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February Flatiron Newsletter

in this issue:
  • New Neighbors
  • Plaza Kiosks Go to Benvenuto, ilili
  • 2010 Community Survey: The Results
  • Record Snow? Clean Team Can Dig It
  • Discover Flatiron: The Commodore Criterion Building
  • Free Tax Assistance at Baruch
  • Business Resource Corner
  • At the Galleries and Museums
  • Recent News About the BID
  • Newsletter Archives
  • About Us

  • Plaza Kiosks Go to Benvenuto, ilili

    have been selected by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership to operate food and beverage subconcessions on the Flatiron Public Plazas. They are Benvenuto, located at 950 Broadway at the corner of 23rd Street, and ilili, located at 236 Fifth Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets. The selections were made following Requests for Proposals issued in June 2010.

    The kiosk on the plaza north of the Flatiron Building, between 23rd and 24th Streets, will be operated by ilili. It will offer Mediterranean sandwiches, upscale pizza, juices and tea. Benvenuto will have a kiosk on the plaza adjacent to the Flatiron Building, between 22nd and 23rd Streets, and will sell baked goods, coffee, tea, smoothies and a selection of international newspapers. Both kiosks are expected to open later this year following the requisite approval processes.

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    2010 Community Survey: The Results

    BY AN OVERWHELMING MARGIN, RESPONDENTS TO THE FOURTH annual Community Survey have voiced their confidence in the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, with almost 88 percent saying they either "approve" or "strongly approve" of the job being done by the BID.

    That's just one of the highlights of the 2010 Community Survey, conducted from November 10, 2010 to January 18, and made available online through the BID's website. Invitations to participate in the survey were made electronically on the website, and by e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, as well as on postcards delivered to all street-level businesses in the district. The BID extends its appreciation to all 453 respondents who took the time to share their thoughts. The information provided by the survey serves not only as a helpful picture of BID performance, but can be a valuable guide to future priorities.

    Other key results:

    • The survey again cited Dining and Food as the biggest reason to visit the district, further evidence that Flatiron has become one of the city's hot restaurant destinations.
    • Respondents said the most important issues now facing the district are, in order, the economy; traffic/congestion; homelessness/shelters; and safety.
    • Asked what other services or retail options they would like to see in Flatiron, 21 percent of respondents cited "moderately priced restaurants and coffee shops," and 13 percent called for more "grocery stores and specialty food markets."

    For more detailed survey results on BID programs, click here.

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    Record Snow? Clean Team Can Dig It

    started keeping records in 1869 failed to daunt the Flatiron Partnership's Clean Team. The 18-member crew, overseen by Director of Operations Scott Kimmins and led by Supervisor Adel "Benny" Ben-Brika, has worked tirelessly to dig paths through the snow, lay down salt and keep crosswalks as slush-free as possible. At the same time, they managed to carry out their normal duties of street-sweeping and emptying trashcans. Regardless of record-setting snow, fierce winds and nose-numbing cold, the Clean Team has been out there seven days a week, making life a little easier for all of us. To all of them, a well-deserved salute.

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    Discover Flatiron: The Commodore Criterion Building

    THEY HAVE BEEN THERE FOR DECADES, A QUINTET OF CERAMIC Christmas carolers in 18th-century finery perched atop the 25th Street entrance to 202 Fifth Avenue, mutely making music for passersby. Behind the barred street-level windows, white-bearded Santa's helpers, frozen in time, stand silently amid gaily wrapped gifts, a tree laden with holiday ornaments, and garlands of silver bells that soundlessly jingle.

    This is the Commodore Criterion Building, just north of the Worth Monument, an anchor to the 25th Street crossroads of Fifth Avenue and Broadway and a building that has long been identified with Christmas. It houses the showrooms of Commodore Manufacturing Corp. and Criterion Bell & Specialty Co., two Brooklyn-based Christmas-decoration companies that were launched about 60 years ago by Abraham Damast. Damast bought 202 Fifth Avenue in the late 1980s from Frankel Associates, another firm that sold Yuletide ornaments.

    The building is in the news these days because Sierra Realty Corp. is offering a net leasing arrangement for the 18,000-square-foot, six-story structure that includes naming rights and the opportunity for roof-level signage that will replace the one that now says "Commodore Criterion Building." When a sub-lessee is ready to move in, Commodore and Criterion will relocate.

    Designed in 1918 by architects Ely Jacques Kahn and Albert Buchman, 202 Fifth Avenue was originally called the Thomas Cushman Company Building. Earlier, the site was occupied by Worth House, a small brownstone named for the Worth Monument, which had gone up in 1857 (see Discover Flatiron, August 2007 newsletter). Later, it housed such occupants as the New York Club; Madison Square Bank, which in 1887 leased its upper floors to a brand new magazine called Cosmopolitan; the State League of Republican Clubs; and the Berlitz School of Languages.

    The present building went up during World War I and was occupied for many years by the General Outdoor Advertising Company, but just before the start of World War II, it got a new occupant, one that made the building famous. Seventy years ago this month, the A.C. Gilbert Co., which made Erector Sets, chemistry sets, microscopes, telescopes and American Flyer model trains, signed a lease and began renovations for showrooms and exhibit space.

    On Sept. 17, 1941 the building was dedicated as the Gilbert Hall of Science. Some 1,500 children attended the opening, setting the tone for years to come. A row of circular windows along the 25th Street side invited a look inside, where a scale-model railroad system choo-chooed its way through an intricate labyrinthine layout and the Mysterious Erector Walking Giant enchanted goggle-eyed crowds. Admission was free. In 1959, Gilbert moved, subletting the first four floors to the Toy Guidance Council. In 1967, six years after founder A.C. Gilbert died, the company, which had been listed on the American Stock Exchange, was acquired by another toy maker.

    Alfred Carlton Gilbert, born in Oregon in 1884, was a remarkable man whose obituary in The New York Times described him as a combination "of Frank Merriwell, Theodore Roosevelt, Peter Pan and Horatio Alger heroes." He not only introduced the Erector Set in 1913, but held patents on more than 150 other inventions. At 5-feet-7 and 135 pounds, he was a champion athlete, excelling in track, wrestling and gymnastics. He won Olympic gold in the pole vault in 1908. His skill as a magician helped pay his way through Yale, where he earned a degree in sports medicine. In 1909, he started his first business, the Mysto Manufacturing Co., making and marketing magic sets. He later renamed it the A.C. Gilbert Co., which became the world's leading producer of "learning toys" that incorporated principles of science and engineering. And then, during World War I, he became famously known as "the man who saved Christmas."

    In 1918, in his capacity as president of the Toy Manufacturers Association, Gilbert went to Washington to talk to the Council of National Defense, then considering whether to focus all factory production on the war effort. Pleading that the children who played with his toys are "your future architects, your future engineers," Gilbert invited his hosts to get down on the floor and try out the new Erector Sets and other items he'd wisely brought along. Three hours later, the Council agreed to confine Christmas giving to useful articles -- except for young children. In 2003, the incident became the basis of a TV movie, "The Man Who Saved Christmas." The actor who portrayed Gilbert was "Seinfeld" alum Jason Alexander. The movie was described as "somewhat fictional."

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    Free Tax Assistance at Baruch

    certainties draws closer, Baruch College is once again offering help to residents who need assistance in preparing their 2010 federal and New York State income tax returns. The service will be offered through Baruch’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program from Friday, February 4, through Friday, April 15, at Baruch’s Library and Technology Building, 151 East 25th Street. The program is available to anyone, but specifically aims at immigrant and low-income New Yorkers who might not be able to afford the service or who face language barriers. Last year, Baruch handled more than 6,600 returns.

    VITA volunteers are Baruch students certified by the Internal Revenue Service and qualified to complete federal forms 1040 and 1040A and New York State forms IT 150 and IT 201, plus all accompanying schedules. They will be on hand at Baruch on Tuesdays through Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m.; on Fridays from noon to 7 p.m.; and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The service will be closed on Lincoln's Birthday, Saturday, February 12.

    The VITA Program will also be offered at two sites in Brooklyn, two in Queens, one on the Lower East Side and one in Chinatown.

    As usual, there is no fee and, except for the location in Chinatown, no appointment is necessary. Clients will be accommodated on a walk-in basis, first-come, first-served. For a complete list of locations and hours, go to http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/vita/clients/resident/locations.htm.

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    Business Resource Corner

    Baruch Sets Workshop, 4 Seminars for February

    A WORKSHOP AND FOUR SEMINARS, each constructed to provide information and guidance to small businesses, will be presented in February as part of a series of free seminars and workshops offered by the New York State Small Business Development Center at Baruch College. All events, which began in January and will continue through May, are scheduled for Baruch’s Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship, 55 Lexington Avenue, Suite 2-140, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    The programs are:

    Business Legal Organizational Structures, a workshop presented by Donna Gitter, Associate Professor of Law, Monday, February 7.

    Managing Your Company’s Finances, a seminar presented by lecturer Mary Ann Holley, Wednesday, February 16. Repeats on March 16, April 27 and May 11.

    Identifying Consumer Needs: Qualitative Research Techniques, a seminar presented by Lilia Ziamou, Associate Professor of Marketing, Monday, February 28.

    In addition, two seminars originally offered in January will again be presented in February. They are Business Plan Basics, February 17; and Basic Principles of Marketing, February 23.

    For a complete list of seminars and workshops, with full descriptions of each click here. Pre-registration is required. To register, click here. For additional information, call (646) 312-4790.

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    Baruch Offers Certificate in Entrepreneurship

    A 75-HOUR PROGRAM AIMED AT BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS AND small-business owners is being offered by Baruch College's Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship. Upon completion, students will receive a Certificate in Entrepreneurship. Participants will learn to develop a business concept, identify and reach target markets, choose service providers, set financial goals, and maintain and build a successful business.

    Classes are scheduled at the Center, 55 Lexington Avenue, every Saturday from February 26 through April 30, and every Friday in April. Tuition is $3,475.

    In addition to the program instruction, participants will have access to support services that include one-on-one counseling with professional business advisors and networking with successful New York-area entrepreneurs. For additional information, call (646) 312-5000 or click here.

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    At the Galleries and Museums

    A monthly roundup of exhibits and events at the art galleries and museums within the Flatiron district. To be considered for inclusion, please send relevant information to: Eric Zaretsky, Director of Marketing & Economic Development, at ezaretsky@flatironbid.org.

    The Sidney Mishkin Gallery at Baruch
    "Spirit Rock, Sacred Mountain: A Chinese View of Nature": An exhibition of paintings by two Chinese artists that highlights the relationship between the rock and the mountain and its importance in traditional and contemporary landscape painting. Paintings by C.C. Wang are juxtaposed with the actual rocks he depicted and are contrasted with the work of Hai Tao, who uses the techniques of Chinese brush painting but dramatically transforms his mountains into modern fantasies. Natural rocks have long fascinated the Chinese, who believed they were the bones of the earth, the essence of Qi (energy, or universal life force). Rocks became not only collectable art objects, but formed the foundation and model for Chinese landscape painting.

    The exhibition was curated and organized by Dr. Sandra Kraskin, Director of the Mishkin Gallery, and the accompanying catalog was written by Willow Weilan Hai Chang, Director of the China Institute Gallery. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, February 24, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    Dates: February 25 through April 6.
    Address: 135 East 22nd Street.
    Hours: Weekdays from noon to 5 p.m., Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m. Closed on weekends.

    Calumet Gallery
    "Next Stop Atlantic": What happens to old subway cars? Photographer Stephen Mallon provides the answer in a stunning series of pictures that chronicle the "retirement" of hundreds of New York City subway cars to their final destination: the bottom of the Atlantic. The transition from underground to underwater started in 2000, when stripped and decontaminated subway cars were dropped into the drink as part of an artificial reef-building program off the East Coast. Mallon, who spent the last three years on the project, made pictures that elicit both the poignancy and the beauty of these once powerful 18-ton cars as they find themselves swept beneath the surface, fated to become a refuge for sturgeon instead of straphangers.

    These photographs are from "American Reclamation," Mallon's continuing series that documents and examines recycling processes. Most recently, he was critically acclaimed for a series called "Brace for Impact: The Salvage of Flight 1549," pictures that chronicled the salvaging of the U.S. Airways flight that was landed safely in the Hudson by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in January 2009.
    Dates: Through February 18.
    Address: Calumet Photographic, 22 West 22nd Street, 2nd floor.
    Hours: Mondays to Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    Raandesk Gallery of Art at In Good Company
    "Displaced Fables/Damaged Dreams": This exhibition by Jennifer Murray is the artist's first solo show and will include a collection of her charcoal drawings on stretched paper, mixed media works with sewn fabric on canvas and hanging installation pieces. The show reflects Murray's sense of humor, as her displaced characters, often wolves and cougars, playfully impersonate the human subconscious. The energy of these fierce animals resonates from the white backgrounds onto a three-dimensional plane with strings and fabric attached to the canvas. The drawings not featuring fabrics display even more emotionally charged animation, showing Murray's skill as an artist in her accurate depiction of the wild beyond.
    Dates: Through March 5.
    Address: 16 West 23rd Street, 4th floor (In Good Company).
    Hours: Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m., and by appointment.

    AIGA National Design Center
    "50 Books/50 Covers": An exhibition of the best-designed books and book covers published in 2009, selected in an annual competition that has been going on since 1923. As in past years, selections are published in AIGA's online archives at designarchives.aiga.org, featured in an annual publication, exhibited at the Design Center and preserved in the AIGA archives at the Denver Art Museum in Colorado. To complement the exhibit, AIGA is publishing a catalog that is available for purchase at blurb.com, the on-demand publishing platform and the presenting sponsor of this exhibit.
    Dates: Through February 25.
    Address: 164 Fifth Avenue.
    Hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Museum of Sex
    "Comics Stripped": From the crude under-the-counter "Tijuana bibles" of yesteryear that were sexually explicit spoofs of G-rated comic strips to today's more seriously regarded forms of X-rated graphic art, comics have a long history of incorporating humor, scandal, fantasy and fun with sex. This exhibit draws on the museum's own collection to examine the cultural significance of the images, icons and illustrators whose work has entertained generations, educated (or misinformed) about the basics of sex, and created a realm of fantasy unlimited by the boundaries of reality.
    Dates: Ongoing.
    Address: 233 Fifth Avenue.
    Hours: Sundays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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    Recent News About the BID

    Newsletter Archives


    About Us

    The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District, formed in 2006, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enhance the area's reputation as one of New York's most vital and exciting neighborhoods. This is accomplished by maintaining a clean and safe environment for the district's businesses, residents, and visitors; by spearheading area improvement projects; and by marketing the diverse business and retail options in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

    For more information go to our website at www.discoverflatiron.org or e-mail us at info@flatironbid.org.

    Contact Information:

    Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership
    27 West 24th Street, Suite 800B
    New York, NY 10010
    (212) 741-2323

    New Neighbors

    The PIT

    Theater, better known as The PIT, has brought its act to Flatiron. Formed in 2002 by Ali Reza Farahnakian, an alumnus of The Second City and "Saturday Night Live," The PIT is now presenting sketches, improv teams and solo performances in a refurbished 99-seat theater in its new home, 123 East 24th Street, between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue South. It's the former site of the Algonquin Theater, but the whole interior has been redone, including the addition of a street-level coffee shop.

    The PIT still conducts classes for aspiring comedy writers, performers and improv artists in facilities at 134 West 29th Street, but its public performances -- once staged in a theater near its classrooms -- are now part of the Flatiron scene. There are shows seven nights a week, with ticket prices ranging from $5 to $10, but on Wednesdays admission is free. "Super Free Wednesday" shows -- with a lineup of different improv teams -- begin on the hour, starting at 6 p.m. They each last about 45 minutes, with the evening's final show generally beginning around 11 p.m. A full schedule can be found at www.thepit-nyc.com. The PIT can also be reached by calling (212) 563-7488.

    The coffee shop is open Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., serving coffee and pastries throughout the day and morphing into a wine and beer bar by nightfall.

    In the nine years that The PIT has been around, it's managed to turn out some seriously funny people. Those who have studied and performed there include Ellie Kemper, one of the regulars on the hit show "The Office"; Kristen Schaal, best known for "Flight of the Conchords" and as a contributor to Jon Stewart's "Daily Show"; and Matt Oberg of the new "Onion SportsDome," a spoof of ESPN and other sports talk shows.

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    Brio Flatiron

    been operating Brio NYC on East 61st Street since 1989. Now, his son Damien is in charge of the family's second restaurant, Brio Flatiron. Located at 920 Broadway, at the corner of 21st Street, Brio Flatiron offers an Italian menu under the direction of Executive Chef Michael Burbella, a European-trained cook whose résumé stretches from Vonnas, France, to the Grand Tier in Lincoln Center and such local favorites as Gotham Bar & Grill and Gramercy Tavern.

    Rather than being regional, the menu at Brio Flatiron is ingredient-driven, said Damien Scoditti. Dishes he particularly recommends include the pan-seared tuna with golden raisins, capers and roasted cauliflower; a panna cotta with fresh vanilla sticks; and the daily hand-made raviolo and risotto.

    Brio Flatiron serves lunch and dinner daily from noon until 11 p.m. Brunch is offered on Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. For additional information or to make a reservation, call (212) 673-2121 or e-mail brioflatiron@gmail.com.

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    Financier Patisserie

    FINANCIER PATISSERIE, THE French pastry shop and espresso bar that was launched in the financial district in 2002, has come to Flatiron. The shop, the company's ninth in Manhattan, has opened at 688 Sixth Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets.

    In addition to its traditional and signature pastries, croissants, scones and brioches, Financier Patisserie offers a selection of breakfast and lunch "savories," including soups, salads and cold and hot-pressed sandwiches, plus some French-accented dishes such as ratatouille and quiche.

    Financier Patisserie is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekends. For additional information, call (646) 758-6238 or click on www.financierpastries.com.

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    Cana Wine Bar

    CANA WINE BAR, FEATURING more than two dozen selections by the glass, as well as a selection of small plates, has opened inside Limelight Marketplace, the former church and nightclub at Sixth Avenue and 20th Street. It is a two-tier operation in one of Limelight's "sky boxes" cantilevered over what once was the nave of the church, and is run by the team behind Tracks Raw Bar and Grill and Penn Wine and Spirits in Penn Station. Bruce Caulfield of Tracks also operated the Limelight Grill, the outdoor restaurant that opened last summer as part of the Limelight Marketplace.

    In addition to wines, Cana offers beers and soft drinks. The food menu, created by restaurateur Nicola Maurello, is Italian themed and includes soups, salads, pannini, carpaccios, bruschette, cured meats and cheese platters.

    Cana Wine Bar is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

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    Free Walking Tour
    Sundays at 11 a.m.

    walking tours every Sunday.

    Join our experienced guides on a 90-minute journey through this vibrant neighborhood, viewing some of the City's most notable landmarks, including the New York Life Insurance building, the MetLife Tower, the Appellate Courthouse and the famous Flatiron Building.

    Every Sunday at 11 a.m.

    Meeting Place:
    The southwest corner of Madison Square Park, at 23rd Street and Broadway, in front of the statue of William Seward.

    To view a video of the tour, click here.

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