While the public is obviously not welcome within the school grounds, we still recommend walking by and admiring the outdoor area. With a giant and colorful, endearingly bizarre mural on the side of the building next to the playground, and a community garden tended by the students and teachers, we imagine this is a wonderful learning environment.
New York is one of the only places in the world where local high schools double as vocational schools, giving students the chance to receive training in their specific areas of passion. I would have never imagined that there was a high school for fashion, and yet of course, here in Manhattan there is. The High School of the Fashion Industries began in 1926 as the Central Needle Trades High School, located in a garment loft on 26th Street. Most of the students were immigrants or children of immigrants, and came to the school to be trained as part of the workforce for the fashion industry booming in New York City. A new school building was opened in 1940, allowing for the attendance of many more students. The original curriculum was almost entirely vocational, but over the years has changed to offer students the choice of several different majors within the art and fashion fields, while simultaneously preparing them for a college education. Even for those of us not particularly versed in the world of fashion, it is always fun to see what creative young people can do when given the proper support and encouragement.
Established in 1874, Westpfal continues to provide premium knives and tools for leatherwork, as well as to sharpen high-end knives for restaurants across New York City. The leather tools available are of the same ilk as the 1930s tools available oh-so-many years ago and are used by fashion designers from Coach to Dooney & Burke. On any given day, one can stop by and find a regular New Yorker, or even folks from out of town, coming in to have their own knives and scissors sharpened by the highly regarded team of workers.When the Manhattan Sideways stopped in for a visit during the summer of 2017, we had the pleasure of meeting Carmilla Wigman, who has been working at Henry Westpfal for over sixty-five years. She was kind enough to share some of the history of the shop. Carmilla pointed out a display board of vintage cutlery from 1931, which she referred to as “her pride and joy.” She also showed us a pair of scissors that was previously owned by John F. Kennedy Jr. and were used in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopening of Grand Central Station in 1998. Westpfal now rents these scissors out for similar ceremonies.Unfortunately, one can no longer watch and wait as knives are put on the machines, as they have had to move their factory to New Jersey. It is an example of the age-old story: Rent became a factor on the side streets of Manhattan for Westpfal.Who are their biggest clients almost 150 years later? The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is, as students majoring in leather purchase tools for crafting handbags, belts, and shoes, and numerous chefs who frequent Westpfal to have their personal knives sharpened.
With all the centers we have discovered dedicated to children, pets, students, and shoppers, it was refreshing and intriguing to come upon Senior Planet – “the country’s first technology themed center for over-60s.” The center offers courses, skill-shares, workshops, special events and lecture series that help senior citizens deal with the ever-changing technological world. 22 computers, 3 Skype stations, a gaming area, a projector, mobile devices and a lounge create a space that one might think is fit for a youngster, but is, in fact, the perfect space for the senior folks. “Aging with attitude” is their motto. Computer basics, advanced computing, introduction to the iPad, digital photography, social networking and more are all taught in a welcoming environment. What a brilliant concept!