Apr 5, 2017

Lisa Mansour, N.Y. Cake

Flatiron Faces: Lisa Mansour, CEO of NY Cake & Baking Supply and Founder of NY Cake Academy

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Lisa Mansour, CEO of NY Cake & Baking Supplies and Founder of NY Cake Academy. Located at 56 West 22nd Street, the retail store is the go-to site for a variety of baking accessories and instructional classes, and is great for the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays. "Cake is fun," says the Brooklyn-born Mansour. "Cake makes people happy."

1. Briefly describe your dual role as CEO of NY Cake & Baking Supplies and founder of the NY Cake Academy.

I run the store day-to-day, look for new products, and help customers. I grew up watching my mom teach and I knew it's what I wanted to do, so NY Cake Academy was created. I am the main instructor, I create the classes, and bring in guest teachers at least once a month because there’s always new techniques to learn. We do private events, parties, corporate events, and our classes range from beginner to expert decorators. I love teaching and having that one-on-one with my customers. It’s the best way to do business.

2. You opened your retail store in 1989. Can you recall the early days in the community?

The District was completely different back then, very quiet, not much foot traffic for businesses. It was a little scary to open a retail store in the area but it was the most affordable rent in Manhattan so we took the chance. The community blossomed into this hot spot with shops and restaurants everywhere. It’s wonderful now.

3. Which baking supplies do you highly recommend to consumers?

I always recommend anodized cake pans to my customers over nonstick. They give you a lighter crumb finish and a more even bake.

4. You launched the NY Cake Show in 2012. Briefly tell us about the idea behind the event, and what can we expect this year.

This is an event devoted to cake lovers, and the artistry behind cakes. The NY Cake Show is an activity for the whole family, there is something for everyone. This year the theme is Broadway, and we have a cake decorating competition, classes and demos for the novice and expert baker, kids classes, a free cupcake bar for kids, shops, and the most beautiful cakes you’ve ever seen. Forget what you’ve seen on TV, the things people create for this show will blow you away. The show has grown to a two-day event now, and takes place June 10th and 11th!

5. The culinary arts is a major part of your life. What do you consider the most important skills for those interested in this career path?

Keep an open mind, there’s always new techniques and trends to explore. Even when you think you’ve learned everything, don’t stop. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you’ll discover talents and hobbies you didn’t even know you had.

6. What led you to pursue baking and retail as your career?

I grew up in it, I was always going to do this. My mother was a cake decorating instructor. I didn’t have playdates when I was a kid. I went with my mother to her classes and sat with her students. Her students wanted to buy products and there was no internet or Amazon like there is now, so we decided to open up a store on 22nd Street with my Mom teaching and I ran the store.

7.  What do you love most about the Flatiron District?

It’s so lively and unique. There’s history everywhere you look, the stone work and architecture often inspires me for cakes. It’s a wonderful environment to come to everyday.

8. Other than a visit to your business, what do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood?

Eataly is one of my favorite shops in the city. They have everything and it's all fresh. It's not exactly a secret, though, it's always packed!

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

The Flatiron Building. The shape and detailing is unique; buildings just aren’t made like that anymore. I would love to do a cake like it one day!

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Stylish. Active. Fun.

Image via Anthony Prou.

Mar 7, 2017

Dr. Julie Kuriakose, Allergist

Flatiron Faces: Dr. Julie Kuriakose, Co-Founder of Hudson Allergy

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Dr. Julie Kuriakose, co-founder of Hudson Allergy. Hudson Allery provides allergy care at 208 Fifth Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets. Dr. Kuriakose is a native of Belle Mead, NJ and holds a B.S. in Public Health from Rutgers University as well as an M.D. from the New Jersey Medical School, University of Medicine & Dentistry.

1. Briefly describe your roles as co-founder of Hudson Allergy, faculty member at New York Presbyterian/Cornell Weill, and a Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons/New York Presbyterian.

As co-founder of Hudson Allergy, my mission is to provide expert medical care to my patients and to set the standard for a modern private medical practice. First and foremost, patient care and education are my priorities. I also focus my efforts on improving the customer experience. At Hudson Allergy, we offer the highest level of care with same day appointments, comprehensive services, applied digital tools, and electronic medical records. The goal is for our doctors to spend more time with our patients, who ultimately spend less time waiting.

At Columbia, I spend my time lecturing fellows, residents, and medical students and providing hands-on teaching in the allergy clinic. It's a wonderful and rewarding experience to be able to teach at the institution that trained me.

2. Spring is almost here and with that, seasonal allergies. What's some of the best advice you offer to your patients?

First, see an allergist and identify what you're specifically allergic to. So many patients know they have allergies but have no idea what allergens are causing the reaction.

Once you know what you're allergic to, take steps to prevent exposure. For example: keep windows closed to avoid letting airborne pollen and mold into your home; take your shoes off at the door, change your clothes, and wash your hands and face after spending time outdoors; shower before you go to sleep. Pollen is very sticky and can stick to your hair and body. Also, consider investing in a HEPA air purifier for your bedroom, clean/change your air conditioning filters, track pollen/mold counts, and start your medications before the season starts, don’t wait until your symptoms are severe. Prevention is key to winning against allergies.

3. You're also a Huffington Post blogger who has written about food allergies. What are your key recommendations to diners eating out?

*Understand your food allergy–get tested and confirm your diagnosis. Your allergist should clearly explain your allergy and help you put an allergy action plan in place. This may include carrying emergency medication.

*If possible, check out the menu in advance and recognize if there are any red flag dishes you need to avoid. Call ahead and let management know a member of your party has food allergies; this is New York, and most restaurants are happy to accommodate.

*Don't be afraid to repeat yourself when it comes to your food allergies.  Discuss your allergy with your waiter and, if possible, speak with the chef.

*When your meal is placed in front of you, confirm this is your dish and that it was prepared to your specifications. If there is any doubt, speak to the management about having it remade.

4. Why did you pursue the specialties of allergy, immunology, and internal medicine as a profession?

Early in my career, I did research in asthma and epigenetic regulation. I'm fascinated with how environmental exposures can trigger disease, not just asthma and seasonal allergies/hay fever, but also allergic skin conditions and food allergies, especially as the number of people with allergies grows.

5. As a Flatiron District business owner, what do you love most about working in the area, and what leisure activities do you like to do here?

I love that there are so many fitness studios and gyms in the area. It's so easy to attend a class after work.

6.  Your practice receives positive patient reviews. What distinguishes your office from others, and what are the reasons behind your business success?

We're focused on the customer experience. Our office is modern and inviting. We offer same day appointments without a long wait. Patients can book their appointment online, and they can communicate with their doctor directly through our patient portal without having to pick up the phone. Most importantly, our doctors are accessible and take the time to develop a relationship with each individual patient.

7. When you grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood, where do you like to go? What's your favorite dish?

I can't choose! Bo's Kitchen & Bar Room for the watermelon cocktails, and Tappo for the thin crust pizza.

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

Madison Square Park has some of the best views of the most charming buildings in the city.

9. What's your favorite building or architectural element in the area and why?

The Flatiron Building and Clock Tower. They're simply iconic.

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Vibrant. Dynamic. Historic.


Feb 8, 2017

Todd Snyder, Menswear Designer

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Todd Snyder, an award-winning menswear designer and owner of the luxury brand store that bears his name at 25 East 26th Street. Described as a "blending of Savile Row craftsmanship with a downtown New York aesthetic", Snyder's style is based on the Huxley, Iowa native's tailor-made passion for fashion. "I followed my dream of being a fashion designer," says Snyder, who earned a BA in Apparel Design at Iowa State University. "I taught myself to sew and it's served me well."

1. Briefly describe your dual role as a menswear designer and proprietor of your Flatiron District commercial property.

My first paying job was at J.Crew in 1993, located in the Flatiron District, and I fell in love with the area. When I set out on my own in 2010, my only choice was Flatiron, it’s the perfect location to go uptown and downtown. Once I started thinking of opening a store, my only choice again was the Flatiron District. I have always loved the energy and the people. It has the best shopping for interiors and we have the best restaurants in my neighborhood (ABC Kitchen, Gramercy Tavern, and Maialino). It just feels like home.


2. You've been honored as a CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Menswear Designer of the Year nominee. How would you best describe your signature label and what makes the style a distinctive global brand?

I have been very blessed to be recognized by the CFDA. My brand has evolved into a classic luxury American brand with a modern sensibility. I like mixing traditional tailoring with vintage military pieces while continuing to insert active modern fabrics.

3. Can you share with us any fashion predictions for 2017 and why you think they will be trending among consumers?

Active is still strong. You will see lots of track suits and active inspired knits mixed with traditional sportswear.

4. Why did you pursue fashion as a profession?

I started studying architecture in college and switched to fashion in my senior year.  I followed my dream of being a fashion designer. I always loved clothing and had an eye for tailoring. I taught myself to sew and it’s served me well.

5. An industry colleague once described you as "a very calm big brother." Would you consider that true? How would you best describe yourself?

I am very calm. I have worked for some pretty amazing people and they have been very good mentors. I guess I get it from them.

6. As a business owner and Flatiron District resident, what do you love most about living and working in the area?

It’s a great place for young talent. A lot of my team lives in Brooklyn or they come in on trains through Grand Central. It’s very convenient for all of them, but it also offers a lot of options for after-work drinks and restaurants. My favorite part is that we have three art supply shops within three blocks.

7. When you grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood, where do you like to go? What's your favorite dish there?

ABC Kitchen. My favorite is the pizza for lunch. My other favorite is Eisenberg’s deli on Fifth Avenue. They have the best breakfast. It’s old school.

8. Aside from visiting your store, what do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the community?

Madison Square Eats. It’s the best taste in town. Dozens of local restaurants showcase their best eats. It’s a great way to try everything.

9. What's your favorite building or architectural element in the area and why?

Oh, of course, the Flatiron Building. Still looks incredibly unique and modern despite being built in the early 1900s.

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

History. Present. Future.

Dec 14, 2016

Douglas Widick, Managing Director of North Coast and Improviser at The Peoples Improv Theater

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Douglas Widick, Managing Director and member of hip-hop improv group North Coast, which performs at the award-winning Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT).  A native of Boca Raton, Florida, Widick earned a B.F.A. in Acting from New York University and has studied at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB), and Magnet Theater.

1.  Briefly describe your role as a member of the hip-hop improv group North Coast, which performs at The Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT), heralded as one of the best comedy theaters in New York City.

My role in North Coast is first and foremost an improviser who freestyle raps with the group. We've been together for almost eight years now [established in February 2009], and I am one of the two founding members left, along with the man who conceived the team, James Robilotta. I currently serve as the team's Managing Director, curating the group's vision and growth.

2. Over the years, you have performed at several of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership’s plaza programming, including our “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” and Summer Series programs. Tell us what you consider your most memorable PIT performance on the plaza to date and why?

I have such fond memories of these performances! My favorite was doing a version of "Puff, The Magic Dragon" but with all new lyrics for a little boy who told us what he wanted for Christmas. There was something in the air that day, and the audience from the street just kept swelling. We had Jody Shelton [Baby Wants Candy] on the keys, and Mandible [The Beatbox House] on the beat that day.

3. Can you share with us some of your upcoming performances at The PIT this holiday season or in 2017? Which ones do you recommend people check out?

We have two more performances of our critically acclaimed weekly show at The Peoples Improv Theater the next two Saturdays at 9 p.m. Then, we're off until the 2017 season starts. In addition to the weekly show, we'll have our new show ANYBODY: An Improvised Historical Hip-Hopera, running weekly at The PIT until March 9th on Fridays at 9:30 p.m. (Tickets are available at here.)

4. What do you like most about musical improv comedy and why?

What I like the most about musical improv comedy is that it's an opportunity to take silliness very seriously. You can play a rapping couch, and if you take that duty with 100% gravitas, you're gonna have a whole hell of a lot of fun! My whole life I've been making up stupid songs with my friends, so this is just an extension of that, with paying audience members.

5. In addition to being a performance venue, The PIT also offers comedy writing classes and educational workshops. Do you have any advice for those who are starting out in improvising or want to try musical improv comedy?

Yeah! I would recommend that they see as many shows as humanly possible while taking the classes. Musicians listen to music, football coaches study old games, and improvisers should watch improv shows, especially while in the classes. For those who want to try musical improv, I recommend you go to the musical mixer at the Magnet Theater, which is three Tuesdays out of the month. It couldn't be a more supportive starting out point! Once you're hooked, take a 101 class at The PIT, Magnet Theater, or UCB.

6. When you grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood, where do you like to go? What's your favorite dish there and why?

My cousin used to work at Hillstone on 27th Street and Park Avenue South, and I got hooked on their fish sandwich. They serve it with matchstick potatoes and it's just delightful. They give you way too
much, so I usually take half home!

7. Aside from attending a show or grabbing a drink at The PIT, what do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the community and why?

I guess this is a pretty basic answer, but if you've never sat at Shake Shack on a fall day and eaten one of their thick concretes while relaxing and watching New Yorkers pass you in the park, then you must. High quality food with high quality views makes for an unbeatable experience with a wonderful view of the Flatiron Building.

8. What's your favorite building or architectural element in the area and why?

I have a weird obsession with the Credit Suisse and New York Life buildings. Something about the way the brick is laid feels very epic and ancient to me. I feel like they have an energy that says, 'Come in...if you dare to brush shoulders with the gods!' The truth is, it's just people doing computations at desks, but I like to create all sorts of strange falsehoods for what goes on in those buildings.

9. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.


Dec 7, 2016

Leonidas Trampoukis & Eleni Petaloti, LOT

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis of LOT and the designers of the 2016 holiday installation “Flatiron Sky-Line.” LOT was first founded by Petaloti and Trampoukis in Greece and then later in New York, where they have been working since 2012. "Flatiron Sky-Line" is installed on the North Flatiron Public Plaza until Monday, January 2, 2017.


1.  Briefly tell us about the history of LOT:

We both graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation Master's program in Architecture and have had extensive professional experience in the Arts and Architecture in New York before starting the practice.

In 2014, the office was selected for the Wallpaper* Architects Directory, the iconic magazine’s list of the best architectural talent from around the globe. In 2015, LOT formed Objects of Common Interest - a design project with the focus in creating objects and installations in search of inspirational moments in materiality, process, and concept.


2.  What are your thoughts about your proposal being selected as the centerpiece for the Partnership's annual "23 Days of Flatiron Cheer" holiday programming:

We are honored that this installation will be an urban destination for New Yorkers for the holiday season. It’s a site with a very intense vibe and which we felt immediately through the crowd's response.

3. Briefly outline the creative concepts involved with the installation and what you hope will be the public's takeaway after experiencing Flatiron Sky-Line:

Flatiron Sky-Line is an invitation for public interaction that celebrates New York diversity.

We wanted to create a spatial installation that creates an intimate space while at the same time celebrated the surrounding context through a different lens. We feel that visitors appreciate the interactive experience as this is a project for the public space, as much as it is for the people.

4. What’s your favorite destination or “must-see” in Flatiron:

All the urban, open to the public "corners, triangles and plazas" that have been created in so many areas of the Flatiron District. It is amazing how a simple gesture of a seemingly defined area creates such an intimate feel. The area is complemented by cool hotels and stores such as the Ace Hotel and Maison Kitsune that we often visit.

5.  What's your favorite architectural element or building in the Flatiron area:

The Flatiron Building in conjunction with the geometry of the Flatiron Plaza; it is an unique urban moment and perspective.

6.  What's your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in the Flatiron District:
The Breslin at the Ace Hotel and Shake Shack.

7.  How would you best describe the Flatiron District in three words:
Engaging - Festive - Active

Image via LOT.

Oct 18, 2016

David Birdsell, Marxe Dean and Professor at Baruch College's Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce David Birdsell, Marxe Dean and Professor at Baruch College's Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. "The students are enormously talented and their stories are compelling," says Birdsell, a 30-year member of Baruch's faculty. "I’ve never worked with more deserving, inspiring people in my life." A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Birdsell, who is also a go-to media expert on political communication, holds a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Speech Communication from the University of Virginia, in addition to a Ph.D. in Public Communication from the University of Maryland.

1. Briefly describe your roles as Marxe Dean and Professor.

As Dean, I’m responsible for hiring and retaining a world-class faculty, making sure that we have the right recruitment strategies in place to attract the most talented, diverse students, shepherding the development of our degree programs, and nurturing relationships with our many partners locally and around the globe. Our new name and the resources that come with it provide many new opportunities in these areas and more. Baruch has always been about propelling opportunity, and we now do more to achieve that mission than ever before. I’m focused on my role as Dean, but I’m a Professor, too! And though I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like to in the classroom, I very much enjoy working with our Executive MPA students on Saturdays.

2. You were instrumental in the School's creation and opening in 1994. It now ranks as one of the top public higher education institutions in the nation and New York City's only public graduate school dedicated to public affairs. What do you consider your greatest professional and personal achievement with these accomplishments? 

We’ve had a civic administration program at Baruch since the campus was founded in 1919, but it was always tucked into other programs. What changed in 1994 was opening as an independent school, which has allowed us to focus attention and resources on preparing people for leadership in public service, not only in government per se, but in nonprofits, hospitals, and educational institutions as well. I’m most proud of our graduates, who do great things that make this city and others better every day. We’ve also more than quintupled the size of the School since 1994 and built an outstanding faculty, a terrific group of scholars and practitioners who are keenly interested in making sure that their work contributes to building better lives through the thoughtful development, implementation and evaluation of sound public policy. The program has a role in international leadership, too, with faculty occupying board seats on all of the academic organizations central to the work we do. As of October 21st, I became President of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, which has a twofold mission to ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service. And we have done all of this while continuing to lead the nation in the diversity of our student body. That’s something we never want to give up.

3. This year also marks your 30th anniversary as a Baruch faculty member. What do you love about being part of this college community?

Baruch changes lives, period. The students are enormously talented and their stories are compelling; I’ve never worked with more deserving, inspiring people in my life. I’ve had many roles at Baruch, but the one constant is a student body that makes me proud every single day.

4. It was just announced that your School will receive a $30 million donation, one of the largest contributions ever, to aid in expanding faculty and scholarship opportunities. As the School's Dean and a Professor, what are your thoughts on the School receiving such a generous gift?

Austin W. Marxe’s extraordinary gift–we have been renamed in his honor–is truly transformational. We will be able to create new endowed professorships, more than double our levels of scholarship support, provide seed money for important research projects, bring outstanding speakers to the campus for our students and community residents, and support our students studying off-campus, both abroad and in Washington, D.C. The gift also makes us more visible to partners, employers, and other universities around the world. It’s a time for building and creating opportunities for all of our constituencies.

5. With today’s rapid 24/7 news cycle, what’s your favorite medium for consuming news?

I’m glued to my iPad first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. In terms of content, I go straight to certain sites, but also rely heavily on aggregators such as City & State’s "First Read," RealClearPolitics, or The Washington Post’s terrific "Daily 202."

6. When you are looking for an off-campus lunch, where do you like to eat in the neighborhood? What's your favorite dish there?

I usually don’t have time to get lunch off-campus; I get something to take back to the desk, often from Lamarca. But when I have the chance, you’ll find me at Novita parked in front of a plate of its outstanding Inslata di Calamari.

7. What do you recommend to students, faculty, and visitors to the community as a "must-see” or “must-do" destination?

I always take them on Baruch College and Gramercy Park tours, and send them off to the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park on their own. People love it!

8. What do you like most about this area?

The area’s architecture is so varied and rich, but without the gargantuan scale of Midtown. The plazas and outdoor markets have created a vibrant sense of place and new, flexible destinations.

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

I’m a huge Cass Gilbert fan so the New York Life Building is at the top of my list. High up as well are the MetLife complex and, of course, the Flatiron. But I also love the history of the area, and its role from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries as home to what became some of the city’s most important social welfare institutions. Most of the buildings that housed those organizations–the old Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies building, the United Charities building, the original Russell Sage Foundation building among others–have been turned to other purposes, but the exteriors still grace the neighborhood.

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Historical. Dynamic. Human-scaled. 

Image credit Billy Zhu.