Category Archives: Neighborhood Focus

You Pasty Kids Get Off My Stoop

The young people of New York’s East Village have a particular look. Predominantly viewed in their natural habitat of St. Mark’s place, the stereotypical example has pale skin, ripped clothes, and hair that’s been dyed either dark, or a color that doesn’t appear in nature. They often smoke or talk about music, and while subculture tends to gather in the corners of school cafeterias or graveyards in small towns, the punks, Goths and generally “scene” kids of New York have their own haven, specially tailored for them over many decades.

It seems only natural these particular young people would be drawn to the village. The founders of their generally preferred art forms passed through those streets, (and a few musicians probably passed out there, too.) One of the most classic influences for the so-called “spooky kids,” Edgar Allan Poe, made his home in of Greenwich Village. Works like Poe’s Annabelle Lee, the Telltale Heart, and the Raven are still favorites of the fishnet-clad, who might purchase said fishnets right in the Village today.

When it came to music, loud rock and roll could be heard in the Village pretty much from the start. The biggest, brightest, and future best acts in the rock and roll played the Fillmore East, bands and artists who are still frequently loved by the “children” of Village. Some Fillmore acts even chose the venue for live album recordings, among them Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and the Grateful Dead. Later on when the punk movement gained steam, down on the Bowery lay CBGBs, the place where many of punk’s parents got their start before the mecca closed in 2006.

Anti-establishment has been a common theme in the Village and some of its surrounding areas. Past residents include the likes of Abbie Hoffman and Iggy Pop, and back in the 60s, scores of hippies also flocked to the area to make it their home. Today, many self-identified punks bear a recognizable, rebellious anarchy logo on their jackets and tshirts, as statement clothing is a Village staple in and of itself. A top place to purchase these fashions is Trash and Vaudeville on St. Mark’s, where one can purchase plaid, vinyl and studded clothing to their heart’s content.

Observances have even made their way into Village in a mode that might tempt any pierced, eyelinered teenager. Every October 31st, tens of thousands of costumed marchers can be seen in New York’s Village Halloween Parade, which has its seemingly appropriate start down on 6th Avenue. The massive, PG-13 event also garners countless spectators, who are frequently also costumed.

But for many young Village-goers, the spectacle and mischief of Halloween may come more than once a year.

-Amy Eiferman

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Exploring Harlem

By Samantha Nicholson

The Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem is the epicenter of the Harlem Gospel tradition.

If you’ve traveled to New York at least once, you’re probably familiar with all of the regular attractions: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and Central Park. But as a visitor to NYC, you probably haven’t ventured above 96th street to the area known as Harlem. Harlem is a largely residential neighborhood and has a different atmosphere than downtown and midtown Manhattan. You’ll enjoy the break from the hustle-and-bustle of the typical tourist traps.

Harlem was the site of the famous “Harlem Renaissance” in the 1920s and 30s. There was an outpouring of artistic and professional works from the black community that resided in the area. Intellectuals, poets, visual artists, musicians and writers all made a major impact during this time period.  Novels such as Claude Mckay’s Home to Harlem and Langston Hughes’ Not Without Laughter were published during the Renaissance.  Even though the Renaissance is over, Harlem is still home to countless artists and intellectuals. Former President Bill Clinton even has an office on 125th street. While Harlem is largely residential, there are countless attractions that will make your trip uptown worthwhile.

One of the most famous places in Harlem is the Apollo Theatre (253 W. 125th st). The original Apollo Hall was founded in the mid-1860s by former Civil War general Edward Ferrero as a dance hall and ballroom. Since then, it has transformed into arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Harlem. The theater is currently being renovated. The total renovation is going to cost an estimated $25 million, making it the most expensive renovation of a landmark theater in America’s history.

While you’re on 125th street, check out the Studio Museum (144 W 125 st). The Studio features a wealth of African-American art and culture that you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll especially want to visit the Studio this summer, when the outdoor patio turns into a dance floor. Hip locals and artists from all over come to enjoy the atmosphere. You’ll hear all kinds of different music from many different time periods.

If you’re into architecture, you’ll want to see the Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 Odell Clark Place). The church traces its root to 1808, when parishioners left the First Baptist Church in the City of New York in protest of the racially segregated seating. The church is the epicenter of the Harlem gospel tradition.

One of the most notable restaurants in Harlem is Sylvia’s Restaurant (328 Malcolm X Boulevard). Sylvia’s is the kind of establishment that brings international tourists to Harlem. Locals walk by the restaurant unfazed, but tourist are mesmerized by Sylvia’s. If you’re only into quiet dinners, this is not the place for you. There is live gospel music in the main dining room. With all of the performances and flamboyant atmosphere, you would think this restaurant was in Times Square, not in the middle of the otherwise quiet Harlem. The highlight of the week is the gospel brunch service. Make sure you come early in the morning as the place gets packed by the afternoon. The menu is very affordable, but you’d be willing to pay the price of the food just for the entertainment provided. The walls are lined with pictures of celebrity visitors. While I didn’t spot any celebrities on my visit, the dozens of celebrities that have visited can’t be wrong. Sylvia’s is the one restaurant you must visit on your trip to Harlem.

Harlem is only a few minutes away from Times Square by subway, but it feels like it is a while different world. If you feel like you are always doing the same things in NYC, try visiting Harlem for something new.

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Exploring Hell’s Kitchen

By Samantha Nicholson

Every non-native resident of New York City remembers their first visit to Times Square. You will notice the flashing neon lights, mobs of people, huge megastores, and often the Naked Cowboy standing in the middle of the street.  After this initial visit, you will most likely try to avoid Times Square at all costs. But don’t discount the neighborhood surrounding it. There is a wealth of activities to do and things to see in the area surrounding Times Square. This neighborhood is known as Hell’s Kitchen.

Despite its name, Hell’s Kitchen is not some slum in the middle of Manhattan. In fact, it is a hotspot with tons of restaurants, bars, and theaters. It generally refers to the area between 34th and 57th street.   If you’re into celebrity-spotting, many actors call Hell’s Kitchen home due to its proximity to the Broadway theaters and Actors Studio training school.  Former residents include Madonna, Bob Hope, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sylvester Stallone. Countless novels have been based in the neighborhood; such as Sleepers, Sinners’ Ball, and Old Flame. Exploring Hell’s Kitchen should definitely be on your to-do list during your visit to NYC.

You’ll want to visit the historic Radio City Music Hall (1260 Avenue of the Americas). Its nickname isThe Showplace of the Nation, and this couldn’t be more accurate. For a long time, it was the leading tourist destination in New York City. The venue’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the annual holiday show featuring the Rockettes, attracts thousands of audience members for year. But the venue is busy all year long, as it is a frequent site for awards shows, concerts, and even sports events. Movies premiers also have occasionally taken place there. Even if you don’t go inside Radio City Music Hall, you’ll want to take a picture in front of its famous neon-light sign.

If TV is more your thing than live Broadway performances, try getting free tickets to see The Colbert Report, which films at 513 W 54th street. The live taping isn’t limited to what you actually see on television. There is a hilarious warm-up comic that takes the stage before Colbert goes on. If you’re the shy type, you might not want to sit front row; the comic tends to pick on certain people relentlessly. Colbert then comes out and does a short question-and-answer session before the taping begins. He does this out of character, and the difference between his television personality and real-life persona is somewhat shocking. I watch the show on a regular basis, but seeing it live is a completely different experience that all Colbert fans should try to do at some point.

The B.B. King Blues Club and Grill (237 W 42nd st) is a huge venue (550 seats!) which features big-name acts on a regular basis. Despite its name, you’ll find a lot more than blues at this restaurant. B.B. King features pop, rock, and funk acts regularly. But beware: the tourist-targeted pricing makes this an expensive night out. However, you’ll get to watch some amazing talent and enjoy high-quality food.

A personal favorite is Johnny Utah’s (25 W 51st street). This restaurant/bar features Manhattan’s first mechanical bull, which always has a long line of eager riders waiting to hop on. Its location makes it a great place for happy hour, as many large office buildings surround the venue. Mixed drinks start at $5, and beers start at an amazingly cheap (for Manhattan) $2. The food isn’t anything spectacular, but Johnny Utah’s relaxed western vibe will have you ordering BBQ wings and curly fries. They even offer fried pickles! But make sure you head here early for the most fun; the place empties out around 11 or so.

The famous play “West Side Story” depicted Hell’s Kitchen as a turbulent neighborhood. After a tour of Hell’s Kitchen, you will realize that its historic gritty reputation is no longer true. The neighborhood’s history may be tied to the criminal underworld, but today it is known for its luxury condos, hip restaurants, and trendy boutiques.

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Exploring the Upper East Side

By Samantha Nicholson

Caption for under the picture: The New York University Institute of the Fine Arts (originally the James B. and Nanline Duke house) is located on East 78th Street.

The Upper East Side is usually viewed as an upperclass residential neighborhood without much going on. Many people view it as a Gossip Girl-esque place, where the people are snobby and tourists aren’t exactly welcome. This couldn’t be further from the truth. On your first visit to the Upper East Side, you might only notice the gorgeous apartment buildings and proximity to Central Park. However, there is actually a thriving nightlife scene in the UES, as well as many exciting things to do during the day.

You’ll want to check out Museum Mile, which runs from 82nd street to 105th street.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue), known colloquially as the Met, is located on the Eastern edge of Central Park. It contains more than two million works of art. The museum features an extensive permanent collection, featuring everything from ancient Egyptian art to modern art to the fantastic Costume Institute. Due to the delicate nature of the collection, the Costume Institute is only open twice a year. However, you don’t want to miss it.

You’ll also want to check out the Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Ave). This museum houses arguably the finest collection of 20th century American art in the city. The Whitney is known for not getting a lot of tourists because its name is not as recognizable as the Met or the MoMa.

Most people head below 14th street for nightlife attractions. Don’t discount the Upper East Side yet though. There are a variety of place to go to when night falls. Check out the bar and restaurant at the Mark Hotel (25 E 77thstreet).  Since its opening in 1927, the Mark Hotel has been New York’s premier landmark hotel. The hotel just recently re-opened since renovating. The newly finished restaurant has an elegant yet understated ambiance. This is a great place to grab drinks before heading to the clubs for the night.

The Upper East Side nightspots might be fewer and far between than their downtown compatriots, but there is still plenty to discover in the neighborhood. One casual place to get a drink is Uptown Lounge (1576 3rd Ave). It feature a spectacular dining area with a separate lounge. During the summer, their sidewalk café opens. They have a happy hour special everyday, and their food selections range from chicken fingers to filet mignon.  The crowd is mostly locals, but you’ll find that the placed is packed with revelers even on a Tuesday night.

Another hip lounge/restaurant is Bruno Jamais (24 E 81st st). The outside of this exquisite French restaurant simply looks like a townhouse in the Upper East Side, but inside you will find a dimly lit dining area and a full bar. This place is quintessential NYC, and the people watching is almost as good as the duo foie gras.

While most New Yorkers and tourists will continue to head downtown for some fun, there is plenty to discover uptown. The Upper East Side has something for everyone.

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Exploring the Neighborhoods of New York

By Samantha Nicholson

Williamsburg, an area in Brooklyn often called “Billyburg” by its residents, is famed as the hipster capital of New York City. But there is a lot more to the area than skinny-jean wearing guys and fedora-loving girls. Williamsburg is also home to trendy boutiques, fun bars, and a famed indie rock scene. The majority of visitors to New York City have never even heard of this section of Brooklyn, and it is probably not the first thing a person would want to do during a short trip to the city.But if you are one of the many trend-conscious visitors to the city and are wondering whether the trip across the East River is worth your time, this answer is a resounding yes. When you arrive in Williamsburg, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Nothing is particularly flashy, and many of the buildings appear run-down and old. However, there are tons of exciting things to do if you know where to go.

When a person thinks of shopping in the city, Madison Avenue and SoHo are usually the first places that come to mind.  Shopaholics are now leaving Manhattan and coming to Williamsburg for clothes made and designed in Brooklyn. They come for trendy and unique styles at moderate price points.  5 in 1 is one popular studio boutique on Bedford Avenue. The store is located in a former steel factory that dates back to the 19th century.  You can find everything from hand-sewn knits to funky jewelry here. Their pieces are surefire conversation starters, as no one will have anything like it in their closets.

Another hidden spot is the mod home décor spot Future Perfect (115 N 6th St), a small showroom crammed with cool stuff.This place is actually very pricey, but well worth the extra cash. Who doesn’t want a glass lamp in the shape of a dead bird lying face up? The unique furniture available here is sure to make your houseguests swoon over your unique sense of style. While most tourists aren’t looking to purchase furniture while on vacation, some of the pieces are so obscure that it is like being at a museum.

If bargains are your thing, Williamsburg has tons of vintage and thrift stores. Some of the most notable stores include Beacon’s Closet (88 N 11th St), Buffalo Exhange (332 E 11th St), and Mini Mini Market (218 Bedford Ave). All of these stores offer interesting merchandise that you could never find in a department store. You’ll want to stock up on retro gifts and accessories.
If you want to go to a real museum, check out A.M. Richard Fine Art (328 Berry St.) You can find obscure exhibits by little-known artists that you wouldn’t see at the Met or the MoMa.

When nighttime hits, there is still plenty to do. There is no shortage of cool lounges and bars in Williamsburg. One of the most popular bars is Spuyten Duyvil (359 Metropolitan Ave). The inside of this place is straight out of a Harry Potter movie.It even has a large back yard that is open during the summer months. Despite being a bit pricey, the beer selection is hard to beat. The menu is full of rare beers and wines, and there is even a winter ciders menu. The beer bar was voted the #2 beer bar in New York City by Gridskipper.com.  It is a great place to bring some friends and meet a few locals.  Alligator Lounge (600 Metropolitan Ave) is another hot spot.  During happy hour, you can get an entire brick oven pizza for free with the purchase of a drink.  While the frathouse décor is nothing to write home about, but the free pizza makes the trip worth it. Another great place to get food with your booze is Sea Restaurant (114 N 6th St) which is a Thai restaurant and nightclub fusion. Head here early in the night as it gets packed past ten.

One of the most famous places to go in Williamsburg is the Brooklyn Brewery (79 N 11th St). It opened in 1988 and has been serving its famed Brooklyn lager ever since. Tours are free, and start long before happy hour. You’ll learn about Brooklyn beer and also the history of Brooklyn. You can then drink some fresh brews in the tasting room, which doubles as a bar. The atmosphere here is friendly and you will learn a lot.

Even though Brooklyn may not be the first place you want to visit on a trip to New York City, every tourist should check it out at some point. This corner of Brooklyn has officially arrived.

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Neighborhood Focus: Hell’s Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen refers to the area between 34th Street and 59th Street from 8th Avenue to the Hudson River. The neighborhood has been home to gangs and violence in the past but has transformed into a lively area frequented by actors and some of NYC’s best bars. Irish immigrants settled in Hell’s Kitchen in the mid-19th Century, falling victim of the Great Famine in their home country. These immigrants found work on the docks and railroads, but soon overpopulated this “land of opportunity” and the increasing poverty led to gang formation. It was around this time that the neighborhood was coined the name “Hell’s Kitchen” even though it’s exact origins are not known. Some claim Davey Crockett started the term when he used it to describe the Five Points slum, while others claim the name is traced back to particular tenements in the area. One thing is for certain, it did not have a positive connotation.
Gangs were on the rise through the next several few decades, with increased violence during Prohibition and the arrival of Puerto Rican immigrants in the 1950s. The hostility among the Puerto Rican, Irish, and Italian immigrants in the area is highlighted in the film West Side Story. The Irish-American gang, the Westies, who had violent tendencies and ties with the Gambino family, controlled Hell’s Kitchen from the mid-1960’s through the 1980’s. In 1986, convictions under the Rackateer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act haltered the gang activity in Hell’s Kitchen, and by the early 1990’s, the neighborhood was in full swing of a gentrification.
With the prominent Midtown as its neighbor, Hell’s Kitchen started to become more elite as Midtown continued to prosper. Young professionals and actors moved into this area and continue to enjoy the close proximity to the business district and Broadway theaters alike. Some celebrities that have lived in Hell’s Kitchen include Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stalone, Jerry Seinfeld, Madonna, and Alicia Keys. Despite the increasing prominence of the neighborhood, we will never forget the famous gangsters like Owney Madden and James Coonan that dominated Hell’s Kitchen before all that. The municipality, gentrifies, and real estate agents tend to refer to the area as “Clinton” to erase the reputation of the neighborhood’s past, but Hell’s Kitchen will always be Hell’s Kitchen.To get a more in-depth and interactive history of Hell’s Kitchen as well as enjoy a few beers at historic bars in the area, check out the Hell’s Kitchen Pub Crawl offered Wednesdays at 7:30 pm.

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Neighborhood Focus: Garment District

Despite being only one square mile in area, the Garment District of Manhattan still has a significant impact on the fashion industry and global business. The neighborhood is marked by the Javits Convention Center at the extreme west, the New York General Post Office, Penn Station, and Madison Square Garden in the center, and the Empire State Building in the east. With over $14 Billion in annual sales, New York is the fashion capital of the United States with 1/3 of clothing manufactured in the U.S. being designed and produced in this neighborhood alone. Conferences, expositions, Fashion Week, and tourism all contribute to this outrageous statistic.

The growth of the Garment Industry dates back to the 1800’s where there was a transition of people making their own clothes to having them tailor-made. Factors that contributed to this transition include the efficiency of having clothes produced for slaves instead of by them, the invention of the sewing machine, the need for uniforms during the Civil War, and the arrival of immigrants with relevant business experience and skills. By 1880 New York produced more garments than its four closest urban competitors combined and in 1910, 70% of the nation’s Women’s clothing and 40% of the Men’s was produced in the City.
By the 1920’s the United Hebrew Trades union hired Jewish and Italian Gangsters such as Lepke Buchalter as union enforcers, but got more than they bargained for. They used unions to demand payments from factory owners and threatened strikes while dipping into union bank accounts. This control transformed into a protection racket, expanding into such areas as bakery trucking. Shortly after Lepke Buchalter’s death by the electric chair, Carlo Gambino turned the mob-influenced industry into an all out organized crime cartel. Life for the mob trucker couldn’t get better through the early 90’s, but everyone else was suffering.

From the mid-1950s until 1992, the garment business shrank 75 percent, and cost New York 225,000 jobs. Manufacturing has declined tremendously in New York City over the past two decades because of numerous factors such as lower outsourcing costs and excessive rents. Many of the showrooms and factories are being transformed into retail stores and condo apartments as we speak. Some of the industry’s most famous designers, promising entrepreneurs, and fashion makers reside their business here including Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Liz Clairborne, and Nicole Miller. The Garment industry still remains the fashion capital for designers, couture houses and showrooms despite the decline of manufacturing.

To preserve the rich history of the Garment district, a Fashion Walk of Fame on 7th Avenue has been set up and a sculpture of a sewing worker has been installed on the corner of 39th Street and 7th Avenue. Some think this is not enough and have joined the Save the Garment Center campaign. To learn more check out the official site here.
Getter a better glimpse of the Garment district and learn more information about this neighborhood by taking the New York Up, Down, and Sideways tour offered Friday and Center.

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