Tag: New York City (page 1 of 2)

Should You Leave New York?

Should you leave new york by ari kellenYou may not feel like you want to leave New York, but, as George Harrison once said, all things must pass.  I for one can’t imagine leaving, but I also think you shouldn’t be living in a place like New York if you aren’t going to take full advantage of it.  Blogger Tracy Kaler had an interesting perspective on this, and I really liked a lot of what she had to say:

You don’t want to explore any more: The convenience of being able to explore the unique and exciting neighborhoods of New York is easily the best part of living there.  If you aren’t taking advantage of that, or getting all that you’d expect from the city, then it’s not worth paying exorbitant prices on rent.  

You’re gone more often than you’re there (by choice): Most people in New York should be visiting you in New York, not the other way around.  Unless you work in a field that’s specifically linked to New York, you should maybe move and find a job elsewhere.  

You’re presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: If a unique job offer appears somewhere else where you might actually enjoy living, then you should at least consider it, if not take it, especially if combined with any of the other factors mentioned in this post.

You’re struggling to get by: New York has an outrageously high cost of living.  And if you’re having trouble keeping up with this cost, then leaving might be your best option.  Moving somewhere else could often cut your costs dramatically.  

Your bad days are more frequent than your good ones: Bad days in New York are terrible, but good days are near euphoric.  But when bad days become daily and you find yourself focusing on the negative, then you might need to change something.  

Your mental or physical health is hurting: Studies say that one in five New Yorkers suffer from some sort of mental health disorder.  In a city of 8 million, it’s still pretty easy to feel lonely, and even more easy to feel overwhelmed.  This can take a toll on your mental and physical health.  

You don’t feel anything looking at the skyline: New York’s skyline is easily one of its most unique and exciting factors.  When you don’t feel inspired any more after looking at the skyline, that might be a sign that you should move on.  

Weekend Trips From New York

Weekend trips from new york by ari kellenIt’s hard to believe that summer is almost officially over.  Where did all the time go?  If you’re in New York, and want a quick getaway before the weather starts to cool down, then here are some great places around the state that you can visit:

Catskills: Filled with charming towns and villages, not to mention some amazing nature, the Catskills has got a whole lot to offer.  Breathtakingly beautiful Kaaterskill Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls on the East Coast, and located in a great park for nature lovers.  Hunter Mountain features the longest zipline in North America.  And as one of the most fertile regions of the country, the local food, beer, and wine scene is hard to beat.  

Lake George: Once the country’s most famous vacation destinations, Lake George has lost none of its luster.  Kayaking, parasailing, cruising, and swimming are all available on the lake itself.  But there’s even more off the shoreline, such as hiking and Fort Ticonderoga, the site of battles in both the American Revolution and French and Indian Wars.  

Saratoga Springs: The racetracks might be closing this weekend, but that’s not to take away from visiting Saratoga.  Located nearby one of the most important battlefields in the Revolutionary War, it’s a great spot for history buffs.  The town is also home to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, as well as summer residencies for the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra.  

Westchester: Easily accessible through Metro North, Westchester County is just a hop, skip, and a jump from New York.  Towns such as Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow in particular make for great day trips.  The former features beautiful 19th-century architecture, while the latter has retained its old Dutch heritage.  

Ithaca: Located in the Finger Lakes, Ithaca is a popular vacation destination thanks to both natural beauty and a thriving local culture.  The town itself features great food and art galleries, while outside the town is Cayuga Lake.  

Greenport: On Long Island’s North Fork lies the charming coastal village of Greenport, located in the heart of wine country.  The beaches are great, and nearby Shelter Island offers an even more quiet and remote getaway from any hustle or bustle.   

Woodstock: Home to one of the most famous music festivals in history, Woodstock remains an historical and cultural hub for visitors.  Its natural beauty has made it a popular spot for artists since the 19th century, making it a hub for everything from painting schools to art colonies.  

Wanted: Subway Genius

Wanted: Subway Genius by Ari KellenThe song “Charlie on the MTA”, made famous by the folk group the Kingston Trio, tells the story of a man trapped on the Boston subways because of an MTA fare hike.  It’s a goofy song, and the story behind it is absurd, but it highlights the people of Boston’s dissatisfaction with their subway system.  And while New York and Boston are different in numerous regards, in that they can at least agree (even if their reasons for dissatisfaction are a little different).  Even Governor Cuomo seems to agree; yesterday, when addressing a crowd at CUNY Graduate Center, he challenged the MTA to look internationally for “groundbreaking and innovative solutions” for the crowding and delays for which our subways have become infamous.  And if the best solution requires funding beyond the $8 billion committed by the State to the MTA, then Cuomo has promised to find a way to pay for it.  

Cuomo’s “MTA Genius Transit Challenge” has called for three different categories: 1) signal system overhauls, 2) new subway car designs or overhauls to the preexisting ones and 3) WiFi and cell service throughout the subways.  The winner in each category will win $1 million.  When discussing the challenge, Cuomo compared other cities and their metro systems.  Copenhagen, for example, has driverless electric trains with open-ended cars, while every station in Hong Kong has high-speed Wi-Fi.  He argued that the technology is out there in different cities, for New York it’s just a matter of utilizing that technology to good use.

This comes as a different approach from before; as recently as last week, Cuomo was trying to distance himself from the MTA.  Watchdogs and advocates have expressed their approval of Cuomo’s initiative, but still have concerns about what an actual plan would entail.  Under Cuomo, the State has appropriated $5.4 billion of a promised $8 billion in capital funding for the project, yet that only becomes available after the MTA drains all of its capital resources from previous years.  To be implemented in New York City, many of the transit innovations that have worked in different cities could end up being more costly due to both a 24-hour system and the complexities from navigating preexistng infrastructure.  

Cuomo has also expressed his willingness to take over renovations of Penn Station from Amtrak and prioritize the Gateway Tunnel project, which would expand the rail line between Newark and Manhattan.  Doing this, however, would require federal, State and private funding, and how that’s going to happen remains to be seen.  

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

Seaside Bars of New York

Seaside Bars of New York by Ari KellenWith spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, plenty of New Yorkers are letting themselves go outside and walk around.  Even if few New Yorkers want to take the day off to go to Coney Island just yet, and much of New York’s waterways are much too dirty to want to swim, there are still ways to enjoy New York’s waterfront during this weather, namely the floating bars, whether they’re barges or actual boats, surrounding the boroughs of New York.  Here are a few of them:

The Brooklyn Barge: Located right next to Transmitter Park, easily one of my favorite parks in Brooklyn, this 80×30-foot barge features a full bar, as well as a “land” area with picnic table-style eating.  Beyond drinking, the barge offers scuba and sailing classes, vessel tours and paddle boarding.

The Crow’s Nest: Located in that part of Murray Hill beyond where the clubs are, the Crow’s Nest offers one of the few reasons to explore that part of the city.  Looking over the Manhattan skyline on one side and the Queens and Brooklyn skylines on another, it features burgers, a raw-bar and cocktails.  

North River Lobster Company: Red Hook Lobster Pound and Luke’s Lobster are both delicious, but none of their locations are on a boat.  That’s where North River Lobster Company comes in.  This boat lets you sail around the city for just $10 while offering both beer and lobster rolls.  

Grand Banks: Modern Tribeca is a swanky neighborhood with high heels, higher prices and even higher rents, but at the same time you get what you pay for.  If you’re looking for that Tribeca experience, but on a boat, then visit Grand Banks, docked at Tribeca’s Pier 25.  It’s like a nautical tribeca, with classy cocktails and oysters.

Frying Pan: After a Coast Guard lightship sunk off the coast of Maryland, it found a second life after being salvaged and turned into the Frying Pan, one of the most famous boat bars in New York.  With its vibrant bar and great atmosphere, it’s a place that stands out.  

Willy Wall: Willy Wall is considered by many to be one of New York City’s great summer secrets, but it requires effort to get to.  It’s so far out, that you can’t even get there by subway; rather, you need to pay for a ferry ticket to take out there.  On the plus side, this means it’s less likely to be crowded.

New York’s Night Mayor

New York's Night Mayor by Ari KellenNew York, as a city that never sleeps, is known for its nightlife, and indeed it’s a $10 billion industry.  New York never sleeps, so that means the people running it shouldn’t either.  That’s why one city councilmember, Rafael Espinal, is in the process of creating a “night mayor”, who would serve as a friendly go-between for City Hall and New York’s booming nightlife and independent art scene and ensure that wouldn’t be hindered by unnecessary bureaucracy.  

The concept of a “night mayor” is new to the US, but it’s an idea that’s been steadily gaining momentum across the ocean since Amsterdam adopted it in 2014 to “transformative” results.  Zurich, Paris and London have all followed suit, realizing the potential of a thriving nightlife to kickstart a city’s economy.  In Espinal’s proposal, the focus of New York’s “night mayor” would go beyond nightlife, and also be focused on keeping the DIY spaces and smaller venues around the city open.  Espinal, who represents parts of Bushwick, East New York, Brownsville and Cypress Hills, pointed out the closure of punk venue Shea Stadium as a reason for a New York “night mayor”.  He claims that the city has gotten to the point where the only sustainable venues to survive in the city are high-end clubs or places with similar models, which is hardly conducive to an innovative arts scene.  

Many of those who own these venues are in favor of Espinal’s goal of enacting “sensible nightlife policies”, although the power of such an office remains unclear.  Many feel that current interdepartmental regulations are flawed at best.  Espinal and one venue owner, John Barclay, have pointed to a Prohibition-era law that requires dance venues to have a “cabaret license”, which is in turn owned by less that 1 percent of the food and beverage establishments of New York.  This is used as a failsafe to shut down any businesses that New York or the NYPD doesn’t want around.  In addition to adopting a “night mayor”, Espinal hopes to abolish this law.  As of yet, however, the actual structure of this office remains unknown, and Espinal doesn’t have any names in mind for a proposed “night mayor”.  

The Beginning of The End’s Lawsuit

the beginning of the end's lawsuit by ari kellenStarbucks recently attracted plenty of attention due to its brightly-colored, over-sugared Unicorn Frappuccino, a fascinating drink that changes colors and flavors as you drink it.  I tried to order it a couple times just to see what it was about, but each time they were out of it, and now they don’t sell it any more, which I take as a sign that I should not be drinking it.  And apparently, they’re pretty bad for you.  A grande Unicorn Frappuccino contains 59 grams of sugar, more than what the FDA calls a daily recommended intake, setting you up for an inevitably devastating sugar crash.  But hey, at least it’s unique, right?  Dunkin Donuts certainly isn’t serving anything like this, and I doubt that any small coffee shops in Brooklyn could think of something this creative?

You’d think so, but then you’d be wrong.  Back in December, The End, a coffee shop in Williamsburg, started selling a Unicorn Latte, months before Starbucks.  Owner Bret Caretsky alleges that Starbucks harmed his business by launching their own version.  Caretsky’s lawyer points out that the size of Starbucks offers them an “unfair advantage” in the competition.  Starbucks, in response, claims that their Unicorn Frappuccino was inspired by unicorn-themed drinks that have been trending in social media, as opposed to the unicorn-themed drinks that were created by coffee shops in Williamsburg.  The End, according to the lawsuit, wants an undisclosed amount of money for damages, as well as a public apology.  They had applied for a trademark for its latte in January, but it’s still pending.  

Both drinks look pretty similar and use the name “unicorn”, but that’s admittedly where the similarities end.  The End’s version uses healthy ingredients such as ginger, spirulina and maca root, which are nowhere to be found in any Starbucks Frappuccino named after a mythical creature.  While The End was the first coffee shop to sell a unicorn-branded product, it’s part of a “unicorn” food trend that’s been around for much longer.  Furthermore, this isn’t the first time that a New York restaurant has accused Starbucks of taking one of its ideas; in the past, David Chang attacked the coffee giant for stealing the “bagel bombs” from his Milk Bar.  I think it’s an unfair thing for a big business to try and hijack a smaller business’s ideas, but what I can tell you is that Both David Chang and Bret Caretsky can take comfort knowing that their versions are a whole lot better.  

How to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in NYC

how to avoid looking like a tourist in nyc by ari kellenA city of 8 million people, every year New York welcomes 48.8 million visitors.  And the crazy part of it is that most of the time, you can tell who these visitors are.  The stereotypical tourists who offer their patronage to the Bubba Gump’s in Times Square stick out like a sore thumb.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want a real New York experience, then you need to change how you look and what you’re .  I recently read a blog post on some tips to make New York tourists better blend in, and I thought that I’d share some of them with my out-of-town friends.

Walk with purpose: New Yorkers walk everywhere they go, and when they do, they walk with purpose.  Apart from the Financial District, New York’s grid pattern is easy to navigate.  A similar tip: since most of New York’s streets are one-way, locals will cross if there aren’t any cars coming.  Tourists, on the other hand, wait on the curb for the “walk” sign.  

Walk on the right side: The sidewalk is like a second street for New Yorkers.  Keep to the right so as to not break the flow.  If you need to slow down or stop for whatever reason, step to the side so as not to get in anybody’s way; New Yorkers hate that!  

Avoid the “I heart NY” everything: New Yorkers have a strong aversion to anything with “I heart NY” on it.  Such a strong aversion that no New Yorker would ever wear it, not even a hipster who was trying to be ironic.  It’s fine if you want to, but you’re more or less telling everybody that you’re a tourist.

Be assertive: New Yorkers are confident and assertive about everything they do.  They’ve got their metro cards ready to swipe before they get to the turnstile, and know what they want to order before the line gets to them.  This all saves time, the one resource no New Yorker ever wants to waste.  

Stay out of tourist spots: A lot of people talk about Times Square, but spoiler alert: it’s not that great, and it couldn’t possibly be further away from what New York actually is.  Most locals avoid it because they know it’s full of tourists and people trying to take your money.   

Don’t look up: When walking, most New Yorkers look either straight ahead or at the ground.  Tourists tend to walk slow and look up.  

You can ask for directions: Before going out, you should have the directions of where you want to go saved on your phone.  This is a lot more easy than pulling out one of those personal NYC maps, which scream “tourist”.  If you do need to ask for directions, don’t stop somebody on the street, but rather head to the closest convenience store and ask an employee.  

Don’t get star struck: Because New York is so compact, there’s a good chance you might see a celebrity (I’ve been keeping a tally of celebrities I see, and it’s been getting pretty impressive).  If you run into one, play it cool and don’t stalk them.  Maybe flash them a friendly-yet-brief smile, but don’t ask them for a photo or an autograph.

Don’t stare: Plenty of different fashion trends and beautiful people can be found in New York City, and you can absolutely admire them from a distance, but don’t stare.  A true New Yorker has seen it all before, so they’ll know right away that you’re a tourist.

Don’t complain about the price and tip well: New York, because real estate is at such a premium in such a small space, can get expensive.  If you want to spend a lot of money in New York, it’s very easy to do so, but don’t complain about the price, and always leave a tip for good service.  

Visiting Coney Island This Winter

Visiting Coney Island this winter by ari kellenWhen people think about visiting Coney Island, they typically think of coming out on a warm summer day, to soak up some sun and ride on the rides.  They don’t often think of visiting in the winter.  True, you can’t really go to the beach (unless it’s the polar plunge!) or ride on the ferris wheel, but visiting on the off-season offers a unique perspective on New York’s history.  It’s the perfect day trip for New Yorkers who want peace and quiet away from the typical New York bustle.  I recently read an article about things to do in Coney Island this winter, and although it’s a year-old article, it has a lot of great things you can do:

New York Aquarium: The New York Aquarium in Coney Island has great exhibits and fish-feeding shows year-round.  It’s great for both dates and just good old-fashioned family fun.  There are all sorts of sea creatures in both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Stroll the boardwalk: It might be cold, but the famous Coney Island boardwalk offers stellar views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the amusement parks of Coney Island on the other.  I’d recommend walking down the boardwalk to one of the Russian restaurants in Brighton Beach for a bowl of borscht.  

Eat at Nathan’s: You can find Nathan hot dogs across the country.  But if you want to know what made them so famous, you have to visit their original hot dog stand on Coney Island.  And they taste much better here than anywhere else.

Visit Totonno’s: If you’d prefer pizza over hot dogs, you can visit the Coney Island institution Totonno’s, considered to be one of New York City’s very best pizza spots.  A thin crust and fresh sauce made on the premises ensures that you get an A+ pizza every time, and Totonno’s remains a no-frills joint that just happens to serve amazing pizza.

Visit the Coney Island Museum: For a long time, Coney Island was New York City’s playground, a wildly popular and bustling spot.  The Coney Island Museum pays homage to this legacy, and the entrance fee is just 99 cents!  This admission offers you free admission into the zany side of Coney Island’s early days, with circuses and sideshows.  Check the website, and you might just be able to catch a special exhibit.  

NYC Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors

NYC travel tips for first-time visitors by Ari KellenAs a New Yorker, it’s hard for me to realize that many people have never been here, and don’t know about everything that it has to offer.  It’s a city that everybody from the Congo to Nebraska has heard about, it’s been in countless movies, so visiting can feel a bit overwhelming.  To make sure that you get the most out of your visit, however, here are some great tips that I found from a blog post by the excellent Tracy Kaler:

Don’t spend all your time looking at the tourist stuff: The touristy stuff in New York is so popular because it’s so great: Rockefeller Center, the World Trade Center, Central Park, etc.  But that doesn’t show you how unique New York truly is.  Try picking several big sights, scheduling them into your itinerary and then spend the rest of your time shopping, eating, wandering and visiting more off-the-beaten path places.  There are plenty of fun, unique places in New York that aren’t too out of the way.  Fun, easy-to-reach neighborhoods with lots to do include Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, East Village/Alphabet City, Williamsburg and Greenpoint (more on those last two later).

Avoid Times Square: Times Square is one of those things you do once in your life, but then never again.  It’s incredibly touristy, expensive and unbelievably crowded.  While a lot of hotels are located around there, you want to avoid the most congested area (on the 40s near Broadway and 7th Avenue), where you won’t be able to walk down the street, but rather shuffle and get pushed while people ask you for money, which isn’t fun for anybody.

See a show: Theater is just one aspect of the entertainment that you can get in New York City.  If you’re a theater buff, go to a couple performances, but you don’t want to center your entire visit around it.  There are all other kinds of performances you can check out: comedy shows, concerts of all kinds, improv shows, etc.

Explore the outer boroughs: While Manhattan has got so much to offer, the outer boroughs, particularly Brooklyn and Queens, do as well.  If you’re planning on more than a couple days, you’ll want to check them out.  Just east of Manhattan in Brooklyn is Williamsburg and Greenpoint, home to amazing bars, fun things to do and some pretty great parks.  In Queens you’ll want to visit Astoria, home to the Museum of the Moving Image, one of the oldest beer gardens in the country and all sorts of excellent restaurants.

Be comfortable: New York’s a fashionable place, so you want to look good, but you also want to be comfortable!  Think practically: you’ll be walking a lot, so wearing stilettos isn’t a great idea.  Dress for the temperatures as well: New York gets cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, and the weather in the spring and fall is unpredictable to say the least.

Cut costs: It’s very easy to spend a lot of money in New York, and it’s certainly a very expensive city, but there are still ways to save money.  By simply skipping the taxis and riding the subway, you’ll save a ton of cash.  There are also plenty of free things to do around the city: museums, parks, ferry rides, etc.

Essential New York Dishes (and Where to Get Them)

Essential New York Dishes (and Where to Get Them) by Ari KellenHot dogs.  Pizza.  Bagels.  Such dishes are as New York as the Statue of Liberty.  Yet New Yorkers know that there are plenty of other great, iconic New York dishes.  A city of 8 million people will offer 8 million different opinions on what a “quintessential” New York meal is, but I’ve chosen ten highlights, and more importantly where you should get them:

Hot dog and papaya juice (Papaya King): Most people wouldn’t consider a hot dog and papaya juice a good combo, but New Yorkers know otherwise.  While there are several establishments around Gotham who offer this combo, the original is Papaya King, located in the Upper East Side and St. Marks.  Gray’s Papaya on the Upper West Side gets honorable mention as well.

Ramen (Hide Chan Ramen): In recent years, Americans from every city have gotten onto the ramen train, including New York.  There are many places around the city who offer stellar ramen (many sing the praises of Ippudo), but my personal favorite is Hide Chan in Midtown East.

Pizza (Joe’s Pizza): “New York Pizza” is a phrase for a reason.  There are plenty of excellent pizza spots around the city (Paulie Gee’s and Vinnie’s nearly made the list), but for a traditional, no-frills New York slice, visit Joe’s Pizza.  They’ve luckily got several locations in New York, so they aren’t too hard to find.  

Knish (Yonah Schimmel’s): Few people outside of New York are familiar with the “knish”.  Even fewer are familiar with the traditional round, baked knish (most know of the square fried knish).  You can get the traditional knish at various Jewish delis and bagel spots across the city, but the undisputed king is Yonah Schimmel’s in the Lower East Side.  They’ve been slinging knishes since 1910.  My personal favorite is the sweet potato knish with a bit of hot mustard.  

Pastrami sandwich (David’s Brisket House): Pastrami as we know it was first developed in New York City by Romanian Jewish immigrants, who based it off a traditional recipe for goose.  Many say that Katz’s does the best pastrami (and it’s certainly very good), but they aren’t the only ones out there.  For a true New York pastrami sandwich off the beaten path, go to Bedford-Stuyvesant for David’s Brisket House, which makes the hands-down best pastrami in Brooklyn.  A Jewish deli run by Yemeni Muslims, it’s a true New York experience whose very existence celebrates this city’s diversity.

Lechon and rice & peas (Lechonera la Piraña): Every weekend on the corner of 152nd and Wales in the Bronx, Angel Jimenez, also known as “Piraña” and “Papi Chulo”, serves traditional Puerto Rican-style roast pork out of a food truck.  On Saturdays and Sundays, he wakes up at 4 in the morning to put a pig in a smoker, and then slow-cook it for eight hours before it’s ready.  For less than $10, a cheerful Piraña will serve you a giant plate of his lechon and a generous helping of rice and peas.  It’s the best Puerto Rican food you’ll get outside of Puerto Rico, and well worth the journey up to Mott Haven.

Chicken, mozzarella & pesto sandwich (Faicco’s): As one of the oldest Italian delis in the city (it’s been open since 1905), Faicco’s has had plenty of time to perfect its art.  Their sandwiches are as delicious as they are gargantuan, and while every variety is worth writing home about and then some, my personal favorite is their chicken, mozzarella and pesto.  Some close seconds include their classic Italian and meatball grinder.

Bagel & Lox (Barney Greengrass): Many consider Russ & Daughters to be the best bagel & lox in the city, but as an Upper West Sider, my loyalty lies with Barney Greengrass.  Once you have lox from the “Sturgeon King”, you’ll never want it from anywhere else.  

Soup dumplings (Joe’s Shanghai): No, it isn’t dumpling soup, the soup is inside the dumpling.  Hard to make, even harder to perfect, these can be found throughout both Manhattan’s and Queens’ Chinatowns.  Arguably the best comes from Joe’s Shanghai, which has outposts in Chinatown, Flushing and Midtown.  Get an order of soup dumplings with peanut noodles and scallion pancakes, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.  

Halal (Mamoun’s): Halal trucks sell gyro sandwiches on pretty much every street corner in Manhattan.  But the original, and arguably the best, is Mamoun’s in the Village.  This tiny hole-in-the-wall doles out the best falafel and shawarma in a no-frills atmosphere that attracts hundreds of visitors every day.