Sarah Mills, director of neighborhood outreach OneCo and mom, moved to Hell’s Kitchen in 2016. The neighborhood, Macy’s and Broadway hold special places in her heart — here is Sarah’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I will celebrate 13 years in New York City this October. My love of musical theatre brought me here at 18 years old to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. I stayed past my degree and ended up meeting my husband. We moved to Hell’s Kitchen in 2016.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
I’ve worn many hats in the employment department! My first job was at Billabong in Times Square, which is no longer there. The goal was to get enough retail experience where I could work the merchandise at Broadway houses, which I did a few years later. Through that, I made Union friends and landed the role of an usher at the Stephen Sondheim for several years, mainly though the run of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. My job journey then took me through various roles at a non profit theatre company in the Film Center building where I settled in philanthropy and donor relations. However a little over a year ago I left the industry to focus on being the director of OneCo, a neighborhood outreach to equip, serve and mobilize our neighborhood! All of these unique experiences just also happened to be in and around Hell’s Kitchen, so it feels like all roads ending up leading me to where I am now.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
Real talk: When we moved into HK it was purely for location and convenience. Our hearts were completely changed when we began to meet our next door neighbors, make friends and get involved with local block associations and service organizations! We realized what a connected and caring neighborhood we belonged to, and wanted to be a part of it too. Now we are humbled to be called locals and love to celebrate and serve with everyone who calls this place home — whether they have lived here for generations or are just figuring out how to get involved in local community life. Also the history of Hell’s Kitchen holds a special place in my heart. I come from a family culture where passing down and preserving your history was the best form of story telling. You have to know where you come from, to know where you are going! I’m always ready to listen and learn from others about the people and places that were here long ago. Mickey Diaz, local historian and founding member of the Hell’s Kitchen Heritage Generation Project is one of the people who has taught me so much through the project’s pictures and her own personal life and research.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
A tad corny, but getting to take our new baby girl to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which she is named after) was a pretty special moment. I had thought of naming her Macy the year before at the parade while I was pregnant — and to be there with her a year later felt like the ultimate quintessential NYC moment. We also happened to be standing where the Funny Girl bus was parked and Lea Michele gave her a compliment and quick hello so that was extra special too.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Being a working wife and mom with two part-time jobs! I also am pretty good at creative writing, though I don’t flex that muscle in public as much as I should.
What else should we know about you?
I can’t wait to watch my daughter grow up in Hell’s Kitchen. As a newer mom, I am now finding a whole new group of neighbors with kids and getting to know them as a friend and parent, listening to their specific experiences and needs as local families.
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Sarah’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Grind — 602 9th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
When the antique store closed down, I didn’t think there could be another local entity to rival it. I was wrong! I’m in here almost every day, and sometimes jokingly refer to it as my office. The staff always goes above and beyond to serve me well, and the coffee quality is top notch. Shoutout to Christof, who always goes out of his way to serve me and any friend I bring along with me!
Hellcat Annie’s — 637 10th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
My husband has a thing for wings, and according to him it can’t get better than Annie’s. Throw in the local history of the building (Mickey Spillane’s former headquarters) and dinner there is always a date night that satisfies us both.
The Landmark Tavern — 626 11th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
Speaking of local history, the Landmark is a must do when we have friends and family in town. The Monday night traditional Irish music sessions are not to be missed. Paired with traditional Irish fare, I can almost transport myself to the Hell’s Kitchen of the late 1800s-early 1900s.
HK Community Cupboard — Outside of Clinton Ryan Health 645 10th Avenue (bw W46/45th St)
I’m very appreciative of this mutual aid effort, where I can drop off leftover food items for anyone to share and enjoy. The cupboard volunteers are rock star neighbors who do weekly food rescuers at local cafes and restaurants. There is also a monthly grocery bagging event that is a great way to volunteer and meet new friends.
OneCo — 354 W45th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Last April, we moved in and started light renovations on the 2nd floor of this former electrical substation turned entertainment space. Now it’s a community space utilized for neighborhood outreach initiatives, classes, performances and more. It’s also the home of One Community Church on Sundays at 11am. Come and visit me! 🙂
MPHC Swimming Pool — 482 W43rd Street (bw W43/44th St)
Swimming is my main way to work out. I just always feel better after a trip to the pool, and I’m lucky that we have one I can access close by. I know I am almost always going to run into someone I know at the pool, whether I’m swimming laps or in the alcove at family swim with my daughter. The hot tubs and rooftop are also a relaxation bonus.
Mathews-Palmer Playground — 445 W45th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
There is so much past and present history in this special little park! I love walking by the names of the neighborhood kids listed above the wall ball, and sometimes catching a glimpse of the Hell’s Kitchen Rangers playing street hockey when the weather is warmer. Patiently waiting for the Belkin mural restoration completion!
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’m just finishing four years as a member of Manhattan Community Board 4. Just rolling off this Spring, as it’s a lot to handle with my growing infant. But I loved it. Another great way to go deeper with your neighbors and learn to care about what is important and how you can collectively support it and create effective change!
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.