“Third Street is a power house — a place where people can get affordable music lessons and have an opportunity to grow not just as a student but as an individual, ” Executive Director Valerie Lewis said. Over a century after its founding, the Third Street Music Settlement has progressed from teaching piano and violin to offering classes in twenty-five instruments, as well as dance and composition in “every genre from hip-hop to oboe and rock bands to orchestras. ”Third Street was founded by Emily Wagner based on the idea that “music plays a critical role not only in the development of a child but in the advancement of society. ” What began as a music school “expanded beautifully into a full settlement house. ” At one point, Third Street was giving individual lessons and orchestra experiences while also providing temporary housing and even advanced medical procedures. Like many of the settlement houses at the time, it was responding to the needs of the expanding immigrant population of the Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century. Third Street’s focus eventually shifted away from social services and back to music, keeping the word “settlement” in the name as an affirmation of music’s enormous social and cultural power. While classes at Third Street may no longer cost twenty-five cents as they did in the time of Emily Wagner, there is still a place for everyone. Valerie said that Third Street “never turns away a student because of their inability to pay. At the core of what we do is ensuring access. ” What all people at Third Street share is “the elation that comes from playing the simplest notes and the most complicated chords together. ”
Everyday that I am in this city, I discover another reason why I love it, but on the day that I stopped into the Sirovich Center, I was truly proud to be a New Yorker. I could not help but tear up when the caring people I met explained what the mission of their organization is. For over twenty-five years the center has been offering a variety of classes, social events, and counseling in an effort to support Holocaust survivors, seniors, the homeless, and any others of the Jewish faith who are struggling in life. They are cared for and attention is given to each of their specific needs - no one is left to manage life on their own, if they are unable. Within the center is a soup kitchen, Project Ore, which provides family-style kosher meals. The commitment and compassion that everyone shares at the Center is heart-warming. I encourage anyone who is interested to visit their website, and consider helping out.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.