Apr 9, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Agador @poochofnyc

Meet Agador, the stylish Maltipoo Instagram star with 140,000 followers @poochofnyc. The Flatiron District is one of his favorite areas for a photo shoot. “It’s a photographer's playground,” says Agador, whose résumé includes Google ads, the Rachael Ray Show, and Katy Perry’s “Bon Appétit” teaser video. “The neighborhood is a great place to socialize and relax on the benches or sit at one of the many café tables scattered throughout the Plazas.”

1. You are quite the Instagram sensation! How do you come up with your Instagram posts? Do you have any favorite spots in the Flatiron neighborhood that make great photo backgrounds?
I have two creatively insane Dads [Francis Bott and Allan Monteron] whom I've hired as my stylist, photographer, and writer. Our home base is in New York City, however, we travel the world together to capture fresh, unique, and interesting content to share with our followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The Flatiron Plazas and adjoining Madison Square Park are two of my favorite destinations. My Dads produced many photos and videos from these locations as you can always capture something uniquely New York in the background, whether it is the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building, lampposts, taxis, buses, subway entrances, seasonal art installations, or food events.

2. Your name is unique. Tell us how you got the name Agador, and how did you decide on @poochofnyc as your Instagram handle?
As a long time fan of the movie The Birdcage and the character Agador Spartacus, Dad said it was an easy choice to find a unique name for such a unique looking dog. @poochofnyc took a little more thought as Instagram names do, but it seemed easy enough to remember, although it is certainly a lot to live up to.

3. You serve some major looks. Tell us about your fashion style. Do you have a favorite piece? Go-to accessory? 
My prized possessions are my custom denim jackets. In the cold weather, I layer them with button downs and turtlenecks, and, of course, I never leave home without my favorite collection of eyeglasses, so I'm always prepared to strike a #cooldude or #agadorable pose for the camera.

4. Your signature hair has deemed you the “Bob Ross of dogs.” What is your hair routine?
Once every two weeks shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse, and tease my big round head twice a day.

5. The pressure of being an Instagram celebrity… you must get recognized in the neighborhood all the time. Do you have any memorable fan encounters?
It's always a pleasure to meet fans. On a regular basis, we have fans that ask us to meet with them for a photo. The Flatiron District is a convenient place for us and an easy location to find the out-of-town tourist. I'm not going to name drop, but you would be surprised how many celebrities we spot walking through the Park that recognize us from Instagram.

6. You have a little brother named Fred @littlefreddietinkles (good looks run in the family!). What do you two enjoy doing together? 
@littlefreddietinkles is a cutie! A bit of a pain in the keister as little brothers tend to be, but we definitely like exploring new places together as we travel around this city and the world together. He is the bad boy of the family and definitely worth a follow on Instagram for a good laugh now and again.

7. Your posts routinely feature fine wine. Where's your favorite place to grab a glass in Flatiron? And do like red, white, or rosé?
I love a good glass of red wine (well, at least Dad does)! Weather permitting, he always loves to grab a few glasses of Merlot or Cabernet on a sunny afternoon at any one of the local restaurants with outdoor seating such as Almond or Tappo Thin Crust Pizza. Outdoor seating means that I'm always welcome to join. Tables always fill quickly in the Flatiron area, so no time to be choosy! 

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?
I thoroughly enjoy spending my afternoons at Madison Square Park where the city feels a little quieter and more relaxed. Periodically, there are new art installations, food fairs, or even concerts performed in the Park, which is always a welcome distraction from the norm.

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area? 
The Flatiron Building and adjoining Plazas, of course! I am fascinated by the building's architectural design and details of the façade. It makes an awesome background in a photo. It is easily recognizable and iconic for New York City. 

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

Photo Credit: Allan Monteron

Mar 1, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Leanne Shear, Uplift Studios & Flatiron BID Board

In honor of the celebration of women's achievements during Women's History Month, meet Leanne Shear, Co-Founder and President of Uplift Studios, a women-only fitness and female society located at 24 West 23rd Street. “Fitness is our fulcrum,” says Shear, “but our aim is to help women become physically strong, which in turn permeates out into their professional, emotional, and interpersonal lives."

1. You’re the Co-Founder and President of Uplift Studios, New York City’s first women-only fitness and wellness facility that opened in 2012. What does Uplift offer, and what’s your day-to-day look like?

Uplift offers group classes, small group training, and amazing one-on-one personal training for women. We also do a certification program called "Fitness for the Female Body,” in addition to lots of events outside of fitness to empower women in all aspects of their lives.

My day-to-day is very busy, and varied! I am always up really early. In addition to being very much a morning person (someone please tell me how people are possibly productive at night!), I spend a lot of time on the ground with my staff and our clients. I still have a few personal training clients myself so I stay engaged that way, and I also spend a good portion of my day engaging in staff development, mentorship, and everything else I can think of to keep our young and amazing group of women motivated and moving forward. I have also been doing a lot of public speaking lately on topics like "Female Empowerment Through Fitness," "Empowered Leadership,” and other topics stemming from female empowerment, which is our specialty. 

2. International Women’s Day is March 8th. How do you and your business hope to make a positive impact on the lives of women?

The good news is, I don't have to hope we make a positive impact on women because I already know we do. Every single day, I hear from clients and the women who come in our doors about how special Uplift is and the powerful ways in which it instills confidence and strength in women. From day one, being women-only was non-negotiable, as was being authentic and welcoming to every single woman out there. I am really proud of the fact that there is room for every woman at our table, and also of the fact that we have so many different demographics of women coming in. We appeal to religious women who cannot workout around men, pre- and post-natal women, women over 50. It's such a mixed bag of fascinating females! Our motto is "Strong Women Uplift Each Other" and I literally and figuratively see that every single day with our clientele and staff across the board.

3. Uplift offers various types of group classes. Do you have a favorite class, or favorite type of workout?

I love all of our classes–and I try to take classes as often as possible, almost every day if I can. We are always tweaking and improving and learning. I would say our Strength class is our signature and a great place to start. But I would also say our personal training is really incredible–we spend an inordinate amount of time training our Coaches to be truly connected to their clients so it's so much more than just a workout.

4. Flatiron is a hotbed for fitness and wellness studios. Do you have any advice for others interested in the industry?

Yes, it's wonderful how fitness has flourished in Flatiron. I think another great thing about our district is that there are shorter term spaces to rent, too, through places like Breather and all of the incredible event and co-working spaces in our area. I think based on that I would advise anyone wanting to start a fitness or wellness or really any kind of business that would potentially entail brick and mortar to do a pop-up or short-term lease to test the waters and get a feel for what being a long-term lease holder for a business might encompass.

5. You joined the Board of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Board Member in 2018. What compelled you to get involved, and going back to Uplift, why did you choose to locate in the neighborhood?

I really and truly love the Flatiron District. It's so centrally located and so chock-full of amazing businesses and powerhouse people. I was so honored to join the Board because I want to do everything I can to work toward supporting the hard work of the BID staff who work tirelessly to make our district as hospitable as possible to the people that live, work, and visit here. 

6. Switching gears to your life outside of work–how do you like to spend time away from the studio?

I love to travel, I read an enormous amount, I love to run, and I spend a lot of time with friends and family–I am really lucky to have a huge tribe. 

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

We have SUCH amazing food here. I somewhat recently discovered Obicà for pizza and wine and I love it. My best kept secret for and great little Happy Hour is Punch Bar & Grill (Happy Hour is all day for those that are interested and they have surprisingly good food, too), Oxido, Mangia, and Pret a Manger (the lentil soup is amazing) are my very quick go-to lunch spots since Uplift is sandwiched between them. And for me, the best of the best in our neighborhood is the new Freehand hotel and the rooftop bar there, Broken Shaker

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

One thing on my very short list is the free Sunday walking tour of the Flatiron–what an awesome amenity, and I can't wait to partake in it. I adore Madison Square Park. Strolling through there even at the busiest times of the day brings my stress levels down by a factor of about 10. I also love the Public Plazas, particularly the one right on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue and Broadway where the BID does incredible programming. It's the best respite when I have a few minutes to get a tea and soak up a little bit of sun, even for five minutes. Finally, I love the women-only co-working space Luminary. You can drop in any day with their day pass–their inside space is so cool and cozy and beautiful–and they also have a fitness studio and glam bar, and anyone can partake in those offerings.

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area? 

The Flatiron Building is so iconic that I find myself staring up at it whenever it's in sight. I actually also love the building where Uplift lives, not because I am biased (well, not entirely :) ), but because while it is small, it's a landmarked building, and we are on the second floor and have gorgeous floor to ceiling original windows. I have a little office set up in the very front corner of our space so I can kick up my feet and gaze out the window, caught up in the bustling BID below me. It's one of my favorite moments of zen every day!

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

Vibrant. Thriving. Diverse.

Photo Credit: Uplift Studios

Feb 4, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Maria Gelashvili, Owner & Head Designer, Flowers By Blooming Affairs

Meet Maria Gelashvili, Owner & Head Designer of Flowers By Blooming Affairs, a “new-fashioned flower shop” at 925 Broadway, between 21st and 22nd Streets. “We make sure we give our clients an exceptional floral experience,” says Gelashvili, who begins her day at 6 am. “We have to get fresh flowers every day!”

1. Flowers by Blooming Affairs has been in the Flatiron District for nearly two decades, and you and your family became owners two years ago. What has made the business so successful over the years? Have you made changes to the business? 

Flowers By Blooming Affairs is a family-operated business. My husband and I have made a lot of positive changes. Our neighbors and returning customers always comment on how different the store is compared to how it was years ago.  

2. What do you offer at Flowers by Blooming Affairs?

We provide flowers for all occasions, whether it be weekly arrangements for lobbies and offices or arrangements for corporate events. We also offer discounts for companies and incorporate European floral design methods.

3. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. What are your recommendations for the occasion?

Blooming Affairs can guarantee many different arrangements for Valentine’s Day. Whatever the customer wants, we are able to meet their vision. It’s one of our biggest days of the year, and we always make sure we are fully prepared for anything. Red roses are the most popular during this holiday. We come up with creative ways to incorporate them, so designs don’t become repetitive.

4. Do you have a favorite flower or flower arrangement?

My favorite flower is pink ranunculus, and our favorite arrangement goes by the name “Vogue.” I love soft pastel colors. Purple and pink are our store’s theme colors.

5. What led you to owning a small floral business?

We love adventures and we think business is an adventure. It’s fun and rewarding, but sometimes it is frustrating. However, we are so grateful and happy that we are in one of the best neighborhoods in New York City. Our customers are very nice and supportive in every way. Flowers By Blooming Affairs is improving daily, and we enjoy being here.

6. Is there any advice you can share with others interested in floral design?

I always say in order to become successful in anything you do in this life, you have to use three things: your hands, your mind, and your heart. That is the formula for success.

7. Switching gears, when it’s time to grab a bite to eat, where do you like to go in the area?

There are so many places to eat within the vicinity of our store. Maison Kayser right next door, Obicà Mozzarella Bar Pizza e Cucina, and Mari Vanna. Our kids enjoy Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

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

Definitely the Flatiron Building is my favorite building to see, and Flowers By Blooming Affairs is the second.

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the neighborhood?

Looking at the Flatiron Building every morning makes me happy. It holds so much history and beauty.

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

Historical. Modern. Energetic.

Photo Credit: Flowers By Blooming Affairs

Jan 21, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Lindsey Bittner, Pastry Chef of Benno, Leonelli Taberna & Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria

Meet Lindsey Bittner, Pastry Chef at Benno, Leonelli Taberna, and Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria in the Evelyn Hotel, a 1905 Beaux Arts building located at 7 East 27th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. “The responsibility of managing three outlets,” says Bittner, “means that not every day is the same for me.” 

1. Congratulations on your triple post as Pastry Chef at Benno, Leonelli Taberna, and Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria. What does your usual day look like at the restaurant group? 

Thank you! When I work in the morning, my day starts at 5 am. I coordinate the bakery setup and oversee the production of viennoiserie (breakfast pastries), cookies, and cakes that are baked fresh every day. Once the bakery is up and running, I assist my team in producing the components for our various pastries and desserts for the restaurants. My evenings also entail production, but I am much more involved in service for Leonelli Taberna and Benno. I attend pre-service meetings for each restaurant to educate and provide an opportunity for the front of house teams to taste and discuss the desserts. Once service begins, I assist and oversee plating of our creations. The remainder of my time is spent on recipe development, mentoring my cooks, and general administrative duties.

2. You're a classically trained chef with a degree in Baking & Pastry Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island and a certificate in French Pastry Arts from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie in Yssingeaux, France. In addition, you have worked in award-winning restaurants, including Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, and Gramercy Tavern. Describe for us the pivotal point that led to your current career.

When I was studying at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie, I saw how far pastry could be taken not only as a career, but an art form. I became infatuated with the consistency and perfection of technique combined with the endless possibilities for creative expression.

3. What are some of your favorite dessert creations? What makes the dish so memorable?

One of my favorite creations is a recent one, which was on the opening dessert menu of Benno. It was a rosemary-infused flan served with spiced pumpkin seeds, citrus-poached cranberries, and brown butter gelato. The reason I think the dish is so memorable is because the strong savory notes balance well with the creamy sweetness of the flan, complemented by the acidy of the cranberries and candied lemon.

4. Valentine’s Day is coming up next month. Do you have any dessert recommendations for the occasion?

Dessert made for two is a nice, romantic gesture that concludes the meal with sweet intimacy.

5. Is there any advice you can share with others who are interested in the culinary arts?

Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. Also, patience is key—it takes time and repetition to hone any skill.

6. Switching gears to your life outside of the pastry kitchen–how do you like to spend your free time?

I love music and film and spend my off time at home with my cat, Moses.

7. When you’re not dining in the Evelyn Hotel, where else do you like to eat in Flatiron? Do you have a go-to dish? 

I really dig Hanjan on 26th Street. I love the spicy rice cake; it has a fabulous texture!

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

Definitely check out the art installations at Madison Square Park. One of my favorites was a piece called Fata Morgana by New York-based artist Teresita Fernández. The installation consisted of mirrors cut in organic patterns suspended above the walkway that caught light and images in a way that transformed the Park.

9. What’s your favorite building or in the area? 

My favorite building in the area is the New York Life Building. My grandfather, father, and mother all worked there at different points in time; my parents met while working there. It seems providential that I would wind up working footsteps away from family history.

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

Iconic. Gastronomic. Deco.

Photo credit: Evan Sung

Dec 11, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Deborah Koenigsberger, Store Stylist & Owner, Noir et Blanc

Meet Deborah Koenigsberger, store stylist and owner of Noir et Blanc, a French-inspired boutique, located at 7 West 25th, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. “The key to the success of the store is our unmatched customer service over these many years, and the fact that I scour the shows in Europe to bring back little known brands,” says Koenigsberger. A few doors down at 11 West 25th Street, Koenigsberger also wears her hat as Founder and award-winning CEO of Hearts of Gold, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help homeless mothers and their children. “Last month, we raised the highest net amount of dollars ever for the organization. We netted over $870,000 to continue this vital work.”

1. You’re fluent in a number of languages and initially considered a career as a United Nations translator. But your passion for fashion and modeling directed you to become a retail entrepreneur. Three decades ago, you opened the boutique Noir et Blanc. Tell us more

Retail has changed SO much since I opened Noir et Blanc in 1989. We don’t just sell clothing but we style each woman, and that goes a long way with our clients. We give her the personal attention she needs to feel beautiful and confident in the pieces she purchases. In addition, I’m a stickler for detail and quality, so the collections we carry are well thought out and curated to create the best wardrobe she could have. My store manager, Karen, who has been with me for over 20 years now, and I constantly brainstorm about new ideas we want to incorporate in the collections and the store in general to keep things fresh.

2. On social media you’ve stated that the retail fashion business is an evolving industry and that “networking is a great way to meet new customers.” How has networking helped you as a small business owner? 

The value of networking cannot be overstated. Personally, I belong to a networking group, which I joined about four years ago, and it has helped my business tremendously. I’ve met other stylists and individual clients that I would have not come across in my normal everyday life, which has proven to be invaluable. It has opened new avenues for us.

3. Your concern about the plight of the homeless in Madison Square Park during the 1990s led you to become the Founder and CEO of Hearts of Gold. This not-for-profit organization will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2019. Describe Hearts of Gold and your role there as well as some of your recent achievements and plans for the future. 

My role at Hearts of Gold (HoG) is Founder and CEO, but I literally do everything and I am extremely hands on. Some of our recent achievements are the success of our HoG Learning Center, giving away our 1,000th backpack this past August during our Annual Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway and Block Party, and the graduation of several of our moms from our new initiative, the Career Development Program.

4. Over the years, Hearts of Gold has gained support from a number of high-profile individuals, including Grammy and Oscar winning singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder, Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, and Emmy winner and Today co-anchor Hoda Kotb. How has their participation and those of others helped Hearts of Gold’s mission? 

The participation of high-profile individuals never hurts as we all know and in HoG’s case, it has helped us to tell our story. Individuals like Marcia Gay Harden, Stevie Wonder, who was my inspiration for starting the charity, Rhonda Ross, and others have lent their name and support. This speaks to the ability of our story to reach out and touch. The fact that they support us legitimizes our work.

5. Is there any advice you can share with others who are interested in both social services and owning a business?

My advice to any entrepreneur is to do what you LOVE. Find your passion and exploit it to the maximum. Look for all the ways it can pay your bills, but also help someone else who is NOT as fortunate as you. It’s not so hard to do, and in the end, you will never regret that decision. Finally, get yourself a mentor or a coach who hears you and can help you to navigate the bumps that you are sure to encounter along the way.

6. You’re engaged in a busy work schedule, and you’re a wife and mother, too. How do you maintain work-life balance? 

Maintaining work-life balance is all about time management. Fortunately, I have an amazing husband and two pretty terrific boys, so that’s been hugely helpful. This is not to say that I don’t get overwhelmed, but when I do, I check out. Traveling is my absolute favorite pastime! It gives perspective to everything and clears my head. 

7. Switching gears to when you’re not working, where do you like to dine in the area? And, what’s your go-to dish? 

My two favorite places to dine in the area are ABC Kitchen and Hillstone. While very different from each other, each one is always an enjoyable, delicious experience with excellent service! The Miso Glazed Atlantic Cod at Hillstone is my fave and the Mushrooms, Parmesan, Oregano, and Farm Egg Whole Wheat Pizza at ABC Kitchen is delish!

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

Must-see and do in the neighborhood? Walk the side streets! The area has exploded and there is so much to discover! I love all the creative new shops and restaurants that are constantly popping up! 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area? 

All these years later, my favorite building remains the Flatiron Building. It’s genius and it represents my ‘other home’ to me.

10. Finally, choose three words, okay four, to describe the Flatiron District. Historically rich! Fashionable! Yummy! 

Nov 9, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Benjamin Cadena, Founder, Studio Cadena

Flatiron Faces: Benjamin Cadena, Founder of Studio Cadena and Winner of the 2018 Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition 

Meet Benjamin Cadena, Founder of Studio Cadena and winner of this year’s Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition. Cadena’s installation, Happy, will be on display on the Flatiron North Public Plaza from November 19th through January 1st. “I hope that the installation helps highlight the continued importance of public space in cities," says Cadena.

1. Congratulations on being selected as this year’s winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition for your installation, Happy. What was your reaction upon hearing the news? 

I was very, very happy.

2. Tell us about Happy. What was your inspiration for the installation and its name?

The idea for the design was to create an installation that could project a sense of warmth that we often associate with happiness–to induce a feeling rather than simply provide an image or a function. Although it exists as a temporary folly in the City, I also saw it as an opportunity to inscribe a small pocket of public space in the City which, by filtering the surrounding context, could create a warm space within. The name itself is aspirational and seeks to conjure an ideal or ambition that we all share. 

3. What do you hope will be the public's takeaway when experiencing the artwork?

More than a hundred years ago, across the street in Madison Square Park, the Rocking Chair Riots helped spark a discussion about public space in New York that continues to this day. We need to continue to carve out and design quality spaces accessible to all within the City. Also, my broader ambition is quite simple: I hope they smile.

4. In addition to your work with Studio Cadena, you’re also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. What inspired you to study architecture, and what advice do you have for those who may also be interested in the field?

With both my parents being architects, architecture has always been part of my life in one way or another. I initially sought a different path studying economics as an undergraduate and briefly worked in finance before drifting back into the world of architecture. It’s a very rich and multifaceted creative field where you get to shape the world we live in, but it takes a lot of work and dedication. My advice for those interested in the field is to learn as much as you can by going to lectures, events, and exhibitions where you can get a sense of what the profession might entail and see if it’s a world that you can fall in love with as I did.

5. A number of your designs can be found in South America, including your homeland of Colombia. What does your continued presence there mean to you?

It's where I grew up, so there will always be a part of me that is connected to Bogotá. I think there is great opportunity, too, for younger architects to build there and get more responsibility early on in their careers, which can be a challenge in places like New York. It’s also a place where there is still much to be done to have real impact on communities. I hope to continue to find work there.

6. In addition to being an award-winning architect, you co-founded talk20, a series of lectures and public forums organized in cities around the world. Tell us more. 

Talk20 was a great project that started in graduate school and lasted for about a decade in many cities around the world and still continues to live on. It was a live magazine that brought together architects, artists, and other creatives in different cities to share and showcase their work with a live audience. I've continued to be engaged in shaping and contributing to New York’s creative community by organizing events like 24x24x24 this summer at Storefront for Art and Architecture and a series last year called New Local, which brought together designers, leaders, entrepreneurs, and policymakers to exchange and generate ideas to shape the future of cities.

7. Your award-winning design and architecture studio is based in Brooklyn. When you cross the East River, where do you like to go to grab a bite to eat in the Flatiron District? And, what’s your go-to dish?

Every time I find myself around Flatiron, I love to just wander into Eataly to browse around their stalls and invariably come out with more food than I should eat. I always end up with some gelato on the way out. On special occasions, I would say not to miss Cosme for some quality Mexican food. 

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

Obviously, the Flatiron Building is the must-see landmark, but in the summer, Madison Square Park is a great place to sit on the grass on a sunny day. If you like ping pong, it’s also great to head over to SPiN for a drink and a game. 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

The Flatiron Building by far. It encapsulates the architectural ambitions of the City.

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

Fun. Classic. Happy. 

Photo Credit: Studio Cadena