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.

Sep 21, 2016

Veronica Mainetti, President, Sorgente Group of America

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Veronica Mainetti, President of Sorgente Group of America, the Flatiron Building's majority stake owner since 2008. "I love its history, its unique triangular shape, and the way in which it has inspired the design of other buildings around the world," says Mainetti about the iconic property built in 1902 that's celebrating its 50th anniversary as a New York City landmark. Mainetti's family-operated business owns a $2 billion U.S. real estate portfolio. A native of Rome, Italy, Mainetti is also a photography and world travel enthusiast with interests in learning about global warming and energy efficient ways to design projects that are truly sustainable. 

1. Briefly describe your role as President of Sorgente Group of America.

As the President of Sorgente Group of America, I oversee the conservation and redevelopment of historic buildings throughout the United States.  I have overseen the restoration of two iconic cast-iron buildings on Greene Street, and transformed them into condominiums, and most recently, have launched 60 White - luxury and sustainable lofts in Tribeca. Over my tenure, I have also been responsible for expanding Sorgente Group’s holdings and have done so with the acquisition of the Flatiron Building here in New York, the Fine Arts Building in Los Angeles in mid-2012, and the Clock Tower in Santa Monica in 2013.

2. Your company acquired a majority stake in the Flatiron Building in 2008. What do you love most about this iconic property? 

The Flatiron Building has one of the most distinctive looks of any New York City building, and it is recognized throughout the world.  I love its history, its unique triangular shape, and the way in which it has inspired the design of other buildings around the world. Serving as an intersection of two of the most iconic roadways, it anchors the neighborhood which has lovingly adopted its name.

3. The Flatiron Building marked 50 years as a New York City landmark on September 20th.  What are your thoughts about this historic milestone and possible future plans for the building?

Sorgente Group of America will continue to honor the Flatiron Building for years to come, preserving its legacy and beauty while also keeping it updated to stand the test of time. Furthermore, given that preserving history is at the heart of our work and passion, we will continue to celebrate the Flatiron Building’s history as we are right now, with the 50th anniversary of its landmark status.

4. You decided to pursue a career in your family's global real estate development business. What makes the profession so appealing to you?

Real estate has appealed to me from a young age as I was lucky enough to start my career at Sorgente Group, which is our family-owned business. Being immersed into the company since childhood, I have been able to nurture and further develop my passion for historic restoration, preservation, and sustainability. With these passions at the forefront of my work, I have forged my own path within the industry. I put my whole heart into all of my work and fall in love with each building I work on.

5. As someone who is gluten-free, where do you like to eat in the neighborhood and your favorite dish there?

I have quite a bit of food allergies, not just gluten, and because of this I tend to cook a lot at home. I do, however, dine in this amazing neighborhood of ours on the roof of our New York City Prow.

6. What do you like most about this area?

The mixture between the incredible historic architecture and the constant reinvigoration of the energy that surrounds this area is enchanting to me.

7. What do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the community and why? Any kid-friendly destinations that your son, Giulio, enjoys in the Flatiron neighborhood?

Madison Square Park. I love to come here as it is my son’s favorite park and gives me the space to enjoy the community while admiring the beautiful art and snap a picture of the Flatiron!

8. We’ve read about your interest in photography, and while the Flatiron Building is one of New York’s most photographed buildings, are there other neighborhood gems that you find to be interesting subjects to shoot?

This is my favorite thing to shoot within the area!

9. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

 Vigor. Architecture. History.

Image credit Veronica Mainetti

Aug 9, 2016

John Doherty, Chef and Owner, Black Barn

In honor of NYC Restaurant Week, the Flatiron Partnership is pleased to introduce John Doherty, Chef and Owner of Black Barn. Doherty's farmhouse-style restaurant, located at 19 East 26th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, features American artisanal fare.

"At an early age, I found that I could make people happy through my food," says Doherty, who grew up in Commack and Huntington, New York. By the time he was 27, the Culinary Institute of America grad was appointed as the youngest ever Executive Chef at the Waldorf-Astoria, where the award-winning Doherty worked for three decades.

1. As an experienced Executive Chef and first-time restaurant owner at Black Barn, what's been your greatest business achievement since opening in 2015?

Like many businesses, the success of a restaurant is a combination of many parts. With less than a year under our belt, I can’t say we have one single greatest achievement, but I can say that I am extremely pleased with the short-term success we’ve had and I attribute that to several things: our highly skilled and passionate management team, the desire of our service team to just make people happy, and how every cook and chef is focused on developing great flavor with consistency. 

2. What are some dishes you recommend to diners during this summer's NYC Restaurant Week and why?

The Chilled Melon Soup is so refreshing and delicious, the Grilled Corn and Kale Salad is back from last season, the Swordfish Tacos have been extremely popular so we put those on the menu, and Chef Matteo's Fresh Made Tagliolini Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Baked Fresh Ricotta Cheese. We will make changes to the menu depending on market ingredients and guests comments.

3. Black Barn recently introduced some new things, including a breakfast menu and a summer happy hour. Tell us more!

What I was most drawn to about purchasing the restaurant is its size and diversity. Coming from the Waldorf-Astoria with three restaurants, room service, and multiple banquet events, I learned to love constant change and variety. There is such diversity in the neighborhood with so many residents, offices, retail stores, and tourists, the possibilities of serving people's needs is endless. People can enjoy a different experience each time they come. Breakfast, brunch, cocktails, and a small plate in the Tavern or outside overlooking the park or a broader menu in the dining room under the rafters or a six-course tasting menu at the Chef's Table, not to mention we have five rooms for private events.

4. At 27, you became the youngest person ever to be named an executive chef at the Waldorf-Astoria. You also hold the honor of having cooked for more heads-of-state than any other chef in the country. How has this remarkable skill set contributed to your present-day success?

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to get a job as a cook at just 19 years old. So with a good culinary education from the Culinary Institute of America, a strong work ethic, and an ability to work well with others, I learned a lot in a short period of time. I suppose putting me in charge when the time was right made sense. The leadership skills, business acumen, and ability to be creative were skills I developed along the way and I apply them daily at Black Barn. At the Waldorf, we fed one million people a year from every walk of life and everywhere in the world. So, with three restaurants, room service, and multiple daily events, you learn a lot about what people like and dislike. You also have to be flexible and creative to meet the needs of so many.

5. After more than three decades in the culinary arts, what makes the profession remain appealing to you and why?

At an early age, I found that I could make people happy through my food. It was then that I set my sights on becoming a chef. Later, I learned that there is so much more bringing that delight to others: great food, unusually good wine, memorable service, ambiance, and value. It is that same desire that turns me on today. However, creating flavors and textures in a dish is truly my first passion and doing that together with a team of chefs makes it even more invigorating.

6.  You are relatively new to the neighborhood - not only as a business owner but also as a resident. What do you love most about living and working here and why?

Although I have worked in Manhattan for the last 39 years, this is the first time I have lived here. My wife, Jennifer, and I LOVE it because life is so much easier. Everything you could ever need is within a block or two. The architecture and Madison Square Park are beautiful, the streets and sidewalks are not overly crowded and they’re clean. There is a good mix of national brand stores for when you know exactly what you want and small boutique shops for when you want something unique. We’ve come to know many people and everyone is so helpful.

7. What do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the community and why?

Besides coming to Black Barn, I must mention the vast number of good quality restaurants in the neighborhood. I think it is extraordinary that one can get a very good meal in so many restaurants in one close area. That is what makes the Flatiron a great dining destination. The more great restaurants, the better it is for everyone. I do brag about the park and the hotels. I think Eataly is something worth seeing as well.

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

I love the Clock Tower. I think it is an amazing building with such beauty. 

9. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Progressive. Dynamic. Diverse.

Image credit Melissa Horn. 

Jul 26, 2016

Peter Tay, Founder, Gotham Jiu Jitsu

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Peter Tay, Founder of Gotham Jiu Jitsu, an instructor in this year's Flatiron Summer Series: Wellness Wednesdays. Join us on August 3rd at 6:30 p.m. when Tay will present a free hour-long session featuring fundamental techniques in self-defense: "Fight Like a Woman: Intelligence and Poise" on the South Plaza (Broadway between 22nd and 23rd Streets). RSVP here.

A native of Hauppauge, New York, Tay was previously an instructor at American Jiu Jitsu Centers and Renzo Gracie Academy. Gotham Jiu Jitsu, located at 1 West 22nd Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), offers one-on-one instruction in the mixed martial arts.

1.  Briefly describe your style of Jiu Jitsu and how the format affects one’s level of self-defense confidence.

My Jiu Jitsu is the perfect balance of MMA (mixed martial arts) Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Traditional Jiu Jitsu. Marrying these two styles allows practioners to learn offensive and defensive skill sets. With this type of training, women are able to defend themselves from anyone of any size.

2.  What will be some of your demonstrated techniques during the Flatiron Wellness Wednesday class?

I will focus on fundamental techniques women need to know when being attacked. Most importantly, the escape grabs. I will also overview some basic ideas to keep in mind to prevent oneself from being a victim in the first place, and what to do when confronted.

3.  What is the one self-defense move that everyone should know?

Be calm, if your mind is calm, your reactions are mindful...to defend oneself is to have a better response than your opponent.

4. You're the recipient of black and brown belts and also the founder of Gotham Jiu Jitsu. How has this remarkable competitive skill set contributed to your present-day success?

Having trained in both styles of Jiu Jitsu, I am able to appeal to a larger audience. If a client wants to compete in MMA, learn how to defend themselves, or just get an incredible full body workout, I am able to teach them in a safe and clean environment.  

5.  After three decades in the martial arts, what makes this profession remain appealing to you and why?

I live and breathe Jiu Jitsu every day of my life.  It makes me happy that I am able to make a career out of my passion. The most rewarding aspect of my career is being able to take my passion and really impact people's lives. Many of my clients were bullied, raped, or robbed, and now I am boosting their confidence and making them feel empowered. Watching clients transform their lives is incredible.

6.  To maintain your fit physique, where do you like to eat in the neighborhood and what is your favorite dish there?

I am a big fan of the Paleo diet. Hillstone on Park Avenue South at 27th Street is one of my favorite restaurants. They are Paleo friendly, and the service is always top notch.  I rotate between steak, bun-less burgers, and salad. I might have just listed half the menu.  

7.  What do you love most about working in Flatiron and why?

I love the energy of Madison Square Park; there is amazing people watching.

8. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Exciting. Refreshing. Humbling.

Image credit: Alberto Vasari

Jul 19, 2016

Trenton Kenagy and Jessie McGuire, ThoughtMatter

We're pleased to introduce Trenton Kenagy, Executive Creative Director, and Jessie McGuire, Strategy Director, at ThoughtMatter. With the use of design, logic, and intuition, ThoughtMatter, a branding studio located at 27 West 24th Street, helps businesses and brands find their place in a textured world. As part of the Summer Series Tech Tuesday classes, Kenagy and McGuire will moderate a free hour-long panel discussion called "Successful Branding: How to Make Branding Work for Your Business" on the South Plaza (Broadway between 22nd and 23rd Streets, August 2nd: 6:30 p.m.). A native of Steelville, Missouri, Kenagy earned a BFA in Design from the Kansas City Art Institute. McGuire hails from Schenectady, New York, and holds a BFA in Design from the Pratt Institute and an MPS in Branding from the School of Visual Arts.

1. ThoughtMatter is described as a branding studio with an artful perspective. What’s your secret to keeping your creative partnership fresh? 

Trenton Kenagy: When we started ThoughtMatter, we set out to create something completely different because we felt there were a lot of things broken in the design and branding industry. We scrapped most of the conventional notions about what an agency should be and the processes they should use. We also brought together a team with wildly diverse perspectives and experience: design, business, journalism, strategy, art, film, writing, even a high school student. All this not only keeps our partnership vibrant, it makes every day a creative adventure. 

Jessie McGuire: The core of ThoughtMatter’s culture is thinking, making and doing. Those aren’t just nice sounding words; we actually live by them. We have a platform called “Thinking” on our website where we talk about trends, things we’ve seen around the city, culture, arts and our design perspective. We create every day. We encourage our studio to participate in creative projects and experiments going beyond our client work. You’ll find us taking on typography and illustration challenges and getting involved in projects around our neighborhood. We take action and turn our passions into realities. 

2. As experienced leaders engaged in design and branding, what appeals to you about the profession?

TK: Design is powerful. Never have brands and culture been more synonymous; one reflects the other. We look to create purpose and meaning through the things we design. It’s not only the outlet for our creativity, but our means to contribute to progress.

3. What is one tip that a small business owner can use to inspire interaction on social media?

JM: Have a conversation! Before the days of tweeting and sharing, people communicated with one another a little differently. Through technology the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and messages has become progressively easier. But this evolution has challenged the context, relevancy and humanity of communication. In short, this has led to misconceptions of what it really means to be social in the age of social media. Businesses should find the platform which is right for them and simply have a conversation.

4. What’s a common branding mistake that companies make, and how can they avoid it?

TK: Many times businesses look at branding as something that they will do once they have succeeded. You typically have one shot to resonate with consumers; businesses should put their best foot forward. But just as important, a brand serves as a guide across all aspects of a business—products, policies, staff, and more. We’ve worked with many start-ups that have used the branding process to facilitate the overall business creation process.

JM: Adding to Trenton’s thoughts--I hate that we still have to say it but branding is more than a logo. Brands have the potential to move us in ways we never imagined; they truly impact culture. All companies and businesses have the opportunity to create meaning and through experiences they can create a brand with purpose.  

5. What is your favorite myth about branding and what’s the truth behind it?

TK: The biggest misconception is the notion that branding is something for large organizations. In its most basic form, branding is defining what you stand for and crafting a message to communicate it. That message could take the form of marketing, products, behaviors, actions, participation, service, etc. 

6.  Your workspace is defined as a creative hive where things are always buzzing and happening, which includes visits from Trenton's dog. How does your pet assist in your creativity?

JM: The culture of the studio is one of experimentation, passion, curiosity, and optimism. We are constantly looking for new ways to be inspired and inspire others. Everyone in the studio has a background in the arts and is open to all forms of creative energy. [Trenton's dog] Cooper is no different. Having a dog in the studio brings unconditional love and reminds us to not take anything too seriously. 

7.  Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

TK and JM: Intimate. Taste. Contrast.

May 24, 2016

Will Guidara, Restaurateur, Eleven Madison Park

To highlight some of the great aspects of the Flatiron District, the BID asks notable neighborhood figures several questions about the area. In celebration of Eleven Madison Park's recent James Beard Foundation Award, we're pleased to introduce Will Guidara. Guidara, along with his business partner Daniel Humm, is the restaurateur behind Make It Nice, a hospitality group that owns Eleven Madison Park, The NoMad Restaurant, The NoMad Bar and soon-to-debut Made Nice. He is a native of Sleepy Hollow, New York and the co-author of three cookbooks. He graduated from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.


1. Briefly describe your roles at Eleven Madison Park, The NoMad Restaurant, and The NoMad Bar.

Daniel Humm and I are partners; he runs the kitchen and I run the dining room--but we make every decision about the business together. Every day we’re running back and forth between the restaurants, whether it’s for meetings or for service–that’s the perk of opening two restaurants only a six-minute walk away from one another.

 2. At age 12, you began working with your dad Frank, a culinary industry veteran. Describe your experience and how it has influenced your career.

Going to work with my dad every day when I was younger had a profound impact on me. Restaurants have been in my blood for as long as I can remember. I was in awe of my dad growing up, I still am, and I learned from him the nobility of service and hospitality.

 3. Your Make It Nice Hospitality Group has earned critical acclaim, including Michelin stars, James Beard awards, and landing on the list of The World's 50 Best Restaurants. First of all—congratulations! To what do you attribute your business success?

I think what Daniel and I have as a partnership is unique; we bring out the best in one another and it’s so much more than just a business relationship. In him, I found someone who cares just as much about food as I do about hospitality. Because of that, we strive to be the most delicious and the most gracious restaurant. We’re also best friends and trust each other unconditionally. We believe that the foundation of everything we’ve built together is our collaboration--the fact that we’re able to work together making decisions as a unit, for the betterment of the business as a whole, and not just for the kitchen or for the dining room. And it’s that spirit that lives throughout our company, because collaboration needs to exist at every level, and with every member of our team. After 10 years of working with Daniel, I know for a fact that, without our partnership, we would not have been able to achieve many of the goals we’ve reached.

 4. You're also the co-author of Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook; I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes; and The NoMad Cookbook. What do you wish for readers to take away from your books?

The cookbook experience is always a very special one. It’s a time to reflect on what we’ve done and find creative ways to tell that story, but it’s also an important part of the documentation of a restaurant. Cookbooks are meant to be a historical reference about a restaurant, a point in time of its life, and they are so much different than a night of service where an experience lives only in the memories of a diner.

 5. Tell us about the new place you and Daniel Humm are opening on 28th Street.

The restaurant will be called Made Nice, opening at 8 West 28th Street, and we’re so excited for its debut. It’ll be our first fast casual, counter-service restaurant, offering dishes in the $10-15 range, all made using a lot of the same ingredients and techniques found at Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad. We realized we’ve developed all these recipes at both restaurants and that many of them could translate into a more casual environment, and at the same time bring a fresh perspective to a counter-service restaurant. To be able to open another restaurant in the neighborhood gives us great joy as well. We love it here!

6. Outside of your venues, where do you like to eat in the area and why?

There are a lot of options, but my go-to eateries tend to be Num Pang and Shake Shack for something casual, roast chicken at the bar at craft, steak at The Breslin, and a cocktail at Raines Law Room.

7. You also reside in the community. What do you love about the Flatiron District?

I love how the neighborhood is so central to everything in New York–I’m a short walk from almost everything. There’s also this electric feeling here because things are evolving so quickly around us.

8. In addition to your businesses, where else do you consider as a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood?

A beer on the roof of Eataly, especially as the weather warms, and also the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. It’s one of my favorite days of the year and we host a Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Bar outside Eleven Madison Park all weekend. I’m also a big fan of the continually evolving art in Madison Square Park.

Editor’s note: We love the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, too, and we’ll explore its history in an upcoming post!