Murray Hill Neighbors’ Stories

The Murray Hill Neighborhood Association

The Preservation & Design Committee’s Murray Hill Neighbors’ Stories is a place to share your memories, anecdotes, surprising encounters, or human interest stories that charm, surprise, and build our community.
We plan to publish your responses on a regular basis. We want to hear from you!

Creative United People as a Community membership or Audience - Facebook Post (2)

Not a writer? How about a video or sound recording of your experiences in Murray Hill? What drew you to our neighborhood? How long have you lived here? Why do you love living here? We look forward to getting to know you better


Send Your Stories to The Preservation and Design Murray Hill Neighbors’ Stories Committee

Chair: Barbara Gieseler

Pauline Brooks, Susan Demmet, Deborah Landey, and Michaela Walsh. We will contact you if your submission is being considered.

Please Note – MHNA does not edit or comment on personal stories submitted and accepted, except for spelling and punctuation which are then reviewed with the story provide

Michaela Walsh—A Living Legend

Murray Hill Neighbors’ Stories Committee members Pauline Brooks, Barbara Gieseler, and Deborah Landey interviewed Michaela Walsh and met subsequently with her on a number of occasions to finalize the text of this story about Michaela’s remarkable life and extraordinary achievements.

Michaela Walsh

As you walk around Murray Hill you may bump into a sprightly silver-haired woman with hand and heart outstretched to all those with whom she comes into contact. Her name is Michaela Walsh, and she is among the living legends of our time.

Born in Kansas City in 1935 into a largish Catholic family, Michaela was greatly influenced by the work of her father and grandfather who were involved in the critical political and social issues of their day. Her grandfather was Co-Chair of the 1918 War Labor Board who was, according to Michaela, “a creative, clever, independent and outspoken lawyer.” There was a strong relationship between them. His influence gave her at an early age values of giving service to others and support for the less fortunate.

Michaela was soon to chart her own path as a pioneer, an activist, scholar, mentor, educator, and author. As she embarked on this path, she embraced an adventurous spirit with a focus on how to make the world a better place for everyone.

She was hired by Merrill Lynch in Kansas City in 1953 and was subsequently transferred to Wall Street in 1957 where she became the Assistant to the Manager of Merrill’s New York City Foreign Department. She attended night school at the New York Institute of Finance where she became a registered stockbroker and one of only a handful of women working on Wall Street at that time. In 1960 when Merrill Lynch opened an office in Beirut, staff encouraged her to join them. However, the personnel office said no because sending women overseas was considered too dangerous for Merrill Lynch. She then resigned from her Merrill Lynch USA appointment, paid her own way to Beirut, and joined Merrill Lynch International. Her life of breaking glass ceilings was just beginning.

She worked in Beirut from 1960-1964. She then worked at the London Office of Merrill Lynch International from 1964-1965. Her experiences in Beirut and London were to change her life, in particular the exposure to other cultures, people from all over the world, other languages, all of which gave her a singular and new sense of being part of a global community.

Upon her return to New York, she joined a firm that was creating one of the first hedge funds, City Associates. She then became the first woman partner of a New York Stock Exchange member firm, Boettcher & Company. She was the third woman to attain that level of recognition.

Always driven by her passion to support young people, Michaela helped to start a program on drug education at the New York Junior League and produced a book on the drug and alcohol information and rehabilitation facilities in New York City. At the same time she took evening classes at Hunter College, where she graduated with a degree in English Literature in 1971.

In 1972, Michaela became a Program Associate at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where she worked as part of the civic and culture values program, bringing new ideas to program officers. It was her first introduction to the impact of policy and social programs and a launch pad for her to begin working to improve the economic status of women. Encouraged by Bill Dietel, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Michaela attended the first United Nations World Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975. It was to set her on a new and extraordinary path. 

It was there together with other like-minded women that it became obvious that one of the great hindrances for low-income women around the world was the absence of access to credit without a male intermediary. It was clear that any economy could not develop if half the population did not have access to financial resources. It was in Mexico that her idea for a women’s development bank was born. Michaela started the movement to give all entrepreneurial women access to financial services by building a global network of women-owned and women-run independent and financial institutions committed to serving women. She broke new ground in that her vision was for both a “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” entity with a non-hierarchical operating structure.

From 1975 to 1980 she worked with this group of like-minded women as Chairperson of the Committee to organize a financial institution focused on providing financial services to women. The financial institution they created was Women’s World Banking (WWB). In the Netherlands this institution was initially registered as Stichting Women’s World Banking (SWWB) and subsequently as Stichting to Promote Women’s World Banking (SWWB). This operating organization enabled the support of the Dutch financial authorities. With this early support and some seed money from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), led at that time by visionary Bradford Morse, WWB was piloted in five different geographic regions to provide proof of concept. The focus was to build local financial service centers to work with local women to create and sustain small businesses. The work involved not only providing access to loans but teaching women how to use banking services, start and sustain businesses, and secure financial independence.

At a meeting in the Netherlands in 1979, Michaela won the title of Acting President of WWB. Michaela was elected Founding President of WWB for the first of two five year terms, from 1980-1990, at the second United Nations World Conference. Financial support began to come in from several countries. The task was then to create the affiliates in countries which could provide the loans for women. Kenya was the first in signing WWB’s first joint loan guarantee agreement, followed by Colombia. By 1988, WWB had built a global network of some 50 affiliates, with a loan portfolio of 56,000 loans and a global base capital of $10 million. In her 1990 resignation letter, Michaela said, “Together we have created WWB, and we have laid the foundation for a movement to build business partnerships around the globe. WWB is a real financial institution owned by women who are giving women credit.”

Currently WWB has 71 network member financial service providers in 33 countries. The collective network reaches a portfolio of 363 million customers, of which 178 million are women customers. WWB has brought women around the world into the formal finance system. 

The creation of WWB was a massive achievement. And it was achieved through creating a movement, as Michaela documents in her book Founding a Movement: Women’s World Banking, 1975-1990. She says, “The endeavor required the support of many and that collaboration is what built WWB into the institution it is today. It was a movement created by women for women.” Michaela turned the reins of WWB over to the new leaders and is a life-time member of its Governing Board. She continues to engage to support the organization as it moves forward. 

With a continued focus on advancing women as leaders in their communities and economies, Michaela then turned her attention to creating another groundbreaking initiative. Michaela has always been dedicated to supporting women who come behind her, to leaving the ladder down and doing everything in her power to ensure women get on that ladder and progress and create a network of support. At Manhattanville College, where she was serving as an Adjunct Professor from 1998 to 2008, she had the opportunity to do just that when she created the Global Student Leadership (GSL) Program. She designed the program to strengthen the students’ leadership capacity and voice in preparation for when they would move into positions of national and international importance around the world. Undergraduate women from developing countries came to Manhattanville in the summer to attend a 6-week course about leadership. The first program was held in the summer of 2000. There were 28 women, ages 18-24 from 15 different Latin American countries. WWB helped to select the candidates for this program. This program was active at Manhattanville College for eight years. There is now a network of women who graduated from the Leadership Program from countries all over the world who maintain a vital support network among themselves. They have Zoom meetings three or four times a year to continue the sharing of knowledge and collaboration. 

Michaela continued to remain active in many national and international organizations and has been well recognized for her work with numerous awards. In 1984, she received the Paul G. Hoffman Award for outstanding work in national and international development and the Women of Vision Now Award in 1990. She was appointed Chairperson of the Annual United Nations Department of Information Non-Governmental Conference in 2006 which that year focused on “Unfinished Business: Effective Partnerships for Human Security and Sustainable Development.” In 2012, she was honored by the Women’s Funding Network for “changing the face of philanthropy.”

In November 2022, Michaela donated her personal library to the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership at Villanova University. The Michaela Walsh Collection of Papers includes more than 600 books and artifacts which reflect the extent of her impressive career and her own intellectual and professional development. Michaela hopes her collection will help young women learn about the global world, and that “we are all limited until we recognize the vital importance of the empowerment of women’s voices.” 

In December 2023, Michaela worked with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trade union based in Ahmedabad, India, founded by Ela Bhatt, and the SEWA Bank to set up a new fund, the MICH-ELA Fund, that promotes the rights of low-income independently employed female workers. The objective of this fund is to uplift the social and economic lives of teenage members of SEWA and SEWA Bank, including daughters of existing members, by making them financially and digitally literate. Michaela says, “I look forward to encouraging young women to advance to seats at the design table of our future productive world leadership and peaceful global society.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Michaela continues to contribute to Murray Hill, the neighborhood she loves and has lived in since 1966. Her first visit to the Murray Hill neighborhood was in 1952 when she stayed with her cousins who lived across the street from the Union League Club. She is a member of the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association (MHNA) and very active on one of its key committees, the Preservation and Design (P&D) Committee. Michaela is always looking for ways to encourage collaboration and help neighbors to get to know each other better. This led her to bring together several members of the P&D Committee to launch a unique initiative: “Murray Hill Neighbors’ Stories.” This initiative involves interviewing members of the Murray Hill community to share their stories about their experiences/memories of living in Murray Hill. The stories include personal ones as well as from businesses. Nineteen stories have already been written and published and several are in progress. Michaela cares deeply about the neighborhood and quality of life issues in it and is often seen working with the Green & Clean Committee picking up trash around the neighborhood and helping to plant trees. She has also volunteered to work for the recently established Shelter for Homeless Families in Murray Hill. 

Reflecting on her career and accomplishments, Michaela says, “I had an idea about WWB, and I wasn’t afraid to pursue it. I was stubborn and determined to stick with it. I never wavered.” She also reflects, “The one thing I wanted in life was not to be cynical when I get old. I’ve discovered that by looking at life as an adventure, there is no way you can be cynical.” Moving forward, she says, “I am still learning and not afraid to take a risk, to take a trip, but also to try to listen in a new way.”

As you can see, Michaela’s list of accomplishments is manifold. We hope this article gives you an idea of the dimension and multiplicity of her global work in the service of others. Michaela is a remarkable human being. Her contributions to the lives of women across the world are unparalleled, and she continues to mentor young women. Michaela is seemingly unstoppable as she takes every possible opportunity to support the building and sustaining of community and individuals working together.

Michaela inspires all of us with her positive energy and enthusiasm. She encourages us to be adventurous, take a risk, and do what we can to make the world a better place for everyone.

History is still being made on Madison Avenue: Ronnie Marshall (On Stage Dancewear)

May 2022

On Stage Dancewear was founded in 1980 by Edward and Greta Marshall of Forest Hills, New York. It is now run by their son Ronnie Marshall, a Murray Hill resident. On Stage Dancewear has been located in the same storefront at 197 Madison Avenue for 42 years. It’s an old fashioned shop that is proud to be in Murray Hill.

Ronnie Marshall says, “I remember the doormen in their red coats standing outside the doors to B. Altman’s department store right across the street and calling cabs for all their elegant customers. Unfortunately, B. Altman closed in 1999, but we are still here.

Since its inception, from fitting young dancers with their first pair of ballet slippers, to fitting principal dancers with custom-fit pointe shoes, On Stage Dancewear has catered to the dancing community in NYC and beyond. It sells through its website and is providing dancewear and dance shoes to many Broadway and Vegas Shows such as the Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and the Radio City Rockettes. We also provide theme parks and cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival and Royal Caribbean with their costumes and shoes. Our real passion is ballet. On Stage Dancewear provides the pointe shoes for many ballet companies in NYC and throughout the United States including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Joffrey Ballet. Where there are dancers, we are there for them.

Times are changing. Many customers shop online, which is affecting our business, but we believe that we are providing a service to the dance community. Today there are only three dance shops left in Manhattan. Two are owned by brand names and only offer their own brand. On Stage Dancewear is the last independently owned dance shop that offers the customers over 50 brands to choose from. Customers come to visit our shop from all over the world. Once we close, there might be no one else who will do what we do.

We appreciate the support and love of our Murray Hill neighbors who are keeping us in business after all these years.

Ronnie Marshall
On Stage Dancewear
197 Madison Avenue (between 34th and 35th Streets)
New York, New York  10016

Acts of Kindness by Joann Vanek

April 2022

On December 8, 2006, walking in front of the building that houses Israel’s Mission to the United Nations on 2nd Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets, I tripped on a cracked, uneven sidewalk cluttered with scaffolding, flew into the air, and landed on my face and wrist. Although shaking, bruised and bleeding on the side of my face, I thought I could walk home. The police officer guarding the building, Officer Paolino, came out of his little cabin to help and insisted I go to the hospital because I hit my head and called an ambulance. While waiting for the ambulance, Officer Paolino made me as comfortable as possible. He told me to sit in a chair in the lobby of the Mission’s building and got ice from the restaurant next door for the swelling. After an hour’s wait the ambulance did not arrive so Officer Paolino called a police car and two policemen escorted me to the NYU emergency room. I only had a sprained wrist so several days later I went back to thank the officer. He said he knew I was okay because he called the emergency room and was told I was released. 

I wrote a letter to the Police Commissioner and Officer Paolino’s supervisor to compliment the thoughtfulness and compassion of the officer. I received a follow-up letter from the Commissioner’s office. However, the more meaningful letter to me was the handwritten one delivered to my building one week later from Officer Paolino. A treasured quote from the letter is the following: When I have a bad day because someone is criticizing me or shouting about how horrible and evil the police can be, I will take out your letter and read it once or twice through. I’m sure it will help to make me feel much better. 

New Vision Studios 9/11 story by Sandy Driesen

February 2022

Joe Weishar, my late husband and founder of New Vision Studios*, was working with the Soysal organization in Istanbul, Turkey, to plan their first retail conference. Since Joe has made presentations all over the world and is an expert on visual merchandising, it was his job to organize important speakers from the USA to participate in the conference that was scheduled for October 2001. However, 9/11 happened, and most of the speakers had to cancel their trips, as their companies didn’t want them to fly. The conference was in jeopardy, and the president of Soysal asked Joe to make a slide presentation on New York City retail after 9/11.

Joe and I went all over the city, camera in hand, and took pictures of store windows, now displaying very patriotic windows, flags flying all over. We had slides of the Twin Towers, plus so many very poignant displays of patriotism and NYC after 9/11. My job was to put music to the slide presentation. I had a lot of great New York City music to choose from.

Joe decided to get “I LOVE NY More Than Ever” buttons for the conference, and since he knew Milton Glaser and his company, Pushpin Studios, we went to Glaser’s studio on East 32nd Street to ask permission to produce 1,200 buttons for this conference. Milton Glaser was very cordial and said, “Yes, of course. Everyone has used my designs, so go ahead.” We brought 1,200 buttons to Turkey.

After this heart-rending slide presentation, where the last song was, “New York, New York,” I was tearing up—and so was the audience. It was an emotional presentation, and to see all those Turkish people wearing the “I LOVE NY More Than Ever” buttons was quite a sight.

*New Vision Studios was founded by Joe Weishar in the 1960s. His business card was done by Pushpin Studios (Milton Glaser’s company). Joe was originally a set designer for theater, TV, movies, etc. He then segued from set designer to retail store design. Joe wrote two books on Visual Merchandising. 

Stores are similar to set designs, using lighting and all of their visual aspects. The customer has a pre-conceived idea when entering a discount store—the lighting is very bright, there are racks and racks of merchandise, and you immediately get the sense of a lower price range. In contrast, when you go into a designer shop on Madison Avenue, there are very few items on display, the lighting is subdued, etc. Of course, you know that the prices are going to be very high.  

Joe worked for Ralph Lauren, as well as Kmart. His theory was to have people walk through the store as much as possible and guide them to the back wall where the principle items were featured. “The more customers walk through the store, the more they see, and the more they buy.” Joe studied people’s habits when they entered the store; most walk to the right. The fixtures were placed at 45 degree angles and the MERCHANDISE was key. Where to put the cash/wrap was also important. Joe also developed “interrupted patterns” making people see what you wanted them to see. For example, if the merchandise is all one color, and there’s one item that’s different, your eye sees the different color first. It’s really scientific. 

Joe photographed (slides) of retail stores all over the world. New York City is the mecca for creative displays, and we therefore gave tours to industries and retail companies. Joe also produced slide shows and was hired to make presentations to many countries: USA, Japan, India, South America, Europe, Turkey, Kuwait, etc. Joe was the Master of Visual Merchandising. 

Joe retired in 2010—very timely—because slides were not being used anymore, and Joe was not about to digitize thousands of slides.  

P. S. I loved being a part of this wonderful chapter of Joe’s life.  It was so creative and exciting. The traveling was so great!  


Bonnie Kogos shares two wonderful happy memories of "The Hill of Murray"

November 2021

Once upon a time, I was 23, single, and living delightedly in my apartment in Murray Hill located near Park Avenue.

That autumn I had a nice lunch date at Sarge’s Deli with a charming “older” man of 33. We were now walking back up the mild hill on 37th Street toward Park Avenue. Out of breath, he had to rest; “Gotta get back to the gym. Hey, it’s tough walking up this darn Hill of Murray.”

I stopped, dared not giggle, and watched him in “dating horror.” I always bounded up the mild hill with groceries.

To this day, years later, I smile at this memory, gratefully strolling fast up The Hill of Murray, with enormous gratitude for our lovely neighborhood.

More recently, I was on Amtrak returning from visiting friends in Annapolis; an empty seat was next to me. A nice young man stood in front of me, and with charming class, asked if he might sit there. Of course.

After settling in, I asked, “Are you going to New York City?”

“Indeed,” he said.

“What part of New York do you live in?”

“In Murray Hill,” he said amiably.

“So, do I. Would it polite to ask what street?”


“That’s my street. Again, polite to ask what number?”

We both laughed; neighbors. Our lively conversation began when I told him how much I enjoyed the many flowers in front of his building, and I never picked any. He laughed and thanked me.

We became Burt and Bonnie, and he told me how he and his wife had chosen Murray Hill. For a delightful hour, we shared stories, compared shopping, what we admired and were grateful for the ambience of our neighborhood, the joys of the preserved historical places and the comfort and delight of living here.   And how we missed Jack’s, of course.

The next morning, I left a note at his building saying how I enjoyed meeting him, and it would be nice to meet his wife.

That very afternoon, as I strolled up The Hill of Murray with groceries, Burt and Susie were standing in front of my building.

“We were taking a walk,” Burt said, “and wondered if you were home!”

I invited them up for a quick drink and again, we shared more stories. Another form of friendship when you are living in Murray Hill.

Whether at the top or the bottom of The Hill!

Love and community at 35 Park

October 2021

This is a true story about a building, a garden, friendships and a wedding. The building, 35 Park Avenue in Murray Hill, provides the backdrop and venue, specifically the garden. The garden is where friendships were started, and where a very special event, the wedding, took place on May 22. This is also a pandemic story, because the way the events unfolded was impacted by the pandemic.

The cast of characters are Susan Bernard, the bride, Daniel Gomez Aguilera, the groom, Thomas Grannell, the minister, Noriko Morita, the photographer and gardener, and Shigemi Morita and Helen Stavrou, the witnesses. Kirk Heasley, who also lives at 35 Park, brought this story to our attention. All of the aforementioned have lived at 35 Park for more than 20 years. They are all die-hard Murray Hill residents who have no second homes, and they all stayed in the city during the pandemic.

We begin the story with the garden. About seven years ago, there was an empty and unused outdoor space at the back of 35 Park with cement on the ground and brick walls. The building’s garden committee transformed the space into an oasis with a blossoming cherry tree, a small maple tree, bamboo and pine trees, seasonal flowers, greenery, seating areas and lounge chairs for sunning. Neighbors donated pots and helped out. The plantings attract birds, who fill the air with song. The garden became a place to meet neighbors, and it was there that Noriko met Susan. 

Susan and Daniel are psychotherapists, who have their practices in Murray Hill. They met in Malaga, Spain in the airport terminal when both were returning home, Susan from a vacation and Daniel from an extended family visit. The date was September 12, 2002. It was love at first sight, after a seven hour flight home. Nearly 20 years later they decided to tie the knot. It was not easy to arrange a wedding during the pandemic. They needed a marriage license, but the marriage bureau at City Hall was closed—they got a license online via zoom. They needed a minister. Their neighbor Thomas came to the rescue. Thomas had worked at the U.N. in the World Food Program and at Bellevue with the Visiting Nurses hospice program. He got his certificate as a lay minister so that he could conduct the wedding ceremony. They needed a photographer. Noriko, who had worked as a photographer in the advertising department at Japan Airlines, offered her services. Noriko’s husband Shigemi and Thomas’s wife Helen stepped up to be the witnesses. And finally, they needed a space for a ceremony that was going to take place on short notice during the pandemic. What could be better or more convenient than the lovely garden at 35 Park? During the wedding a black-throated warbler joined in to provide the music with an improvised serenade.

Due to the friendships that had formed among these neighbors, their spirit of community and a gardener who wanted to create a relaxing spot for all to enjoy, everything came together for this happy occasion. Since May, the garden has also been the venue for a baby shower and a birthday party, and it will, undoubtedly, continue to provide a beautiful, calming location for many more happy occasions.


Pasteur Pharmacy—Proud Supporters of Murray Hill since 1960

By Leon Tarasenko

September 2021

Pasteur Pharmacy was originally founded in 1960 and was located at 10 Park Avenue. I became the new owner in April 1987, and Murray Hill graciously welcomed me and my staff. As proud supporters of Murray Hill, we have participated in the block parties, providing health checks and blood pressure screening.

Since then we have seen our community grow, marriages, families, kids off to college, and even tragedies, such as 9/11. Now Corona Virus has been another one of those situations, but we stuck together through all these difficult times as a family.

Some people moved away or left town, however, they still relied on us, and have supported us every step of the way. During this time, we have mailed out and shipped prescriptions and all sorts of items needed during this crisis.

It has been a real pleasure being a part of this Murray Hill community and we acknowledge the strength everyone has shown throughout these times. With all we have been through together, it just proves we will come out stronger than ever. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for keeping us a part of your local family and trusting us with your care. We look forward to the next step in moving forward and rebuilding our great City of New York.

Leon Tarasenko, Steve Shimmel, and the Pasteur Staff


A new story from a neighbor—Evelyn Gomer

August 2021

I have been a resident of Murray Hill for the past 20 years. We live in the Murray Hill Mews apartment building on Third Avenue. I like the friendliness and kindness of the people we meet.

When the pandemic started we felt isolated and missed friends and family. Every afternoon we went down to sit on the benches outside our building. After a while we befriended other people who would be there daily. We exchanged phone numbers and would call if someone did not show up for a day.

Sometimes strangers, eating at the Rio Grande restaurant, would send drinks to us. Once, a woman celebrating her daughter’s engagement, paid for our lunch.

We talked about friends and family and how we missed them especially at holiday time. For Passover we all missed attending a Seder. So Josh, the youngest of our group, suggested we make our own Seder. He brought several pages of the Haggadah, I brought the wine, and Naomi brought matzoh. And we celebrated the holiday with a mini Seder outdoors. People passed by and wished us a Happy Holiday. It was a warm feeling to share a tradition. Then we returned to our apartments for our private dinners.

Jeff's Story

July 2021

My name is Jeff, nickname Monkey. I’ve owned monKEYS LOCKSMITH for about 40 years. I’ve worked in the Murray Hill area since I was a kid. My father, nickname Fast Eddy, had for 55 years a different kind of business on Lexington Avenue, a TV repair store.

Everybody knows me as Monkey, serving all of New York City with sales, service, and locking up Murray Hill. (We don’t monkey around.)


Unblinded, Kevin’s story

June 2021

This is my true story, and battle to regain my eyesight after suddenly losing it to a rare genetic disorder.

As we know, life is very serendipitous, and you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll encounter. I was walking my guide dog, Elias, on Easter morning in 2016 in Murray Hill when I met a neighbor, Joel, walking his dogs. Our paths have crossed many times for years. This time was different—Elias was now on a regular leash and not a harness. Of course Joel was curious to find out how this was possible. I told him that I was miraculously getting my eyesight back. This was how I met Traci Medford Rosow, Joel’s wife, who would co-write my story, Unblinded.

I started to lose my sight in 1997 when I couldn’t read the newspaper one morning. I thought I probably didn’t get enough sleep, but as the day went on, I could see less and less—as if the lights were being dimmed. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I started to drink. By the evening, I couldn’t even distinguish colors anymore. The only thing that dulled my pain and fright was alcohol. 

At the age of 36, I found out that I had a rare genetic disorder known as Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. I was told that it was incurable.

Multiple doctors told me that I would never see again. Therefore, my only option was to learn how to live as a blind man in a sighted world. I learned to use a cane for mobility; transitioned to working with a seeing eye dog; and learned to use computer software called a screen reader. I still hated being blind, but I made peace with it. However, I just couldn’t accept the fact that I’d never see again. I decided to be proactive and try what ever I could to help myself. I got sober; learned to meditate, and began doing affirmations.

In August of 2013, one evening out of the blue—I saw a reflection of light on my medicine cabinet mirror. Slowly, ever so slowly, I saw more shadows. I was elated. 

In September 2013, after learning of a British study that showed promising nerve regeneration results from a plant based diet rich in antioxidant foods, I began a strict regimen. My entire nutritional focus changed dramatically. Four times a day, I took a teaspoon of turmeric in a lemon yogurt. Additionally, I ingested cayenne pepper in a glass of warm water. Both herbs sped up my healing. At the same time, my spiritual practice of meditation and positive affirmation went into overdrive. I repeatedly affirmed that I would again see with clarity. I would once again photograph skyscrapers. 

Within 4 months time I went from seeing mere shadows to shapes. I don’t want to give any more away as I’d really like you all to read my journey in Unblinded.  It is a hopeful, uplifting book that is right for the current turbulent time we live in.  

Kevin Coughlin
March 23, 2021

P. S. By the way, this is how I met Kevin—noticing he was walking his guide dog on a leash one day, instead of a harness. We’ve become friends—I’m happy to say.

Also, Kevin is an excellent speaker. I invited him to The Players to talk to “The Dutch Treat Group.” He was very compelling. By the way, his book Unblinded is wonderful.

Sandy Driesen

Thank you, my little apartment!

by Cao Hong

April 2021

When I woke up this morning, I wanted to be positive. Positivity is the light in the darkness. I suddenly had this urge: I tried to find 5 things in my life that I should be thankful for, one was my apartment.

In Spring of 2011 my mom came to New York to visit me. At that time, our main residence was in Scarsdale, NY, about 20 miles away from New York City. I booked a one-week hotel stay at The Manhattan Club on 200 W 56th St. I fell in love with New York City on the first day. I called my husband to offer walking with him in the morning to his office. During those walks, I planted some seeds of getting a NYC pied-a-terre in my husband’s head. I decided to look into real estate. What attracted me to this apartment was the location, the size, the character and price. It was located between Park Ave and Lexington Ave on 38th St., in the heart of NYC. The building was built in 1924.  It has only 25 units on ten-floors: three units on each floor from level 1 to 8 and a penthouse occupying at the entire 9th floor and a guest apartment on the 10th floor. The building has a dark red brick façade which mixes nicely together with the architectural style in the neighborhood. This 650-sf one bedroom apartment is tucked in the back of the building. It has 3 exposures and 3 walls. All this means there is no common wall connecting us with the other two apartments on our floor. We bought the apartment on May 25, 2011. We used it as a second home for 5 years, then as our main home since Aug 26, 2016.
A house is like a person. It is not a person’s external appearance, which makes that person. It is his or her soul. My apartment has a soul. Since my apartment is tucked away in the back of my building, away from streets, my apartment is rather quiet. This is the first merit of my apartment. While self-isolating in my apartment during the lockdown, I discovered even more merits: my apartment is located in a small building with 25 units and 36 residents. It is true that small is beautiful. It reduces the chance of getting coronavirus. My apartment also does not share walls with our neighbors. It is almost like living in a house without neighboring walls, which makes me feel very safe and well-protected. My apartment has four functional rooms: living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. During weekdays while my husband has been WFH in our living room, I have been staying in my comfortable bed reading and writing and monitoring earthly affairs. During the day, besides having lunch with him, we have maintained our own individual interests and spaces. We don’t have any interactions nor interfere with each other. At night, together, we have our dinner, play our games, listen to audiobooks, watch our favorite movies and read our own books. This is just as in our pre-coronavirus days. The quality of our married life has actually improved a little bit because we have seen and supported each other more, and have kept each other positive and sane.

The best part of my apartment is that it comes with a utilitarian rooftop. I have been visiting the rooftop twice a day seven days a week. It has become my exercise ground, my viewing site, my own private place where I can breathe the oxygen, sunbathe and spend my solitude in contemplation. Each day I excitedly put on my mask and gloves and walk up 7 flights of stairs to the rooftop. I look forward to my daily adventure outside of my apartment. Without this rooftop, I would not even know Spring is coming. I would not be able to see the pink flowers of dogwood and magnolia trees on Park Ave blooming. This Spring in pandemic time is not only different from any other Springs, but also it is much more. To me, this Spring blooming warms my heart dearly and gives me hope of life, not just death, to look forward to! My rooftop opened my eyes and my mind. My rooftop kept me healthy physically and mentally. My rooftop became my only connection to the world beyond myself and my apartment.

My apartment is not a posh apartment in a fancy building.  It is just a small apartment in a small building, a humble place to live, a place with a gentle soul and a magic rooftop, a place that shelters me during this difficult time. I could not survive without it. Many years after this coronavirus is ended, if I’m able to survive this pandemic, when I look back, I’d probably say this to my apartment: “I didn’t do anything heroic; I also didn’t do anything stupid, I didn’t put my life, my family, and my community in grave dangers. I fought against this coronavirus by just staying inside of my apartment during the entire coronavirus epidemic with the weekly food delivery from FreshDirect. And thank you! My little apartment!” 


Fifty-Five Years Living in Murray Hill

March 2021,

Thayer’s story

In November of ‘65 Ed and I were married and living in a small brownstone apartment with three dogs, two cats and his visiting children on weekends.

My dream was to live married life in a house, and so we set upon finding a townhouse that we could easily divide into two apartments to co-op or rent. As it turned out, the Designer Celanese House at 111 East 35th Street was for sale after suffering a fire. The joke was it was clearly a single-family home, much larger than we had talked about and certainly more expensive. It took less than twenty-four hours to say yes to buying what was to become our home for the next fifty-five years. What an undertaking, both financially and emotionally! I won’t say that it was all fun but over the many years of renovation it became our home and our community.

Murray Hill was little known to most New Yorkers. If you shopped at B. Altman’s or Lord and Taylor you still wouldn’t know Murray Hill because you would have entered on Fifth Avenue, very different than the many townhouses and brownstones lining the side streets from 35th Street up to 42nd Street. The Morgan Library, built in 1909, was a little-known museum until 2006 when the Renzo Piano renovation and expansion put it on the map, bringing notice to the small and distinct community.

What I remember so clearly was how quiet our neighborhood was, especially on Sundays, when all the stores and supermarkets were closed. Remember, this was the ‘60s, no shopping on Sundays, theater was open for matinee shows and movie theaters, many restaurants were not. It was a time for family, and we would gather in our new but not fully renovated house, with children and many pets roaming throughout.

When Ed became the president of The Murray Hill Association, we enlarged our family of friends with many of our neighbors and we became a community with the purpose of enhancing our environment. In the ‘70s we started the first block party with themes such as Country Western with square dancing and picnic lunches, All French, starring a Courrèges fashion show, with us as the models, crepes and cassoulets for eating. The food was made by the members and everyone WORKED—WORKED and WORKED some more. It was so much fun; people came from all over New York to our parties. They were successful in every way, bringing monies and people together for a greater good.

Today Murray Hill is surrounded by towering new buildings housing young working adults, bringing quite a different vibe. I wonder if they have any idea why they feel safe and at home here with us.

Ed Hochberg’s Story

February 2021

I started with the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, 54 years ago when I moved to 35th St. Then there was a Murray Hill Committee, which was comprised of 70 owners of property (owning property was a requirement to be a member). This committee was started when the city wanted to widen E. 37th St. for better flow of traffic from the tunnel. Elizabeth Clark French then a congresswoman who lived on 37th St. and others formed the committee to stop this widening. I was a young man and attended the meetings. Richard Lang a resident on E. 37th St., was the president and quickly asked me if I would like to be the president and so be it. I reorganized and opened membership to the residents and businesses in Murray Hill. I served as president for seven years during which time we increased membership to over a thousand members, started the first block party, planted over 400 trees and hoops, prevented a number of large buildings being built midblock and made them conform to existing codes, eliminated the many prostitutes who plied their trade in our area and prevented commercial occupants not complying with the code from occupying brownstones. Most importantly we created a small town community within the largest city in the world. People would now walk the streets and know their neighbors and get together. We also became a political force.

Home of Thayer and Edwin Hochberg since 1966

111 East 35th Street stands on the original site of the “ Murray Hill Farm”. This Italianate-style residence was constructed in 1853-54, as one in a row of four similar houses from 105 to 111 East 35th Street by Henry H. Butterworth, landowner, and Samuel W Cronk, builder. Cronk, purchased the properties from Butterworth after completion, and then sold each house individually. The initial purchaser of this house was Charles Benson. 

At the turn of the century, the house contained artists’ studios. Among its occupants was the noted illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944), who worked for Life magazine. In 1890, he developed the character known as the “Gibson Girl,” a chic young woman representing a late-nineteenth-century ideal of American womanhood.

This was among the first houses built in the historic district. It employed the English basement plan, a type of layout that was in vogue in New York in the late 1840s and 1850s. This type of plan, which featured a low stoop leading to a first floor containing various reception halls and a dining room, and a formal second-story parlor floor with high ceilings and tall windows, allowed builders to subdivide standard building lots into narrower plots on which they constructed smaller houses that could be marketed for less money. The rusticated first-story and upper-story window surrounds at No. 111 had been stripped by 1938. Surviving historic features include the gas lamp, the main doors and transom, leaded-glass sash and iron grille at the first-story window, the second-story iron balconettes, and the wooden roof cornice.

For several years, before The Hochberg purchase, The Celenese Corporation, a wholesale fabric house, rented this site for one of the first designer showrooms of its kind.

It has been a great joy in our lives to be privileged enough to live in this beautiful and historic hamlet in the middle of New York City.

When Sandy Met Sally: My Home Through a 50-Year Prism

January 2021, Sandy Driesen’s Story

Thayer’s story

It is one of those New York stories that happen all the time. Back in 2011 my husband Joe and I were visiting a friend and while there, we met a lovely woman named Sally Kemp. As we chatted and asked the inevitable question, “Where do you live?” I told Sally that we live in Murray Hill. She said, “Oh, I used to live there.” I naturally asked, “Where?”  She replied, “107 East 36th Street.” “Holy-moly that’s where we live!” It turns out that Sally lived there as a young girl, when it was a single-family brownstone Her family name was Throckmorton, and we had heard about that family. We hugged each other as if we were long-lost kin in which, in a very Manhattan kind of way, we were.

I learned that Sally (Throckmorton then) lived in our brownstone from 1938 to 1959 with her family. Her mother married John Wickcliff Throckmorton, whom Sally calls “my remarkable step-father.” Her father was Hal Kemp, a famous orchestra leader, composer, and arranger in the 1920s. He unfortunately died in a car accident in 1940. Sally herself was an actress of stage and screen. She appeared in “Days of Our Lives”, and “Dynasty” as well as Broadway and Off Broadway.  

We invited Sally to visit us and to see her old home.  We even had Sami Steigmann join us to take pictures of this event. Sally was totally confused when she tried to remember the house as it was. First of all, when the building became a co-op in 1960, the staircase to the parlor floor (2nd floor) was removed. She recalled wonderful parties in the grand parlor with the 14 ft. ceilings; the 3rd floor was her parent’s suite, and the front half of the 4th floor was her brother, Hal Jr.’s bedroom, and her bedroom was the back half of the 4th floor. I guess the maids were on the 5th floor. And, the garden was where the family dog did his business.

Sally was so happy to see her former home, and as she said, “there was a lot to process.” Also, that she was so glad we are living there and giving care and affection to such a beautiful old home. After our visit, we all went out for a lovely lunch to celebrate these wonderful, serendipitous New York moments. 

Norman Sinowitz's Story

Jan. 7, 2021

My name is Norman Sinowitz and I was born and raised in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan.

I lived at 127 East 34th Street on the second floor rear apartment.

My grandfather Isaac bought the stationary/confectionary store at that building in 1935 from a Mr. Alshaker. In 1938 this building was sold to him by the owner, a Mrs. Mayberry, for about $40,000. After my grandfather Isaac died in April of 1962, my father, Philip & his sister Rose, ran the store plus the building. My father and my aunt Rose sold the 127 building to Hill Realty in July of 1967. The candy store was owned by us for over 32 years.

The 127 E 34th Street building is still standing and wedged between two new 1960’s tall buildings.  The 127 brownstone was built in 1856 or 1857 as a single family residence. It originally had a staircase going from the sidewalk to the first floor. The servant’s quarters were in the ground floor and the basement.

Around 1910 this building was converted into multiple dwellings with 2 apartments on each of the four stories. Each apartment consisted of one large room with a marble fireplace and a smaller bedroom. Each apartment had a full bathroom.

On the second floor where I lived with my parents, we broke through the wall in 1952 to add on the two rooms of the front apartment. That apartment was not under “rent control” because it was the landlord’s apartment.

I am 77 years old and will be 78 on July 17, 2021.

I am retired as a printer/proofreader from the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper after working there for 32 years. I live in Cooper City, Florida. When I visit NYC, I stay at the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen’s & Coast Guard Club on Lexington Ave between E 36th & E 37th Streets.

The elementary school I went to was PS 116 on E. 33rd Street & the Junior High School I went to was 104 Manhattan on E 21st Street between 2nd & 1st Avenues.

In 1962 I graduated from the New York HS of Printing (later called the HS of Graphic Communication Arts). I have worked in the Printing Trade on and off in both “hot-metal” typesetting and photo type.


An ordinary day in Murray Hill, Or Not!

December 2020, Sandy’s story

It was a lovely afternoon in 2019, and as I was walking to Trader Joe’s with my shopping wagon on East 36th Street I noticed a tall, elegant-looking man with two women walking towards me. As they got closer, I realized that the tall elegant-looking man was Joe Biden! On East 36th Street. Wow!

I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “I know you!” He stopped, smiled, and I said, “Please Mr. Biden, you’ve got to save us from this president!” He smiled, took my hand and kissed it! What a nice day!


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