On its own personal wiki (wiki. hackmanhattan. com), Hack Manhattan defines itself as a nonprofit public “hackerspace, ” the only one of its kind on the island of Manhattan. A hackerspace is a community work center for constructing, collaborating, and communicating about technology. Unfamiliar with such venues, I was curious as to what I might find when visiting Hack Manhattan. Walking into Hack Manhattan’s second floor workspace I found myself surrounded by shelves and shelves of machine parts and various gadgets organized into countless bins and drawers. In the center of the room, members and visitors lounged at a large communal table, some typing away on their laptops, others participating in a book club meeting. Dave Guan, one of the members at Hack Manhattan, led me around the space. He showed me the workshop members use to construct large-scale projects and the 3D printing station, where I watched a cute little Printerbot spit out a design in green plastic. Dave told me that while Hack Manhattan does participate largely in common hackerspace activities like electronics and coding, they also open the space to lectures in quantum mechanics, “Shakespeare nights, ” and other non-traditional goings on. For instance, using an iPad displaying the day’s selection, Dave gave me a sample of Hack Manhattan’s own draft beer, brewed on site by one of the members who is interested in microbreweries. The tabs on the tap were created using one of the 3D printers, and the hops for the brew were grown in the rooftop garden. Also on the rooftop, one can find crates for beekeeping and a custom built antenna. The group is very accommodating of everyone’s individual interests. When I asked Dave who frequented Hack Manhattan, he replied both hobbyists and professional programmers alike. It is an open space for anyone to exercise their gears of innovation. To do so, stop by one of Hack Manhattan’s regular Tuesday and Thursday open houses.
At the gravitational center of Manhattan stands the Empire State Building, built in 1931 to be the tallest structure in the world and retaining that title for forty years. While other buildings may scrape higher skies, few can capture the imagination as does this towering symbol of our favorite metropolis. A few fun facts: a virtual tour of New York City, Skyride, is available inside, as is a trip to the celestial observation deck. After the tragic fall of the World Trade Centers, the Empire State Building was again, briefly, the tallest building in New York before recently being surpassed by the Freedom Tower - One World Trade Center. It is, however, currently the tallest LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) building in the United States, to which we tip our hats.
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.
Nicknamed “The Batcave” for the emblem painted on the floor on the walkway inside, this particular fire station has been an active part of the FDNY’s network since 1865. Previously, it had been a Metropolitan Fire station starting in 1861, and before that it was run by volunteer firefighters. Firefighter Alex Laird was kind enough to give the Manhattan Sideways team a full tour of the historic building. The establishment is so old that it used to house horse drawn engines. Some of the original architecture still remains, most notably the spiral staircase that now sits alongside the modern fireman’s pole. Sadly, this firehouse lost five members in the attacks on 9/11. The station still has the original flag and radio from that day and has them on display out of respect for their fallen brothers.
The location was renamed in 2023 as The Flatiron Room Murray Hill. This feature was first published in September 2017. Fine & Rare, shorthand for “fine food and rare spirits” is the latest creation of Tommy Tardie, restaurateur and owner of the Flatiron Room on West 26th Street. In contrast to the more common restaurant theme of the 1920s and 30s, which Tommy considers to have “played out, ” Fine & Rare aims to be an aristocratic parlor straight out of the 1950s, modeled after classic Manhattan hideaways such as The Explorers Club. “The challenge was getting it to look like the Flatiron Room - old world, almost like we discovered it, ” Tommy told the Manhattan Sideways team. The space has had other lives as a Japanese restaurant and a photocopy center - Tommy said that when he first saw the space, it was raw, with concrete floors that had holes them and wires hanging from the ceiling. In 2016, it became a little slice of vintage Manhattan, complete with a repurposed teller booth from Grand Central Station serving as the hosts’ stand. The wallpaper is finely textured with glass and sand, and the stainless steel ceilings are reclaimed parts from a former distillery. Descending into the restaurant, we walked on 125-year-old floorboards from Connecticut that have the names of the restaurant’s investors carved into it. Two of these investors are Tommy’s young sons, River and Sawyer, who each made a $1 investment in the establishment in order to garner a place on the floor. Hanging above the booths are pieces of taxidermy that Tommy believes “bring in some more old world charm. ”The room is large, but because the tables are isolated from one another, each setting is intimate and unique. “Wherever you are in the restaurant, you feel like you’re in your own area. ” Each side of the dining room features a fireplace: one has hand carved marble from Italy, and the other is repurposed from the door of a country schoolhouse. The jazz stage provides a theatrical ambience to the space without overpowering it. “We want the performance to enhance, but not be, the experience. There’s always a show going on even if nothing is onstage. ” The walls are decked out with the restaurant’s inventory of over 1000 bottles, which Tommy noted are, “part of the architecture. ” Some sit atop high shelves and can only be reached by ladders, which members of the staff will climb throughout the night. Others sit in the caged bottle keep, with personalized labels that can be bought. “New York is all about showmanship - people love to put their name on something. ” The back elevated room holds up to thirty-five people and is used for tastings and private events. It has a few hidden elements of its own, including a chandelier and leather and steel door from a masonic hall. While speaking with Tommy, the Manhattan Sideways team sampled a few of the restaurant's scrumptious items, including the burrata served with arugula and an assortment of fruits, the short rib burger, the seafood Cobb salad, and the Greek grain bowl with quinoa, mint, and beet humus. While the Flatrion Room focuses largely on whiskey, Fine & Rare features cocktails with tequila, rum, and brandy. This does not mean that they do not still have some amazing whiskey options, such as the breathtaking smoked Old Fashioned that was presented to us to photograph and then sip. Tommy began his professional career as a creative director in advertising on Madison Avenue, but realized after a dozen years that he was craving something more exciting. “The higher I got on the corporate ladder, the less creative it got. It lost that cool factor. ” He resolved to go the route of the entrepreneur, initially with a few clubs, and later with the Flatiron Room and eventually Fine & Rare in 2017. “With this one, I decided to make the demographic and design a place I’d like to go, as opposed to previous projects that centered on reaching a specific consumer base. " Tommy also remarked on how Fine & Rare is the result of the trial and error from past ventures: “This is as if I got to do it again and I could do it better. I think entrepreneurs are genetically coded to forget how difficult it can be starting out, but a new project is fun. It makes your heart pump and your adrenaline go. ”
Despite his Irish background, having grown up in Dublin and owning a few bars and restaurants there, Nick's bars and lounges in Manhattan are all about America. I am certain that his training abroad did him well, as he has been quite successful in New York for over twenty years. He began with a club in Tribeca and then moved uptown where he now runs four pubs. Nick admits that Stitch is showing its age as it has been around for quite some time, but he continues to try to" keep it fresh. " And Nick went on to say, "we are a user friendly venue. " We found it to be a warm welcoming place to come by for a drink and some solid American food - the hamburgers and wings are the specialty. We shared the Lingerie (the cocktails are each cleverly named for something represented in the fashion district... thus the name Stitch, the main event. ) Filled with vanilla vodka, amaretto, coco lopez, honey, pineapple juice and a touch of cranberry, our drink went down smoothly and was an interesting twist on a pina colada.
A line out the door at lunchtime certainly caught my attention. When I inquired, I was told that the food is fresh, the sandwiches are terrific, and that their Mediterranean menu is worth the wait. Thus, the Manhattan Sideways team queued up along side everyone else, as who would not trust the word on the street? Meeting the two animated Israeli owners, David and Yariv, was an added bonus, as we secured one of the few tables to sit and eat our freshly made dishes. We eagerly delved into the bowl of hummus, the hot pressed mozzarella sandwich and the strips of zucchini with lemon, olive oil and toasted almonds. We left with a full understanding of why people are willing to stand on line. Although, we also learned that Picnic Basket is expanding their kitchen in an effort to accommodate more people at a faster pace.