Park image via Elliot Scott on Flickr; image of Silver via NYC Parks
Mitchell J. Silver, the commissioner of New York City Parks Department, tells us he’s 58 years old. But with his vibrant enthusiasm and energy for parks, fitness and life in general, it’s hard to believe. Only as he details a list of his achievements and accolades over the years does his age show. Silver, who oversees the management and operations of nearly 30,000 acres of city parks, calls himself the “commissioner of fun,” a title he strives to live up to every day. This summer, Silver launched “Cool Pools,” an initiative to renovate public pools, celebrated making Central Park car-free, and increased accessibility to parks for all New Yorkers. If you want to feel good, follow his Instagram and see him sliding, swinging, running, jumping, swimming, kayaking and more.
Silver is training for his first marathon this November (with his best friend from college) after completing four half marathons. 6sqft jogged beside the commissioner and got his running commentary on the biggest challenges facing NYC parks, what he attributes his success to, what we can expect for the future and where he buys his running gear.
Photos courtesy of Mary French
In a city as tight as New York, it’s no surprise we’ve long struggled to figure out what to do with our dead, from acres-wide cemeteries to those wedged into forgotten slivers of city blocks. The city now boasts 140 cemetery sites, and Mary French has visited them all. Mary is the author of the New York City Cemetery Project, a chronicler of “the graveyards of this great city.” Though cemeteries may come with dark connotations, Mary sees them as prime opportunities to understand the history of New York. As she explains on her website, “For those with a passion for culture and history and a curiosity about the unknown, cemeteries are tantalizing spots that provide a wellspring of information about individual lives, communities, religions, and historic events.”
On NYC Cemetery Project you can read the histories of existing and long-gone cemeteries and the interesting New Yorkers living six feet under, alongside a trove of historic photos and maps. It’s a labor of love (and intense research) for Mary, who has a background in anthropology and library science. With 6sqft, Mary explains what first attracted her to the cemeteries of New York and what it’s like delving into their past. She also explains why she thinks many might be lost to the pressures of development in New York.
Read the interview
Brandon Doughan (left) and Brian Polen (right). Photo © Molly Tavoletti for Brooklyn Kura
6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and businesses of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re touring Industry City’s Brooklyn Kura, New York’s first sake brewery. Want to see your business featured here? Get in touch!
“It was my first ‘oh, my God’ sake which was made in the U.S.A.” said Japanese-born sake sommelier Chizuko Niikawa-Helton when he tasted the product of Brooklyn Kura, NYC’s first sake brewery and one of only 15 in the nation. And this is exactly what co-founders Brian Polen and Brandon Doughan strive for. They’re committed to respecting the thousands-year-old Japanese sake brewing traditions, but they also hope to inspire a new interest in this ancient beverage by using unique American ingredients and engaging New Yorkers in the process at their Sunset Park brewery and tap room.
After meeting at a mutual friend’s wedding in Japan and developing a passion for sake, Brian and Brandon teamed up and got to work on their 2,500-square-foot space in Industry City, which combines the functionality of traditional Japanese breweries with a contemporary Brooklyn design aesthetic. 6sqft recently paid them a visit and had a drink in the tap room (yes, we agree with Niikawa-Helton that the sakes are “so soft, so gentle”), got a look at the sake making process, and chatted with Brian and Brandon about their journey, life at Industry City, and how they’re turning New Yorkers into sake lovers.
Read our interview with Brian and Brandon and see inside Brooklyn Kura
Headshot of Glen Coben via Tommy Campbell, Brothers & Company
New York City architect Glen Coben’s An Architect’s Cookbook: A Culinary Journey Through Design is part journal, part cookbook. The book shares Coben’s experience over the last 18+ years working with some of the world’s greatest chefs to create magical culinary experiences: Empellon/Alex Stupak, Del Posto/Mario Batali, Gabriel Kreuther, Carbone, The Marrow and Romera.
Each chapter includes: the narrative between Glen and Chef – their story together throughout the process, sketches and renderings, followed by the final photos of the restaurant and recipes contributed by each chef. Coben loves what he does and it shows. To him, working with chefs to design their dreams means “there is another creative partner at the table.” 6sqft recently spoke with Coben and learned how it all started, about his restaurant inspirations and what the architectural equivalent of adding that special spice to meatballs is to make us all sigh in delight, ahhhhh.
Dive to learn more about Glen
6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and off-beat workspaces of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re touring the Flatiron office of architecture firm FXCollaborative. Want to see your business featured here? Get in touch!
To mark their 40th anniversary, architecture firm FXCollaborative recently debuted their new name (formerly FXFOWLE), along with a slew of big-name projects such as the Statue of Liberty Museum, a nearly 1,000-unit affordable housing development in the Bronx, and Downtown Brooklyn’s One Willoughby Square, which will be the borough’s tallest office building as well as the firm’s new home. Ahead of their big move when the tower is completed in a few years, 6sqft paid a visit to FXCollaborative’s current Flatiron office space to see how these prolific architects make their magic happen, thanks to a behind-the-scenes tour and talk with senior partner Dan Kaplan. From sustainable architecture and office design to equality in architecture and the importance of collaboration, learn how FXCollaborative remains one of NYC’s top firms after four decades.
Take the tour and hear Dan’s thoughts
Aurora at 277 Fifth Avenue, courtesy of Victor Group and Lendlease
Joel Fitzpatrick is a master of many trades. He has a diverse background in theater, fashion, interior design, and dance but the one common element through everything he does is light. Fitzpatrick started as a sculptor but yearned for more collaboration and found that through lighting. In his most recent work, a dynamic, multicolored light show called “Aurora” for Rafael Viñoly’s 277 Fifth Avenue, his career has come full circle.
After feeling the cosmos pulsate with the northern lights, there was no turning back. Now Fitzpatrick dreams of building an outdoor light show to permanently shine on the Manhattan skyline. 6sqft recently talked to Fitzpatrick, who shines a light on how his past informed his present and what to expect from him in the future. Read more
Photographer Berenice Abbott has long captured the imagination of New Yorkers. Her storied career began after fleeing Ohio for Greenwich Village in 1918 and included a stint in Paris taking portraits of 1920s heavyweights. But she is best known for her searing images of New York buildings and street life–her photograph “Nightview, New York,” taken from an upper-floor window of the Empire State Building in 1932, remains one of the most recognized images of the city. Well known is her exchange with a male supervisor, who informed Abbott that “nice girls” don’t go to the Bowery. Her reply: “Buddy, I’m not a nice girl. I’m a photographer… I go anywhere.”
Despite Abbott’s prolific career and fascinating life, there’s never been a biography to capture it all. Until now, with Julia Van Haaften’s work, “Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography.” Van Haaften is the founding curator of the New York Public Library’s photography collection. She also befriended Abbott, as the photographer approached 90, while curating a retrospective exhibition of her work in the late 1980s. (Abbott passed away in 1991 at the age of 93.)
With 6sqft, Van Haaften shares what it was like translating Abbott’s wide-ranging work and life into a biography, and the help she received from Abbott herself. From her favorite stories to her favorite photographs, Van Haaften shows why Abbott’s work has remained such a powerful lens capturing New York City to this day.
Restuarant photo credit: Nicole Franzen; Portrait credit: Kathryn Sheldon
Earlier this month, Nolita restaurant De Maria won the coveted James Beard Award for best restaurant design or renovation in North America. The designers at The MP Shift replicated an artist’s studio, with Soho in the ‘70s and the Bauhaus movement in mind. But it’s not just the space that’s beautiful; Venezuelan-born chef Adriana Urbina‘s dishes, composed heavily of veggies and seafood, look like they were made for Instagram.
Outside of the visuals, however, what sets De Maria apart is Urbina’s socially conscious approach. Not only does she mix her South American heritage with her fine dining background (she started her career as an apprentice at Michelin 3-star restaurant in Spain, Martín Berasategui and was a 2017 winner of Food Network’s “Chopped”), but she’s committed to empowering female chefs and business owners, as well as using food as a way to connect people and raise awareness about what’s going on in the world. 6sqft recently enjoyed an insanely delicious meal at De Maria and chatted with Adriana about her journey, the restaurant scene in NYC, and why this Nolita restaurant is the perfect place to see out her dreams.
Meet Adriana and get hungry!
Jay Maisel is best known for the incredibly expressive stories he tells through his beautiful photography. But in recent years, he’s become perhaps just as well known for his New York City real estate story where he made the deal of the century when he sold his home, the Germania Bank Building at 190 Bowery. What he’s not at all known for, though, are the stories he tells through the hundreds of thousands of memories that fill his home and studio.
Maisel, who may appear gruff on the exterior (at 87 years-old, he still likes to shock), is actually incredibly kind and sentimental. He misses his home and all his toys that once filled the 35,000-square-foot building. Although he was initially intimidated by the size and upkeep costs of 190 Bowery, Maisel grew to love the home and raise his family there for 50 years. In 2015, he sold the building for $55 million and purchased a stately townhouse on Pacific Street in Cobble Hill for $15.5 million. (At the time, it was the most expensive townhouse sale in Brooklyn.) 6sqft sat down with Maisel and discussed his real estate coup, his move to Brooklyn (which is not “the city” in his view) and his most recent New York City photography series, entitled “Jaywalking.”
Hear from Jay and get an inside look at his life and work
Photo of Frank Leadon © Katherine Slingluff
In “Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles,” architect Fran Leadon takes on a monumental task: to uncover the news events, people, businesses, and buildings–mile by mile–that have contributed to New York’s best-known street. Beginning as a muddy path that cut through the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and dissolved into farmland, Broadway has evolved over 200 years to host a chaotic mix of traffic, hotels, stores, theaters, churches, and people. In its first mile, you can see 400 years of history, from the Civil War to the emergence of skyscrapers. Moving uptown, Broadway takes us to the city’s cherished public spaces–Union Square, Herald Square and Times Square–as well as the Theater District and Great White Way. The street continues to upper Manhattan, where the story of urban renewal plays out, then cuts through the Bronx and winds all the way to Albany.
In his book, Leadon focuses on Manhattan’s relationship with Broadway, making the argument that you can tell the story of NYC–and even the country–through these 13 miles. “Broadway was never just a thoroughfare; it has always been, first and foremost, a place,” he writes. With 6sqft, Leadon talks about understanding Broadway, a street he often experienced in fragments, as a single 13-mile thoroughfare that serves as the lifeblood of New York. He also discusses how years of research and discovery made it to the pages, surprising histories that emerged along the way, and why he’s still writing the history of Broadway in his head.