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.
When I first interviewed Edward Baquero, President of Corigin Real Estate Group, his art curator, Elizabeth Fiore, was furiously texting him images from the Armory Show with potential art for two remaining walls in the stately 20 East End’s octagonal lobby. Baquero is a perfectionist to the nth degree with an obsessive eye for detail, highly skilled research capabilities, a luxurious aesthetic sensibility and a ridiculously funny sense of humor. These two alcove walls were just as important to Baquero as every other detail in his building, no matter how big or small. Nothing in 20 East End was chosen without thorough research and reason followed by multiple iterations of tests and retests.
What Baquero created in 20 East End evokes a time when the Astors, Vanderbilts, and Rockefellers dominated Manhattan and defined luxury. Baquero is bringing back the best of the past and melding it with the present to create a model many will replicate in the future. Ahead, 6sqft talks with him about how he achieved this, his inspirations, and what it was like working with Robert A.M. Stern.
Hear what Edward has to say
Photos © AphroChic/Patrick Cline
“Modern.Soulful.Style.” This is the term coined by Crown Heights-based husband-and-wife team Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason when they started their home design blog AphroChic in 2007. These three little words really must have resonated; just over a decade later, Jeanine and Bryan have taken the design world by storm, starting their own product line (which includes their “Brooklyn in Color” paint collection, the first paint line by an African-American design brand), designing interiors, authoring the book “REMIX: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul,” and hosting HGTV’s “Sneak Peek with AphroChic.”
6sqft recently chatted with Jeanine and Bryan to learn how they went from careers in criminal justice to interior design, how African American influences factor into their work, and what’s to come from this unique couple who “embraces culture and the unique admixture of the traditional and the contemporary that helps to define us all.”
Our interview with AfroChic
360 Wythe Avenue, courtesy 320 and 360 Wythe/Flank
Last November, news broke that Manhattan-based firm Flank Architecture + Development would construct two mid-rise office and retail buildings made of timber in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the first to be built in New York in over a century. Located at 320 and 360 Wythe Avenues, they are currently rising three and five stories, constructed from raw Canadian wood, which will be engineered into nail-laminated timber panels. The timber structure will rise above the concrete foundation, then it’ll be covered by a brick facade.
Flank co-founder Mick Walsdorf has said the ambitious project “will expand the limits of traditional construction and usher in a new era of sustainability-minded building practices.” The firm has grown significantly since Walsdorf and Jon Kully were studying together at Columbia’s Graduate School for Architecture, envisioning the possibilities of a joint architecture and development firm. Since then Flank has tackled the development and design of residential and commercial projects across the city, from The Boerum condominium in Brooklyn to the condo conversion at 40 Walker Street in Tribeca.
With 6sqft, Mick discusses the history of the firm and the benefits of tackling both the architecture and development side of a project in New York City. He also gets into detail about why Flank decided to take on timber construction, and how construction is expected to unroll this year.
Keep reading for the full interview
Photo of Beverly Willis courtesy of BWAF; photo of the San Francisco Ballet Building courtesy of Wikimedia
Throughout her more than 70-year-career, Beverly Willis has made an impact on nearly every aspect of the architecture industry. Willis, who began her professional career as a fresco painter, is credited with pioneering the adaptive reuse construction of historic buildings. She also introduced computerized programming into large-scale land planning and created a permanent prototype for buildings designed exclusively for ballet, with the San Francisco Ballet Building, one of her most iconic and enduring projects. As a woman in the building industry during the middle of the 20th century, and without any formal architectural training, Willis faced barriers that her male co-workers did not.
After decades of success, instead of retiring Willis, founded the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF), aimed at shining a light on women architects who were left out of the history books. In 2017, BWAF launched a website, “Pioneering Women of American Architecture,” that profiles 50 women who made significant contributions to the field. Ahead, architect Beverly Willis talks with 6sqft about how she became a pioneer in the field, the goals of her foundation and her continued push for gender equity in architecture, and beyond, through education and research.
More this way
Michael Hiller is a zoning and land-use attorney who has represented community groups in seemingly impossible quests for about 20 years. His high-profile cases have often been against the Landmarks Preservation Commission, notably Tribeca’s iconic Clock Tower Building and new construction along historic Gansevoort Street, both of which are pending appeal by the defendants.
As one legal observer commented, “He has become an expert in the nuances of the Landmarks Law from a legal perspective. In court, he is very talented on his feet before a very hot bench, before judges who ask a lot of tough questions.” His successes have won him designation as a Super Lawyer every year since 2009 as well as the 2017 Grassroots Award from the Historic Districts Council. 6sqft recently visited Michael at his office to learn more about his work.
Ahead, hear from Michael and learn more about his current cases
Over the past few years, New York City’s homeless crisis has gotten worse. A recent study reported a 39 percent increase in homelessness over 2016, making last year the highest homeless population since the survey began in 2005. While the city scrambles to address the rising population, a roommate company and nonprofit housing organization recently teamed up to help lessen the burden of New Yorkers who find themselves unable to afford housing.
Despite operating on opposite ends of the housing market, roommate matching site SpareRoom partnered with Breaking Ground, the largest provider of supportive housing in NYC, this November. The partnership was suggested by the public after SpareRoom launched Live Rent Free, a contest where the company pays one roommate’s monthly rent and one person’s entire rent for a whole year. (It was inspired by founder Rupert Hunt’s New York roommate search, in which he found two roomies to share his West Village loft for $1 a month.) The resulting partnership–which is running in tandem with the Live Rent Free contest–matches the monthly prize amount dollar-for-dollar with an in-kind donation to Breaking Ground to fund their Transitional Housing program. So far, SpareRoom has donated $3,314.
With 6sqft, Matt Hutchinson, Director at SpareRoom, explained why the company felt motivated to address homelessness and its future plans to engage with Breaking Ground. Brenda Rosen, President and CEO of Breaking Ground, also explains how the organization’s Transition Housing program works, and why the homelessness crisis is something all New Yorkers–regardless of what they pay in rent–should be aware of.
Continue reading for the Q&A