Alumni of not only Princeton, but also Columbia (212 719 0380) and recently, Williams College graduates (212 697 5300), are invited to be members of this private club. There is a vast library collection, squash courts, a gym, over night guest rooms, and of course, a restaurant.
Having spent much of my younger days on a sailboat, and experiencing motion sickness every time, it was with some trepidation that I approached the New York Yacht Club. Fortunately, this magnificent beaux-arts structure has been firmly anchored on 44th Street since its dedication in 1901. Although it no longer houses the coveted America's Cup trophy, the stern-like windows decorated with seashells and dripping seaweed on the facade, and the well-known Model Room on the inside, still provide enough attraction for mariners and landlubbers alike.
Founded in 1889 by Cornell grads as a bastion for their kindred, the club began renting out space for their gathering activities in 1900. After bouncing around midtown, they moved into its current home in the late 1980s. Today, the space serves as a comfortable spot to congregate with fellow alums. In addition to their restaurant, there is a gym, library, and overnight guest rooms for members.
“If you’re going to the theater, you go to Tony’s, ” said Dreni Kyqykaliu, the restaurant’s general manager. Those en route to a Broadway show are a good portion of their clientele, nearby office workers make up the lunch rush, and tourists pop in during breaks between sightseeing. “The blessing of being in Times Square is having all these groups come in. ”Anyone who has visited Tony’s will be familiar with their signature, massive portions of food that are meant to be shared family-style. This adherence to simple but hearty cooking is a trademark of the people that started Tony’s: the Wetansons. (They founded the now-dissolved 1950s burger chain, Wetson’s, which later merged with iconic hot dog vendor, Nathan’s Famous. ) Four generations of Wetansons have run this network of casual dining establishments that also includes Dallas BBQ. Unlike other large companies, however, Greg Wetanson, his father, Herb, and his son, Stuart, remain closely involved in the day-to-day operations and run things as a family business. Thanks to this amiable atmosphere, “Most of the management and the chefs have been here for twenty plus years, ” said Dreni, who joined Tony’s shortly after it opened in the 1990s.
When the City of New York acquired this lot to house Engine 65 in 1895, clubs and residents around the area feared it would disturb the peace. Having calls since their very first night on the job, and as the first responder to Times Square, it became clear that the service was needed and soon became wildly appreciated. One of the firemen, Chris, told me this was something he had always wanted to do. “I love the camaraderie between the guys, ” he said, a theme that seems to reoccur throughout all Manhattan fire stations.