Sunday, August 27, 2017

An Abundant Life - Open Air

One of my favorite things to have happened in recent years is the creation of pedestrian walkways and open air seating spaces in Times Square. I know for anyone in a car or a truck, the idea of closing down parts of Broadway and creating space for people to walk and talk and play and sit and rest and enjoy the area is probably not their favorite topic, but for me as a pedestrian and long time walking traveler in New York City and beyond, having an area closed off to vehicular traffic that is designated for simply enjoying the space is wonderful. Times Square is the center of the universe in some people's eyes, the center of the world in others, and at the very minimum the center of Manhattan. It's where art and culture and tourism, commerce and trade and restaurant businesses meet and mingle, and the sheer numbers of people traveling through the area on a daily and even hourly basis is staggering. Years ago I had the opportunity to work on an Off-Broadway show on 44th Street, and coming out after the show came down at 11:00pm or so was always an amazing thing to do. It doesn't matter what time of day or night it is, Times Square is always hopping. The addition of the open air spaces has brought more people to this crossroads than ever, and though the cabs and cars and trucks have had to find new routes, the flow of people and energy has increased in ways that have created a feeling of community even as the diversity of the people in the area has become greater. In addition to affecting the area around 42nd Street, the new spaces that have been created have encouraged seating and artwork and fun community events like free lemonade, free yoga, gourmet food trucks and Wellness Wednesdays all the way down to Greeley Square on 32nd Street. Planters overflowing with seasonal flowers and foliage and landscaping and artwork abound. In this once congested area people sit and talk and share a meal, and the greatness of the neon lights on Broadway is shown in its full majesty.

A few months ago when I was talking to a friend of a friend at a party, I discovered that I knew someone who had been a part of this wonderful project to create open air spaces in the middle of Times Square. Joe Sopiak, a landscape architect I have known for some years now, was the Senior Design Liaison for the New York City Department of Design and Construction, Infrastructure Division at the time of the project's launch, and was there to see it through to completion. In his words, his role was "to manage for the Division the hiring of the design consultants and manage the design process." He is such a humble person that I would not have found out about his involvement in the project except for our mutual enjoyment and deep love of this great city and wonderful municipal projects, and unless I had asked, I never would have known about his impressive and long history of working on beautiful and important projects in New York City and surrounding states as well as in France and Saudi Arabia for twenty years prior to his work with the New York City Department of General Services which became the New York City Department of Design and Construction, with Quennell Rothschild Associates where he was a Principal and Schnadelback Partnership where he was Head Designer.

I asked him if he would meet with me to walk through the spaces of the Times Square project and talk about the design elements, and he suggested something even better. We started off at Gallagher's Steakhouse, a New York City icon in its own right, and after having one of the best lunches of a lifetime, took a walk down Broadway and through the various places and spaces that make up Times Square. Architectural details that I had not known about were brought to light, helping me understand that great design doesn't shout at you, but gives you a feeling deep inside that brings comfort and enjoyment and delight. Things I'd always only half noticed, but had always had a recognition of interest in, like the paving stones that line the walkways, were explained, and I understood that the reason I'd liked them all along and why they had been reminding me of something was that within the granite at different intervals are reflecting circular pieces of steel that were designed to echo the neon lights and star studded marquees of the famous Broadway theaters. There are also designs and patterns within the paving stones that are reminders of historic paving and street designs, and everything was designed for comfort and usability, while also keeping in mind crowd safety, maneuverability, longevity and flexibilty. Because of all of the careful thought and creative work that was done, this area is now in my eyes better than ever before. My heartfelt thanks goes out to the Sponsors of the overall Times Square Project: The New York City Department of Transportation, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Chief of Staff Margaret Newman, and First Assistant Commissioner for Public Spaces, Andrew Wiley-Schwartz; those responsible for the management of the design and construction, New York City Department of Design and Construction, Commissioner David Burney, Deputy Commissioner Eric Macfarlane, and Joe Sopiak, Senior Design Liaison for the New York City Department of Design and Construction, Infrastructure Division; the project maintenance partners, The Times Square Alliance, President Tim Tompkins; the designers, Snohetta Architects, Principal Craig Dykers and the design staff of landscape architects and architects, Maura Rockcastle, Claire Fellman, Nick Koster, and Misako Murata; and the construction company, Tully Construction.

Joe Sopiak In Times Square

At Gallagher's Steakhouse

A Man About Town
In Time's Square's Duffy Square
At The Spotlight On Broadway Steel And Granite Map
Visualizing The Density Of The World's Largest Theater District

Specially Designed Paving Stones With Reflective Steel Insets

Patterns Within Patterns
Echoing Paving Stones And Streets Of Years Gone By

Times Square
New York City


Jannie Susan

Sunday, August 20, 2017

An Abundant Life - Rise and Shine!

Last week I wrote about the wonderful artists Benjamin Oliver and Jamie Rose who throw the amazing party "Love Will Save The Day". Among the wonderful people I met that night, I was introduced to a group of young and beautiful women who work with RISE Brewing Co., makers of RISE Nitro Cold Brew Coffee. Cold Brew is all the rage these days, but I am a stick in the mud when it comes to trends, and I like my coffee home made and hot, unless it's a broiling summer day. I've tried cold brew and I haven't known what all the fuss was about, but that was before I met the beautiful women of RISE. I liked them so much and liked what I was hearing about the coffee, so I asked if I could stop by one afternoon to visit the cafe in the East Village. It's got to be one of the loveliest oases in an area that many years ago was thriving, then went through a grubby time and then began to thrive again but has so many shops and boutiques that it's sometimes hard to wade through them. But RISE stands out in a crowd, with its cheery signage and cheerful lovely faces behind the coffee bar, and when I tasted the coffee I was an immediate fan. It's beautiful to look at too - I'm a Guinness lover from way back, and watching the coffee being poured from the tap was a reminder of some of the loveliest Guinnesses I've had, and the flavor and richness of this coffee is second to none. I don't usually have sugar in my coffee, even the bitterest espresso, but I do like frothed milk or cream, but this coffee is so naturally sweet and low in acidity that you don't need to add any milk at all. I decided to try some, just to get another idea of the flavor sensation, and it was suggested by the lovely baristas that I try cashew milk which I did. The sweetness got sweeter and the afternoon was lifted, bringing me beautifully into the rest of my day and evening that were busy ones with grace. If you're in the area you're in for a treat, and if you can't make it in person, check them out online. At the storefront and on the website you can order your coffee in kegs and cans to go, so however you can, get there or go there or order to go. You'll be so happy you did - RISE is a great way to start any day. They've recently begun to add flavored coffees to their line, and though the original brew is simply grand, the Blood Orange and Lemon flavors are refreshing twists. The flavors are natural and pure the way the coffee is, and when I shared some with a mixologist friend, the inspiration immediately began flowing. Whatever your taste you'll find something at RISE to please and uplift you.

RISE Brewing Co.
Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
85 Stanton Street
New York City

The Creamiest And Sweetest Black Coffee
Straight From The Tap

Haley Beney And Nikki King
Adding Their Sweetness To The Mix

Refreshing, Low Acidity, Sustainably Sourced
Shown Here With Cashew Milk

The Perfect Pour Every Time

Available On Tap . . .

In Cans . . . 
Original Black

At Home

Or By The Keg

A Mixologists Inspiration

One Of Many New Recipes From The Phenomenal Mason Santana
Of Kolo Klub, Hoboken, New Jersey

Naturally Flavored Blood Orange And Lemon


Jannie Susan

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Abundant Life - Love Will Save The Day

One evening a few weeks ago when I was at a party at one of the design center stores in SoHo, I met someone I thought I might have possibly known back in the days when I lived around the corner from where the party was. To both of our recollections, we had never met, but through both of our recollections, we realized we'd been in and around the same places at around the same times over the course of several years. It's a wonderful feeling to meet someone who shares a love of the history of one of the places where you love the history, and meeting Jamie Rose was one of those wonderful experiences where you find the memories of so many people and places you once knew and loved come rushing all together in all their beautiful glory. I should add that Jamie knows infinitely more people than I do, and so some of his memories and collaborations were of people and places that I'd only heard about. When I asked him what he did and why he was a part of so many wonderful worlds, he said that he was a Creative Director, and I began to learn over time that he is much more than that. A musician, DJ, party coordinator, event planner, networking facilitator, celebrator of people and creativity, the list of titles that Jamie Rose carries could go on ad infinitum. Let me stop here for a moment to say that there is so much more to what he does that this article cannot hold the whole of him. And there is more too, because when I asked Jamie if I could meet with him to talk more and write about him in my blog, he invited me to a party, and said that there was someone there who I really should write about. That someone turned out to be Benjamin Oliver, and the party which was in the building he lives in, was right around an even closer corner from where I used to live. So on a night soon after meeting Jamie Rose, I found myself strolling back through my memories once again, walking through the neighborhood that I'd known and loved back when it was so different from what it is now. When I got to the building on the party invitation address, and started to walk up the stairs, I smiled deep down inside because this building, unlike so many others, was still the wonderful old SoHo that I'd known and loved for so long. I'd thought it was gone forever, but here it was again, and when I got to Benjamin Oliver's studio, I saw a sight that revived my spirit in a way that I'd thought would never happen again.

For those of us who have lived in New York City for a certain amount of time, the changes that have happened over the years have been a mixture of good and bittersweet. Places and spaces where we'd lived and loved and grew and changed and learned and survived often don't exist any more, and if they do, they look very different from back in the days when we first saw them. In some cases that's a very good thing - cleaner and safer streets and neighborhoods, subways that are more reliable - but in some cases there is something that has been lost that seems as if it could never return. The edginess and eclectic mix of people and architecture, art and artists, people of all walks of life and backgrounds meeting and greeting at parties and pubs and clubs - it seems sometimes when I walk down the streets that I'm the only one left from the days that are in memory now. But walking into Benjamin Oliver's apartment and out onto his roof deck, I felt the way I'd felt so many years ago. It took my breath away, and then gave it back, refreshed and renewed and revitalized.

After the party, on a lovely summer afternoon, I sat down with Benjamin and Jamie on the roof deck where the party had been. Still charming, though quieter now with just the three of us, we shared a pot of Ben's perfectly brewed PG Tips, a tea that always reminds me of some very special friends and some very special times we used to have together. It was the 5th of July, a day that always resonates with me because of a favorite play of that name written by Lanford Wilson who was the Playwright in Residence of the Circle Repertory Company, the theater company where I began my New York City creative life. Back in June I had attended reunion weekend at Sarah Lawrence College, and had the opportunity to walk into the Workshop Theatre Space there and spend some time with old friends who I hadn't seen in years. The minute I walked into that theater I was reminded in a very powerful way of the impact that space had had on my creative life ever after. And here I was sitting down on the 5th of July, around the corner from the apartment where I had started another part of my journey, talking to two people whose work and history I am in awe of, and who reminded me so much of all that I thought had been lost in the City that I've loved for so long.

Benjamin Oliver is a photographer, but like Jamie Rose, he is also many other things - an Architect, a Creative Director, party planner, creative force and artist to name a few. The purpose of the parties they are having is to bring people together, to help creative people find a space and place and other people where they can breathe freely and feel creative and rejuvenated and encouraged. Their combined histories span some of the most sought out venues and nightclubs in New York, London and Ibiza, and they have been a part of and have known and experienced some of the biggest and most explosive names in music, art and design from the early days when they were not yet names that were known the way they are today. As we spoke, Jamie mentioned a party he'd gone to in the earlier days when he began experiencing house music for the first time, and he talked about hearing something and experiencing a feeling that he'd never thought was possible. As he described the event and the music, he said,  "The DJ was a fellow named Paul Oakenfold." Oh, how I wish I could have been there, but almost as wonderful is to hear about it from someone as expressive and excited about it as Jamie Rose was.

They call their parties Love Will Save The Day, because that is what they truly believe. I have written before in these pages about the importance and power of creativity to help enlighten and illuminate and strengthen and help us navigate through the difficult days in our country and our world, and adding Love into that mix is the perfect addition. The parties Benjamin Oliver and Jamie Rose are organizing are lifesavers - to be able to gather together with artists, designers, DJ's, musicians, photographers, actors, models, and craftspeople is to bring together creative minds and hearts. Creating is an act of the divine, and love is the ultimate outpouring of all that is divine in us. Love will save the day, and because Benjamin Oliver and Jamie Rose know it, they want to share it with the world.

Benjamin Oliver and Jamie Rose
Sharing A Pot Of PG Tips
Canal Street, New York City

Architectural And Design Detail
Benjamin Oliver's Studio, Canal Street, New York City
Photographs Courtesy Of Benjamin Oliver

Love Will Save The Day
Photographs Courtesy Of Benjamin Oliver And Jamie Rose

Making The Good Old Days New


Jannie Susan