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Turtle Bay at Center of Skyscape Changes
BY BRUCE A. SILBERBLATT With massive projects on the way for the East River waterfront to our south and widespread changes within Turtle Bay itself, this neighborhood will be “front and center” in the New York development scene for at least the next decade.
Turtle Bay has always been a gateway. To the west rise the towers of midtown offices, hotels and shops. To the east the river promises escape to quieter fields beyond. To the north is the densely built Sutton area. And to the south, beyond the United Nations, is the Con Edison Waterside site – vacant now, but not to remain so for long. Now builders are moving into Turtle Bay where for many years none had ventured, replacing the old with the new.
Hundreds of Turtle Bay kids joined their elders this year at Oktoberfest, for a day filled with pumpkin painting, magic acts, games, chocolate dipping – and, of course, the traditional beer and bratwurst. Held at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on a near-perfect day in early October, the event was one of the liveliest neighborhood affairs that most residents can remember.
It was the first time children’s activities were added to the Oktoberfest event, which has been sponsored by the Turtle Bay Association and Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for the past several years.
“It was great to see so many neighbors of all ages having such a good time together,” said Tom Payne, TBA Board member who was instrumental in organizing the event, along with fellow-TBA Board member Michael Resnick and Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Board member Jennifer Bancroft.
In addition to TBA and Friends, the event’s funding came from the Haley Foundation, Greenacre Foundation and the Family School, in cooperation with the Patio Café, Chocolat Bla Bla Bla and Turtle Mountain.
Neighbors: Speak Out on Noise
If you, like so many residents of the neighborhood, are concerned about the noisy bars along Second Avenue and adjacent streets, make yourself heard by calling 311, the City’s Citizen Service Hotline. Simply complaining to your friends and neighbors does no good. But the impact of numerous voices speaking out can get results.
Since the 311 service was set up in 2003, noise has been by far the number one complaint. And the City does pay attention. If the complaint involves loitering, smoking ban violations or civil disturbance, the police are sent to the location. If the complaint involves loud noise coming from within the bar itself, the Department of Environmental Protection will also be sent to inspect the facility and measure the noise level.
So help our neighborhood by reporting noise disturbances. When you call 311, be sure to give the operator the specific establishment or general location of noise, and a brief description of the noise issue (such as whether it is coming from within the establishment or on the sidewalk out front). And remember, you can use the 311 number to report other non-emergency issues as well, such as potholes, broken street lights and blocked driveways.
Preparing New Yorkers
With hurricane and evacuation preparedness high on everyone’s agenda, Turtle Bay residents may want to get a copy of the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s “Ready New York” citizen’s guide, which outlines the City’s preparedness and evacuation plans.
Published in 2003, the brochure includes an evacuation zone map showing that Turtle Bay is in an area of lowest risk within the City, which is defined as being “an area at risk of a storm surge inundation in the case of a major hurricane,” and which the OEM says is “unlikely, but not impossible.”
The guide outlines how OEM will keep New Yorkers informed in the case of a major storm, and points out that if an evacuation were necessary, evacuees who don’t have any place to stay – such as with family and friends outside the area – would be directed to a local reception center from which transportation to a shelter would be provided. Turtle Bay’s reception center is located at Hunter College.
“Ready New York” is available online at www.nycgov/oem or may be obtained by calling 311.
Katrina ‘Close to Home’
Turtle Bay’s Smith & Wollensky’s sister restaurant in the heart of New Orleans was badly flooded during Hurricane Katrina, and most of its 67 employees forced to evacuate and now scattered around the country. The restaurant continued to pay employees after the hurricane, and is helping them find positions at other Smith & Wollensky restaurants (the group has 16 restaurants throughout the U.S.). The group also set up a fund to help evacuees.
Meanwhile, its Houston restaurant was closed for four days in the wake of Hurricane Rita, and its Miami outlet closed for two days when Katrina skirted the Florida coast.
Turtle Bay Music School Celebrates 80th
BY RITA ROWAN The neighborhood’s center of musical training, Turtle Bay Music School, officially marks its 80th anniversary this November. But the school is spending little time looking back at its history, and instead has some bold new plans for the future, with a new executive director, new strategic focus, updates to its 145-year-old building and even a re-designed logo to reflect its forwarding-looking approach.
“We’ve got a great history, strong faculty and fine reputation,” says Jennifer Sherwood, who was named executive director on September 1. “Now we want to broaden our offerings, with a more innovative curriculum and updated facilities.”
The school was founded in 1925 when the music program at a nearby settlement house was discontinued, leaving 15 students with nowhere to study their art. A group of community leaders responded to parents’ pleas and opened TBMS. Within the first year, the original 15 students had grown to 50. Today, some 600 pupils of all ages attend the school each semester. The school’s curriculum is diverse, with training in piano, voice and string instruments making up the majority of courses. Most are offered as private, partner or group lessons. Among the courses are jazz, cabaret, the Orff Schulwerk and Suzuki methods of teaching music to young children, music history for adults and music theory for children. The school also offers a professionally oriented Certificate Program.
Located at 244 East 52nd Street in a brownstone that dates back to the 1860s, the school is currently undergoing some badly needed renovation. Most significant is the refurbishment of the 175-seat concert hall, which will be formally unveiled at the school’s 80th annniversary concert on November 16. (See “Turtle Bay Happenings,” page 8.) Previously the Alma Gluck Hall, the room is being renamed the Em Lee Concert Hall, for a long-time supporter and former Board president.
A non-profit organization, the school’s financial backing comes mainly from tuition. But grants and donations are used to support its long-standing commitment to community outreach. “This school was founded on the ideals of helping the community,” says Ms. Sherwood, “and we’ll continue to reach out to bring the joy of music to New Yorkers from all walks of life.” Currently, the school’s outreach work includes teaching music at four New York City schools, including nearby P.S. 59; music therapy to children in foster care homes; and private instrument training for underprivileged children.
TBMS also serves as a good neighbor to its own Turtle Bay community, with an ongoing program of concerts and recitals that are open to the public. For information, call the school at 212-753-8811, or visit www.tbms.org. The current catalogue is available online or at the school’s front office.
Pocket Park Update
The management of Dag Hammarskjold Towers reports that the building’s pocket park on the corner of Second Avenue and 46th Street is undergoing repairs and will reopen to the public next spring. The little park has been closed for two years, awaiting repairs to fix a water seepage problem. Neighbors have complained about its closure, and the repairs were initiated after communications from the Turtle Bay Association both to the building’s owners and managing agent, as well as the City Department of Buildings.
Police, Firefighters Temporarily Move
During renovations to the 17th Precinct station house at 167 East 51st Street and Engine Company 8 Ladder Company 2 firehouse next door, police and firefighters are being temporarily relocated. Police will be housed in two trailers out front, with some of the command in temporary offices in the building. The trailers will serve as the public’s access point.
Firefighters’ facilities will be split between the East 40th and East 69th Street firehouses. Both police and firefighters will move back to their updated quarters on 51st Street in the spring. During renovations, phone contacts remain unchanged.
TBA Annual Meeting
TBA members are encouraged to attend this year’s Annual Meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, November 15. Join President Bill Curtis and TBA directors for an update on community matters, committee reports and election of the Board of Directors. Meeting site is Grey Advertising, third floor, 777 Third Avenue at 48th Street.
Greenmarket Expands. The Greenmarket at the west end of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza has added two new markets. Pura Vida, a fish market, is docked out of Hampton Bays and carries a wide variety of fish, including shellfish. The other new market, Dines Farms, sells poultry and meats, all free-range and grown with no hormones. Both vendors will stay open year round. The Greenmarket is open every Wednesday.
She’s Back. Nicole Kidman, who starred in the movie “The Interpreter”and spent several weeks in Turtle Bay during its filming last year, was back in the neighborhood recently, this time working on “Fur,” a movie in which she plays the role of the photographer Dianne Arbus. The 1950s scenes were filmed on streets in the East 50s, as well as locations all over the City. The movie is to open next year.
Fall Plantings. For the first time this year, the Turtle Bay Tree Fund is planting some of the neighborhood’s tree beds on side streets with fall flora – chrysanthemums, pansies and decorative cabbage. At the same time, daffodil and tulip bulbs are being planted in the tree beds for flowering next spring. For information on the Tree Fund, write to 208 East 51st Street, Apt. 238, New York, NY 10022.
Talk about a Switch! For years, the corporate staff of Turtle Bay-based A&E Television Networks (AETN) joined their colleagues from the Stamford, Connecticut office for a summer outing in Westchester County’s countryside. But this past summer, the Stamford staff came here to Turtle Bay where AETN hosted the first-ever corporate summer outing at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. AETN says the 400 employees so enjoyed the city location that it’s already planning a “repeat” for next year.
Norwegian Holiday Gifts. The Norwegian Seaman’s Church at 317 East 52nd Street, will hold its annual fundraising bazaar November 18-20, with hand-crafted home accessories and gifts from Norway. Among the items are typical Norwegian holiday decorations, hand-knit sweaters and jewelry. Hours: 12-8 p.m.
Volunteer Tutors Needed. The High School of Art & Design needs volunteer tutors, particularly in mathematics. Call Allan Levy at 212-688-1422.
U.N. ‘Scrambling’ for Temporary Space
The new head of the United Nation’s renovation project says he is “scrambling” to find temporary space where staff could be housed while the headquarters complex undergoes modernization, after the New York State legislature failed to act to allow the Moses Playground site at First Avenue and 42nd Street to be used for a new building.
While moving ahead to find new space, Assistant Secretary General Louis Frederick Reuter IV told a mid-October press conference that he still believes the plan to build on the parkland is attractive and should be revived. He says the United Nations Development Corporation – the agency mandated by New York State to plan and finance U.N. facilities near its headquarters – and Mayor Bloomberg are still supportive of that approach.
Meanwhile, he says the U.N. can’t afford to wait for that to occur, and his team is looking at every possible alternative, including “boats, barges, islands and tents.”
Headquarters renovation work is scheduled to begin in mid-2007, a date that Reuter believes is still realistic if temporary office space can be found soon. While revival of the Moses Park plan would delay the start date, he says the advantages of that approach – in which the new building would be used as temporary space during headquarters’ renovation and afterward as permanent space for U.N. offices now dispersed throughout the City – makes it “seductive.”
The TBA does not object to the sale of the playground to the U.N. provided an equivalent neighborhood park site is designated in its place. The U.N. General Assembly is to make a decision on plans by the end of the year.
Water Tunnel Update
After considering 18 other sites, including two in Turtle Bay, the Department of Environmental Protection now says its preferred site for drilling a shaft of the city’s third water tunnel is city-owned land at the northwest corner of First Avenue and 59th Street.
After a pilot hole is drilled from above, the shaft itself will be bored from below, not the street. More intrusive will be digging of a water distribution line from the shaft to a central pumping station, at Third Avenue and 54th Street. It will run down First Avenue and west on either 54th or 55th Street and will be dug from the surface. Once construction begins – after the shaft site is finally determined – work is expected to take five years.
Site Being Monitored
Some TBA members, and the TBA itself, are concerned about the way work is proceeding at 250-254 East 49th Street, site of the former Box Tree Restaurant and Inn that has been torn down to make way for a 20-story apartment building. The site’s protective fence is sagging, there is trash on the sidewalk and there are questions about protection of the trees in front.
The TBA is addressing these concerns with the owner, builder and appropriate City agencies. TBA members can help by calling the owner or builder (contacts are posted on the site’s fence) or by calling 311 to report a hazardous situation.
EYE ON BUSINESS: UNICEF Card and Gift Shop
Featuring neighborhood establishments that help make Turtle Bay a special place to live and work
Few neighborhoods can boast of having the flagship store of a world-renowned line of gifts and cards right in its midst. But Turtle Bay has that distinction, with the Unicef Card and Gift Shop at 3 United Nations Plaza on 44th Street.
The Alamo Restaurant, 304 East 48th Street, is back again after taking what it calls a three-year “siesta.” A new TBA business member, the Alamo serves traditional Mexican cuisine and drinks and offers TBA members a 10 percent discount when seated in the dining room. 212-759-0590
Congratulations to G.P. Florist as it celebrates its 30th year in business at its Turtle Bay location at 903 Second Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets. G.P. Florist is a long-time TBA business member and offers a 15 percent discount to TBA members. 212-688-1116.
Dr. Mark Jacobson General Dentistry and Periodontics, a new business member, offers TBA members who become new patients a 5 percent discount for the first year of treatment. Dr. Jacobson is located at 211 East 43rd Street. 212-697-3946.
After the last issue of the Newsletter pointed out that Chocolat Bla Bla Bla, the chocolate shop at 359 East 50th Street, is nearly hidden behind a lush vine-covered entrance, a reader asked who is the shop’s gardener? It’s Barney Ertegoff, an artist and 40-year resident of the building next door, who also helps out in the shop and sells his paintings there.
Beloved Neighbor, Singer, Dies at 99
Hildegarde, the sensational cabaret singer whose career spanned almost seven decades and who made her home in Turtle Bay for much of that time, died recently at the age of 99.
To the world, she was known as “The Incomparable Hildegarde,” but Turtle Bay residents fondly remember her as simply a very good neighbor.
Hildegarde actively supported the TBA from the time she moved to East 48th Street in 1963. Known for her elegant dress – including her “signature” long white gloves that reached nearly to her shoulders – Hildegarde’s neighbors remember how she donated a selection of her gloves, handbags and other accessories to the Turtle Bay Fair back in the 1980s. “Word got out to serious collectors beforehand and the items were sold out within minutes,” says Barbara Connolly, TBA special events coordinator.
At the peak of her popularity in the 1940s, she was booked at cabarets and supper clubs virtually every week of the year. Her recordings were worldwide hits, she appeared on the cover of Life Magazine, and Revlon even introduced a Hildegarde shade of lipstick and nail polish. Around Turtle Bay, she was known to write handwritten notes to her neighbors, with her thoughts and thanks. TBA Board member Helen Shapiro has a note that Hildegarde wrote to her after a TBA benefit auction in which she adds at the end, “Bless you. You’re wonderful.”
To Hildegarde, we in the neighborhood want to say that we think you were wonderful. You will be fondly remembered, always.
TBA Goes to the Races
No “big-time winners” but plenty of “big-time fun.” That’s the way one Turtle Bay member described the TBA fall outing at Belmont Park on Sunday, September 25. It was the second year in a row that TBA chose horse racing at Belmont for its annual outing, a direct response to requests from many TBA members.
More than 50 members and guests took part, with bus transportation leaving Second Avenue and 50th Street in the late morning and returning early evening. In between, the group enjoyed a buffet lunch in the clubhouse overlooking the track, some smart (and some not-so-smart) betting at the windows, good conversation and camaraderie.
Turtle Bay Happenings – Art & Culture
Trygve Lie Gallery. Norwegian painter Dag Telhaug’s coastal landscapes in an exhibit called “Sailing North.” Through Nov. 27. Artist Jan Valentin Saether’s works will be shown from Dec. 1-Jan.8. Free. Gallery hours: Mon.-Thurs. 12-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sun. 12-5 p.m. 317 East 52nd Street. Information: 212-319-0370; www.trygveliegallery.com.
Asian Artists at the U.N. Works from Japanese landscape painter Kaii Higashiyama and Chinese landscape photographer Wang Wusheng on display in the General Assembly Visitor’s Lobby (entrance: First Avenue across from 46th Street) from Dec. 14 to Mar. 10. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Information: www.un.org.
Turtle Bay Music School. 80th Anniversary Celebratory Concert, Nov. 16, 7 p.m. Music by faculty, students, guest artists. Em Lee Concert Hall, 244 East 52nd Street. Free. Information: 212-753-8811, ext. 23; www.tbms.org. Cervantes Institute. Piano concert in honor of Isaac Albeniz, considered Spain’s best composer for piano. Miguel Baselga on the piano. Nov. 8, 6 p.m. $15; call 212-308-7720 for reservations. 211 East 49th Street. 212-308-7720; www.cervantes.org.
Japan Society. Traditional Shamisen ensemble performs with kabuki dance, Dec. 8 and 9, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, including a lecture one hour before show time. Also, the photographic exhibit “Hiroshi Sugimoto: History to History” continues through Jan. 8. Admission $12; $10 seniors. For information and tickets, call 212-832-1155; www.japansociety.org.
German House. Holiday concert with Andreas Greger, cello, and Birgit Grutzner, piano, playing Beethoven, Bach and Schubert. Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. Free. 871 United Nations Plaza. Information: www.germany-info.org/newyork. 212-610-9719. Guests must register in advance. Automated RSVP line is 212-610-9759 or e-mail to email@example.com.
Midtown Jazz at Midday. Jazz on Wednesday at 1 p.m., St. Peter’s Church at Lexington Avenue and 54th Street. Admission: $5. Information: 212-935-2200; www.saintpeters.org.
TBA Board at Work
The following is a summary of issues and activities addressed at recent TBA Board meetings, as reflected in the meeting minutes. The TBA:
- is working, with Community Board 6 and as part of the East Midtown Coalition for Sensible Development, on two issues of critical importance to the neighborhood: ensuring that Moses Playground is not ceded to the United Nations without an equivalent park site being designated in its place, and monitoring ongoing plans for the development of the Con Ed Waterside site.
- has joined other interests in opposing the MTA’s planned utility building on East 50th Street.
- has voted to oppose a plan for a light-rail system on 42nd Street, a proposal that would add significant vehicular traffic to Turtle Bay streets.
- worked to ensure re-opening of the pocket park at 240 East 47th Street, including communications to the City Department of Buildings and the building’s owner. The park will reopen in the spring.
- produced a pocket guide insert and walking tour of Turtle Bay historical and architectural sites.
- monitors neighborhood construction sites, including 250-254 East 49th Street, for safety and other concerns.
- has sponsored or supported recent neighborhood events, including Oktoberfest, an outing to Belmont Park, “Night Out Against Crime” and the Turtle Bay Street Fair. Upcoming events include the Annual Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Fest.
- continues its work to beautify the neighborhood through its Tree Program and support of the Turtle Bay Tree Fund, as well as support of community parks.
Turtle Bay Newsletter
Vol. 48, No. 4
Editor: Pamela Hanlon
Contributors: Terri Heveran,
Olga Hoffmann, Bill Huxley,
Millie Margiotta, Patricia Q. McDougald,
Rita Rowan, Bruce Silberblatt
Cartoonist: Walt McGovern
Photography: Vivian Gordon
Check the TBA
On the east side of Second Avenue, 48-49th Streets,
on outside wall of the supermarket.