The staff that provides us with all the news that's fit to print resides in this incredible structure that has entrances on both 40th and 41st Streets. Also referred to as the Times Tower, the building was constructed by the New York Times Company in partnership with others to house their flagship newspaper and related ventures. Upon its completion in 2007, it became the fourth tallest building in New York City, tied for the honor with the nearby Chrysler building and clocking in at nearly a fifth of a mile high (1,046 feet). Standing as it does across the way from a principal entrance to Port Authority, the Times building serves to welcome city newcomers with an ode to one of New York's most prominent and eminent institutions.There are numerous art installations throughout the building, but it is only in the lobby that the public is invited to view their changing exhibits. "Movable Type," is the current show. It is a display of words culled from articles written throughout the paper's history, as well as real-time input from users of its website, and splashed across a series of screens. The snippets, so decontextualized, ring with mystery, emerging from their historical roots to bare themselves self-contained and spur the imagination. It is data as art, news as poetry, and well worth a look.
In 1902, many major companies in Manhattan - such as JP Morgan and Tiffany – had collections of exotic plants and intricate gardens. They formed the Horticultural Society of New York as a forum to exchange information and trade practices in the science of horticulture and the care of these botanical treasures.By 1914, the organization began hosting what might be considered the equivalent of today’s film festivals or fashion weeks: flower shows, where the most modern and extravagant plants could be displayed. “Every state had a flower show at their horticultural society,” explained Executive Director Sara Hobel. “There were competitions at the shows and all the ladies in the suburbs led their own flower clubs.” In addition to the flower exhibitions, the society took on bigger projects, namely the reforestation of French land after World War I.With time, the original aims of horticultural societies lost their appeal; flower shows became less popular, and as people farmed or gardened less and less on their own, their need for information declined too. The times were changing, but the HSNY was determined to change with them.In the 1990s the organization began centering its efforts around social service and urban issues. Their employees work in the field as teachers, therapists and builders – some visit schools to educate the younger generations on urban blight and the role plants and gardens play in society, others use therapeutic gardens to help inmates at Rikers Island or struggling ex-offenders, and some build gardens for places that cannot afford it themselves. Although the Horticultural Society operates mostly in the field, the headquarters on 37th Street still houses a library and organizes workshops and lectures to educate the public on the imperative role of nature and gardens to the community. “Especially for the less well off, who may not be able to afford to plant or eat greens, it is important for us to bridge that gap. We all need to help heal nature,” Hobel says.
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.