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: Free Academy Debuts as First No-Cost College

As public school students make their long-awaited return to classrooms in 2021, the Flatiron Partnership honors this historic occasion with a look back at another noteworthy milestone in New York City education. In 1847, the Free Academy was established as the first tuition-free college for young men pursuing careers. The building was located on the southeast corner of 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue and would exist in the community for nearly eight decades. 

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Photo Credit: NYC AGO

The Academy’s launch was based on a growing trend toward “universal education” due to the U.S. population’s expansion, wrote Selma C. Berrol in Getting Down to Business: Baruch College in the City of New York, 1847-1987. Townsend Harris, who was then head of the city’s Board of Education, proposed the idea of a “free education at college level for all young men who had graduated from the ‘common schools’ of the city,” writes cuny.edu. With a voter-approved statewide referendum on June 7, 1847, “the people of New York had set up a democratic institution of higher learning through the free and full use of the democratic process.”

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Photo Credit: Potrait of James Renwich Jr. from Columbi

Commissioned as the Academy’s architect was Manhattanite James Renwick, Jr., who later gained global fame as designer of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Construction of the Academy commenced in November 1847. The four-story structure featured “walls of red brick with sandstone trim and a gabled roof with graceful Gothic towers at each of the four corners,” noted a 1981 Landmarks Preservation Commission report. “The building had a chapel which could seat 1,300 persons, a spacious library with large work tables, and gas illumination. Individual desks and stools of cherry wood were in the classrooms and drinking fountains on each floor.” Construction cost was a reported $68,000, which was $2,000 under its allocated budget.

On January 15, 1849, the Academy officially opened its doors to 202 students who were “lads in buckram that flocked to the new Gothic structure,” wrote Mario Emilio Cosenza in The Establishment of the College of the City of New York as the Free Academy in 1847.  “Admission to the Free Academy,” wrote Berrol, “began with recommendations by grammar school principals and an oral examination in spelling, reading, writing, grammar, geography, arithmetic, and the history of the United States.” Berrol’s book also indicated that students admitted during the first few years were “the sons of artisans and factory workers, and they, together with the handful whose fathers were laborers of various kinds, were the least likely to graduate. The sons of professionals and merchants were the most likely to earn a degree.”

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Photo Credit: CUNY

The five-year curriculum ranged from the study of Latin to integral calculus. Most students from the first graduation class in 1853 pursued law as a profession. “When the number of lawyer alumni are combined with those who became clergymen, doctors, architects, and teachers, it is clear that most of the early Free Academy graduates entered the professions,” according to Berrol. “All of the remaining members of the class that finished the course in 1853 entered the city's business life as merchants, bookkeepers, or insurance brokers.”

 

In 1866, however, the Academy would be renamed the City College of New York and relocate its expanding student population, which would become a more diverse one in decades, to a larger campus in Harlem in 1907. “It was beginning to appear that the graduates of the Free Academy were under a handicap because of the name of their school,” writes cuny.edu. “Not that the quality of education was less than that offered by academies and colleges in other parts of the country, but the word ‘academy’ was beginning to be old-fashioned in relation to higher education and the term ‘free’ had connotations of charity.”

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Photo Credit: Baruch College

The Academy building was demolished in January 1928 and replaced with a reported $1.2 million, 16-story structure to be occupied by the City College School of Business and Civic Administration, which had been established in 1919. In 1953, the school’s name became the Baruch School of Business and Public Administration in honor of 1889 City College graduate and financier Bernard Baruch, and in 1968, designated as Baruch College. The business school was renamed in 1998 as the Zicklin School of Business after 1957 graduate and major gift contributor Larry Zicklin. Noted New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1929 about the impact of a business education, “There is no doubt in my mind that business education is not only a growing need but that it has become a definite part of the educational system of the country.”

Thumbnail Photo CreditCUNY
 Header Photo Credit: City College of New York by Sydney C. Van Nort

Flatiron Faces

Flatiron Faces: Eva Julia Grubler, Director, Dharma Yoga Center

Meet Eva Julia Grubler, Director of Dharma Yoga Center located at 46 West 24th Street, near Sixth Avenue, in the Flatiron District. “We teach you how to stay youthful, positive, calm, and happy,” says Grubler, who also studied dance with Alvin Ailey, appeared as a principal dancer in the 1980 film Fame, and has been with the Dharma Yoga Center since 1990. She adds about sessions at the center, “I forgot to mention every class ends with deep relaxation–that does the trick!” 

1. Dharma Yoga Center is one of New York City’s oldest yoga centers and defines itself as “a pathway to radiant health, well-being, and inner peace.” Tell us more!

Dharma Yoga Center had some early incarnations in New York City in the 1970s. Sri Dharma Mittra, the head and main teacher of the school, had come to New York City in the 1960s from Brazil to study with a guru from India that his brother had already met. The man who was to become the guru of Dharma Mittra was Swami Kailashananda, a.k.a. Yogi Gupta. He arrived in the United States in the 1950s to bring health-giving natural methods and techniques of yoga to the American people. In those days, there was really almost no yoga in the United States. Sri Dharma went into intensive training with the guru, and when the guru opened a school in Midtown East, Sri Dharma helped in all ways at the school, as well as teaching daily posture classes and running its early live juice bar in Manhattan.

2. You’ve been the center’s director since 1990. Briefly describe your role, specialties, and what aspect of the job excites you most. What’s your overall mission as a yoga instructor?

I basically do all the needs and aspects of our center. From keeping it clean, organized and beautiful, delegating tasks, managing staff, and teachers, to making sure we have an awesome ongoing class schedule, and supporting and promoting one of the most important things we do, training new teachers!

3. Dharma currently offers live streaming and in-person sessions for vaccinated individuals. What are any ongoing business challenges faced by the center and how are they managed by your team?  

Getting everything set up was quite a feat, especially early on when we had to figure out and purchase all the electronic equipment for sound, video, and computer monitors, both for at the center and teachers who were no longer local. Thanks to some amazing people on my staff, we did it, and we did it well! We have always been a seven-day-a-week school, and we never missed a beat. Now that we are open with live classes and continuing on Zoom, our challenge is having people come back to class at the center. We have always had an international community regularly coming to New York City, so of course, that is no longer happening.

4. What was your experience like overcoming pandemic-related obstacles over the past year and a half?

It truly has not been easy, and we take everything very seriously. We always follow all city and state guidelines. We were basically closed as a live center, and when we were legally allowed to open a few months ago, we did a thorough cleaning of every corner of the center and air filtration system. We regularly clean between all classes as well.

 5. What are some of the physical and mental benefits of practicing yoga?

The benefits now realized finally by so many are number one, intoxicating your body with the life force - breath! Something most people never even think about on a daily basis. Breath activates our entire body and all systems. There are many special ancient breathing techniques in yoga that we teach. Some align with the physical body postures that keep your bones, muscles, and tendons strong and elastic at the same time. 

6. You have a background in choreography and modern dance. What led you to pursue a career in yoga? For those considering this field, what professional advice can you share?

Yes, I was a scholarship kid at Alvin Ailey when he was alive, at a church he had on East 59th with Pearl Lang in the 1970s. I also danced with Louis Falco at 61 West 24th Street, down the block from the center, kind of before it was called the Flatiron District. It was pretty grungy then. I was also a principal dancer in the film Fame. I am very happy to have been part of the dance world of the 70s and 80s of New York City for sure; there was nothing like it. After some minor dance injuries, I had turned to yoga as a more peaceful and connected way to move. That you can relax while holding still or moving is so beneficial for the body. You have time to clear your mind and body of the external world, all the noise and the restlessness, and start to connect within. 

A career in yoga is likely one of the best professions in the world today. It keeps you healthy as you support others in becoming healthy. Our Life of a Yogi Teacher Training program that I started in 1999 is all about sharing love and knowledge with others. We have trained thousands of Dharma Yoga teachers worldwide. Being a yoga teacher or a Dharma Yoga instructor can be part-time, and you can still have whatever career you’re trained in. The most important aspect is the desire to help and serve others!

7. What do you love most about the Flatiron District? When you’re not at the Dharma Yoga Center, how do you like to spend your time in the neighborhood?  

I lived in the West Village in the 70s, East Village in the 80s, Gramercy/Stuyvesant Town in the 90s, and the Dharma Yoga Center also has moved in a similar direction. Most recently, we were around the corner in a huge space at 61 West 23rd Street for 10 years until the building was sold. So I would say it's been part of my neighborhood for years now. Good stuff in the area? Madison Square Park only gets better, and they have a great dog and kids park and art exhibitions.

Eataly has been a lovely addition to the area, and now they have most of the street, too, just like in Italy. A lot more European, like outdoor seating in the middle of what was recently the street. Trader Joe’s–needed! And by Chloe., Bite, and my fav Taïm (I’ve been to the ones in Tel Aviv, too). Sadly, some good vegan places have closed, so I can't mention them anymore. And I frequent what’s left of the Flower District area. 

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

Cool. Open Sky. Walkable. 

Walking Tour

Weekly Free Walking Tour

Join our professional guides on a 90-minute journey through this vibrant neighborhood, viewing some of the City’s most notable landmarks.

Click here for more information.

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

39M+

Total 2018 MTA riders for 23rd Street (1,6,N,W,F,M) and 28th St (1,6,N,R) stations

6,500

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