NEW YORK—The Flatiron area is renowned for its namesake building and Madison Park, but New Yorkers don’t usually describe the area as a cultural destination.
“We know the neighborhood has been a creative hub for many years,” said Jennifer Brown, executive director of the business improvement district (BID) for the Flatiron area. “But we actually see culture as an increasing and growing aspect of our community.”
Brown spoke at the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership BID’s annual meeting Tuesday night.
Several institutions have moved into the area, pushing Flatiron into a new cultural era. The district boasts the WMP Concert Hall, the Baruch Performing Arts Center, the Metropolitan Room Jazz Club, Stepping Out Studio ballroom and Latin dancing, Tada! Youth Theater, Aiga National Design Center Gallery, and Calumet Gallery. The Museum of Math (MoMath) will open mid-December.
Flatiron was not always a destination area. Long-term resident Diana Stuart recalled what it was like 30 years ago.
“It was so desolate—a coffee shop here and there, but it really had nothing too attractive,” she said at Tuesday’s event.
All that changed less than a decade ago. Roberto Camacho, a real estate broker from Buchbinder & Warren Realty Group said it has been incredible to watch 23rd Street come into its own.
“The hot spot used to be 34th Street, and somehow 23rd Street was left alone, and [the hot spot] moved to Union Square,” he said. Things began to change when Home Depot opened in Flatiron in 2004, he said.
Over time, high-end businesses such as Brooks Brothers clothing and Hunter Boot, opened stores in the area. Eataly, NoMad Hotel, and Vera Wang all moved in. More recently, Tiffany & Co. moved its headquarters to Flatiron.
Good real estate options during the recession and a creative group of shoppers made Flatiron an easy choice for the company, said James Fernandez, executive VP of Tiffany & Co.
“We saved money. … It makes it easier for our customers to go to our store,” he said.
Although its name sounds more pedantic than cultural, Glen Whitney, founder of MoMath, says the museum will “bring out the beauty of mathematics.”
“You’re probably asking yourself, ‘What the heck is a math museum anyways?’” he said.
“You might be imagining we have the world’s largest calculator, a giant slide rule, or maybe we’ll have blackboards full of the greatest equations of all time,” he joked.
Actually, when the museum opens in December, exhibits will show sculptures, images, and interactive games based on mathematical ideas. MoMath estimates the museum will receive 60,000 visitors a year.
The BIDThe Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership BID is a nonprofit organization consisting of Flatiron business owners and residents. The BID operates a budget of $1.6 million to keep the streets clean, safe, and beautiful, as well as run community events and social services programs. Its largest area of spending, 37 percent, is on sanitation.
In fiscal year 2012, the BID’s Clean Streets program removed 11,000 incidences of graffiti and general urban blight and collected 152,538 trash bags from the nearly 200 trash bins in the district.
“Since the BID started, there’s been a significant reduction in graffiti,” said Robert Bronstein, house manager of Baruch Performing Arts Center. “The area is much nicer now.”
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