Category Archives: Openings

It’s Official: Washington Square Park Renovation Phase I Has Re-Opened (Stay Tuned for Phase II)

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Though the fences had been quietly dismantled last Tuesday to allow a growing trickle of visitors, Thursday May 28 marked the official ribbon-cutting celebration of the now-completed Washington Square Park renovation – Phase I, that is.

A red carpet was rolled out to welcome prominent public figures and everyday parkgoers alike; speakers included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe

A tent was raised near the fountain to house a small group of chairs and a dais for the aforementioned speakers, who asserted that “a Nobel peace prize could have been awarded” for the extraordinary negotiation efforts that occurred throughout the planning and construction process.  Several of the speakers also remarked that even the most vocal opponents of the renovation seemed to be impressed.

After the speeches, the officials gathered in front of the fountain (which had been turned off) to stand behind the official ribbon, scissors ready.  The moment the ribbon was cut, streams of water shot out of the waterjets.

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Additional festivities included a commemorative button-making station, live jazz music, and free food from local eateries like Crumbs Bake Shop, Le Pain Quotidien, and Mario Batali’s Otto (whose “Gelotto” cart will become a fixture in the park this summer).

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Phase I of the renovation added new benches, winding walkways and grand promenades, and 20% more greenspace to the park, and controversially moved the iconic fountain 20 feet to align it with the equally iconic arch.

Though parkgoers are glad to have access to the fountain and central area again, the entire park will not be open for long: Phase II of the renovation, which will be concentrated in the northeast, southeast, and southwest quadrants of the park, is scheduled to begin in the near future.

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Not-so-average Joes: NBA Players and Fashionistas Take over the West 4th Basketball Courts for JOE Joseph Abboud & JCPenney

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There were still basketball players at the famous West 4th Street courts on Monday, May 18 – except this time, they were wearing suits and in the NBA.

To celebrate the launch of their Fall 2009 collaboration, JCPenney (who plans to open at the Manhattan Mall this year) and suitmaker JOE Joseph Abboud obtained permission to close the courts to the public – a decidedly controversial move – to hold a cocktail party.  Attendees included a rather unusual mix of athletes and fashionistas: basketball legends Allan Houston and Cal Ramsey, rising star NBA draft pick Blake Griffin, Bobby Simmons of the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks head coach Herb Williams and several team members, stylist Michael Angelo, and Jones Apparel retail executives.

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And you couldn’t miss the collection of male models donning various JOE Joseph Abboud ensembles, stationed around the court literally to stand there and look pretty.

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Though interesting sheets of aluminum were placed around the fence to create a sense of “privacy,” a few sections were left uncovered, drawing a crowd of curious pedestrians.  Many had stopped when they realized they weren’t hearing the usual shouts of excitement that accompany the lively games at the court.  Several of the onlookers had probably planned to play in or watch one of those games that night; something tells me that if it were not for the presence of professional basketball stars at the event, they would have been quite disappointed.  Once the not-so-average-JOEs cleared out, though, it was back to normal – and I doubt you’ll be seeing suits at that court anytime soon.

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Washington Square Park Construction Update: And Then There Were Lights, or Don’t Blink, You’ll Miss the Fountain

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This weekend the Washington Square Park fountain was restored to its former glory – if only for a few minutes.

At about noon Friday, the jets were activated, sending gallons of water into the air over the slightly relocated fountain (remember, it was absolutely necessary that it line up exactly with the arch) in the closed portion of the park.  Curious onlookers (who after a year of construction probably forgot the fountain even existed) stood mesmerized, perhaps nostalgic for the days when parkgoers could sunbathe and even take a splash there.

But by about one o’clock, the jets had been turned off, reminding us that this was only the construction team saying “testing, one, two, three.”  Such a tease.

Also this weekend, new (yet old-fashioned) globe light fixtures were installed in the area immediately surrounding the fountain, bringing a much-needed element of grandeur. (Remember those atrocious globe fixtures that looked ugly and soiled enough to be from the ’70s?  You’ve probably been trying to block them from memory.)

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But the fountain test, lighting, and general progress of construction appear to be promising indicators of a re-opening in the very near future – perhaps even before the long summer days have us aching for a refreshingly cool spritz.

Vitamin Water 10 Pops Up in Soho

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carmenelectravitaminwater Photo courtesy of Getty Images

To celebrate the debut of its new 10 calorie version, Vitamin Water opened a pop-up shop in the former Helio space, next to Urban Outfitters, at 628 Broadway in Soho (technically Noho, but we’ll give it to them).

On the night of Thursday, April 2 (the same day as the opening of Topshop down the street), the store held an opening party, setting up a red carpet and bleachers for invited guests right on the sidewalk.  And it was not without star power – actress Carmen Electra hosted the event.

The store itself offers complimentary bottles of Vitamin Water 10 (in four flavors, including Vitamin C-abundant lemonade and antioxidant berry), which guests can enjoy in a minimalist setting featuring seating areas, videogames on a Wii, and a photobooth in the front window (that’s visible to passing traffic on Broadway).  Another window facing the street features a live model, decked out in the colorful tee shirts, white short-shorts, and knee-high socks all the employees were wearing (since of course 2009 is actually just The ’80s, Part Two).

Unfortunately, the store is only temporary, meaning weary Soho shoppers can’t count on that refreshing free Vitamin Water for long.

The British Invasion: New Yorkers Swarm Opening Day Extravaganza in the Race to the Topshop

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“The British are coming!” fashionistas chanted for months after London-based fast fashion retailer Topshop announced its first US store would open in New York.

Well, they’ve arrived.

Granted, it took them a while to get here: Topshop initially entered the American market by introducing only select pieces from its line at Barneys New York, and then delayed the opening of its first full-scale stateside flagship from Fall 2008 to April 2, 2009.  But judging from the lines that wrapped around the block at Broadway and Broome St. in Soho today (Recession?  What recession?), demand and expectations ran high – and many shoppers would probably agree that it was well worth the wait.

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Celebrities like Kate Moss, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Trachtenberg, and DJ Mark Ronson (yes, that’s the brother of Lindsay Lohan’s companion/girlfriend/pubilicity stunt/whatever, Samanatha Ronson) were on hand to celebrate the opening of the 40,000 square foot flagship, which stands at more than four stories and includes both the Topshop (women’s apparel and accessories) and Topman lines.

For those unfamiliar with Topshop, the brand falls somewhere between H&M and Banana Republic in style and price: some pieces are  irresistibly cute and inexpensive (like colorful men’s V-neck tees and short-sleeve shirts, two for $20), while others appeal to a more “aspirational” customer (take a $140 seersucker blazer).  The women’s pieces were particularly fashion-forward, adventurous, and stunning (the Kate Moss collection’s sparkly sequined dresses and dangerously spiked heels could only be described accurately as “fierce”).  But many of the men’s urban hipster pieces seemed lackluster, busy (gingham flannel shirt with striped tie?), and we’ve-seen-this-before (high-top shoes).  Overall though, most of the store made a strong showing at a reasonable price.

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Many of the day’s customers were enticed by gift cards (ranging from $5 to $500 and redeemable only on April 2) that had been handed out from Topshop vans throughout the city earlier this week.  Additional giftcards (and waterbottles – how thoughtful!) were handed out to shoppers waiting in line.

Topshop’s Soho neighbor, Madewell (the two stores are separated only by the upcoming J. Crew men’s store) also benefited from today’s crowds.  In addition to offering free doughnuts, Madewell created a window display in honor (or should we say, honour?) of the occasion: “A Royal Welcome to Our New Neighbour” and “All Hail the Jean.”  It’s nice to see some friendly retail/international relations instead of the usual cutthroat competition.

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Though New York remains the only Topshop outpost in the States for now, the success of today’s opening despite the suffering economy may be an indicator of the potential for nationwide expansion.  A British takeover of America has never sounded so lovely.

Hillary Clinton Named Commencement Speaker for NYU 2009 Graduation, Won’t Be Jumping into Fountain

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Today NYU officially announced that Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver the commencement address at the graduation ceremony for NYU’s Class of 2009.  The U.S. Secretary of State, former U.S. Senator from New York, former First Lady, and Wellesley and Yale Law graduate can now add to her list of accomplishments an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from NYU, which she will receive at the ceremony.

According to the NYU press release, honorary degree recipients also include White House Journalist Helen Thomas, Nobel physicist Albert Fert, health advocate Jessie Gruman, and playwright and NYU alum John Patrick Shanley.  NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will receive the Rudin Award for “exemplary service to New York City.”

This year’s commencement will be held on May 13th at Yankee Stadium – since a substantial portion of the Washington Square Park (notably the fountain into which newly-minted NYU graduates traditionally jump, robes and all) remains closed for construction.  Though the vast majority of renovation, including landscaping, park benches, lampposts, and increased greenspace, appears complete, the closed section is not scheduled to re-open until “spring 2009” (which we really know, translating from construction-speak, is probably summer 2009 at the earliest).

But those of you who had been looking forward to some friendly secretary of state splish-splashing at the fountain, have no fear: if last year’s graduation streaker is any indication, anything can happen.

How Much Is That…Fishstick in the Window? Bansky Opens The Village Pet Store

You’ll never think of little Fido the same way.  At least, that’s how British graffiti artist Bansky wants you to feel after witnessing the bizarre collection of oddities at his first New York exhibit, The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill.  If you’re repulsed by the fact that the words “Pet Store” and “Charcoal Grill” are in the same sentence, you should be.  The exhibit features a host of animatronic creatures, including, yes, fishsticks swimming in a fishbowl, a leopard fur jacket perched on a tree branch, a breathing monkey with headphones watching television, chicken nuggets dipping themselves in sauce, a mother security camera feeding her baby camera children, and a rabbit testing cosmetic products on itself.  In case you don’t understand (and hey, we don’t blame you), this is Banksy’s statement against society’s treatment of animals.

The walk-though exhibit (the entire retail space is actually the exhibit) takes approximately ten minutes to view.  It is open to anyone free of charge, but be prepared to wait in line.  And hurry!  It closes permanently Friday, October 31.

The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill

89 Seventh Avenue South

New York, NY

10 A.M. to midnight