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Welcome to Urban By Design Online! This blog is a notebook of my travels as a city planner, historic preservationist and nonprofit advocate. It's a virtual collection of the many things that I adore, featuring cities, the arts, architecture, gardens, interior design, and retail. Enjoy! - Deena
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Wednesday
Aug112010

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Balloon Dog

 

From a trip to the Met's Cantor Roof Garden last summer. Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994-2000. The more than 10-foot-tall Balloon Dog (Yellow) is based on balloons twisted into the shape of a toy dog; the highly reflective and brightly colored surface gives the appearance of an actual balloon in a form that would delight a child but would also fascinate any student of Freud.

Posted via email from urbanbydesign's beyond 140

Wednesday
Aug042010

Peekskill's Arts Buzz

How one historic community utilized its architectural assets, and great location to become a 21st century destination city for the arts.

Over the past several years, I couldn’t pick up my local newspaper without reading about Peekskill, New York. It is located only 45 minutes from Grand Central Terminal.  This Hudson River city has had its share of problems endemic with post-industrial urban cities, after its decline as a manufacturing center in the 1960's and 70's. However, its latest claim to fame is a dynamic renaissance, as an enclave for the arts!

In the early 1990’s its magnificent stock of downtown historic buildings, experienced high retail vacancy rates, and the city saw its population decline.  City leaders crafted a strategy to rebrand Peekskill as an arts destination, and fostered significant economic development initiatives.  According to Census figures between 2000 and 2008, the city’s population, actually rose by 8.6 percent, and now has 24,484 residents.

The success of this work can now be seen in the number of new restaurants, galleries, and artists housing that is located within its downtown.  Peekskill has two National Historic Districts, and much of the urban revitalization has been centered within downtown, which has 150 buildings (dating from 1750-1974) listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings represent a wide-range of architectural styles, but many are Greek Revival and Italianate.  This attractive stock of intact buildings recently served as a set for the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce, starring Oscar winner Kate Winslet, which recently filmed there. Peekskill was transformed into 1930's Hollywood, complete with palm trees. Like many nearby Hudson river communities, the city is known for its Victorian homes.


The city recently hosted its annual signature event, the Peekskill Blues and Jazz Festival. I attended in 2009, and had a great time. Before the free concert started, I had a chance to put on my tourist hat, and admired the streetscape that included new granite curbing, benches, and seasonal planters.  Who’d think that at home gardeners could get horticultural tips just from a walk along the fabulous new sidewalks?

 

The Festival itself is part of a series of city-sponsored concerts that closes off several blocks in the heart of downtown to traffic on Saturdays during the summer.  It gives visitors the opportunity to stroll the local art galleries, which also stay open later.  In addition to several city streets being transformed into a rather animated pedestrian mall, local restaurateurs bring tables onto the sidewalks and beyond for al fresco dining.  Several vendors also lined up to serve rather casual fare. Children were provided with chalk, and create mini-masterpieces in the middle of the street.  How fantastic was that?

Throughout the evening, people stood shoulder to shoulder truly engaged in the experience. When the entertainers  hit the stage, it became one spontaneous street party. People danced. They sang. They swayed. They smiled. Occasionally voices carried, enough to carry a lively backdrop to the show. It was like being in the middle of a movie, as a sea of humanity, so beautifully diverse, and so electric, came together in the cozy confines of downtown.

 

 

It’s admirable to see a city take time to provide dynamic opportunities for residents and visitors to experience summer in ways that are far more interesting than merely retreating inside to stay close to the air-conditioner.  Summer’s perfection is evident in small meaningful ways from seeing the stars, hearing cicadas, and in this case, even catching a breeze from the nearby Hudson River. After staying for all five sets, it also meant that my sweater came in handy after sunset. 

The dynamic blues and jazz festival is not Peekskill’s only regional attraction. The Peekskill Arts Council, and the Peekskill Business Improvement District, working in conjunction with the City of Peekskill, has been instrumental in creating dynamic experiences for visitors and locals alike.  Artists’ studio tours, public art installations, and access to local and national musicians have all given the community a positive arts buzz. Additionally, Peekskill Celebration, an annual festival in the 15-acre Riverfront Green Park, that will be held August 6-8, celebrates the city's maritime heritage, when almost 40,000 attend a weekend full of boat races, fireworks, and various attractions.

In June, the Peekskill Arts Council’s annual open studios event, had work on display by 100 artists in 40 studios, with 17 other venues participating throughout the city. As a testament to the city’s commitment to the arts, the Peekskill Art Lofts Coop, an affordable 28-unit limited cooperative community, specifically for artists, opened in 2002.  The 1250 – 2000 Square foot live/work lofts are also conveniently located in the heart of downtown.

The New York region is often notorious for pricing out many artists, so I applaud Peekskill’s ongoing commitment to sustaining a viable residential arts community.  It is definitely worth a visit! Here are some other noteworthy places to see:

 

See the architecture! This is one of the stops found in the FREE, self-guided Downtown Peekskill Historic Walking Tour.

FORMER KENTORA HOTEL ~ 1 North Division Street the distinctive and purely decorative onion dome or turret attached to this corner building since 1905 is a kind of exclamation point announcing the downtown center. Originally the Empire House Hotel in 1885 (with William Brennan as proprietor) the brick corner building was identified as the Kentora Hotel in 1907. “Kentora” was coined from the owner’s names, Clune and Torpy. Guest rooms were upstairs, and a saloon was downstairs. It was home to the Clinton Drug Store from about 1910 to the 1960s. The street level business has been occupied by Submarine Galley for many years. [Source: Downtown Peekskill Historic Walking Tour]

 

How Peekskill Celebrates the arts every day:

Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art: non-profit arts and education organization founded by the Marc and Livia Straus family. The Center is dedicated to the development and presentation of exhibitions and interdisciplinary programs that enrich our understanding of contemporary art, its contexts, and its relationship to social issues. HVCCA operates a 12,000 square foot exhibition space and is the primary sponsor of the Peekskill Project, an annual, city-wide exhibition of site-specific artwork.

Paramount Center for the Arts Center: A landmark theatre serving as a venue for concerts, movies and other performing arts events. It recently underwent a massive renovation and historic restoration, and serves 65,000 visitors annually.

 

Peekskill Center for Digital Arts, Westchester Community College Extension: This is one of the Hudson Valley's premier digital arts resources located in the downtown artist-district of Peekskill.   The Center for the Digital Arts, has six post-production studios on 27 North Division Street and is dedicated to fostering digital arts education. 

Monday
May242010

Emily Dickinson's Garden at the NYBG

I had a chance to see Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers Spring Exhibition at The New York Botanical Garden (April 30–June 13, 2010).

Although the weather was quite inclement, it did not stop me from walking beyond the conservatory into the outdoor gardens.  There were more than 30 poetry boards that dotted the landscape, featuring many of the plants that inspired her work. It was quite moving to see her poetic words spring to life against a visual canvass of lush spring blooms in abundant clusters within the planting beds. 

Moving inside, the transformation of Enid A. Haupt Conservatory into an extraordinary re-creation of poet Emily Dickinson's mid-19th century New England Flower Garden in Amherst, Massachusetts was quite stunning.

There was a dazzling display of her favorite plants, many of which were mentioned in her poems.  It was a fascinating journey through glorious patches of day lilies, tulips, lilies, and even a charming woodland path that connected a replica of her house Homestead, to her brother's home the Evergreens.  There were also examples of her vegetable gardens, which were displayed amongst the flowers.


 

Another exhibition bonus was the recreation of the view from her bedroom, and another from her desk, where she would have undoubtedly seen the abundance of colorful flowers in her garden. It was noted that Emily Dickinson was an amateur botanist, and documented, pressed, and collected more than 420 flower specimens.



The exhibition, which extended into other NYBG buildings, also included several objects such as books, manuscripts, and photographs to tell the story of Emily Dickinson’s life.  It was certainly a fantastic way to celebrate spring, and appreciate the salute to someone who truly celebrated her garden.

Wednesday
Apr282010

Grand Opening: Fairway Market in Pelham Manor!

For many months, I’d stared at the shell of the building being renovated at the Post Road Plaza shopping center, and couldn’t wait for Fairway Market to open!

 

On April 14, with much fanfare, Irvington residents Howie Glickberg, and his son Dan Glickberg, ushered in a brand new era of Westchester and North Bronx retail history, with the opening of "the world's greatest food store" in Pelham Manor, New York.  I managed to have a front row seat (well, I grabbed a place in the line stretching around the side of the building), when the doors opened at 9 a.m.

There was an incredible turnout, under glorious blue skies.  Many customers in line had shopping carts at the ready, as they clutched flyers with advertised deals on organic produce, olive oil, and Murray’s chicken. Little Neck Clams, freshly harvested from Long Island's Gold Coast were also on sale.

Fairway Market, was founded in Manhattan in the 1930's.  There are now six stores throughout New York, and New Jersey.  The company prides itself as being family run (now in it’s fourth generation).  It had more than 12 million shoppers last year, ranking it as one of New York's premier artisinal food destinations.

After growing up in the land of huge corporate national grocery store chains, offering an array of average products, it was amazing to have so many extraordinary fresh food choices, all under one roof.  Howie Glickberg said, “Shop at Fairway once, and you’ll be a customer for life!”

 

 

In New York, Fairway has a legendary cult-like following.  Why would people from Westchester drive all the way to Harlem just to buy groceries?  Why were the local foodie blogs in a frenzied buzz over when Fairway would open in Pelham Manor?  At first, it really didn’t make much sense to me.  I had visited two of their stores- one in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which was in a converted Civil War era warehouse building, and the outpost in Harlem.  A cursory walk-through revealed yes, they had a lot of produce, and fabulous food, but I didn’t really appreciate that it was an extraordinary market.

I was sooo naïve.

However, times, and tastes change. After spending a few years volunteering on a few food systems initiatives, shopping at local farmers markets, and watching documentaries, I finally understood how important it was to have access to fresh food.  I saw the light. As a matter of fact, I also realized that buying food at Fairway is more of a culinary excursion than simply going grocery shopping! If cooking is an art, and baking is a science, then Fairway is the food university.

"This store is ginormous!"

The Pelham Manor store is a whopping 75,000 square feet, and has 400 employees.  At the door, employees handed out maps to navigate the aisles. At one point there was so much going on during opening day, that I found myself happily overwhelmed, and hit sensory overload.  Between the huge selection of coffee beans on display, the fresh mozzarella station, the sushi bar, the bakery, and the vast deli counter, I didn’t quite know where to look first.  The store also has 15,000 organic and natural foods available in the store. The staff was extremely friendly, and quick to answer questions.

 

There was a tremendous turnout, but I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it was to checkout.  Before leaving, I received a wonderful cornucopia of Fairway gifts, just for being among the first few hundred people to enter the store. 

The bag included a copy of The Food Life, written by Steve Jenkins, Fairway's former master buyer, and legendary cheese monger.  The book contains anecdotes from the man who personally brought so many of the world's greatest foods to New York and the United States.  It’s also a great primer for shopping at Fairway, as there are many stories about some of the store’s bestsellers. There are also many recipes by Jenkins's longtime associate, Mitchel London.

As great as opening day was, I had a chance to visit again a few days later, and there were just as many people there. However, I did get to walk around several areas of the store that I completely missed before, including the incredibly busy 60-seat café.  Some other must-sees include: 

  • 6,000 square foot produce section with both organic and conventional offerings
  • More than 100 varieties of domestic and imported olive oils
  • 70 different types of olives
  • Store roasts 2,000 pounds of coffee daily.
  • Cheese counter has more than 600 different cheeses and a mozzarella making station.
  • A fresh pasta section.

In May the Pelham Manor store will open a Fairway Wine and Spirits in 6,500 square foot space.  Fairway Market is open 8 am to 11 pm daily. For more information visit Fairway's website

Thursday
Apr152010

Harmony Designs: Cosmopolitan Living with a Global Flair


[Mount Vernon, NY] I had the joy of visiting Harmony Designs Furniture & Interiors, at the invitation of Robin Harmon-Myers.   She owns the striking furniture, accessories, and interior design studio, nestled in the heart of Mount Vernon’s historic South Fourth Avenue shopping district.  The retail store is located on the ground floor of a century-old, 12,500 square foot building owned by Robin and her husband Floyd. Directly above are three 2,500 square foot loft units.                                                                                                                             

Robin pursued an interior design career, and eventually opened her own business, after being a disappointed consumer in search of quality, culturally inspired designs.  “As a young African-American woman shopping for her first home, I kind of felt a void in the market. It was either completely ethnic or not at all.” 

Robin is an interior designer, whose diverse portfolio includes design services, for upscale retail spaces, and numerous residences, throughout the New York metropolitan area.   Her style is most accurately described, as timeless, giving a nod to tradition, while incorporating an amalgamation of modern, and cutting-edge, environmentally conscious décor. 


Proving that the world is truly a global village, Robin has traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, after being chosen to visit by the South African Consulate.  She attended the country’s handmade tradeshow, and is now featuring new inventory from her latest excursion. 

The six-year-old store, has also received its share of media buzz.  It has been featured in Black Enterprise, and Westchester Home magazine.  Robin also penned an article, for Sister 2 Sister magazine, about the various aspects of loft living.  


I first met Robin four years ago, when she hosted a gracious and wonderful benefit party at her store.   Harmony Designs, has been the setting for any number of community meetings, book signings, book club meetings, art exhibitions, cottage parties, and charity events since its founding.  I once described it as a modern day salon of sorts, as her events attract a vibrant cross-section of people from throughout the New York metropolitan area.  

Anyone who enters the store should do so with keen curiosity to learn about new products, while soaking up the beauty of the environs.  In an age where design is often cookie-cutter, and mass produced, Robin has assembled unique home, and gift items that reflect her impeccable taste. 


The shelter emporium is a well-appointed, transformative, and comfortable oasis in the heart of busy downtown Mount Vernon.   Harmony Designs is truly a standout, as it combines the vibrancy of store that one might find in the Brooklyn brownstone neighborhoods, or Manhattan’s SoHo, but is convenient to those who live in Westchester County. What could be better than discovering the perfect find as a gift or for home, without having to travel!

One of Robin’s hallmarks has been to recommend environmentally sensitive products. The store is stocked with an eclectic variety of oversized vases, fine linens, candles, lamps, flatware, hurricanes, and many decorative accent pillows.   Contemporary furniture, wood-framed mirrors, and abstract artwork are among the many sumptuous accoutrements that are easily found.  Harmony Designs also carries items from the Carol’s Daughter beauty line.

Robin loves to impart her design knowledge to others through her in-store workshops, which are available to the public at least once a month. Robin takes pride in being a design educator, and offers a variety of classes ranging from archiving photographs, wine appreciation to design inspired by African American literature, textiles, and art.


(l to r) Erika Naughton, Robin Harmon-Myers (owner of Harmony Designs Furniture & Interiors), Lucinda Sloan-Fullan, and Vanessa Thorpe at the fabulous workshop.

During one summer workshop, I had the chance to learn about the merits of decorating outdoor patios, and spaces to enjoy nature to the fullest. It was quite a convivial afternoon of creating decorative displays using mint leaves, and sprigs of pretty purple annual flowers to place in small silver vases.  
Robin served a fresh salad, cookies, seasonal fruit, and had a generous crystal carafe of mint flavored iced water. We all had such a fabulous time talking, and creating that the time passed by far too quickly. I even won a rose bush from a local nursery.  In the end she said that she hosted the event because, "We are so focused on the need-based things.  We must carve out time to nurture ourselves.”  



For more information:
Harmony Designs Furniture & Interiors
115 South 4th Avenue
Mount Vernon, New York
914.668.0809
Thursday
Apr082010

The Designer Show House on the Hudson

I was slightly annoyed when Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, predicting the extension of cold weather for another six weeks.  Oh winter!

However, on February 7, the world totally changed.  Somehow winter became a shade of gorgeous that I had not seen all season, and there was actually something fun to do!  I went to see a pretty awesome, recently constructed (2008) house over in Rockland County, and the proceeds went to a great cause!

From January 24 to February 8, the doors of a magnificent 6,000-square-foot, stone country chateau, with panoramic Hudson River views on 1.52 acres, opened to the public.  The Upper Grandview Home, designed by eco-builder extraordinaire, Michael Demarco is considered one Rockland County's first green mini-estates . There were 10 interior designers who graciously staged the house to benefit Meals on Wheels Programs & Services of Rockland, Inc.  In an unprecedented partnership, the interior designers teamed up with local artists, and area merchants to create an incredible show house. 

A modest admission fee of $10 allowed visitors to see wonderfully stylish, and fabulous rooms.  It was inspirational to see so many people collaborate to support a significant organization.  I managed to take a few photos while I was there too. 


Laura Blanco of Laura Blanco Interiors designed the entrance foyer. More than nine artists contributed work to the show house, and a portion of their sales was donated to Meals on Wheels Programs and Services of Rockland.  The house's lower level (not shown here) was transformed into an art gallery.

The living room was designed by Regina Kay & Wendy Wallin of Kay Wallin Impeccable Designs, based in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Karen Houghton Interiors designed the Sitting Room.  This room was my personal favorite, because of the abundance of light.

Melody Moricco designed the Master Bedroom suite.  This room had breathtaking views of the Hudson River from the French doors that open to a balcony. Below is the adjoining master bathroom.

The Kid's Supply Company, an upscale children's furniture located on Manhattan's chic Madison Avenue, customized this nursery suite.


The Guest Suite: August K. Fox Interiors.  The designer's statement:

Our vision was to create a welcoming, sumptuous space drawing inspiration from the European architecture of the house.  The intent was to cultivate a setting in which a guest, perhaps visiting from France or Italy, would feel at ease and find all the comforts of home while away on holiday.

Being a guest in someone's home can oftentimes be a bit tiring, so we wanted to give our visitor a place to "escape to" and retreat from the pressures of being a gracious house guest.


Everything contained in the show house was offered for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Meals on Wheels. Each room had a treasure-trove of decorative accessories, including tableware, artwork, and vases, available in a wide-range of price points. Fresh flower displays could also be found throughout the house.

Margot Klope Interiors, LLC, designed the Kitchen. Ms. Klope called the room's design, "Winter Morning."

The "Winter Morning" kitchen has a very rustic feel. The pine cones, branches, and greenery make it feel as though the outside is inside! This look is very appealing, even in this modern kitchen. The chocolate brown walls add lusciousness to the space.  The rich, red accent pieces and alcove, warm things up, and are a wonderful compliment to the stainless steel, dark wood cabinets, and dark walls.


 Landau Ethan Allen designed the Dining Room.

The surrounding park-like acres, overlook the Hudson River, and the Tappan Zee Bridge. The house is currently on the market for $3.2 million.
 

Friday
Feb262010

And speaking of Wynton Marsalis...

Wynton Marsalis at Dizzy's Club [Photo: Deena Parham]

Back in November, when I received a letter saying that I had won two tickets to attend a Wynton Marsalis Fan Appreciation concert, I was stunned.

Wow, they chose me? Big smile....

Over the years, I’ve seen Wynton Marsalis, the Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winning trumpet player, who is also the Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, perform in various venues across the country. I’ve witnessed him give soaring tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, to the music of little-known American jazz composers. At the end of every concert, I’ve always come away learning a little bit more about jazz music, than I ever knew before.

I discovered the music of Wynton Marsalis quite by accident. One afternoon, when I lived in Philadelphia, I ran into a friend of mine who was volunteering at the Free Library, as I walked home from work. She told me, “Deena, you should come, Wynton Marsalis will be here tonight to talk about his new book!” That book was Jazz in the Bittersweet Blues of Life, a chronicle of his experiences of touring on the road during the 1990’s. Mr. Marsalis was engaging, and even took the time to talk to members of the audience during his book signing with his co-author Carl Vigeland.

The appreciation concert was held at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, one of the three main performance venues located in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home, Frederick P. Rose Hall in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. Affectionately called “The House of Swing” by Mr. Marsalis, it is has been the official residence of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra where they have performed at the Rose Theater for more than six years.

Dizzy’s is an intimate jazz club, with a spectacular view of Columbus Circle. Anytime I’ve been there for a night performance, the city looks like a gorgeous jewel box, with all of the glittering lights from the nearby skyscrapers. In addition to it being a jazz club, it is also a modern, and well-appointed full-service restaurant, where patrons are able to order dinner before the show.

There were 130 contest winners from 12 states, and even Canada. It was thrilling, because it was the first time that Mr. Marsalis had ever given a fan appreciation concert, and those of us who won felt pretty honored to be there.  I was able to bring my mom along as a guest!

And what was the best part of this experience? We were seated at a table in the front of the venue, only seven feet away from the stage!

Walter Blanding on tenor saxophone [Photo: Deena Parham]

In addition to Mr. Marsalis, the quintet included current JALC Orchestra members: tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding, bassist Carlos Henriquez, pianist Dan Nipper, and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. Throughout evening, they took a trip down memory lane, and selected many fan favorites including: “Free to Be,” “Do Your Thing,” “Sparks,” “Big Fat Hen,” “Moscow Blues,” and “Knozz-Moe-King.”

One of the reasons why people enjoy seeing Wynton Marsalis perform live in concert is because he is the consummate storyteller. He loves to impart his knowledge about jazz history, and gives detailed, rich explanations about the reasons why he chooses to perform certain songs. The playlist included the Gershwin classic “Embraceable You” which Mr. Marsalis noted that his mother always sang around the house (he jokingly said she was slightly off-key, but never told her). He said his father, the legendary pianist Ellis Marsalis, that it was one of his father’s favorite standards.

Mr. Marsalis, explained why he decided to give the concert:

“My fans have stuck with me through many styles of music - from modern burnout to standards to New Orleans music to baroque and beyond. They have embraced all of my bands - from small groups of various sizes to the big band, and they have celebrated the diverse personalities of those ensembles. My fans are of all nations and kinds, ages and beliefs. Every day, I recommit to creating a better music for their enjoyment. I strive to justify, through my work, the unwavering faith and trust they have shown through these years. At every performance and sometimes just in the streets, someone gives me the inspiration and confidence to become a better musician and person. It is a blessing.”

Overall, it was a magnificent treat, and words will never describe the joy that I felt. It definitely was one of those evening’s that will stand out in my mind forever. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to be equally honored by someone who has contributed so much, and has the found time to show such genuine gratitude, by giving us yet another extraordinary gift. 


Wynton Marsalis and bassist Carlos Henriquez [Photo: Deena Parham]

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