Guarded throughout the day and evening by friendly gentlemen, who were kind enough to allow me entry one afternoon (no photos allowed), I was in total awe of what was once upon a time the headquarters of the Bowery Savings Bank. Built across the way from Grand Central (and not to be confused with the Cipriani Dolci restaurant inside the terminal) in 1921, the Italian Romanesque Revival structure is considered one of the most spectacular in Manhattan with its chandeliers, marble columns, inlaid floors and incredibly high ceilings. Today, the lavish lobby is used to host private events.
In 1919, America's first major tabloid newspaper, the Daily News, was founded. In need of a home in 1929, the paper began construction on the Daily News Building, completing it a year later. The bold vertical stripes by architect Raymond Hood influenced his design of the subsequent Rockefeller Center. No longer headquarters to the Daily News (the paper moved out in 1995), it is still a showstopper, as it was the home of the Daily Planet in 1978's Superman. Remaining in the lobby is the enormous globe (although it is a bit out of date geopolitically), spinning slowly twenty-four hours a day. The lobby is visually striking, with the globe sitting under a black dome meant to simulate the cosmos. A compass of marble surrounds the globe, pointing the way to other cities, while astronomical measurements are detailed in ornate script. It is a spectacular site to behold for anyone in the vicinity.
Built originally in the mid-1800s, Sniffen Court encompasses a small alleyway running between two quaint rows of brick buildings. With vegetation lending further tranquility to the scene, a wrought-iron gate protects it from the public. The buildings, which were once stables, have now been repurposed into commercial, residential and artistic spaces. Next door, the historic and private Amateur Comedy Club hosts shows performed by, and for, members. Sniffen Court now appears on the National Register of Historic Places.
An iconic piece of the New York skyline, the Chrysler building was the tallest building in the world upon its completion in 1930, before being surpassed eleven months later by the Empire State Building. To this day, however, the building remains a masterpiece of Art Deco in the center of Manhattan, an ever-present point by which to navigate while meandering through the side streets. Upon the buildings completion, fifty-five of the seventy-seven floors were used as office space, with the upper twenty-two a mixture of luxe dining rooms and a penthouse living space for Walter Chrysler (of automotive fame). Unlike others in the city, the Chrysler is not for tourists. The lobby is old-world and attractive, but that is all that visitors are allowed to view. No taking the elevator to the highest floor to gaze out over New York, although the crown it wears atop its impressive frame as it gazes skyward ensures that it will continue to capture the imagination of each of us from the ground.
A boutique luxury hotel, run by the Spanish company, Eurostars, Dylan brings a European flair to midtown hospitality. The connected Benjamin's Steakhouse, one of the finest in the city, offers breakfast and room service for hotel guests. The building that the hotel occupies was once the Chemists' Club, which played host to a group of chemists meeting for reasons professional and social but ultimately moved further north. The building still bears the Chemists' Club name outside, which adds an air of alchemy to the facade.
Enormous, vaulted, well-lit, intricately worked, marble, historic – this masterpiece of a train station is positively exquisite. Constructed atop the footprint of two previous stations, Grand Central opened its doors in 1913 and immediately became a center of gravity for the city. Soon thereafter, a mini-city was built to cater to the traffic coming through the terminal, and later on, portions of the building were used as television studios, art galleries, and sports clubs. In 1947, during the station's apex, roughly sixty-five million people passed through the station. Today, commuters are able to dine in its fine restaurants and other eateries, or shop in the numerous retail businesses, gift shops and boutiques, visit the offshoot of the New York Transit Museum and wander down the aisle of the Grand Central Food Hall. A little more than half way through its history, plans were being discussed to build atop the terminal or to demolish it for other purposes. It was Jackie Kennedy Onassis, however, who can claim responsibility for having initiated the process of bringing the station back to its original splendor in the 1970s. In a press conference at the famed Oyster Bar in Grand Central, she remarked, "If we don't care about our past, we can't have very much hope for our future. " History has smiled on that statement, as the station remains one of New York's grandest buildings and most stunning landmarks.
Manuel Uzhca's story reads like a fairytale. He came to New York from Ecuador when he was seventeen with absolutely nothing to his name and spent time as a dishwasher in a number of restaurants. He met Jean-Claude Baker when both were working at Pronto, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. In 2011, Jean-Claude offered Manuel the position of manager at Chez Josephine — little did Manuel know that only four years later, the restaurant would belong to him. Manuel still recalls the day that Jean-Claude asked him to bring in his passport. Confused by his request, Manuel chose not to comply. Jean-Claude teased Manuel by saying, “If you don't bring your passport, that means you don't want my restaurant. ” The next day, still perplexed, Manuel presented his passport. Jean-Claude marched the two of them to the bank and added Manuel's name to his account, giving him permission to sign checks for the restaurant. Shortly after, Jean-Claude announced that he was retiring, but Manuel did not take him seriously. Jean-Claude then told him that he was leaving and insisted, “I won't be back. ” Jean-Claude proceeded to his attorney's office, changed his will, and went off to the Hamptons. He called Manuel to make sure that everything was in order at the restaurant, and then, very sadly, Jean-Claude took his own life. “I did not believe I owned the place, not even when they showed me the will, ” Manuel declared. Jean-Claude was the last of the children adopted into singer-dancer Josephine Baker’s “Rainbow Tribe, ” created with a mission of racial harmony. He lived and performed with her for a time before making his way to New York and eventually opening this restaurant. It quickly became a haven for Broadway clientele, known for its charming and colorful ambiance as much as its haute cuisine. Since taking over in 2015, Manuel has continued running this famed French restaurant exactly how Jean-Claude left it — paying homage to Josephine Baker, who captured the Parisian imagination in the 1920s and did not let go for decades.
Opened on May 23, 1911 on the site of a former reservoir, this main branch of the New York Public Library is a true wonder of the city. Upon its completion, it was the largest marble structure in the United States, and the classical design elements ensure that it remains as breathtaking now as it was then. In 1965, it became a National Historic Landmark. The Main Reading Room is an enormous hall, with murals and intricate relief work lording overhead and large, open windows allowing for bright sunlight to pour across the books being huddled over. Small exhibitions to art and cultural histories pepper the halls. The entire structure is truly a pleasure to explore, one of the grandest and most wonderful buildings in the entire city, and we spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the halls in a book-drunk daze trying to absorb it all.
Known as the "Center for Social Change, " the Ford Foundation has been committed to helping the world be a better place since 1936. They work diligently to "protect human rights, reform governments, provide education opportunities and create space for artistic creativity and expression. " Without a doubt, one of Manhattan's finest atriums greets visitors. Entering the glass structure from either 42nd or 43rd Street, a world of green awaits. There are trees, plants, a fountain and short paths to wander through. The atrium is a hidden oasis in the middle of the city.
As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.