Greenwich Village Orchestra offering 15 free concert tickets to Town & Village readers

Greenwich Village Orchestra

Greenwich Village Orchestra

The Greenwich Village Orchestra will present its annual holiday concert for children and their families on Sunday, December 7 at 3 p.m. and 15 readers of Town & Village will be given free tickets.

To claim the first come, first serve tickets, guests should go to the ticket desk and say they saw this notice in T&V.

At this event, children are encouraged to dance, sing and march with a full symphonic orchestra. Children can also try out a variety of instruments at the GVO’s Instrument Petting Zoo.

The venue is Washington Irving High School Auditorium at 40 Irving Place between 16th and 17th Streets. Children get in free. There is a $20 suggested donation for adults. For more information, visit gvo.org.

Union Square Park, a place to play

Children’s yoga classes are part of the Summer in the Square free event series that begins on Thursday, June 12. (Photo courtesy of the Union Square Partnership)

Children’s yoga classes are part of the Summer in the Square free event series that begins on Thursday, June 12. (Photo courtesy of the Union Square Partnership)

Playground repaired, WiFi increased and restaurant opened

By Sabina Mollot

Fitness classes are part of the Summer in the Square program. (Photo courtesy of Union Square Partnership)

Fitness classes are part of the Summer in the Square program. (Photo courtesy of the Union Square Partnership)

Recently, the playground at the north end of Union Square Park, known as “Evelyn’s Playground,” got a bit of a makeover. A new soft surface replaced the one that had been there since it opened and had undergone much wear and tear. Along with heavy use, another destructive factor, which turned the spongy ground covering into Swiss cheese was high heeled shoes. At the newly opened playground, there are no heels allowed.
Other recent improvements to the park include increasing the free public WiFi network capacity eight-fold to accommodate more users and the return of solar-powered cell phone charging stations at three of the sitting areas. Then of course, there’s the controversial restaurant inside the park’s pavilion, fittingly named The Pavilion. It finally opened for business on May 1 after community activists lost a court battle arguing such a commercial enterprise didn’t belong on park grounds.
Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership, recently spoke with Town & Village about the restaurant, the playground improvements and other springtime work aimed at improving the Union Square district.

Evelyn’s Playground as it appeared when the surface was recently repaired (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Evelyn’s Playground as it appeared when the surface was recently repaired (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

On the new surface for Evelyn’s Playground, Falk said since the 15,000 square foot play space opened in December, 2009, replacing two smaller ones, “We’ve had an enormous amount of foot traffic.”
The former playgrounds, she pointed out, only totaled 5,000 square feet and these days more of the playground’s visitors come from further away just to enjoy it. It wasn’t just the size but the improved rides that have brought in more kids and the new safety surface, instead of the old asphalt, has been a hit with parents.
The funds to make the recent round of improvements, which had a pricetag of $175,000, were raised by the USP. In total, close to $350,000 was raised and some of that money will also go towards the park’s annual series of free programming, Summer in the Square.
As always the Thursday series, kicking off this year today, June 12, will include kids’ events, fitness and dance classes and low-key lunchtime jazz concerts. On June 12, things start early with “Wake up Yoga” at 7 a.m. Yoga storytime for kids starts at 10 a.m. With the Gazillion Bubble Show at 10:30 a.m. Things will wind down at 1 p.m. after jazz with students from The New School until the evening. (In response to feedback from a recent survey, the USP has expanded the SITS schedule to offer additional fitness classes in the evenings.) There will be a return of past years’ boot camp, running club and evening yoga.
As far as the new restaurant is concerned, Falk declined to comment on the controversy that’s surrounded its opening for close to a decade, other than to say she didn’t think the fact that alcohol is now served there was inappropriate for the setting. Because, she reasoned, “the food is much more of what’s focused on.”

The Pavilion restaurant (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The Pavilion restaurant (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Currently, the restaurant is just open for dinner but hours are expected to expand soon to include lunch and eventually breakfast. Price wise, it’s not the Tavern on the Green activists feared, but it’s no Shake Shack either. The menu now includes dishes such as hanger steak ($23.50), kale caesar salad ($11.95), short rib ravioli ($17.50) and oysters ($3 a piece) with ingredients bought from the park’s greenmarket.
Also among the arguments against the restaurant by the Union Square Community Coalition and other critics was that the Pavilion should be used for events, preferably for children, rather than a commercial enterprise. However, even with a business in the space, the kiddies haven’t been forgotten completely as now there’s Tuesdays @ The Pavilion, a free, weekly crafts and story time event from 3-5 p.m. Veterans also had their day at The Pavilion recently when the restaurant and the USP sponsored a luncheon for former servicemen and women in celebration of Memorial Day. The event was also in recognition of the one-year anniversary of the Manhattan VA Medical Center reopening after Hurricane Sandy. “The Partnership hopes to make this an annual event to continue to connect our local businesses with community organizations,” the USP wrote in a recent blog post.
The park has also recently undergone landscaping work, with the lawns reopening for picnickers and sunbathers.
For a schedule of events taking place throughout the summer, visit unionsquarenyc.org.

Where to bring your kids this summer

Beat the heat with these local, indoor activities

By Sabina Mollot

After a couple of weeks of intense heat with temperatures in the high 80s and 90s, even normally fun summer pastimes like outdoor concerts and trips to the park have been put on hold by many families. Instead, New Yorkers have been heading indoors for their fun in the pursuit of air conditioning. Below are a few local, indoor options for events and activities for kids that are available throughout the summer.

A day at the pool

The pool at Waterside Plaza

The pool at Waterside Plaza

Local outdoor pools such as Asser Levy and Dry Dock are free to the public, but because of this they can get a tad crowded. Indoor pools at gyms and community centers are sometimes available for the use of non-members during open houses or if members of the public purchase a day pass. The indoor pool at the Waterside Swim & Health Club is one of them, and the cost of using the gym, including its pool for a day is $20, $10 for kids. Thanks to the skylighted roof, swimmers also get a breathtaking view of the East River. Annual memberships for Watersiders as well as non-residents costs $595.

Waterside Swim & Health Club, 35 Waterside Plaza (212) 340-4225 http://www.watersideplaza.com/swim-health

The 14th Street Y also has an indoor pool with day passes costing $20. If you have a friend who’s a member, day passes cost $15 and members get three free passes for guests a year. The Y’s communications director Camille Diamond reported this week that the pool has definitely seen an uptick in use lately by guests. “We have a lot of families coming to escape the heat,” she said.

14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, 14streety.org (212) 780-0800

Bounce house

Beehives & Buzzcuts, a First Avenue kiddie hair salon and toy shop that also does kids’ parties and classes,

The bounce house at Beehives & Buzzcuts

The bounce house at Beehives & Buzzcuts

has recently established itself as a go-to place for parents who know their kids will have something to do there. Following the temporary closure of Stuyvesant Town’s Oval Kids center due to Hurricane Sandy, Beehives began offering, for a fee, play time in its spacious back room, which is also used for art and music classes. However, with class schedules slowing down in the summer, the owners recently moved a bounce house into the space, which kids can play in for 20 minutes for $5 or for free with a purchase of any item that’s $10 or more. The bounce house is up all day from Mondays to Wednesdays. Thursdays it comes down to make room for classes and on Friday it stays up except when there’s a class or party.

“It’s such a relief on days like this because there’s A.C.,” said co-owner Karolyn Massey on a recent sweltering afternoon. “Parents know they can come in and have a cup of coffee while the kids let loose and get out of the sun.”

Massey added that while some parents have been concerned that 20 minutes would be too short of a time for the kids to play in the bounce house — it isn’t.

“The kids are bouncing off the walls after that,” she said.

Beehives & Buzzcuts, 365 First Avenue at 21st Street (646) 476-6294

Puzzles, digital art and square-wheeled trikes

While it may not seem like an obvious choice to bring kids for a day of play, the Museum of Mathematics (a.k.a. MoMath) in Flatiron has become an increasingly popular destination for families as the summer scorches on. The museum, which opened in December, reached the 100,000-visitor mark in April and according to spokesperson Brittnie Mabry, has become even busier throughout the heat wave. A popular attraction for kids of all ages as well as adults has been the Enigma Café, which is actually filled with puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty rather than food.

“Because it’s been so hot people just sit and play forever,” said Mabry.

Other popular stops include a square-wheeled tricycle, which actually does roll due to the catenary curve road that was built for it and a space where kids can create digital sculptures with the goal being to come up with their own shapes. Museum goers get to vote on the best creations of the day and the few winners are then reproduced via a 3-D printer and put on display. Proud parents can then purchase them if they choose. “They’re a couple of hundred dollars, so it’s not cheap,” warned Mabry, “but it’s an option.”

There are also “Math Encounters,” presentations by special guests on the first Wednesday of the month, and the next scheduled speaker, UCLA mathematics professor Terry Tao, is set to discuss how things are measured in space on August 7 at 4 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m.

Admission to the museum is $15 for adults, $9 for children, students or seniors and free for toddlers. Tickets can be purchased online. Otherwise a $1 surcharge applies at the door.

National Museum of Mathematics, 11 East 26th Street (212) 542-0566, momath.org

Drop-in classes in art, hip-hop, rock climbing, sing-alongs

Parents looking to have their kids try out a class without the commitment of booking several weeks of sessions might want to check out the NY Kids Club, which through the end of August is offering mid-day, one-session drop of classes. There’s no need to RSVP, but at 12:30 and at 1:15 p.m. each day from Monday through Friday, the Gramercy location offers 45 minute classes for kids ages 3-6 in subjects such as rock climbing, hip-hop, world art, arts and crafts and dance. Classes are $47 each. (Classes vary at other locations of NY Kids Club and classes can change.)

NY Kids Club, Downtown/ Gramercy Park Children’s Enrichment Center, 38 East 22nd Street (212) 375-1100, nykidsclub.com

The 14th Street Y is also offering drop-in classes with the sing-alongs being the most popular ones. Summer singalongs are being offered to kids ages two months to five years on Mondays from 3-3:45 p.m. and from 3:50-4:35 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 3-3:45 p.m., and 4-4:45 p.m. Parents can get a punch card for five sessions for $70 ($55 for Y members) or pay $15 per class.

The Y is also offering a few $15 drop-in fitness classes for moms and babies, such as New Moms Stroll In at 1:15 p.m. on Tuesdays, Mommy and Me on Tuesdays at 3 p.m., New Body, New Baby on Thursdays at 1:45 p.m., Mommy and Baby Yoga on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and Postpartum Pilates with Baby on Tuesdays at 11 a.m.

14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, 14streety.org (212) 780-0800

Tours of Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

A portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, one of many to be part of an upcoming exhibit for kids at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

A portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, one of many to be part of an upcoming exhibit for kids at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

Park Ranger guided tours of the period rooms at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace are available on the hour, 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately forty minutes. The exhibit galleries are currently closed for renovations. Admission is free.

During the schoolyear, the place is visited regularly by students while during the summer, young visitors are often those participating in the junior ranger program of the National Park Service, which oversees the TRB. The kids earn badges for every NPS site (typically parks) that they visit. However, the Teddy Roosevelt Birthplace was designated a site due to the 26th president’s devotion to designating areas as parklands.

“He was on the forefront of the conservation movement,” said TRB spokesperson Michael Amato, “and that was pretty much unprecedented in 1901. He was a sickly man and socially limited so he jumped at the chance to get involved with nature.”

Amato also noted that the TRB is often visited by tourists as well as locals. “We have a lot of people from out west who pay homage to him by visiting his boyhood home,” he said.

Kids can become junior rangers by downloading a booklet online at http://www.nps.gov/thrb/index.htm that’s filled with relevant educational activities.

Though there are no special events scheduled for the summer, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace will be holding an exhibit of portraits by kids in the fall and at this time through August 31, kids up to age 14 are invited to submit their own artwork depicting Roosevelt. Images should be sent via email to dprebutt@nps.gov. Other activities are also downloadable online, including a coloring page and a crossword puzzle.

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, 28 East 20th Street between Park Avenue South and Broadway (212) 260-1616