Sutton Clocks is what we at Manhattan Sideways refer to as a true hidden gem. The low shop was lined on both sides with clocks dating back to the eighteenth century, set to different times. I understood why they all displayed different hours when the first one chimed and I imagined the deafening roar that would result if the thousands of clocks went off at once. Sebastian Laws, the youngest son of the original owner, met me at the door. His father, Knud Christenson, came to the United States from Denmark in the 1940s. He initially partnered with Kay Yeager, who owned Sutton Trading, a pawn shop. Knud was a Renaissance man and worked at many things, including importing fish and building furniture, but he quickly found his niche fixing clocks. He began working from a small loft on 61st Street. Sebastian told me how his father recognized a passion for fixing things and working with small parts in his youngest child and took Sebastian on as an apprentice. Sebastian took over the business in the 1990s, and when he lost his lease in 2012, he found this quaint space on 82nd Street. He is excited to have his first store front and to live in a relatively quiet neighborhood again after witnessing 61st Street turn into an extension of midtown. The clocks on display, which are all for sale, come from a variety of sources, including having been abandoned by previous owners. Sebastian pointed to a deep green one that resembled a portal on a submarine, saying that it dated back to 1780. His favorite clock on the wall, however, was a sturdy American clock with early twentieth century lettering, which he called a “strong workhorse. ” Though he now has the space to put clocks on the wall for retail purposes, his main occupation is repairing clocks. People bring him clocks of all shapes and sizes, from mantle clocks to fantastic grandfather clocks. When I asked him if there was a particular kind of clock that was most difficult to fix, he responded without hesitation: “cuckoo clocks. ” He then went on to explain that the Swiss souvenirs are often built as tourist traps rather than trusty timepieces. When I thought that I had seen all that there was to appreciate in this minute space, Sebastian guided me to his worktable in the back, which was surrounded by gears, pendulums, various tools of the trade, and hundreds more time pieces. For the most part, Sebastian’s siblings have not been involved in their father’s business, beyond doing some sweeping in the store and other odd jobs as children. Sebastian’s brother James, however, recently joined him to help with the administrative side of things, in an effort to allow Sebastian to focus on the hands-on work. “I enjoy solving puzzles, ” Sebastian told me. Though he learned a lot from his father, he admitted that his most valuable training came from the job itself, since each clock is different and must be examined as its own unique puzzle. At a certain point, he started repairing barometers along with clocks. He informed me that though the mechanisms are completely different, barometers are often lumped into the same pile as timepieces. Sebastian went on to tell me that his customers come not only from every part of the city, but from all over the country and around the world. He mentioned that quite a few regulars were also his father’s clients. He has a fascinating outlook on his career. He loves that the clocks that he handles each have a special tactile history. By looking at the markings on a clock, he can get into the head of the original horologist who made it and can track the life of the timepiece. He pointed out that a man who built a clock in London in the 1800s probably did not imagine that it would end up in Sebastian’s hands in New York in the twenty-first century. Similarly, one day in the future, horologists will trace clocks back to Sebastian and know when they passed through Manhattan.
All parents throughout New York, locals and tourists alike, should know about the educational and transformative experience of the Children's Museum of Manhattan. The 83rd Street institution, although it opened in 1973, has been at its current location since 1989. It is an extraordinary (not to mention really fun! ) resource for both kids and adults. I happened to visit during the week that constitutes winter break for New York schools, and so I witnessed an incredible amount of excitement and enthusiasm on each of the floors. Children as young as a few weeks old were in their mother's arms or being pushed in a stroller while their siblings were running around, checking out the interactive exhibits. Almost every aspect of the museum had something to push, touch, or listen to, giving children a tactile way of learning and remembering. I received an eye-opening tour from David Rios, the Director of Public Programs, who guided me from the fifth floor back to ground level. An exhibit called Playworks, designed for early learning, is located upstairs. For more than ten years, the museum's team worked side by side with child development experts to create a space where little ones can enhance their motor skills and problem-solving abilities. I enjoyed standing on the sidelines and observing children climbing in and out of a large wooden FDNY truck, a NYC bus, and a deli with plastic foods. As David explained, "Some museums have a supermarket, but we're in New York, so we have a deli. "I was amazed by how often the museum catered to varying age levels within the same space. For example, in the Movers and Shakers section, older children could learn math and physics by building mini roller coasters while younger siblings could crawl through tunnels and slide down slides. I was delighted to see parents participating with their children: this is definitely a museum where entire families can enjoy themselves, and children's learning is enhanced by parental guidance. Though there are plenty of buttons that encourage children to learn on their own, there is also signage so that parents can provide a further explanation to their kids. The museum is designed so that parents and older children do not feel intimidated or shy about trying out the different exhibits. As David stated so nicely, "This is a fun, non-judgmental environment for all ages to learn. "Continuing on, I entered The Lab, where children can read stories, sing songs, and learn more about art and science. All of the writing and sound bites are bilingual, since Spanish-speaking families make up such a significant portion of New York City's population. David told me that The Lab sometimes holds special events, such as a visit from members of Alvin Ailey, who danced with the children in an effort to teach them about movement. The next room took Peek-a-Boo to a whole new level with a digital version of the game and in the following room, I had to laugh out loud as I explored the digestive system, complete with a talking toilet. The grand finale of the tour was the America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far special exhibit that is running from February 2016 - February 2017. The visually compelling exhibit is a multimedia exploration of the diversity of Muslim cultures within the United States and abroad. It is a collaboration between the museum's staff and members of the Muslim community and is an ingenious way of introducing children to topical cultural differences in an age-appropriate way. For example, there is a section where kids can press buttons to smell a variety of fruits and spices, as well as a collection of "Objects and Stories from American Muslim Homes. " Some other highlights included a life-size camel, musical instruments, and a virtual reality room that allows visitors to explore the architectural styles of different mosques. I was pleased to find out Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the exhibit. He has stated, "With America to Zanzibar, children will have the chance to learn about Muslim cultures in an engaging and thoughtful way. We only grow stronger when we embrace and celebrate the multitude of cultural backgrounds that make up New York. "
The Metropolitan Republican’s Club began its life in 1902 as the Republican Club of the 29th District. It originally met on Madison Avenue before moving to the Croyden Hotel in 1929. The current clubhouse was built in 1930. Past and present members include Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Michael R. Bloomberg, and Rudolph Giuliani.
Taka Tokuyama came to the US from Tokyo in 2004. He began his career in New York working not only in salons, but also as a hair stylist for fashion shows and some leading magazines. In 2011, he decided that it was time to launch his own brand. The first business that he opened was on 83rd Street. He immediately drew customers from the neighborhood, and he is proud to say that many of the celebrities he worked with over the years also frequent the salon. In 2013, he opened another space in the East Village, followed more recently in 2016, with one in Tribeca. Each week, Taka divides his time as evenly as possible, accommodating his clients at all three of his salons.
When I knocked on the door to Engine Company 74, two firemen sprinted to the door and opened it with big grins on their faces. It was quite a welcome, and another example of how New York's firemen are consistently friendly and kind. The disposition of the two men clashed with the ominous dinosaur skull that marks their doors, but I soon learned the reason for the design: the doors to the firehouse used to be painted black, and so other firemen would often accidentally miss the building while looking for it, earning the company the nickname "The Lost World. " It also helps that the Museum of Natural History, home to a vast collection of dinosaur bones, is a few blocks away. The company started on 77th Street, with Hook and Ladder 25. Engine Company 56 occupied the 83rd Street building, which had been donated to the FDNY by Harry M. Archer, doctor and Deputy Chief of the fire department. His donation, however, came with a special stipulation: the building had to always house a fire truck, or else the property would revert back to his family. Engine Company 56 was disbanded in 1960 and replaced, in the same firehouse, with Squad Company 6. According to James Riordan, a former member of Squad Company 6, their initial apparatus was a hose wagon, then a van, and eventually a pumper before they, too, were disbanded in 1972. The Squad 6 firefighters were assigned to the then newly formed Ladder 59 in the Bronx, and Engine 74 moved in. In addition to its interesting origin story, Engine Company 74 has another element that makes it stand out from other companies: A Dalmatian. We met Yogi, the twelve year old dog who is the firehouse's mascot. He has also become a neighborhood icon, to the extent that when Yogi got sick, the community raised $7, 000 for his medical bills. I learned that Dalmatians are associated with fire departments because back when there were horses and buggies, rather than fire trucks, Dalmatians were discovered to be the best at keeping the horses on course. Sadly, not many firehouses still have Dalmatians, which is all the more reason why Engine Company 74 shows Yogi so much love. They raised him from a pup, and the fireman admitted that the canine has spent more time in the house on 83rd Street than any of men. As I said my goodbyes to the firemen, I mentioned that firemen were consistently the friendliest, most optimistic people on the side streets. One of the firemen nodded, "Of course – it's the best job in the world. You get to help people. "