The Anita Shapolsky Gallery is named for its founder, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when she invited me to No. 152. Having first opened in SoHo in 1982, by the late nineties, Mrs. Shapolsky told me that by the late nineties she was ready for a change, and so she moved the gallery closer to home – in fact, into the building on 65th Street where she had been living for twenty-two years. Since 1997, the gallery and Mrs. Shapolsky have shared a home. The relationship is truly a symbiotic one. "What would you do in a house without art? " she exclaimed. "They take the paintings down between shows, and I'm sick with nothing on the wall. " Her bedroom is tucked into the second floor of the building, concealed behind accordion doors, and in another room of the gallery, a shoe closet is just ajar. On the day that I sat down to speak with Mrs. Shapolsky, the feature exhibit, , was by the artist Russell Connor, whose art riffed on classic painters, pairing them and their masterworks with references to other, more modern pieces. Mrs. Shapolsky said that she thinks of it as an educational show, as it exposes visitors to art history, and brings the old and the new together. Having been invited to a lecture by the artist, I had the pleasure of meeting Russell Connor, and listened as he elaborated on a number of the paintings; each one has a hidden joke for the seasoned art historian. This exhibit was a change from Russell Connor's accustomed style; he usually prefers abstract art for which the Anita Shapolsky Gallery is best known. When Mrs. Shapolsky opened her gallery, she decided to focus on the Abstract Expressionists of the fifties, especially those of the New York school. She had no experience at the time working in or running a gallery, only a great passion for art. "It was madness, sheer madness, " she told me. But despite the mad ambition of the project, the gallery has been a great success. Mrs. Shapolsky drew on her connections to other artists and friends in order to bring the appropriate pieces into her space. Although she knew that the aesthetic was not popular at the time, Mrs. Shapolsky told me that she had grown up with the abstract expressionists, and felt that they represented an important artistic avante garde. The Anita Shapolsky Gallery excels not only at exhibiting important art, but also at connecting that art to people. To be both in a gallery and a home is a unique experience, and meeting Mrs. Shapolsky was a privilege. She is as much a part of the gallery as is the art. On the day that I met her, she was wearing a piece of art around her neck. Her jewelry was made by Ibram Lassaw, whose work can also be seen at the Guggenheim.
The Roosevelt House is primarily an educational institution, housing two of Hunter College's undergraduate programs and hosting a number of book talks, panels, and other public events. But, as the name reveals, it began as a family home. The Roosevelt's moved into this double townhouse in 1908, with matriarch Sara Roosevelt living on one side, and Franklin and Eleanor on the other, along with their five children. On my visit to the Roosevelt House, I participated in a guided tour that illuminated some of its history for me. The building itself, was designed by architect Charles Platt, who also made the plans for the nearby mansion that was home to The China Institute for almost seventy years. This elegant townhouse among the rows of brownstones would set the tone for many of the other structures in the area to be renovated or replaced. Deborah, the tour guide, took us through the many rooms and their pasts. I was surprised to learn that the house was built with two elevators, one on each side, a rare architectural choice for the early twentieth century. The elevators became especially important after 1921, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt fell ill with polio and was confined to a wheelchair. One of the elevators has been retained in its original state, and is shockingly small – the wheelchairs we use today would never fit - but Roosevelt's had a profile similar to that of a dining chair, and so was able to wheel in and out without difficulty. The second elevator has been expanded to allow full accessibility to Hunter College. Upstairs, the library functions as a little museum, containing a selection of books on the Roosevelt's, along with some historic artifacts. The real history though, is in the building itself. "A lot came out of this house, " Deborah explained. President Roosevelt appointed his initial cabinet members in the upstairs library, and among them, the first woman. That same library is where President Roosevelt practiced tirelessly on crutches until he could stand and move sans a wheelchair during political gatherings. A few steps away, the drawing room was the site of Roosevelt's first radio address as president. One floor up is the bedroom where he recovered from polio, and where he often held meetings so that he could continue working minus the discomfort of his leg braces. I found myself lingering close to the walls, hoping they might whisper some of the things they overheard all those years ago. In 1941, Sara Roosevelt died, and the family put the townhouse up for sale. It was a difficult time to sell a house – everybody was at war except the United States, and the whole country knew that conflict was in the immediate future. The Roosevelt's still managed to find a buyer. Eleanor had a strong relationship with Hunter College, and so when they expressed interest, the family lowered the price, making it possible for Hunter to acquire this historic home in 1943. It was dedicated as the Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House. Today, the Roosevelt House works to balance its legacy and contemporary function. The house retains all its original crown molding, but the furniture is new, allowing Hunter students and visitors to sit comfortably and not worry about causing damage to antique sofas or rugs. Students at the Roosevelt House study Public Policy and Human Rights, a fitting tribute to the Roosevelt family's influence on this country.
Match 65 was an unexpected find when walking along 65th Street, but a very welcome one. It was a beautiful spring day and the doors were thrown open wide. I found a few tables set up with friends sitting and chatting while sipping a glass of wine. The bar up front was inviting as was the classic French brasserie's menu. I sampled the artichokes, simply prepared with a lemon and tarragon dressing, while others insisted on ordering the classic onion soup, despite the warm weather outdoors. We decided that we had to share the profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a luscious warm chocolate sauce. A perfect pick me up late in the day before heading across Central Park to the West Side.
After walking down the 65th Street sidewalk, and going through the imposing bronze doors, I found myself in a place of worship, a place of connection, and a place of significant history. Moreover, it is a synagogue that stands as evidence of religious and cultural movements, technological and artistic development, and the evolution from being a Jew living in America to being an American Jew. I have passed by this grand building for decades and always imagined stepping inside. Being invited in by Cara Glickman, Vice President of Finance and Administration, was a welcome moment, but little did I expect to spend the next two hours receiving a comprehensive tour and education on this world renowned building. With only thirty-three German Jewish immigrants, Temple Emanu-El humbly began on Grand and Clinton Streets in 1845. In 1854, the temple relocated to 12th Street, and in 1868, garnering more congregants and support, it moved uptown to 43rd Street until 1925. In 1929, Temple Emanu-El consolidated with Temple Beth-El, another reform institution of Germanic Jewish ancestry founded in 1874, and opened as a new complex on 65th Street, complete with the Beth-El Chapel which features a Byzantine double-dome roof. In 1963, Temple Emanu-El expanded its religious school and opened an adjoining facility up on 66th Street. The move to 65th Street was as much a political statement as an acquisition for a larger religious practice, we learned from Mark Heutlinger, who joined us on our tour of the building. A twenty-five year veteran of Emanu-El, serving as the Administrator, Mark demonstrated his wealth of knowledge and an unprecedented passion for this institution. As we were walking, he explained to us that the move uptown said “we, as Jews, are here, and we are not going anywhere. ” It was an acculturation into society, preserving of faith and heritage, “the Temple’s construction was the embodiment of the ideal of Emanu-El to fit within the mosaic of New York life. ” The main sanctuary was designed as a basilica structure, setting a tone of grandeur with its high ceilings, delicate stained glass windows, and exquisite arc. As a response to a long history of second-class status, the Jewish culture would now be “second to none, equal to all. ” With initial reactions ranging from “how dare they” to “wow, ” the temple was redefining life for Jewish Americans, offering permanence and pride. Aesthetically, the temple is an “eclectic mix of different architecture. ” On the 66th Street wing, the Lowenstein Sanctuary built in 1962 is of modern style. The lobby on Fifth Avenue, known as the Marvin and Elisabeth Cassel Foyer, is a “singular expression of art deco style, ” complete with beautifully designed radiator covers and sculpted door handles. Mark continued to explain that the synagogue was uniquely designed such that the cantor and rabbi would stand at separate podiums so as not to obstruct the vision of the arc (restored during the temple’s restoration from 2003 to 2006). Mark opened the ark for us, revealing seven torahs split into two rows, for “a semblance of congruency. ” Above the ark, one can see a slip curtain opening to the choir room complete with a grand electronic wind pipe organ. Placed in chronological order, some of the most breathtaking parts of this main sanctuary are the stained glass windows. The stained glass sends a message of ancestral and religious history. As we walked to the back of the sanctuary, we stared at the visual representations of biblical stories like Noah’s Arc and meaningful symbols representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The Tribe of Reuben was identified by an eagle, which is also representative of the United States, an amalgamation of the “American Jewish Experience. ”Within Temple Emanu-El resides The Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica, featuring both treasured and permanent objects acquired over the years by the temple. The oldest item in the room is a thirteenth century Hanukkah menorah. Other items included collapsible menorahs and even a dollhouse menorah designed to hide their religious identity in response to continuous European anti-Semitism forbidding Jewish expression. One of the Museum objects is a torah breastplate emblazoned with an Eagle and an American flag, sending the message that the Jewish Americans, as early as the 1890s continued to communicate, “We are American. ”In conclusion, Mark announced proudly that Congregation Emanu-El is the largest temple in the United States, and together with the nineteenth century Dahany Temple of Budapest, it is considered to be the grandest possibly in the world. So integral to the Jewish American identity, it is one structure that certainly shapes the cultures and neighborhoods on the side streets of Manhattan.
Shun Lee West has been a staple on the West Side for over three decades, and I am pleased to say that I have been dining here for many of those years. Thankfully, not much has changed. The decor has been slightly altered, but the fiber glass monkeys still greet people in the bar, and the large dragons hang throughout the bi-level dining room. The food is consistently good and it is always hopping, especially on Christmas Eve, a tradition for my family and friends.
What began as an 1878 brownstone would be hard to recognize today. The dramatic transformation is owed to Frederick J. Sterner, an English immigrant and architect who remodeled many of New York's brownstone buildings in the early part of the twentieth century. Sterner drew influence from foreign and historic styles, converting the rows of monotonous residences into architectural gestures towards another time and place. The New York Times called Sterner "one of the city's most innovative architects. "Completed in 1921, Parge House was the last building that Sterner remodeled. Its name refers to the technique of decorative plaster modeling that was applied to its facade. The walls are adorned with flowers, long skirts, and wings – described, in 1924 as a "riot of arabesques. " At the time, the building was used as Sterner's home and office. Though Sterner is now long gone, the decorative Parge facade remains a surprising stylistic break in the homes along 65th.
Visitors to Lincoln Center will probably note the glorious emerald sloping lawn just to the north of the shady grove of trees. Many may not realize, however, that there is a high class Italian restaurant hidden underneath. Lincoln Ristorante, which opened in 2011, was designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, the same team that created the High Line park. One can discern many of the elements of the High Line in the restaurant: it blends into its surroundings by using the same sandy color scheme as the neighborhing buildings, and uses seasonal plant life, such as springtime cherry blossoms and dogwoods, to liven up the atmosphere. The entire building is eco-friendly. While speaking with Yale Frederiksen, the private dining manager, I learned that the same emphasis on ecological practices is used in the menu. “It’s all about respecting the environment, ” she told us. For example, Chef Jonathan Benno, who is a James Beard nominee and opened Per Se in Columbus Circle, tries to use every part of an animal when crafting his entrees. He also visits many farmers’ markets around the city, such as the ones at Tucker Square and Union Square. “He really respects the integrity of the product, ” Yale explained. In addition to looking out for the environment, Jonathan highlights the respected culinary traditions of Italy. Though he comes from a French cooking background and brings some of that discipline to his practices, Jonathan runs Lincoln as an Italian restaurant, with a different region of Italy honored every couple months. Yale also informed us that most of the staff are serious chefs, themselves. Ninety percent of the employees graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. The pastry chefs come from Bouchon and make most of the bread in-house, including the excellent focaccia. Yale listed different training programs available for the staff, such as workshops on how to shave truffles. Diners are given glimpses into each staff member's expertise: The kitchen is completely open, and so guests can see the staff at work each night. We were lucky enough to be invited down to the prep kitchen, which is where the cooks work until an hour before serving time. We witnessed pasta being rolled out in yellow ribbons, which were then sliced up and hand-piped with ricotta for the ricotta and pea ravioli. We also saw the big, round balls of dough that would become focaccia and a sheet of chocolate bing prepared for the Torrone Semifreddo, a partially frozen ice cream cake with honey meringue and a drizzled chocolate shell. Watching the staff at work was like watching a well-oiled machine. Returning upstairs, Yale showed us the seven-seat Negroni bar on the far side of the kitchen, another example of a quintessentially Italian touch. Guests can choose their own spirit, bitters, and vermouth in order to create their own concoction. There are even two barrel-aged Negronis available. For those who would prefer to pass on Negronis, there is a whole list of Italian takes on classic cocktails, called “Cocktail Creazioni”, as well as a large central column filled with Italian wines in a specially fitted cooler. “Our wine director is phenomenal, ” Yale told us, after listing Aaron von Rock’s credentials. As we were getting ready to leave, Yale gazed out the window and described to us how the space looked at night: twinkling lights on the sloped ceiling above, the glamorously lit plaza outside, and a warm, festive atmosphere. For both foodies and theatre lovers alike, Lincoln provides an unforgettable environment.
If it were not for the diners sunning themselves in the outdoor seats, I might have walked straight past this restaurant. The townhouse is completely unmarked, I learned, because businesses in historic buildings are not allowed to add outdoor signage. I settled down inside with a few of the Manhattan Sideways team and we treated ourselves to a relaxing hour, thoroughly enjoying a fresh, light meal that was as delicious as it was beautifully presented. An interesting take on the traditional bread and butter was put down before us - radishes with olive tapenade on a freshly cut loaf. I was in cheese heaven as I cut into the oozing, warm, perfect burrata with beets, and Olivia ordered the house-made falafel salad with yoghurt sauce, which she said was "marvelous. " Erika was pleased with her choice of the Kale Caesar salad. Everything tasted like a fresh spring day, and left us feeling energized. The atmosphere also added to the sense of rejuvenation, with simple whitewashed tables, cherry blossom bouquets, and a perfectly placed skylight. The restaurant is a big player in the farm-to-table movement. We spoke with Chef Sammy Diaz, who explained that he goes to the farmer's market four times a week in order to find the freshest ingredients for the menu. He works closely with executive chef Joseph Capozzi as they establish relationships with local foragers. The restaurant tries to get most of its ingredients from no farther than Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Sammy entertained us for quite some time with his stories, and his commitment to the food he cooks with every day, but I believe the best was when he elaborated on "Goatober. " Each week for the entire month of October, a whole goat is delivered to East Pole, and Sammy gets to be creative with as many dishes as he can for 31 days. Sammy showed us the impressive upstairs room, which can be used for private parties. It has a second bar, and a long wooden table with fresh sprigs of herbs for decoration. The feel is more of a lovely cottage, rather than a metropolitan New York restaurant. The walls are decorated in maps and sea charts, in keeping with the vague nautical and travel theme suggested by the restaurant's name. Everything about the eatery offered a sunny, fresh escape from city life into a culinary garden.