Thank You, Students!

Tim, Brian, Melanie, and Richard

We’re so grateful to our students and for the invaluable help they’ve provided during their time at Mancini Duffy. We are sad to see them leave and wish them the best of luck as they head back to school.

In the next few weeks, Richard Miller be headed for Pratt Institute, where he’ll enter as a freshman to study architecture after transferring from New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of the City University of New York (CUNY); Brian Rocks will return to Allegheny College, where he’s majoring in Computer Science, for his sophomore year; Tim Vassallo will return as a junior to Penn State, where he’s majoring in architecture; and Melanie Weismiller will return as a junior to Cornell, where she’s majoring in architecture. We send them off with our thanks and best wishes for their future!

Howard Roark, disguised as Gary Cooper, imagines the future.

Creative Director Ed Calabrese, along with Lisa Contreras, leads Mancini•Duffy’s Retail Group, whose award-winning interiors include work for Bloomingdale’s and Bliss across the country, as well as Saks Fifth Avenue’s third floor at their Manhattan flagship, unveiled in late 2009. In his career of thirty years in the industry, Ed has overseen hundreds of retail and hospitality projects from New York to Barcelona to Doha to Warsaw to Jakarta to Boca Raton – so this man should know what he’s talking about. (Mary)

On a recent evening, I toured the Smyth Hotel at 85 West Broadway at Chambers Street with a small group from the AIANY Architecture of Hospitality Committee. As a boutique hotel and condominium, it’s successful and has all the requisite bells and whistles. There were some really good details and hardware throughout, and some of the best-designed bathrooms I’ve seen.

The building was designed by BBG-BBGM, with interiors by Yabu Pushelberg. The lobby is dark, with oiled steel, wenge wood panels, and brown leather; a vaulted ceiling clad in a mosaic tile adds some interest. Like so many of these hotels, the bar and lobby space are the same. This trend goes back to the days when Morgans Hotel and the Royalton were the hotspots and revived hotel spaces as destinations.

The guestrooms, designed by Richardson Sadeki, were nice. The way the details fit together like a Swiss watch was impressive. The bathrooms are compartmented but there’s no real wall between the bath and the bedroom – there’s a frosted glass partition and that’s it. Not for sharing with the shy or prudish. The furniture was textbook retro, all beige with one red wool lounge chair (for punch, I guess), with the requisite wenge wood panel behind the bed and the plasma-screen TV. They didn’t skimp on materials: everything was top quality, with all the textiles in raw silk, wool, and glove leather.

We were shown the penthouse, which is a 1200-square-foot two-bedroom apartment for sale at $7 million. There is a great floating-glass stair (very Howard Roark) up to the terrace, which is on the apartment’s roof. Of course, there was one of those Italian kitchens, where the refrigerator is a series of drawers and everything is sleek, requiring a contract with Windex. I loved the view from the corner living room, where you could see all the way uptown and, to the west, the Hudson and Goldman Sachs.

For some exterior photos, go here.

Minds Matter!

Meghan (right) with her co-mentor Arthur and their mentee Stephanie at the “Million TreesNYCSpring Planting Day. That day 250 volunteers planted 2,500 trees and shrubs in a forty-acre shrubland on the northern edge of Floyd Bennett Field.

Minds Matter is a not-for-profit mentoring organization whose volunteers help students who have the potential and ambition to go to college, but lack the resources to do so. Started by six Wall Streeters in 1991, the organization has grown to six cities, and has an amazingly high success rate as far as college acceptance: 100% of graduates of the Minds Matter program have been accepted to a four-year college or university. Meghan O’Reilly at Mancini•Duffy has been involved with the organization since last year, and recently told us about it.

Q: So, tell me what volunteering entails.

Meghan: Most of the work is done on Saturdays, and a typical Saturday will go from 9:30 to 2:30. In our group, there are six students, twelve mentors, and a team leader – so it’s kind of a team effort. What you do in the program is dependent on what year your student is. The student I mentor, Stephanie, is a sophomore, and so the curriculum for her year focuses on writing and critical thinking, public speaking, debate, and PSAT prep. The goal for the year is to place students in a college summer program so they can get a taste of what college will be like – hopefully, they’ll get introduced to a wider world beyond what they know. Minds Matter pays for the cost of the summer college program, so it’s all about a student’s motivation, and not their financial resources.

Q: What are some of the activities you do with the students?

Meghan: As an example, each week a student will present an article from the New York Times, and lead a discussion about it. The program helps open up the students to a multiplicity of attitudes, of ways of learning. And a lot of the time is spent piloting students through the admissions process – Stephanie and I have completed at least five applications for summer programs. It’s time consuming, but it’s also good practice for college applications, and it certainly helps them hone their writing skills.

Q: What are the students like?

Meghan: These kids are very determined, very smart – they not only give up their Saturdays to do this, but spend time during the week on the writing assignments we give them. This is of course in addition to their regular schoolwork. A lot of the students are first-generation in this country, and the first in their families to go to college, so often there’s not a lot of experience with the college application process. My personal experience has been terrific – Stephanie is so motivated. I love being able to help her navigate through this process and, because of the nature of the program, I’ll be working with her for the next two years as well. So it’s a big commitment but, for me, the rewards of doing this kind of work – helping a talented young person to succeed – are huge.

A truly volunteer-driven organization, Minds Matter estimates that the value of time volunteered for their programs since the program began is $2,000,000. The volunteer-to-paid-staff ratio is approximately 275:1, an extremely efficient ratio for a charitable organization. To make a tax-deductible contribution to the New York Chapter of this 501(c)3 organization, go