Meet Jill Slaymaker: an Indiana transplant turned beloved Hell’s Kitchen local. An artist and teacher — Jill’s life in Manhattan Plaza offers a blend of art, community, favorite local eateries and a health club just an elevator ride away. Read her West Side Story…

Jill at MéMé with owner, Jacob Cohen. Photo: Naty Caez

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I came here from Indiana in 1982. I had no job or apartment; I just showed up with a man, van and $3,000 saved from cocktail waitressing tips. We lived in the van on the street for three weeks, until finding an illegal sublet for $275 a month, and I lived there for the next 25 years!

What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job was as a temp typist for Manpower. Now, I work for Studio in a School, as a teaching artist and mentor.

What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
I guess the most exciting moment was my first one person show in Manhattan, at Nolo Contendere Gallery in the East Village. I felt like Cinderella, in a sparkly vintage dress from a friend’s mother.

Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love Hell’s Kitchen, because it feels safe, convenient and close to subways and bus lines, and is a real neighborhood and artistic community (I live in Manhattan Plaza, full of performing artists, in the theater district). I know the pizza parlor owner (Claudio, from Sicily) and the gallery/picture frame store owner (Roland, at Jadite Gallery), the chef/owner of Meme restaurant (Jacob), and on and on…I can’t leave my apartment building without running into someone I know on the street. And I have a plot in the community garden, where I grow tomatoes, herbs and flowers! Hell’s Kitchen is a village, in midtown.

What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
I’m a painter, and have been showing my art in NYC galleries for many years.
I also work part-time for a non-profit and go into low income public schools all over the city, where I train teachers and make art with children. I love both my “jobs.”

What else should we know about you?
I have an amazing husband, Ned Ginsburg, who is a composer/orchestrator in musical theater. He is the reason we are able to live in Manhattan Plaza, a beautiful community in itself. I also have a son, Alexei, who is a singer/songwriter, who benefited from all the creative people in our building. Very grateful!

Jill’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places

MéMé Mediterranean — 607 10th Avenue (corner of W44th St)
The food is very fresh and delicious. I know the owner and he buys food from all over the city, the freshest daily. The brunch menu is no more expensive than any diner, but the quality is superb!

Jill says the food at MéMé is fresh and delicious. Photo: Naty Caez

Turco — 604 9th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
The food is authentic Turkish, and just so delicious. They do mostly take out. It’s a little pricey, but their homemade bread, chicken shishkebabs and baba ganoush are out of this world!

Manhattan Plaza Health Club — 482 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
I probably should have made this number one on the list. The pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room are totally rejuvenating. And it is in my apartment building, so I can get on the elevator in a bathrobe in the middle of winter and be there! They also have great yoga, pilates, dance, etc.

Claudio’s Pizzeria — 598 10th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
Fresh, delicious pizza with a variety of veggies and toppings. Claudio is from Sicily. Slices are definitely not $1, but are delicious and healthy. Their garlic knots are fantastic, too!

Jill with Claudio, the owner of Claudio’s Pizza. Photo supplied.

Target — 615 10th Avenue (corner of W44th St)
Target is one block from my apartment (so are Meme, Turcos and Claudios). Until they moved in, there was nowhere close by to buy a variety of items, likes towels, socks, kitchen and other household items, and affordable organic produce. Now they are all in one place!

The Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
They have the best Belgian hot chocolate ever. Overpriced, but worth it once in a while.

Jadite Gallery/Frame Shop — 662 10th Avenue (bw W46/47th St)
I am an artist and need to frame my work. Jadite has the most affordable framing I know of in Manhattan, and is very high quality. Also, the owner, Roland Sainz, has been kind enough to let me use the storefront as a gallery and studio in exchange for watching the space while he is away in Europe in August. It has been a great opportunity. I also curated a show of 13 artists in that space.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I love Hell’s Kitchen and Manhattan Plaza, and am very grateful to live here.

You can follow Jill on Instagram @jillslaymaker. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself), please fill in this form —

You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.

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