said. “It’s a great New York tradition. I feel such a wonderful connection with my own history [here in New York], as well as the botanical history and the beauty of nature.”

Winter Wonderland Ball, Dec. 9, 2016 © Amber C. Snider

I asked her what made the Winter Wonderland ball so special, and the Rockefeller heir offered a sincere smile and introspective response – quite different than the general atmosphere of the evening. She spoke of the beauty and wildness of nature and also human’s ability to tame it. But more importantly, she highlighted that her connection to the gardens is rooted in family tradition: they were special because they were special to her family, particularly her grandfather, who was 101 years old.

In a ballroom full of socialites, all cognizant of their place as the next generation of New York’s elite, the glittering scene pulsing with electronic music felt like a far stretch from what her grandfather may have experienced decades before.

Eric Goldie, Natalie Bloomingdale, James Bloomingdale, Jeremy Batoff, Ariana Rockefeller, Elizabeth Kurpis New York Botanical Gardens Winter Wonderland Ball, New York, USA - 09 Dec 2016 © Clint Spaulding/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Glowing, surprisingly humble, and definitively aware of her place as a Rockefeller, Ariana noted that part of family tradition has to do with keeping up family ties. With Natalie Bloomingdale nearby on the dance floor, Ariana remarked that their grandparents were friends and that it was only natural for them to become the next generation of friends.
“Our grandparents were friends, and we became the next generation of friends. It’s really nice to carry on traditions in the modern generation.”

Mr. David Rockefeller Sr. passed away on March 20, 2017. He was 101 years old.