Colette Linton-Meyer’s Cobble Hill Ballet is the Happiest Ballet School in Brooklyn

Linton-Meyer and some of her tween ballerinas

by Lela Nargi

There are some obvious differences between the rural Midlands of England, where Colette Linton-Meyer grew up, and brownstone Brooklyn, NY, where she and her family now make their home. Cows, for starters. Cowsheds, for another—including the converted cowshed in which, at age 3, she was introduced to dance by a beloved teacher who taught her students, above all, to love freedom of movement. There’s also at least one critical, but less overt, anomaly: “In Shropshire,” says Linton-Meyer, “there were more pubs per square foot. Here, there are more children.” For Linton-Meyer, more children could only mean: the necessity for a ballet school.

Cobble Hill Ballet, which Linton-Meyer founded in 2003, is a burgeoning business that employs 10 instructors to teach 79 classes comprised of some 800 kids—yes, mostly, but not only, girls—in two dedicated studio spaces within half a mile of each other. But its origins were significantly more diminutive. Linton-Meyer had recently given birth to her first son, Thomas, and was shuttling two hours round-trip every day to a ballet school in Rockland County to teach. “It was ridiculous,” she remembers. “I was pumping in the studio before teaching, and meanwhile, there was no place that taught ballet in Brooklyn. I knew I had to make a transition.”And not only because of the commute. Linton-Meyer, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance in London with a degree in Ballet Education, was unprepared for the intensity of the studio in Rockland. “It was competitive, and some kids went on to incredible things,” says Linton-Meyer. “But I thought it would be nice to have some sort of middle ground.”

With her musician husband, Ted, stepping in to help look after Thomas, Linton-Meyer started by teaching an afterschool class in a local public school. But, she says, “It was painful. We were in the middle of a very public auditorium, with loads of people walking through and talking.” In her off hours, she often took Thomas to a playroom at a neighborhood church. At some point, she hit on the idea of asking them if she could rent a space. “They showed me this room upstairs, which had had a fire, and holes in the floor. It was a disaster!” says Linton-Meyer. “But I could see it could be amazing.” The church renovated and indeed, the room did become amazing: a large, light-filled studio with painted pine floors and stained glass windows. All that was needed were pupils.

“I want to keep having this nurturing environment, so that ballet can be in these kids lives for a long time.”



“I used to tape up fliers along Court Street whenever I could,” laughs Linton-Meyer, recalling those renegade start-up days in the neighborhood. She’d had her second son, George, by the time she’d attracted her first three, tiny, students—including one current 8th grader who still dances with her. She started with one class; then before long was able to move up two classes; then hired her first teacher, known to every Cobble Hill Ballet student as Miss Alwyn; then began using the playroom downstairs at the church as a second studio, dragging toys and furniture out of the way, “Every day, for years,” says Linton-Meyer, the exhaustion still evident in her voice.

The school kept growing, and soon Linton-Meyer had hired several more teachers and was renting out space at three other locations around Brooklyn. “We’d be here one day a week, then two days a week there, and that was kind of tough.” Still, people kept finding her, mostly by that most Brooklyn of phenomena: word of mouth. By 2011, it became obvious that she needed a space to call her own.

What she found was a narrow, high-ceilinged storefront that had once housed a pie shop, along a block of Columbia Street, not far from the East River’s stevedore docks, that nevertheless has a family-friendly appeal, with a popular Mexican restaurant on the corner, a bakery just next door, and a ceramics studio several doors down. For the first time since she’d begun teaching, Linton-Meyer now had the chance to tailor a space to her own specifications. She soundproofed the room, put up a thick dividing wall between the studio and entryway—taking care to add a viewing window (“For the younger kids, it’s really important for their parents to be able to see them,” says Linton-Meyer, “even though the older kids don’t like it after a while.”). She also added an all-important sprung floor, which eases the trauma from leaps and hard landings on shins especially, topped with marley dance floor tiles. When a second space opened up several blocks south and east, in Carroll Gardens, Linton-Meyer did it all again.

Without having to worry any longer about shuffling classes from location to location, Linton-Meyer can now concentrate on the nitty-gritty of making Cobble Hill Ballet what she (and plenty of other local parents and kids) call the “happiest ballet school in Brooklyn.” She and her teachers adhere to a strict syllabus in order to allow her students the freedom to express themselves, but also to see a real progression in skills from year to year. “Dance gets harder as you get older, because of all the technical aspects,” says Linton-Meyer. “You have to constantly work to make it challenging and fun and not-boring, but also to get in all the good barre work, because I want to give my students real training.”

Although she has yet to see one of her ballerinas go on to a career in dance, Linton-Meyer concedes it’s not her primary focus. “In the ‘real’ ballet world, kids are going to class five days a week, and sometimes they hit age 16 and their bodies change and they’re just done,” she says. “But Brooklyn parents are more interested in their kids being well-rounded. And this place is a real community—the girls get to be good friends, and they have the year-end show, with the older kids helping out the younger kids. I want to keep having this nurturing environment, so that ballet can be in their lives for a long time.”

To learn more, visit Cobble Hill Ballet.

Photographs by Roy Beeson

For ConstructionKids’ Deb Winsor, Confidence Comes with the Bang of a Hammer

By Lela Nargi

The 214-year-old Brooklyn Navy Yard is a three-acre industrial park that occupies a small cove just across the East River from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As a major builder of battleships during World War II, it earned the nickname the “Can-Do Yard,” a title that moldered along with its buildings when the yard was decommissioned in 1966. But lately, it’s been reclaiming its former glory, after the 2004 arrival of Steiner Studios to the park (Boardwalk Empire and the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were both shot here)—and on its heels, hundreds of “can-do” businesses of all varieties: artist and textile studios, furniture restorers, ship repairers, woodworkers, a rooftop farm, and one seemingly incongruous company with a large “workforce” comprised of people who are all under 48 inches tall.

That company is ConstructionKids and its fearless leader, Deb Winsor, has in her six years in business taught some 12,000 New York City schoolchildren the rudiments and beyond of building things with wood and nails and hammers. Her home base is in the Navy Yard’s Building 92, the former Marine Commandant’s House that serves as exhibit space and education center; the second floor is devoted to ConstructionKids. “People are always amazed when they walk in and with 40 kids, it’s humming like a factory in here and nobody’s fooling around,” says Winsor—loudly over the din—as a group pint-size builders cobble together tool boxes at low tables in the center of the large, project-lined space. “It’s fully engaging for children when we give them the tools and the process to be self-reliant.”

“It’s fully engaging for children when we give them the tools and the process to be self-reliant.”

Construction Kids is a highly likely culmination of a lifetime’s experience for Winsor. “Coming from a family of engineers, I spent a lot of time down in the basement watching what my dad did,” she says. “Carpentry and woodworking really spoke to me.” After majoring in industrial design at Syracuse University, she realized that she wasn’t cut out for office work and wound up in Nantucket, painting houses. That led to historic preservation work, then a move to Long Island to learn about boat building and restoration. Says Winsor, “That was a real game changer, because you can make a chair that looks great, but a chair doesn’t have to float and keep you alive in a storm.” She got a Master’s in historic preservation at Columbia University, “wound up in New York with a family,” and all was plodding steadily on. When she got a call from her son, Jack’s, preschool teacher.

“They were studying igloos,” Winsor recalls. “His teacher said, Can you build an igloo with a bunch of 4-year-olds, in Brooklyn, in May?” The final product—made from a bent wood with fabric stretched over it—was not quite the “igloo” Winsor had in mind. “But we were all down there on our knees on the floor, and it struck a vein with every kid, every teacher, every parent,” she says. That summer, she ran her first two-week camp through the school. “It took off like a shot,” she says.

Now running more than 100 programs city-wide—including afterschool programs at the Navy Yard space and in some 20 schools; vacation and summer camps; birthday parties; and special events—Winsor admits, “We’ve never been quite able to meet the demand. It’s a crazy business model to have!” She credits her success to her commitment to expanding slowly—“If I need to buy three hammers, first I need to make the money to buy three hammers”—as well as meeting a primal need of an increasingly sedentary, screen-focused population of elementary schoolers to do something physical and hands-on. “It’s whole-child learning, which they don’t get much of in school these days,” she says. She offers an analogy to Jack’s first foray into Little League baseball: “He walked across Prospect Park with this bat-weapon in his hand, hitting the ground, the dog, the tree. When I picked him up from practice two hours later, that bat was no longer a weapon; it was a tool and he had been taught to use it. That’s what we do, too. It gives kids confidence.”

Every day, one of Winsor’s teachers arranges the hammers in a different pattern on the floor.

During camp season, Windor takes on some 60 employees but during the regular school year, her staff of 14 teachers, administrators, and fabricators work to ensure that every child who comes to build has a fun, creative, and safe experience. “Someone calls up and says, We need to build the Lincoln Memorial for a program we’re doing in our school,” says Winsor. “Our creative and fabrication teams get together with the educators to talk about what kind of curriculum themes they’re trying to develop, then we build prototypes.” Always, they start kids building with wood because while kids have plenty of opportunities to use clay and paper and fabric in school, wood is not often offered as a material.

Winsor’s program also begins with hammer and nails—the “iconic tools,” as Winsor calls them. “When it’s paper, it can only be wrong or right, but if you bend a nail, you can take it out and put in another one; it doesn’t feel like a failure,” she explains. From there, kids progress to saws and vices, then wrenches and bolts, then nippers and pliers. At each step, they’re taught how to hold the tools correctly and most of all, safely.

The age of the kids is of paramount in importance in determining programming. Not only are the materials scaled down to meet their physical needs and abilities—like four-ounce hammers for the littlest builders—so are the expectations. “We work with little, tiny 3- and 4-year olds who are still learning what a triangle, square and rectangle are,” says Winsor. “So, we spend a disproportionate amount of money on program development,” to make sure Construction Kids get things just right.

On the other, older-kid, end of the spectrum, “It was transformational day for me when the three boys arrived and told me they wanted to build Yankee Stadium,” Winsor laughs as she remembers. “Which also was the day we established one of our few cardinal limits, which is, any project you build in this workshop has to fit through a New York City subway turnstile”—the measurements for which, along with those for those of an American Girl doll, Winsor and her team have committed to memory.

Teaching kids how to use tools responsibly gives them confidence—part of the core culture of ConstructionKids.

And indeed, in an era when so much is made about creating STEM opportunities for girls, Winsor admits to a certain amount of frustration around persisting gender stereotypes. “Making is a gender-neutral skill,” she says. “So, we embrace the American Girl doll as an opportunity for girls to do architecture around this omnipresent character. We don’t have a marker for girls that we can recognize as ‘building’ except for their creative play—making environments for dolls—but that to me is science and STEM and architecture and planning. I don’t know if everyone sees it that way.”

 The final component to making ConstructionKids such a unique space is what Winsor calls an “intergenerational connection.” Staff is often high school and college students—grownups who are not quite peers but more along the lines of older cousins, or family friends. Says Winsor, “We teach them that their role is to be a safe buddy, so kids can step out of that teacher-child, parent-child world they spend their whole day with. That’s a big part of our culture.” She talks about the joy of watching kids of all ages learning from each other in her big, bright, tidy, and tool-filled space. “They’re marching over to get their end-nipper, or marching over to the vice to chuck up their piece of wood,” she says. “Confidence—that’s what we’re about. It’s pretty fantastic stuff.”


Photographs by Roy Beeson

A Garage of Their Own: Brooklyn Robot Foundry’s Jenny Young Gives NYC Kids Space to Build

By Lela Nargi

“Because I’m a girl engineer, everyone always thinks I started this business with my husband,” says Jenny Young with a laugh that only vaguely disguises her frustration. An airplane pilot, a graduate of Purdue University’s mechanical engineering program and now, owner of Brooklyn Robot Foundry—one of the borough’s hippest destinations for the under-12 set—Young is, alas, no stranger to cross-eyed looks from a certain stripe of “traditionalist” who thinks that science is better performed by boys and men. And although she owns that women engineers are a definitely minority in the US, “For me, it’s not an issue,” she says.

This may be because of the strong and encouraging start she received from her parents growing up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “They were both very hands-on,” Young says. “My dad built a car from scratch, and the lawnmower, and the rototiller, so I was always with him in the garage, building stuff. And my mom makes all kinds of things with her hands.” For a while, Young thought she’d pursue a career as a pilot, then decided to focus on aerospace engineering instead. She moved to New York and began working for a software engineering company called Wireless Generation—where she met both her husband, Ken, a computer scientist, and her original business partner (now out of the picture), David VanEsselstyn, who works in education. And pretty quickly, she began to long for the various joys and liberties that come along with fabricating things on your own.

“It was hard not to have a workspace with all my tools in it,” Young says. “I needed that continuation of being able to build.” She joined an early, shared maker space in artsy East Williamsburg. And then, one fateful afternoon in 2012, she reserved time at a sewing studio further south, in the now gentrifying neighborhood of Gowanus, to stitch up little books for her pending wedding to Ken. She befriended the owner, who asked if she’d be interested in subletting the space. And Brooklyn Robot Foundry in its first incarnation—there’s now a second location in Manhattan’s Tribeca—was hatched.

Young’s own experiences—as an engineer, as a maker of things, and now, as a mom to 2-1/2 year old daughter, Adalina (son, Ero, is on the way)—heavily influenced the weekend, afterschool, and summer curricula she’s developed for toddlers through 7th graders (and sometimes adults). “The way I was raised in the Midwest, we were always taking things apart and asking questions,” she says. “We didn’t watch much television; we were doing things with our hands. It makes your brain work in a different way, and it makes you wonder, how does that work? If you don’t get that experience as a kid, you don’t think about those questions, and that’s a shame.”

A few years back, Young asked an early group of urban kid robot builders, “How does a stoplight work?” Their answers were funny—and slightly unsettling (one example: “There’s a mini Mickey Mouse in there!”). But under her and her assistants’ tutelage, says Young, “By the end of a week, they totally get how things work.” And they’ve learned simple construction and coding skills to boot.

On a recent summer morning, the Gowanus output of the Foundry was humming with tweens collaborating on a host of robot projects. “It’s a nice hum, though, isn’t it?” Young asked. “It’s the hum of people working who are doing things they enjoy.” The robots were being assembled by their excitable but focused overlords out of simple and often up-cycled materials like aluminum foil and cardboard boxes, and were attached by wires to batteries, servos, circuit boards, and laptops, and in some instances, such bells and whistles as LED’s, sound and motion sensors.  They included at least two candy dispensers, a mousetrap, and a maze for racing homemade hexbugs and they were being (mostly) patiently programmed using a language called CREATE Lab Visual Programmer, created at Carnegie Mellon.

Surveying the scene, Young smiled—and continued to smile, ever wider, as she visited worktables and asked and answered questions. “Kids are so much more creative than we are,” she said. “[Adult] people ask me, Why don’t you do Lego robotics? But that’s expensive, and I want kids to know, this is a motor that costs a couple of bucks at RadioShack, this is a gearbox. And you can make anything you want out of whatever you’ve got around, because you have the confidence and the ability.”

The assembled group included some girls—not the almost 50 percent Young can see among younger classes of participants, but somewhere closer to 25 percent. Like female scientists before and concurrent to her, Young is baffled by how, not to interest girls in STEM topics in the first place, but to keep them interested and engaged as they get older. “When it comes to the gender breakdown, the thing I find most disturbing is that the numbers tank around second grade. We’re hoping that as we’re here longer, we can get them excited and keep them longer. I really think you have to catch them young and show them how cool these things can be. That’s how you get them to come with you. I hope.”

Young’s also been doing concerted outreach toward both girls and their parents, with a, women in tech lecture series, meant to act as a sort of sampling of the diverse and fascinating panoply of STEM-related jobs that real women have; and a girls club where parents and daughters can come in and build together. Nevertheless, “We don’t do specific projects for girls,” she says. And perhaps steering clear of this sort of restrictive thinking will help Young yield significant changes in attitudes about girls in math and sciences, as well as how they should act and behave. “I’m an engineer, and I was also a princess for every single Halloween growing up,” she says. “We give them the base of understanding about how to turn components into, say, a crane. Then, if they want to make it look like a princess, we don’t care! We just want them to understand that it’s cool to build.”

Photographs by Roy Beeson

Julie G. is the Pied Piper of Tiny Urban Scientists

Julie G.

By Lela Nargi

For the past several years, kids have been STEMed up the wazoo as the national conversation about education—and more particularly, what’s wrong with it—has centered on a perceived lacking in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  Also lacking in the face of much high-minded assessment? A sense of fun, and of the integral, integrated way that science flows through our lives and the lives of our children, (yes, even city children), if we just know how to pay attention.

Enter Julie G. and her uncluttered outpost hunkered on a bright corner of Brooklyn’s Windsor Terrace, Tiny Scientist. Here, for the last two years, the former metal singer turned elementary science teacher shows area kids what’s fun and oh-so-relevant about science in the city. She’s uniquely suited to the task: “I was never interested in science in school,” she confesses. “We had a third grade teacher, ‘Mean’ MacLean, who was actually mean and didn’t teach us anything.” As a result, she initially shirked college until, enrolled in her 20s in an adult learners program at City College, she found herself taking a basic science course. “The teacher showed us slides of cells multiplying and I was immediately hooked,” says Julie, who went on to get masters in biology, math, and science elementary education at Hunter College.

After 10 years teaching science to public school kids, and having just become a first-time mom herself, to daughter, Quinn (Julie’s husband, Andrew Schneider, is a sound engineer for Blue Man Group), she took the plunge and opened her own little science oasis. We caught up with her to get her take on what’s so fun, and what’s so relevant for city kids, about all kinds of science.

Rocks: In the Tiny Scientist class “Rock Cycle Riot,” geared towards kids aged 5 to 10, children put on their paleontology hats to study the Jurassic period and recreate an excavation. Says Julie, “We use lots of visual references and discuss how all rocks started as one type of rock, and changed into other types of rocks over millions of years with pressure. In a class like this, there’s also measuring, sequential thinking, history, sensory development and literacy, because we read books about it.”

But what do prehistoric times have to do with the science we see in the world around us today? “One of the big things we learn is that things change over time,” says Julie. “That’s a big skill for kids, to be able to observe things that happen in some sort of sequence. One of the ways that kind of thinking is applicable to any environment, but particularly the city, where people think we don’t see any nature, is with leaves changing with the seasons. But there are so many ways it works for kids. Kids living in the ‘concrete jungle’ see buildings being built up from big holes in the ground.  And they can experience how forceful and important nature is by taking a closer look at the ground right beneath their feet. Very few living things can break rocks, but trees can! And especially here in Brooklyn, we see the sidewalks breaking from the tree roots growing out of them.”

Candy: Working with treats isn’t just about satisfying your sweet tooth. In fact, for kids as young as 4 who are enrolled in Tiny Scientist’s “Candy Chemistry” class, there’s almost no sugar-eating at all. Even though Julie does show kids how to add agar agar to sugar syrup to make gummy candy, “Actually,” she says, “it’s just a fun anchor for studying real science concepts, like pressure, which we use to smash things like marshmallows.”

Air pressure, she points out, is literally everywhere, even though we can’t see it. Standing on a subway platform, almost every kid in New York has felt air pushing through the tunnel as the train has neared the station. But even a task as mundane as blowing bubbles on the sidewalk is loaded with useful information for kids who are learning to observe closely.  “Bubbles can tell you about the wind, how fast it’s moving, the direction it’s coming from, how air moves around corners,” says Julie. “Learning about this is training kids to think about what doesn’t seem to be there but is actually all around you.”

Making: Julie’s class “Maker Magic” is a kind of free-for-all of engineering and tech concepts, where kids in grades 2 through 5 make things like lava lamps and put together working circuits. These are building blocks for all manner of things that shelter us, and keep us comfortable as we live and work and move from place to place. “We just looked at propellers and talked about sustainable energy versus fossil fuels. Then we built solar panel circuits attached to small motors,” says Julie.

How does all this pertain to city living? “There’s a block right here in Windsor Terrace that’s becoming a heavy topic of conversation, because there are locally based organizations trying to get homeowners to put solar panels on the roofs of their houses. A lot of schools are experimenting with using them to power machines, and the panels are becoming more and more a part of city life. Even the Brooklyn Botanic Garden uses them, and some of the bridges have solar lights.” And possibly the best part of all for parents hoping to help their kids become keen observers, even after their class at Tiny Scientist has draw to a close: “Trips to see these things cost nothing!” says Julie.

Photographs by Roy Beeson.

Meet the Hanlin-Coopers of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

The Hanlin-Cooper Family
The Hanlin-Coopers in their newly renovated Cobble Hill living room.

By Lela Nargi

What do two architects want in a NYC apartment? “We were looking for a big loft in downtown Manhattan,” recalls Jennifer Hanlin of the move she and husband Chris Cooper made in the late ‘90s after graduating from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. “It turned out, that’s only for people on Friends.”

What she and Cooper got was a “teeny-tiny” apartment on Tompkins Square, followed up by a larger space near Gramercy Park that was still too small for the two cribs Hanlin tried to wedge in when she was pregnant with the couple’s now-11-year-old twins, Mia and Felix. So, they plotted a course for Brooklyn. At the time, it offered more room for less money, along with a distinctly family-centric vibe. Nevertheless, “We went kicking and screaming the whole way,” says Cooper.

But how their anti-borough sentiments changed. Having found a unique, high-ceilinged apartment in a 1920s school building in brownstone-lined Cobble Hill, Cooper, an architect at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Hanlin, who runs her own interior design studio, Hanlin Design, have more than settled in. “We’ve become so committed to this neighborhood,” says Cooper. “There’s a real community here, centered around a school and restaurants and markets. It has a suburban aspect in an urban setting.”

Mia rocks out in the bedroom her parents designed for her.
Mia rocks out in the bedroom her parents designed for her. The stairs begind her lead to her “floating nest” of a bed.

For Mia and Felix, that adds up to a lot of recreational possibilities, all within walking distance. “My friends’ houses are close-by, like within five blocks,” says Mia.  “And I love Farmacy—that’s an old-fashioned soda shop that has milkshakes and root beer floats, and if you wear one of their T-shirts when you go in, you get a free egg cream.” The shop has become a favorite of many locals since it opened in an abandoned apothecary in 2010, after its renovation was undertaken—for all the world to see—on the Discovery Channel show Construction Intervention.

Felix is a regular at game shop Brooklyn Strategist, a popular weekend and afterschool haunt for neighborhood boys, especially. To hear Felix describe it, every Friday night features a cut-throat draft for a “Magic: The Gathering” tournament. “It fills up pretty fast,” he says, eyes wide. But the effort is worth it: “You can win Magic cards that you get to keep.” Felix also cites the rare-for-the-neighborhood parking lot that fronts their building as a fortuitous feature, especially in winter: “We can go down there and make snow forts and have snowball fights,” he says.

Hanlin quickly discovered that the neighborhoods surrounding Cobble Hill have everything a design studio could want, resource-wise. “What’s available locally is amazing,” she says. “There are four workshops in Red Hook and the Navy Yard that I use for upholstery, furniture restoration, fabrication of mill-working and built-ins. Right now I’m working with a guy in Greenpoint on a caning project. No one offers that kind of customized craftsmanship in Manhattan anymore; it’s all been pushed to Brooklyn.”

Felix with just some of his collections—and a view out the window of lower Manhattan.
Felix with just some of his collections—and a view out the window of lower Manhattan.

Recently, she and Cooper had cause to use some of these resources on a personal project. This was the renovation of their apartment, which Cooper says is further proof of how dedicated they’ve become to this neighborhood he once feared was “too compact” to feel like home but which he now regards as just right. With the kids growing, he says, “It was important for everyone to have their own space, with its own identity.” For Felix, that meant walls of storage to accommodate his collections of Lego and minerals and old keys. For Mia, a “floating nest” of a loft bed and proximity to the art closet were paramount among her needs. For themselves, Cooper and Hanlin were looking to create a soothing environment that harnessed the copious natural light pouring in from high windows, as well as lots and lots of storage.

They collaborated heavily on the project, which took seven months and shows a style influenced by Japanese aesthetics—everything tidy and tucked-away. Says Cooper, “I came up with the spatial infrastructure and developed the compact organization of the rooms. Jen itemized everything we had and accounted for where it would go.” Hanlin also focused on developing a neutral color palate throughout the space, which twists and turns up and up and eventually, in Felix’s room—a sort of tower that tops the whole space—leads out on to the roof. Cooper continues, “We got rid of almost all our furniture and focused on built-ins and a few carefully placed pieces to set the tone. That allows us to live in a small space and not have it feel small.”

It’s not the first time the two have teamed up on a project. Cooper was senior designer for the new 7 World Trade Center building. Hanlin recommended the artist for the lobby piece: Jenny Holzer, who works largely with LED displays. “A lot of artists were being considered,” says Hanlin. “But some of them had a less New York voice.” Holzer’s scrolling 65′-by-14′ wall of text in the building lobby is all New York. It features a continuous scrawl of poems and prose about the city, by writers as diverse as Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsburg. “It’s just a great piece of public art,” says Cooper.

At the end of a fast-paced day of designing sleek, modern buildings in ever-cacophonous Manhattan, Cooper says it’s a relief to return home to mellow Brooklyn. “I walk a mile from the subway to the house and I find myself thinking, We are so lucky,” he says. “There’s a different pace here, and I like the smell of the nearby harbor, and seeing the seagulls.” He pauses to take a phone call: His downstairs neighbor needs help moving an enormous fish tank. With a genial smile, Cooper pulls on his shoes and leaves to offer his assistance.

hanlin+cooper+family (1)

Photographs by Roy Beeson