Lights Shining Bright

Let There Be Neon – a store opened back on 451 West Broadway in 1990 owned by Jeff Friedman – makes quite a few things shine bright. Originally opened by Rudy Stern, a painter, docu-filmmaker and artist in 1972, two years later it was recognized as “the first ever gallery dedicated to neon,” and was the first to install a neon environment for a disco. Its history tells much more of a tale, but today it offers works of art via animation, graphic design, pieces for residential areas, film, TV and other media and more.

What is the beauty and excitement behind this?  Friedman believes that:

“Neon is red when it’s lit, the pure color of neon. But we also use argon, which is blue, and by combining the different gases with different glass colors or phosphorus inside the tube, that’s how we get all the different colors.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, “Let There Be Neon” was still shining bright, at least in all its neon glory, was store after store was shuttered following stay at home orders.

Now that things are somewhat getting back to normal, the SoHo region is boasting its offerings.  From galleries to architecture, boutique and unique stores, this move is being bolstered by a rezoning proposal put forward by Bill de Blasio, NYC Mayor.  If accepted, this would add a substantial amount of apartments to the area – 3,200 – 800 of which would be priced lower than the market rate.

While this would indeed help tackle the homeless crisis, the question has to be asked as to what it would do the city’s culture?  Plus there is the environmental concern.  Nonetheless, Will Thomas who sits on the Open New York board believes it would actually create an “historic opportunity, claiming:

“This would really change the unspoken rules around development in New York City. Breaking down the exclusionary barriers of SoHo is a matter of racial justice, is a matter of housing justice, and especially right now during a pandemic, affordable housing is more needed than ever.”

Whatever transpires and however it impacts the environment and the region’s culture,  ‘Let There Be Neon’ shined bright it will continue to illuminate its environs.

SoHo’s Service in the Time of COVID-19

During this challenging time for many, there has simultaneously been a great deal of kindness and goodwill.  At the end of last month, local eatery Chobani Café followed suit.

Offering healthy fare of sandwiches, nutritious yogurts, fresh produce and more, the Café has now become a temporary food pantry for the entire community.  Anyone in the neighborhood is welcome to come and enjoy free food during this hard time.  They are “here to help.”

Following the social distancing guidelines and safety in order to beat COVID-19 the restaurant is open twice a week to hand out free products and support families and workers.  It is now staffed by both volunteers from #BeAShepherd and its regular employees.  The idea right now is to “give back to [the] local neighborhood and donate nutritious food to those in need.”

The Color Factory

The Color Factory in NY is a pop-up art exhibit that explores and displays each color. Housed in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, this exhibit features 16 participatory installations.

Visitors enjoy this multi-sensory experience which includes playing in an enormous ball pit. The Color Factory explores color in a vivid and creative way that’s fun for all ages. They museum has garnered criticism for being an “Instagram museum,” a museum geared towards millennials who visit museums to photograph themselves and share pictures on social media.

Co-founder Jordan Ferney has refuted these claims, stating that her goal “had always been to make something that was beautiful to experience, not photograph.”

The museum also created the Manhattan Color Walk, a unique map of colorful landmarks within Manhattan. The Manhattan Color Walk allowed visitors to explore neighborhoods through its creation of a colorful portrait of this diverse city.

NYC Fire Museum

Interested in learning more about firefighting? This museum is the place to visit.

The New York City Fire Museum is a museum that’s housed in a renovated 1904 firehouse. The museum is located at 278 Spring Street and receives over 40,000 visitors each year.

The museum contains more than 10,000 objects including photographs and other memorabilia. A special memorial to the 343 members of the FDNY who died on September 11 is on permanent display at the museum.

The museum showcases items dating back to the mid-18th century. Displays trace the evolution of firefighting, from bucket brigades and volunteers to firetrucks and salaried firefighters.

In addition to sharing this slice of history, the museum offers rentable space for events and birthday parties. They also offer interactive exhibits for students as well as sessions on fire safety.

The New York Earth Room

If you’re looking for an unusual destination, stop by The New York Earth Room at 141 Wooster Street.

Created by American artist Walter De Maria back in 1977, the exhibit is composed of a 3,600 square foot gallery that contains 22 inches of dirt. The dirt weighs approximately 280,000 pounds.

Interestingly, the exhibit is valued at around a million dollars. The dirt itself requires regular maintenance by a caretaker, who both rakes and waters the dirt.

The gallery is free to visit, and is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 12-6.

Creative Cupcakes

Visit the Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Soho for a taste of childhood.

The bakery, which is known for celebrity sightings, offers several unique cupcakes. Remember enjoying the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars? Try the Good Humor Cake—it’s just like the ice cream, only in cake form.

If you’re craving chocolate, the Brooklyn Blackout’s for you. Named one of the best chocolate cakes in America by Food and Wine Magazine, this moist cake is frosted with two different kinds of chocolate icing.

Of course, what’s cake without coffee? Coffee lovers can enjoy espresso and other caffeinated drinks at the bakery.

Beautiful Historic Landmark for Sale in SoHo

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that there really is some glorious history around us. We might not be able to afford all of it, but it’s there. Take the recent landmark townhouse at 57 Sullivan Street, between Spring and Broome. It actually dates back to 1816 and it’s on the market…for $7.75 million. It has city landmark status and has been described by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as “a fine example of the Federal style of architecture and a tangible reminder of the rich multi-cultural heritage of the South Village.”

You can take a peek here, even if you can’t afford the price tag and dream about living somewhere as glorious as this. Good to know there are lovely places like this in our neighborhood.

Hi-Tech Coming to SoHo

Another hi-tech company is opening a branch in SoHo at 375 W. Broadway. Square, which makes devices that allow businesses to accept credit card payments, will now be able to expand to have 250 employees.

As Demetrios Marantis, Square’s head of international government, regulatory and policy work said, “New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, technology, and art — something we do every day at Square as we help local sellers grow their business with simple and beautiful tools.”

Square is based in San Francisco and also has offices in Atlanta, Tokyo and Kitchener-Waterloo.

It might be interesting for other start-ups to know that New York State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is going out of his way to court hi-tech companies and start-ups. The Governor has been involved in Square’s entry into its East Coast headquarters, offering Square $5 million in tax credits to help facilitate its New York expansion. Similar tax credits are available for other start-ups, as indicated by the spokesperson for Governor Cuomo’s office.

New Hotel Opens in SoHo: Broome

broomA new hotel in SoHo called Broome is certainly worth a look. Located at Crosby and Broome, this hotel was seven years in the making. They transformed a Federal-style building that used to house a commune of artists in the late 80s into a 14 cozy, fun room. The most beautiful part of the hotel is the five-story atrium café and lobby where everyone enters.

 
Opened by Vincent Boitier and the Lacovelli brothers, this hotel is a one-of-a-kind stop in the busy New York City world. The building, built in the Federal Revival Style, was completed in 1825, and the renovations have managed to keep the old world look and feel while creating the most modern of amenities.

Soho Startup Keeping Us Safe

canary22w-2-webA startup in Soho is making waves. Canary is a new security gadget created by New York tech entrepreneur Adam Sager that has everyone talking. It’s slightly larger than a soda can and it recently won the most successful fundraising campaign for crowdfunding site Indegogo by raising $2 million.

As Sager told the Daily News, “Canary is the first smart home security device for everyone. It’s the easiest way to connect to your home and look after your pets and belongings.”

Canary has been created by the Soho-based tech startup called Canary and costs $199. It is already on the market and can be purchased for delivery in July 2014 from Canary.is.

Canary was originally funded by the tech venture capital firm Brooklyn Bridge Ventures. As Sager said about their product, “The momentum is very high. Every day we are getting purchases from all over the world.”

For Canary to work, all that you need is a Wi-Fi connection in your home and a smartphone in your hand. You don’t need to install sensors. With its built-in HD video camera and safety sensors that track motion, temperature, and air quality, it has everything you need to keep your home safe and monitored.

If Canary notices that something out of the ordinary is happening in your home, you’ll get a text message or push notification. You can also see live video or recorded events.