Still at Home for the Holidays

Still at Home for the Holidays – Asked not to travel, many New Yorkers are looking to create new traditions. Some residential buildings are stepping into the void, and have already cued Santa and the jazz band.

Like many Americans, Jacob Underwood, a 39-year-old who works in finance, will be staying put for the holidays because of the pandemic. “I usually travel somewhere exotic,” he said. “It’s very sad.”

But his residential building, One Manhattan Square, an 80-story glass tower on the Lower Manhattan waterfront, is coming to the rescue with some holiday cheer.

“This holiday season we thought it was important to still offer programming as much and as safely as we can,” said Rebeca Park, lifestyle director of Extell Development Company, which owns the building. “There may be more residents staying home at One Manhattan Square than traveling.”

On Dec. 17, the lobby will be reimagined as a party space. The Gallants, a jazz band whose musicians have toured Europe and Asia, will serenade guests with live music. There will be a hot-chocolate bar overflowing with mini marshmallows, crushed Oreos, whipped cream, and whiskey Irish cream for the adults. A real-life Santa will hand out gift bags that contain a holiday cookie decorating kit and candies. Staff members will be there to make sure everyone has fun while masked and staying six-feet apart. “I am very excited about the upcoming performance. I mean who gets to see a live jazz band during the pandemic?” Mr. Underwood said. “These events have really cheered me up and kept me staying positive.” With the C.D.C. urging Americans not to travel over the holidays, more New Yorkers will likely spend the season in their apartments. Their buildings, especially the luxury ones, are trying to make the best of the situation, providing fun experiences and gifts for tenants stuck at home.

Like One Manhattan Square, Gotham, a company that owns residential developments concentrated in Midtown West, is staging exclusive, one-time festive events. There will be a rooftop après ski night where residents, both families and singles, can book a one-hour time slot to head outside and make Christmas ornaments and indulge in made-to-order tartines and crepes. There will be heaters to keep everyone warm as they enjoy the Manhattan skyline.


Last week, residents logged on to a free, virtual class with Alyssa Epstein, a former Radio City Rockette. They learned a simple Rockette-inspired dance combination and then heard her share stories of her performances and backstage secrets. Similarly, 21 West End, an Upper West Side building along the Hudson, has partnered with Resident, a company that creates high-level dining experiences within apartment buildings, to teach its tenants how to bake the perfect pie (pre-batched dough will be delivered before the class.) They are also creating winter-season snack bags filled with apple cider doughnuts and double chocolate fudge brownies that residents can pick up in the lobby. Other buildings have decided the best way to keep everyone in good spirits is to go all-out with the decorations.

The Grand Madison, at 225 Fifth Avenue, a historical site built in 1906 that was a hotel, warehouse, and showroom before becoming a residential building, always has some decorations in the lobby. One year Nutcrackers were scattered around. The next, penguins. But this year, laser-printed black-and-white images of snow-covered evergreen trees transform the lobby into a peaceful forest. Red cardinals and a menorah made of birch add to the serene atmosphere. For URBN Playground, a company that manages the amenities for over 15 New York City properties, the idea was to make sure their residents didn’t miss their favorite holiday traditions. “This year we want to create as much normalcy for families,” said Jeremy Brutus, the co-founder. All tenants are being offered the opportunity to light Hanukkah candles together through a special Instagram Live service. The company is also organizing private, Covid-friendly visits from Santa for families hesitant to go to crowded shopping centers. Then there are the buildings focusing on bringing residents together. The idea is if New Yorkers can’t be with their families, at least they can safely connect with each other. HERO, a modern tower in Long Island City, began a “meet your neighbor” program in December. Residents who want to participate fill out a profile introducing themselves.

Then, the building matches up people to exchange gifts, which they leave outside one another’s doors. Minela Subasic, 33, a physician assistant in an emergency department, bought an apartment in HERO that she shares with her fiancé, Morgan Chen, and their two cats. It’s their first time in the city for the holidays since they usually visit family in North Carolina or California. The gift exchange offered them the opportunity to befriend their neighbors, something they’ve been wanting to do, especially since the start of the pandemic “I was born in Bosnia, and my grandma always told me neighbors are everything,” Ms. Subasic said. “When there is an emergency, you usually turn to those closest to you.”

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