Visiting the City That Never Sleeps — as It Slowly Begins to Awaken

nycvisit1
What’s it like to visit a city that has been an integral part of your career for the past three decades – post COVID? After watching it grind to a halt … people hidden in their high rises … left to sing on their balconies for culture and bang on pots and pans every sunset to show the healthcare workers their thanks for battling this monster pandemic — what would it be like now? What if you hadn’t visited since January 2020 during a Media Event where you interviewed a Hong Kong billionaire and plant forward living enthusiast who you asked about that strange Coronavirus we’d started hearing rumor of? What if your most recent visuals of NYC were sent by a friend who chronicled an abandoned metropolis — empty streets; empty squares; empty stores and sidewalks — like the city that never sleeps was literally frozen in midair. What should I expect? Well, if it’s the last week in September 2021, the visit was really such a wonderful thing – like a bud opening, bursting really, one-vaccination-check-at-a-time. The streets were busy, the cab drivers were happier, sidewalk cafes were filled, the subways were even slightly crowded … there was a palpable air of positivity everywhere I went. And, after a professional, whose job it is to check the quality of indoor office environments, told me that due to new air filtration systems the New York City subways are safer than they have ever been, I even ventured into the system myself, donning an N95 and eyeglasses, just in case. I was staying in Midtown, but it turned out that most of my appointments were somewhere near SoHo, so the 6 Train and I became quite familiar with each other. I came to the city for the first ever GWI Real Estate Symposium and to take advantage of the groundbreaking topics being discussed to begin recording a new session of the Global Wellness Summit Podcast. (It was the first indoor event many of us had attended since the Global Wellness Summit in Palm Beach in November, and we were all relieved that they checked proof of vaccination at the lobby security desk before you could even get in the elevator.) Global Wellness Summit Podcast It’s a bit challenging to choose an interviewee for the Podcast before you hear them speak or meet them but with a little help from our friends at GWS, looks like we chose well. Here’s a sneak preview of a few of the movers & shakers who will be featured in this six-episode season:
    • Joanna Frank — President & CEO of the Center for Active Design (CfAD), the operator of Fitwel, a unique building certification — whose development was led by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA) — to positively impact occupant health and productivity through workplace design and operations. Prior to launching CfAD, Ms. Frank was in the Bloomberg Administration where she helped build healthy grocery stores in urban deserts.
Joanna Frank -- President & CEO of the Center for Active Design (CfAD), the operator of Fitwel, a unique building certification
    • Abby Brody – Lifetime educator most recently from The Avenue School in NYC and Founder & CEO of THE MYX – a disruptor out to change the paradigm of college and university education options for students – creating experiences for young adults to find their life purpose while gaining essential skills for practical success.
Abby Brody - Lifetime educator most recently from The Avenue School in NYC and Founder & CEO of THE MYX
    • Clodagh – Pioneering, award-winning Interior Design phenomenon – born in Oscar Wilde’s hometown near Ashford Castle in Ireland. Her work based on principles of feng shui and focused on wellbeing is showcased in such public locations as the Modern Terrace at the Museum of Modern Art; Six Senses Douro Valley, Miraval Life in Balance, W Hotel & Residences in Ft. Lauderdale, Equinox Club New York and an impressive range of private residences. Her company also has numerous licensing agreements with the likes of Restoration Hardware, Oakworks and Speakman kitchen and bath fixtures.
Clodagh - Pioneering, award-winning Interior Design phenomenon The day after the event we spent the morning recording the Clodagh episode and my co-host was the beautiful and talented Veronica Schreibeis Smith, founder of Vera Iconica Architecture and subject of GWS Podcast episode # 34. I found myself sitting across from generational bookends of pioneers of the wellness architecture and design movement. And, of course, once again I learned so much. You know how you think you know someone’s story so well, since you’ve heard of them and seen them around for years? Well, I was wrong. Clodagh was even more divine, inspiring and delightful than I had imagined. We both loved the designer, Norma Kamali, she was as touched as I was by the way amazing way the people of Istanbul treat stray dogs and we even put our lipstick on together in her office restroom. That’s when I asked Clodagh before the recording started if she ever felt lonely “at the top” since for a long time there were very few women in the field or if she ever felt like an unrepresented minority. I asked the same of Veronica later, just to get her recorded reaction to the question. Veronica paused and amazingly said exactly what Clodaugh said…. “I never thought about it…I just do the work.” S’Well The Agency Then I was off to do what we at S’Well The Agency have done for so many years – meet with working writers and editors and find out how our client stories intersect with their “beats.” First up was a freelancer I discovered online who wrote for The New York Times, The Guardian, Monocle, The Economist, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal with a focus on cultural trends, luxury and the arts. And it turns out the Brit-former China and Australia correspondent and now New Yorker has a column for Barron’s weekend magazine called PENTA , all about wellness trends and how brands apply them. Talk about a win/win for wellness! Next, I was invited for a tour of the new, super eco conscious US headquarters of the Italian skincare and hair care brands, Comfort Zone and Davinas. I took a very easy trip to Brooklyn on the subway and walked toward the water only to find a gorgeously redone old wine cellar and waterfront warehouse now turned into and open-airy, brick and wood walled office space that reminded me of the coolest WE WORK possible. The deck view shot across the roof of a waterfront Amazon warehouse, across the river to a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline. I’d visited the Davinas eco village in Parma, Italy and saw their Google-like set up with free organic lunch for workers and a facial room so visiting journalists and VIPs could experience their products firsthand. The US office felt just as exciting to me. The deck view shot across the roof of a waterfront Amazon warehouse, across the river to a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline On the way back to the hotel to change for dinner I literally bumped into my walking wonder of a friend mentioned earlier, Jennifer Walsh, who was featured in Episode #29 of the GWS Podcast and who chronicled the empty streets of the city while she walked mile after lonely mile during the shutdown. This time she was returning home from a day full of special media events — I do believe it was a sign! Jennifer Walsh, who was featured in Episode #29 of the GWS Podcast The day ended with dinner with a New York Times best-selling author, long-time beauty expert, former editor at ELLE and current Editorial Director of ORGANIC SPA MEDIA, Rona Berg. We ate outside at a French Restaurant in NoHo called “Lafayette on Lafayette,” but we could have easily been on the streets of Paris. She’d lost friends in the city to COVID but thankfully never caught the virus herself. It was so great to be reunited as two vaccinated old friends and get a face-to-face update. The day ended with dinner with a New York Times best-selling author, long-time beauty expert, former editor at ELLE and current Editorial Director of ORGANIC SPA MEDIA, Rona Berg The next morning, I breakfasted outside with a travel writer I’ve long admired who is now the Travel Editor of The Robb Report and tried to fathom just one part of her job — shepherding ten stories a day onto their digital platform. writer I’ve long admired who is now the Travel Editor of The Robb Report I had a mid-morning latte with one of the most respected writers in the city, Aimee Lee Ball, who has recently launched a storytelling project about the relationship between mothers and daughters and food called Eat Darling Eat. mid-morning latte with one of the most respected writers in the city, Aimee Lee Ball While walking by Union Square, we passed a wonderful exhibit of sculptures of everyday immigrants who have made life-changing differences in the world. wonderful exhibit of sculptures of everyday immigrants The trip ended at a light lunch at the Bowery Hotel’s Gemma Restaurant with a former PR Exec at Hearst Magazines who is now helping make startups famous. The possibilities for strategic alliances with our clients and the well-funded startups she works with filled the entire hour. Bowery Hotel’s Gemma Restaurant with a former PR Exec at Hearst Magazines Then it was a mad dash to the airport and the JFK Parkway was jammed – just like old times!! Kim Marshall Co-Founder S’Well The Agency