Known as the "Center for Social Change, " the Ford Foundation has been committed to helping the world be a better place since 1936. They work diligently to "protect human rights, reform governments, provide education opportunities and create space for artistic creativity and expression. " Without a doubt, one of Manhattan's finest atriums greets visitors. Entering the glass structure from either 42nd or 43rd Street, a world of green awaits. There are trees, plants, a fountain and short paths to wander through. The atrium is a hidden oasis in the middle of the city.
For Sammy, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, walking into the Overlook, and "being hit by the smell of burgers and beer, was a feast for the nose and an appropriate cologne for any watering hole worth its salt. " For me, I was initially intrigued by the back walls filled with what were clearly drawings by an accomplished cartoonist. In chatting with the owner, we learned of its storied past. Inspired by James Thurber who, in the 1940s and 50s, use to draw on the walls of a nearby bar in an effort to reduce his drinking tabs, the Daily News cartoonist, Bill Gallo continued this tradition and made his mark, decades ago, on the walls of what was then called Costello's. Years later, he was asked back to add more of his illustrations on the other side. Today, both walls are filled with entertainment, particularly to those of us who remember many of the characters being depicted. A bar's bar, ultimately named the Overlook offers ales galore and TVs aplenty, enough to serve as host of New York's Chicago Bears fan club. A rooftop deck offers a place to unwind during the warmer months. The Overlook is helped by the steady flow of customers from the hotel on one side and apartment building on the other.
Between Second and Third Avenue, dwarfed by much taller buildings on either side, is a lovely hidden oasis called Greenacre Park. Created by the Rockefellers to provide New Yorkers with "some moments of serenity in a busy world, " the park offers a bit of unhurried tranquility to neighborhood residents and those tourists lucky enough to stumble across it. I came there after lunch and sat on one of the low wooden benches, enjoying the mid-afternoon sunlight as it filtered down through a thick leafy canopy. Around me were friends catching up over coffee, suit-clad professionals taking a break from work and parents exploring with their children. Although filled with people, the park never felt busy or crowded: it is unexpectedly large, extending far enough back to allow several levels of seating and to have a 25-foot waterfall — the most remarkable and dynamic feature. Folded into the side of the park, there is a small, unimposing kiosk. Falls Cafe sells coffee, breakfast sandwiches, pastries and fruit. The man behind the counter commented to me, "This is the best place I ever worked, " and turning around to capture his view, I understood why: he looks directly out at the waterfall.
Spending enough time dining at Ethos, it is easy to forget that they are located at the corner of 51st and First Avenue, instead of perched overlooking the ocean somewhere along the western coast of Greece. The only thing missing is a light sea breeze coming through one of the restaurant's wide-open windows. And the longer I chatted with the manager, Stamathis Pelardis, the more I learned about the restaurant and their overwhelming commitment to its heritage. The food is not the only thing that is Hellenic - the entire interior, including the exposed beams supporting the ceiling - were shipped from the Isle of Rhodes, making for one of the most authentic Greek dining experiences possible outside of the country itself. In addition, there are paintings by Greek artists adorning the walls, as Ethos is also a gallery, with changing exhibits every few months. The restaurant's specialty is seafood; there are whole fish offered on their dinner menu, including Mid-Atlantic Wild Bass and Dover Sole. The nautical theme is reflected in the aesthetic of the restaurant. The walls and tables are white, with navy blue accents, and the paintings on the wall, when I visited, depicted seafaring scenes in shades of cobalt and azure. The restaurant's interior is clean and open, with high ceilings and a bar in the center of the room. It is there that I found guests leisurely sipping on a glass of wine or drinking an espresso.