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Dominican Sunday Community Services - Computer & Learning Center

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Today: 10am–5pm
175 West 107th Street
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Bloomingdale School of Music

What makes the Bloomingdale School of Music unique is an "openness to anyone who comes. " I spoke to Erika Floreska, the director, who described the school's diverse student body to me: ten percent are in early childhood classes and ten percent are adults, with the rest of the participants filling in the ages in between. Additionally, twenty percent of the families who attend Bloomingdale School of Music are in an income bracket of less than $40, 000 per year, thanks to a robust scholarship program. The Bloomingdale School of Music was founded in 1964 by David Greer, the organist at the West End Presbyterian Church. He started out teaching classes in the church's basement before moving to 108th Street in 1972. Erika showed me the school's original sign, which advertises music lessons for fifty cents and a dollar. From the start, Bloomingdale has been "a place where anybody can come and play music. " In 1972, the school moved into its current building. At the time, music education was being removed from the public school system. Therefore, more and more children would walk from school straight to Bloomingdale. Since then, their purpose has remained constant, with the structure shifting slightly to meet the needs and requests of the community. For instance, in 2016, Erika is finding that the vocal department is growing, and more and more students are interested in learning jazz and musical theater styles. The lifeblood of Bloomingdale School is the staff. There are fifty-five instructors who cover over twenty instruments. After showing me various practice rooms, some of which can be rented by outside musicians, and meeting some of the passionate teachers, Erika led me back to the ground floor and out the door to the garden. It was here that I was introduced to people preparing for one of the school's Jam Sessions. The guitar teacher, Gabe, had a barbecue set up and was making food for the event, which would feature anyone who wished to share something - from a three year old who was learning a piece from a lesson, to an older student rehearsing an audition piece for conservatory. At this time, I also met Brandon, the assistant director, who had been involved with the program over twenty years ago, and Ling, who started as a student and now works for the school. I spoke to Monica, who has been a piano teacher for seventeen years and who wrote the history of the school for their website. Erika said that since she has joined the team, she has tried to "build on the community feeling. " She loves that at Bloomindale, everyone is part of a family. In addition to the jam sessions, Bloomingdale has themed concerts throughout the year. These concerts can focus on a specific instrument, such as guitar and piano festivals, or a topic, like "music of the Americas. " Bloomingdale has also started offering composition workshops in conjunction with the New York Philharmonic. Erika confidently stated, "Anyone can compose, " and described the layout of the workshop, which involved both writing one's own as well as playing classmates' pieces. "It's a program that highlights creativity and finding your voice. " Erika then shared a story of how one student wrote something for the recorder, bongos, and violin, since those were the instruments her three friends played. "These kids are serious about this. " In terms of other events, the instructors offer free concerts from October to June that are open to the public, and are a way of bringing high quality musical performances to lower income audiences. When I visited - at the end of August in 2016 - it was the first time that Bloomingdale had offered a summer camp with a specific focus on a book with narration called "The Carnival of the Instruments. " Two of the piano teachers had the idea: the campers, who ranged from six to ten years old, learned the basics of music while also engaging in arts and crafts. They made their own instruments, took part in movement classes, and were taught some piano. Erika said that at the end of the camp session, the kids wrote a song for Bloomingdale, which she described as, "The cutest thing I ever heard. "One of the last touching stories shared with me before leaving took place in 2014 when Bloomingdale had a fiftieth anniversary concert at West End Presbyterian Church, where it all began. A notice was sent out to the school's community, stretching back to its inception, inviting anyone who was interested to come on stage to play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy. " Erika shared that while usually the audience at Bloomingdale attracts about 150 people, during this concert, there were 150 people playing on the stage. The church was jam packed - including people seated up in the balcony - a clear symbol of the great appreciation that has been felt throughout the city for this inspirational school of music.

More places on 107th Street

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East Harlem Bottling Co.

We visited The East Harlem Bottling Company — owned by the husband-and-wife team, Darcie Siciliano and Leo Lauer — when they were celebrating their seven-year anniversary in August 2023. The neighborhood bar is on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 107th Street — and although the majority of customers are local, they are a popular drop-in for visitors to nearby attractions like the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, Museum of the City of New York and El Museo Del Barrio. We were attracted by the choice of outdoor dining, cozy tables and a sunny bar. We chose the bar! There’s a wide menu selection, with everything from fluffy Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes and Dos Waffles to the classic Bottling Co Burger and Buffalo-style Wings. They serve Schaller & Weber's pretzels and a selection of Mac & Cheese for those looking for comfort food. They’ve also found time to open a second venture, Perch — a cocktail and small bites bar, just a few doors down Lexington Avenue. The pandemic put the couple and their business to the test. In the midst of trying to open Perch in Spring of 2020, they were forced to adapt. "So everything got closed down, " Leo recalls. They innovatively sold growlers and worked tirelessly with organizations like Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, providing meals to those in need. "We spent a lot of time in the community, going to people that were having a tougher time than us, " Leo said. The Bottling Company is situated between major New York hospitals — Mount Sinai, Montefiore and Metropolitan. This connection with staff from those medical centers fostered a sense of camaraderie and support during the pandemic, as they provided meals and a place for healthcare workers to unwind. "It's been a roller coaster, but there was a lot of help from the community, " Leo said, expressing gratitude for the support from East Harlem. The couple not only adapted but thrived — from delivering meals to hospitals to turning their dishwashers into delivery guys and buying bikes for their staff, they navigated the storm. "We bought bikes for the dishwasher guys who had no work. We did family meals for all the staff. It was crazy, " Leo shared, reminiscing about the unexpected turns they faced. As Darcie Siciliano and Leo Lauer celebrate seven years in business, the East Harlem Bottling Co has become more than just a bar to the community… and their colorful draft beer chalkboard is cool too!

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Floralies Inc.

Not everyone is an expert in their field before they open a shop - Kostas Panagopoulos, the owner of Floralies, is the perfect example. He opened his flower shop with a partner in 1981 and came into the flower business by accident - looking to try something totally new, he decided that becoming a florist would be his next move. “I had no idea about flowers. I knew what carnations were, and that’s about it, ” Kostas said. Despite his relative lack of knowledge, over the years, Kostas has built a thriving business. Floralies is perhaps best known for its daily service, a feature they started in the New York flower industry many years ago. Kostas sells flowers to many corporations, and then replaces the flowers in the arrangement daily as they wither and die, ensuring that an arrangement looks beautiful for a longer period of time. Though this process was not profitable at first, Floralies made a name for itself, gaining various clients throughout Manhattan. As business grew, Kostas made sure to keep his values close to his heart. “Tell the truth always. It can be unpleasant at the time, but it creates trust with customers and employees, ” he advised. As evidence of their popularity, Kostas was proud to share with Manhattan Sideways that they do not advertise their products or services. “We have spent not one penny on marketing, yet continue to bring in 2, 000 customers a month, simply by word of mouth. ” Kostas then pointed out that this feat is especially amazing considering how long Floralies has been around - he has survived multiple stock market crashes and economic slowdowns, both of which heavily hit his corporate clients throughout the years. When we visited in 2017, we learned that Floralies had recently begun expanding into the event business. While they continue to service their corporate clients and meet with people planning parties, Floralies does not sell retail flowers, preferring to design their beautiful arrangements for larger clients. Kostas has been in the business for several decades but he is happy that is son is taking over in the near future. Looking back on his run, Kostas reminisced, “I’ve been successful because my customers have been satisfied, but more importantly, so have my employees. I look at them as human beings. When they are happy, I am happy, and the business is successful. ”