From Limelight and Tunnel to Marquee and M2: The Ever-Changing Landscape of NYC Clubs

Pictured: The “Club Kids” crowd outside of the original Limelight.

by Sam Nicholson

Today’s New York City mega-clubs such as M2, Marquee, and Pacha usually leave a good impressions on their guests. Out-of-towners, the “bridge-and-tunnel” crowd, and tourists might not be used to the huge crowd and vibrant atmosphere. However, after some time of partying in the city, a person is bound to run into someone nostalgic for the old nightclub scene of the city. These people usually look at the new nightclubs with disappointment and long for the old days of clubs such as Limelight and Tunnel.

From an outsider’s perspective, the clubs of today and the clubs of twenty years ago aren’t so different. Bottle service originated at Tunnel Nightclub ,a large club with several floors once located in Chelsea between 27th and 28th street. The dance floor was noted for having several dancing cages throughout the floor. Tunnel also had a notoriously loud soundsystem, much like M2 nightclub today. Tunnel also had many stars of the hiphop community host parties—much like M2 does on a nearly weekly basis. Tunnel fell to its inevitable demise in 2001; it had been cited for underage drinking, had often dangerous overcrowding, and was a frequent target of police raids. As of May 2010, M2 has been closed due to smoking violations. It is said that history repeats itself, and this is certainly true in the case of NYC nightclubs.

Former clubbers have been especially distraught lately, as the space of the once-popular nightclub Limelight has been turned into a retail space. The mall pays tribute to the club with its name, “The Limelight Marketplace”. It is needless to say that former Limelight lovers were not exactly thrilled with this news. Many questioned if there would ever be any clubs like it in Manhattan ever again. These people aren’t willing to admit that the mega clubs of today and two decades aren’t that different. There are the same loud soundsystems, police raids, and wild fashion.

While the clubbers of yesteryear mourn the diversity of the old clubs, they don’t realize that NYC still has one of the most eccentric nightlife scenes in the world. There are few other American cities where drag queens, star athletes, models, and Wall Street types mix freely. All New Yorkers should for grateful for our diversity and strive to keep the scene alive.

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The Battery: Where Manhattan Begins!

By Jared “the tour guide” Goldstein, exclusively for Uncle Sam’s New York

New York City started on Manhattan Island in today’s Downtown, Lower Manhattan Financial District below Wall Street. It began at the Battery on the bottom of the island.

The “Battery” refers to the fort, Castle Clinton, which protected New York City from the mighty British Navy with its battery of cannons. In the 19th Century, Castle Clinton served as P.T. Barnum’s Castle Clinton Gardens, where Jenny Lind, ‘the Swedish Nightingale,’ entertained thousands for her American debut. It also served as an immigration point of entry for eight million immigrants before Ellis Island opened for immigration in 1892. It later became the New York Aquarium, the largest in the world. After World War II the Aquarium moved to Coney Island and the Fort was restored and reopened as a National Monument.

Alexander Hamilton came to Boston as a 16 year-old immigrant from the Caribbean, but came to this area shortly after.

Experience the Battery on the Alexander Hamilton Financial District Tour.

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Greenwich Village Through the Centuries

16th Century: The site of Greenwich Village was inhabited by Native Americans during this time. The Village was merely a marshland named Sapokanican, used for camping and fishing.

17th and 18th Century: By the early 1600’s, Dutch settlers had cleared pastures and planted crops in this area, which they called Noortwyck. After the English conquest of New Amsterdam in 1664, the settlement became a country hamlet, first referred to Grin’wich in 1713 Common Council records. Greenwich Village survived the American Revolution as a pastoral suburb and in the 1780s the city bought a parcel of eight acres for use as a potter’s field and public gallows, at what is now Washington Square Park.

19th Century: Outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera caused flocks of people to flee north which contributed to a time of seclusion of the area. From 1820 a more affluent residential development emerged to the east near Broadway and Washington Square Park, at the foot of Fifth Avenue.

Religious denominations commissioned buildings with elaborate decorative schemes, New York University grew on the east side of Washington Square beginning in 1836, and the neighborhood soon became the site of art clubs, , literary salons, fine hotels, and theaters. The character of the neighborhood changed markedly at the close of the century when German, Irish, and Italian immigrants found work in industries in the area.

20th Century: By the start of World War I it was widely known as a bohemian enclave with secluded side streets, low rents, and a tolerance for radicalism and nonconformity. Artists and writers received more attention for their innovative work and decrepit row houses were remodeled into “artistic flats.” The Village had become a center for the “beat movement” by the 1950s, with galleries, coffee houses, and street front theaters. During the 1960s a homosexual community formed around Christopher Street and was the site of the Stonewall Rebellion, regarded as the beginning of the movement for gay and lesbian rights. In the 1940s, urban renewal efforts on Washington Square South had altered the physical character of the neighborhood by demolishing many 19th century structures, but local resentment inspired a preservation movement.

Recent Years: The extension of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the creation of the Weehawken Street Historic District in 2006 were the results of the goal to preserve the waterfront. These recent landmarking victories were successful because of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation. The Society continues to work in close connection with the community to uphold the goals and protect the undesignated neighborhoods. Tourists and locals flock to the Village to live the history of the neighborhood and enjoy the artsy feel. Coffee shops, restaurants, and bars are always packed in this area mostly by a younger, hip crowd.

For more information, check out The Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation.

Now YOU can experience what Greenwich Village is all about by taking the Edgar Allen Poe Greenwich Village Tour.

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Fit for a King: a case for a return to concierge service

By Samuel P.N. Cook

          In my life, I have lived in five different countries on three continents, and I have traveled to over 20 countries in my travels.  I consider myself a well traveled person – I sort of fancied myself an expert.  Then I decided I was so good at traveling that I would start a travel company to give back to travelers some of the great experiences that I had during my own travels.  Simply put, I wanted to create in New York City the magic of some of the experiences I have had while traveling.  But as I look back on my traveling life, I am kicking myself for how little I used the tools around me to help plan my trips.
            In 2001, when I graduated from West Point, I moved to Germany where I served 3 years as an Officer in the U.S. Army.  I used travel as a release, and I quickly found myself taking trips almost every weekend to the great cities, big and small, across Europe.  Being a product of a West Point education, I always realized the value of planning a trip.  I approached my trips like a campaign.  I would do my research on the internet, buy a guide book, and I would read all about the city before I arrived.  So I thought that I was doing the best possible job I could planning for a trip. 
But I have now realized that I left out one tool that could have made my trips so much better – concierges.  I think the reason I did not use concierges before was because I was too proud to do so – like men when they are lost, they hate to ask for directions.  Instead we read a map and drive in circles endlessly.  Looking back, that is a bit like my travel experiences.  While guide books and the internet gave me great ideas, I did not really get all of the information I should have about the local cities.   You see, there is only so much information you can put in a guide book.  On the internet, you have the opposite problem – there is too much information and it is chaotic to read it all, even on the best online travel review sites. 
To this day, my favorite travel experience was a magic night I spent in Seville Spain with a  girl that I met who was from Sweden, but she had spent a year studying in Seville.  We were walking down the street and I asked her for directions because she had a guide book, and we ended up meeting for dinner that night.  She took me to a restaurant I never could have found in a guide book, and then she showed me the best venue for Flamenco dancing in the city.  These were things I never could have found in a book, and it would have taken me years to stumble across on the internet.  I look back on my other travel experiences that were less memorable, and I ask myself “What if I had met someone like this during every trip?”  It wasn’t until started this travel company that I realized I could have met someone like this every trip to get me the local knowledge and flavor if I would have found a concierge!
The word Concierge comes from the French language in the middle ages.  As the French monarchy developed during this period as the most powerful monarchy in Europe, the kings began to employ a chief officer, which he named the concierge.  The concierge was literally his right hand man, who would help him write and enact laws.  As monarchies across Europe developed, they too employed deputies and their most trusted advisor was their “concierge.”  As the noble land owning aristocracy emerged in Europe, they emulated their kings, and they all employed “concierges.”  In the 19th century, as Europe industrialized and people moved to the cities, a new rich class developed and moved into luxury apartment buildings, and here they employed a team of “concierges” that they shared to take care of their every need.  As commercial travel developed during the age of the steam engine, with luxury travel now widely available, concierges became a staple of the modern hotel, with five star properties turning this into an art form. 
See the magic of a concierge is that they have read all the books so that you don’t have to.  They have not only read the books, but they have actually been to the places in the book.  They can describe for you the feelings and emotions of a show, or the intimate details of a restaurant.  More importantly, they are experts at reading you as a guest, your budgets, your needs, your dreams.  This kind of interaction you can never get with a book or with the internet.  See a concierge’s worst nightmare is to see you have a bad experience.  They get emotionally upset over this.  They worry when they send you somewhere like a mother or a father – they hope you have a great time, they look forward to the smile on your face when you come back.  They dread the thought of your being disappointed.  I am glad it only took me twelve years into my adult life what I have been missing in not using a concierge.  Too bad I had to start my own company to realize it!

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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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Majestic Theatre on Broadway

The Majestic Theatre is one one of the largest Broadway theatres in New York City, with 1607 seats at its 245 West 44th Street location. Herbert J. Krapp designed the theatre in 1927 for Irwin Chanin, but was soon taken over by the present owners, the Shuberts, during the Great Depression. The interior of the theatre is a beautiful neo-classical design and has remained one of Broadway’s premier musical houses.

The most notorious shows that have premiered at the Majestic include

Carousel (1945),
South Pacific (1949),
The Music Man (1957),
Camelot (1960),
A Little Night Music (1973),
The Wiz (1975).

It was also the second home of 42nd Street and the third home of 1776. The theatre has shown The Phantom of the Opera since it opened onJanuary 26,1988, the longest-running production in Broadway history with more than 8,000 performances! In 1987, both the interior and exterior of the theatre were designated as New York City Landmarks and people from all over the world stop by to take in how “majestic” this theatre really is.

Learn more about the Majestic Theatre by checking out an in depth timeline from the official site here.

You can experience this Theatre along with several other historic ones when you take the George M. Cohan Theatre District Tour…Book Now!

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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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