Faces of East Midtown

Like so many places across the country, the past several months have been challenging and unpredictable for our community. That’s why we wanted to do something special to spotlight the amazing people that make up our unique district.  

Faces Of East Midtown is photo and interview series aimed at celebrating the humanity of our neighborhood and providing a real, raw and honest look at the faces behind the locally-owned businesses that have gone through unimaginable changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Anelle Miller


Executive Director
Society of Illustrators
128 East 63st Street

November 10, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

East Midtown Partnership: Tell us about your business or place of work. When did you originally open or start and what was your vision? 
Anelle Miller: The Society of Illustrators’ mission is to promote the art of illustration, to appreciate its history and evolving nature through exhibitions, lectures and education, and to contribute the service of its members to the welfare of the community at large. 

Founded in 1901, the Society of Illustrators is the oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of illustration in America. Notable Society members have been N.C. Wyeth, Rube Goldberg, and Norman Rockwell, among many others. 

Our Museum of Illustration was established in 1981. We offer year-round themed exhibits, art education programs and annual juried competitions. Our Permanent Collection houses 3,500 pieces that are cataloged for scholarly use and displayed periodically. In 2012, we created the MoCCA Gallery with a focus on curated exhibits of comic and cartoon art.

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EMP: Give us an overview of what things have been like for you and your staff during the Covid-19 lockdown. 
AM:
While our physical space may have closed on March 14, our mission has continued. Our staff worked hard remotely to quickly get the Museum online so our community can stay connected and involved. Exciting programs were created under the banner of SI At Your Service. This initiative can be found on our website and includes Virtual Tours, many layers of children’s programming, downloadable coloring pages with historical content from our Permanent Collection, Live Instagram takeovers from award-winning illustrators with demos and studio tours, remote sketch nights, Lecture Series and recipes from our Bar & Bistro. In addition, we created an online gallery to view exhibitions including the Student Scholarship Competition, and works from our Permanent Collection.  

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EMP: When did you reopen, and how did/does it feel to reopen your doors to the district? 
AM: We reopened to our Members on Wednesday September 9th and to the public on Wednesday September 16th. We are excited about reopening and hope that the community will come to visit the Museum and see the wonderful exhibits and art on display. We have all of the safety precautions in place and we are offering timed ticketing on our website. Tickets can be purchased here.

EMP: After being shuttered for months, several more businesses are slowly starting to reopen in the district. What does that mean to you? 
AM:
 We hope that as time goes by people will be more comfortable visiting local businesses and supporting the community. 

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EMP: What's one thing you've either learned, grown to appreciate or adjusted in your business practices moving forward as a result of the pandemic? 
AM: We learned that we can reach a larger global audience with our online programming and we will most likely continue to offer programming this way in addition to on site programming when that is able to resume. 

EMP: What is your hope for the future of your industry in the city in the coming months? 
AM:
 We know there are challenges still facing us, but our hope is that more people will come to visit the Museum. 

EMP: Any other thoughts you want people to know as they venture out into the neighborhood? 
AM:
 We encourage people to support the small businesses in the community as we look to new ways of doing business and engaging the public. 

 

Terri Daly


Director
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum
421 East 61st Street

October 22, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

East Midtown Partnership: Tell us about your place of work. What is the vision and overall mission? How long have you been working there? 
Teri Daly:
 The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum building was constructed in 1799, making it one of the few 18th-century buildings in Manhattan. It is also the only surviving “day hotel,” essentially a country resort popular in the early 1800s for middle class New Yorkers. Today the Museum’s mission is to educate the community about life in 19th-century New York through tours, exhibits, workshops, lectures, and school programs.  I am honored to have just marked 17 years with the Museum, first as a volunteer and for the past five years as the Director. 

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EMP: Give us an overview of what things have been like for you and your staff during the Covid-19 lockdown.
TD: 
Immediately after we closed our doors, with staff working from home, we began converting our programs to virtual experiences, so for the first few months we were operating at a frenetic pace to offer schools remote field trips, launch our first online exhibit, and try to continue all of our public programming for the community.  Now, with restrictions ongoing, we have been forced to reduce staff, and for all of us, it is a little sad to not be able to share our beloved museum in-person with visitors. 

EMP: After being shuttered for months, several more businesses are slowly starting to reopen in the district. What does that mean to you? Has your business reopened? 
TD: Although we have not yet reopened our building to the public, to some extent, the Museum never closed.  We continue to offer virtual programs and tours, and we are now offering an in-person, socially distanced Historic Neighborhood Walking Tour. As I lead these tours, it is thrilling to see the district coming alive as more businesses reopen. 

EMP: What's one thing you've either learned, grown to appreciate or adjusted in your business practices moving forward as a result of the pandemic? 
TD:
 It has been nice to welcome people to our virtual events who have not been able to previously visit the Museum either because of time or distance, so we now appreciate how technology can help us reach new audiences. 

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EMP: What is your hope for the future of your industry in the city in the coming months? 
TD: 
Both locals and tourists love the City’s arts and cultural organizations.  Although it will take some time, tourism will definitely rebound, and until that time, I know that we can all count on New Yorkers to support us.  

EMP: Any other thoughts you want people to know as they venture out into the neighborhood? 
TD:
 I hope everyone realizes the positive impact they can have on our neighborhood, even with small gestures.  Purchases, donations, or spreading the word about a favorite place will help all of us during this challenging time. 

 

Alex Tubero


Executive Chef
Amali
115 East 60th Street

October 14, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

East Midtown Partnership: Tell us about your business or place of work. When did you originally open or start and what was your vision? 
Alex Tubero: Amali has been open since 2011, I was fortunate to join the team this past June. Amali is a Mediterranean restaurant, which by definition is influenced by many cuisines and cultures -- but also a unique philosophy too. "Mediterranean" is a way of thinking about food, it's about seasonal produce and flavors coming together to create something spectacular. The food at Amali thrives on simplicity, meaning we get the best products possible and that allows the product to speak for itself. In order to get the best produce possible, you must be aware of the seasons and the seasons within the seasons. My philosophy with our menu is to let the farmers and the fishermen essentially write the menus, meaning they are telling me what the best product is for that week and it is my job to showcase them in the best way possible to our diners. Because we do not overcomplicate the dishes, the quality of ingredients must be perfect. There is no way to hide a subpar piece of produce. Every ingredient has to be cared for at the highest level throughout every dish. 
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EMP: Give us an overview of what things have been like for you and your staff during the Covid-19 lockdown. 
AT: It has been extremely challenging to say the least. This has been not only an enormous interruption, but a completely unexpected one. All that I can really say is that it has brought everyone in the industry closer as we continue to support each other throughout these difficult times. 
 
EMP: When did you reopen, and how did/does it feel to reopen your doors to the district? 
AT: We reopened on September 30th. It was truly an emotional experience seeing everyone in the neighborhood excited for us to reopen. It's nice to know that people missed us and saw us as an important part of the community. 
 
EMP: After being shuttered for months, several more businesses are slowly starting to reopen in the district. What does that mean to you? 
AT: It is great to see the restaurant industry bouncing back--we're a strong and passionate bunch. I think things will only get better from here. My heart goes out to all the people who lost their businesses, but New York and New Yorkers are resilient and I know the city will recover in time. 
 
EMP: What's one thing you've either learned, grown to appreciate or adjusted in your business practices moving forward as a result of the pandemic? 
AT: What I missed more than anything was the people I work with. The laughs, the creativity, the hard work, the push to be and do better. A restaurant is more than a place that gives you food and wine; it is a family that comes in everyday to work and produce something special for guests to experience. It is more than just work for us it is what we love to do. I am so grateful for every opportunity to walk into the kitchen and cook. I'll never take that for granted.  

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EMP: What is your hope for the future of your industry in the city in the coming months? 
AT: What I know is that we will come back stronger than before. Food will be better, service will be better, our whole industry will be better but we can't repeat the mistakes we have made in the past. I hope the industry reevaluates what is truly important in making a successful restaurant--it starts with a happy and healthy staff. 
 
EMP: Any other thoughts you want people to know as they venture out into the neighborhood? 
AT: When you come out to eat you are not just supporting a restaurant you are supporting the people and families that work for the restaurant. Think about how each bite of food you eat supports so many people and the combination of all the bites taken throughout the restaurant and throughout the day and the week will pay for many people's rents. Restaurants need your help right now. 

Barbara McLaughlin


President
The Fund for Park Avenue

October 7, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

200917_EMP_Park_Ave_Fund-13.jpgEast Midtown Partnership: Tell us about your business or place of work. When did you originally open or start and what was your vision?
Barbara McLaughlin:
The Fund for Park Avenue is the non-profit organization responsible for planting, lighting and maintaining the trees and flowers on the Park Avenue Malls, eight which are located in East Midtown. Through the Park Avenue Malls Planting Project we provide three seasonal plantings – spring tulips, summer begonias and fall chrysanthemums as well as all the necessary maintenance.  The Park Avenue Tree Lighting is the continuation of a tradition that first started in 1945 when a small group of Park Avenue families lit fir trees to honor their loved ones who had died in World War II.  Now over 100 trees illuminate the avenue each winter thanks to the contributions we receive from the community.

I’ve worked at The Fund for 11 years and this year the organization is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  It was the vision of philanthropist Mary Lasker to beautify the city through the planting of trees and flowers that ultimately led to the creation of The Fund!

EMP: Give us an overview of what things have been like for you and your staff during the Covid-19 lockdown.
BM: Our fundraising is done primarily through two annual appeal mailings – one in the spring for the Planting Project and another in the fall for the Tree Lighting.  When the city began to shut down in March, our materials, which were designed to reach people’s mailboxes on April 1st, were already at the mail house-- I sign each letter personally so the work is done well in advance of the actual mailing. But this year, many of our donors had left this city by early April so there was (and still is) a significant delay in contributions coming in. The Fund has two full-time employees.  Initially we both worked remotely but we are now coming into the office on alternate days.  Maintenance, such as lawn mowing, tree pruning and trash collection are considered “essential,” so our contractors were able to come to work as soon as the weather permitted. The Fund has worked with the same small, family-run companies for years and we were grateful for their flexibility and dedication during this time.  Planting and other “beautification” activities were not permitted in the early days of the lockdown, but our tulip bulbs are always planted in the fall so the beautiful red tulips came up right on schedule in the spring!

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EMP: After being shuttered for months, several more businesses are slowly starting to reopen in the district, what does that mean to you?
BM: That more people can enjoy the seasonal plantings – the tulips, begonias and the flowering trees were especially beautiful this spring and summer.  It’s nice to feel some of the energy on the streets coming back.

EMP: What’s one thing you’ve either learned, grown to appreciate or adjusted in your business practices moving forward as a result of the pandemic?
BM: I definitely appreciate and have a greater respect for technology – and the need to keep it all up to date!  If we hadn’t recently upgraded several of our platforms, it would have been much harder for us to swiftly transition to remote working.

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EMP: What is your hope for the future of your industry in the city and the coming months?
BM: The beautification of our city through plantings is as important today as it was years ago when Mary Lasker made her first donation of tulip bulbs to the city. “Plant flowers where the masses pass” was her motto and we are proud to carry on her legacy and grateful for the contributions from the individuals and the Park Avenue commercial and residential buildings that that make all of our work possible.

EMP: Any other thoughts you want people to know as they venture out into the neighborhood?
BM: I hope that as people return to the district, the seasonal plantings and the illuminated fir trees bring them a sense of calm during this very uncertain time.  And maybe now that they know a little more about The Fund and what we do, they’ll want to make a contribution! 

 

Past Faces of East Midtown


 

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Geralynn Madonna


Owner
Madonna & Co. Boutique and Beauty Bar
202 East 60th Street

October 2, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

 

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Noel Donovan 


Owner
Blooms Tavern
208 East 58th Street

September 29, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

 

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Lana Bargraser 


Owner
Allure Day Spa
139 East 55th Street

September 23, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

 

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David Hanouna


Sales Director
Modani
942 Third Avenue

September 23, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

 

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Amy Babic


Owner
Kurant Wine Bar
1091 Second Avenue

La Cava
939 Second Avenue

Copinette
891 First Avenue

September 17, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

 

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Emma Bengtsson


Executive Chef
Aquavit
65 East 55th Street

September 15, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography

 

See more of Face of East Midtown on Instagram!