The bustling neighborhood, as diverse as New York itself, includes some of the city’s most popular restaurants in a variety of price ranges and cuisines; a dynamic retail environment with a profusion of fashion, beauty, and home furnishings stores; superb educational institutions and such architectural highlights as the fabled Flatiron Building, the Metropolitan Life and New York Life buildings, and the exquisite New York State Appellate Courthouse. A burgeoning residential community is adding its own new vitality to this historic neighborhood. The district is easily accessed by a range of public transportation options and is just a short stroll from either Grand Central Terminal or Penn Station.

So look around explore, enjoy, and Discover Flatiron! 

 

Flatiron History

Discover Flatiron: Remembering Elvis on East 24th Street

August 16th marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of rock 'n’ roll pioneer Elvis Presley. In commemoration of the singer’s early recording days in the neighborhood, the Flatiron Partnership recalls the year 1956 when Elvis performed and produced a number of hit songs at the RCA Records studios located at 155 East 24th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues.

Elvis Presley reportedly visited New York City for the first time in March 1955. At this point in his career, the 20-year-old aspiring singer and musician had been appearing in a series of one-night shows mostly throughout the South. His arrival in Manhattan, however, led Elvis to try out for a television talent show audition. Presley’s performance was rejected and soon the young singer was on the road again, but not for long.

By December 1955, Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, returned to Manhattan for a meeting with RCA Records management, which had reportedly purchased the singer’s contract with Sun Records for $35,000 (equivalent to $334,515.11 in 2019). Sun Records facilitated the contract deal due to financial difficulties that were threatening the studio's survival. Additionally, Sun Records President, Sam Phillips explained, "By releasing his contract to RCA we will give [Presley] the opportunity of entering the largest organization of its kind in the world, so his talents can be given the fullest opportunity" (via Scotty Mooroe). The RCA team immediately set up a publicity photoshoot for their new talent acquisition at the company’s studios at 155 East East 24th Street. Presley’s attire for the session included $60 worth of clothing (equivalent $573.45 in 2019) from a local store in Memphis, Tennessee. 

“The studio looked like a set from a 1930's science fiction movie,” noted Presley photographer Al Wertheimer in the singer’s biography Last Train to Memphis written by Peter Guralnick. “It was a large rectangular space of acoustical tile walls ribbed with monolithic half cylinders. The high ceiling rippled with more parallel cylinders and two pipes of fluorescent light. In the center of the room lay a patch of carpet on which the musicians had placed their instruments.” This RCA photoshoot marked an important shift in Presley's career. 

After an appearance on the Jackie Gleason-produced Stage Show on January 28, 1956, Presley returned to the East 24th Street studio. Two days later, the singer would make music history. According to the New York Daily News on August 14, 2008, Elvis and a number of musicians “recorded for seven hours that day, then three hours on January 31, and another several hours on February 3.” The songs that were reportedly recorded during these sessions included Blue Suede Shoes, Shake, Rattle and Roll, and Lawdy, Miss Clawdy.” 


(Bill Black, D.J. Fontana, The Jordanaires, Elvis and Scotty
recording "Hound Dog" July 2, 1956 Photo © William "Popsie" Randolph
)

"Blue Suede Shoes was the only hit single in the bunch,” noted the Daily News, “but the sessions were crucial in Elvis history because they marked the point at which he started moving away from his raw, pure Sun sound to the more commercial and mainstream sound RCA envisioned for him.” And several months later in July 1956, the singer revisited the studio once again to record the two chart blockbuster hits Hound Dog and Don’t Be Cruel. Take 31 of Hound Dog became the version that was released, and the single sold 10 million copies globally becoming his best-selling song that topped the pop chart for 11 weeks - a record that stood for 36 years (via Mega Rock Radio).


(Depiction of RCA Studio building at 155 East 24th  - circa 1971 via Baruch College)

The 1880s-constructed building was located in an area that had a rich social and architectural history. According to New York Magazine on November 20, 2014, “24th Street east of Madison Square—once known as Old Stable Row because of its saddlers, blacksmiths, and horse doctors—thrived during Edith Wharton–era New York.” RCA Records studios then referred to as The Victor Recording Company, acquired the 24th Street property at an auction in early 1928 from Fiss, Doerr & Carroll’s. The business was Manhattan's leading supplier of coach, livery, and workhorses, that supplied horses for the New York transit system, and later for use by the U.S. military in World War I (via Swing and Beyond). Victor Recording Company's office consisted of two recording studios in the ground floor space of the 24th Street building, referred to as studios A and B. Studio B, the smaller of the two, was used for piano and chamber music recordings, and the larger Studio A could accommodate groups of up to 35 musicians. Presley recorded his songs in Studio A. 

A little more than a decade after the success of Hound Dog, however, the sound would fade from the East 24th Street music studio. RCA Records studios relocated to Midtown Manhattan at 1133 Avenue of the Americas near 44th Street in August 1970. Notable New York City architect Emery Roth was the new office’s designer, who would create an insulated facility for the recording company. “An engineer does not normally regard with affection the sound of a flushing toilet during the pianissimo section of a Brahms symphony,” wrote The New York Times on August 9, 1970. The building of the 24th Street studio was sold in 1968 to what was then City College (now University) of New York, which was in use for thirty years until 1998. CUNY then demolished the building and began construction on Newman Vertical Campus, Baruch College's $319 million campus expansion project that opened in 2001 according to The New York Times.

 Header Photo: Hoyt Hawkins, Elvis, Neal Matthews, Scotty, Gordon Stoker,
DJ and Hugh Jarrett in Studio A - July 2, 1956. Photo by Alfred Wertheimer.
 

 

  

Flatiron Faces

Michael T. Cohen, President of the Tri-State Region at Colliers International & Chairman of the Board of The Flatiron Partnership

Meet Michael T. Cohen, President of the Tri-State Region at Colliers International and Chairman of the Board of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. A native New Yorker and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Cohen became the Partnership's Board Chair in June. Says Cohen about the Flatiron District, “From tourism, job growth, retail, office, and residential, this part of town is as hot as a pistol!”

1. Congratulations on being named Chairman of the Board of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. You’re also President of the Tri-State Region at Colliers International, a global commercial real estate firm. Briefly tell us about your role at Colliers.

At Colliers, my key roles are business development, servicing my clientele, and overseeing the three million-square-foot portfolio of properties my partners and I own in Manhattan. Essentially, I help run a company within a company.

2. As a third-generation member of a prominent New York City real estate family, which owns property in the Flatiron District, what drew you to also go into the real estate business? And, what do you continue to find rewarding about it?

I learned the real estate business from my father at the dinner table and on family vacations. What continues to excite me about real estate is that it’s always changing. I’m always facing new challenges and opportunities. In various ways, the real estate business is far different than when I started. You must continuously adapt.

3. How did you originally become involved with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership?

Colliers manages numerous properties within the borders of the Partnership, and when our seat on the Board was vacated, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to re-engage with neighborhood politics, as I had first done in the 1980s when I served on Community Board No. 2.

4. How would you describe the Flatiron District’s current real estate climate and which trends do you see in the near future?

I’m lucky to be taking over as Chairman of the Board when the area’s good fortunes are on the ascent. Jeff Bezos just bought an apartment overlooking Madison Square Park, which unto itself speaks volumes. We have tremendous economic momentum, and I look forward to more of the same.

5. In addition to your involvement in the real estate industry, you’re a Tony Award-winning producer for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, which won Best Musical in 2014. You’ve also been an investor for a number of hit Broadway shows, including Hamilton and Wicked. Tell us more!

While real estate is my vocation, Broadway is my avocation. As a native Manhattanite, I have a half-century experience seeing what does and does not work on Broadway. The first time I saw Gentleman’s Guide, I thought it would win a Tony, so I agreed to be a co-producer on the show. And it did win me a Tony. I’ve also been successfully investing in other profitable productions thanks to my friends in the industry and fellow Board members at the Roundabout Theatre Company–which doesn’t mean I haven’t had a few clunkers. But far and away, Broadway has been both fun and profitable for me. 

6. What advice can you offer to those who are interested in pursuing a career in NYC real estate? And, on (or Off) Broadway?

Real estate is a term which subsumes a great many activities in a variety of industries. For example, real estate encompasses asset classes, including residential, hospitality, office, retail, and industrial. And within each asset class, there’s development, project management, financing, leasing, investment sales, and other service lines. My advice for anyone considering real estate as a career is to figure out which aspect of the business is going to take advantage of their skills and personality, and which will be the most interesting for them. 

For Broadway, proceed with caution. Broadway is one of the few industries that still raises money from people who consider themselves to be lucky just to get their investment back. The measure of a show’s success is whether you “recouped,” meaning, whether the producer was able to return your original investment. I don’t know of any other industry wherein breaking even is considered successful. There is a saying about Broadway, “You can’t make a living, but you can make a killing!” 

7. When you’re in the Flatiron District and it’s time to grab a bite, where do you like to dine in the neighborhood? Do you have a go-to dish?

The owner of the Park Avenue Seasons is a dear friend of mine, a great operator, and the menu changes four times a year, so there’s always something new and delicious to try. And you can’t beat breakfast at The Smith.

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

One “can’t miss” for New Yorkers and visitors alike: dinner at Cosme. The restaurant was recently named best restaurant in the U.S. on the “2019 Worlds 50 Best Restaurants” list, and Cosme’s Chef Daniela Soto-Innes was named 2019’s “World’s Best Female Chef”.

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element or detail in Flatiron? 

The Flatiron Building. There’s a reason it’s so famous and iconic. I love looking at the pie-shaped corner and thinking about how unusual and spectacular it is.

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District. 

 Exquisite. Vibrant. Sought-after.

Photo Credit: Commercial Observer

Walking Tour

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What People Are Saying see

“Village meets midtown.”

When asked to describe the Flatiron District in three words

Brandon Stanton
photographer, Humans of New York

“It's a three-way tie. The architecture. The vibe. The food.”

When asked about his favorite thing about the Flatiron District

Marc Glosserman
Founder & CEO Hill Country Hospitality + local resident

“You are building a community like no other!”

Excerpt from remarks at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership

Gale A. Brewer
Manhattan Borough President

Quick Stats

22M+

Square feet of commercial real estate

44M+

Total 2016 MTA riders for 23rd Street (1,6,N,W,F,M) and 28th St (1,6,N,R) stations

4,650

Hotel rooms

7,563

Taxi drop offs per weekday in 2017

3.3+

Dollars invested in the Public Plazas by the BID

160K

Citi Bike trips originated or ended within Flatiron in June 2018

580

Ground floor business in the Flatiron District