"Arguably the best neighborhood"
Gramercy Park is a little oasis of old-money aristocracy smack in the middle half of Manhattan. The other big center of aristocratic living is of course the Upper East Side, but Gramercy, because of its stunning turn of the century brownstones is so much more romantic. The anchor of the neighborhood is the exclusive Gramercy Historical Park, a tiny fenced-in jewel. You only get a key to this park if you live in the real estate immediately overlooking the park itself, which already smacks of the exclusivity that is so much a feature of the area. When I was younger, I once managed to crash a party at a mansion on Gramercy Park South, and spent the evening moving from room to room, staring at the enormous oval ballroom (that's right, a ballroom) and chandeliers throughout the place. I was a student then and was keenly aware of having entered a completely different stratosphere of wealth. The Gramercy Park Hotel is full of lore, including the story that the owner's son jumped to his death from the top of the hotel, but I don't know how true that is. I have see Julia Roberts pop in to a cafe on Irving Place for what appeared to be her morning coffee. The brownstone mansions are just so beautifully preserved in this neighborhood that it's not hard to understand why it's one of the most sought-after pieces of real estate around.
- Families with kids
"Major change for people who grew up here"
I know a few people who grew up in SOHO and they will tell you they grew up struggling financially and living in illegal lofts, basically squatting for most of their childhood. It might be hard to imagine it now, but SOHO was a real wasteland in the sixties and seventies, a real slum. As everyone will tell you, it was the artists who first moved into this neighborhood who created the SOHO everyone knows today, and who were the first to leave when the rent prices went sky-high. I still know artist families who bought lofts in the area and have lived there all these past decades, had children there, committed themselves to the neighborhood and the community. I can tell you that no one among this group of people is all that happy by the boom of commercialism that has taken over the area. Sure, property values have soared, so they can now sublet their apartments to celebrities (I know someone who rented to Brad Pitt) for ridiculous amounts of money. One the other hand, no one who really lived in the neighborhood all these years is happy that the community spirit and real neighborhood feel has disappeared under Calvin Klein billboards and street vendors hawking plastic jewelry. The weekend shoppers are obscene. All the good galleries, the ones that made SOHO an art center were forced out because of soaring rent prices. I doubt SOHO is going to be an interesting place again in my lifetime, but who knows?
"Much too much"
I appreciate Times Square for what it is: a place of much too much-ness. There have to be these kinds of places in the world, and it just so happens that one such too-much spot is located in my town. I deal with that as best I can. The narrow, dense streets packed to the brink of madness with lights and people and cars, is as abnormal of an experience as you can get. A shot of pure adrenaline. You have to be careful not to overdose on the drug that is Times Square.
One interesting change in recent years is the general gentrification. There was a time when Times Square was synonymous with the shadiest activities you can imagine, like prostitution, drugs, and crime. Times Square used to be the center of so much illegal activity, and as a kid I was always told to steer clear of the area at night. Those days are long gone, and the area has become as safe as Disneyworld. Maybe a Disneyworld on sterroids, but really pretty safe and overly touristy. For locals, I think the vibe gets old pretty quickly, which is why almost no one I know ever has a reason to hang out there. The famed Broadway shows are also mostly for tourists.
"Desolate residential area, not much else"
When Tishman Speyer took control of the Stuyvesant Town properties a few years ago, they made a big deal in the press about how they were going to spend millions of dollars on planting new trees and flowers all over the complex. This was a way of underscoring the failed attempt to turn Stuy Town's affordable housing units into luxury condos, a plan that went seriously wrong recently with the purchasers defaulting on their billion-dollar loans. Anyways, how they went about beautifying the complex was by ordering trees and flowers to be delivered and then leaving them above ground for weeks to die. Many of the plants ended up in the compost heap, or died soon after planting, and now that the money for this kind of beautification project has dried up, Stuy Town is as ugly and depressing as it ever was. The 80-acre park is a world unto itself, with apartments that are reportedly very spacious but very poorly maintained. This brick enclave is situated in the middle of Manhattan, and surrounded by neighborhoods that are so much more attractive and interesting, like Gramercy Park, the Flatiron District, and Union Square. The only real advantage to living in the complex is proximity, but otherwise it's hard to see how this desolate area would have become a land of luxury condos.
"Isolated and strange"
Roosevelt Island is a pretty strange place, even by New York standards of strange. An insane asylum, a penitentiary, and a smallpox hospital were built on the island in the 1800's. Since no one else wanted to buy the real estate, it made sense to use the place to store all the people society didn't especially want to deal with. Although the Queensborough Bridge cuts through the island, you couldn't reach it via normal public transport for many years. Instead, the island was accessible only by a special bus line and an iconic suspended tram line, that operates much like a ski lift, with small cabins that bring passengers across the water via a series of suspension wires. Surprisingly, this tramway is accessible by Metro Card. The island itself is full of boxy and clustered buildings and the streets feel tight and cluttered. This is surprising since you would expect, on an island, to have the expansive feeling of large space that comes from being near the water. The Octagon Apartment complex, built relatively recently, is actually on the premises of what used to be the insane asylum. The island has its own local governing body and in recent years has been the site of several community development projects, intended to create a planned, self-contained community on the island that is separate from Manhattan and its lifestyle. Real estate here is still fairly affordable, and that's probably because the island feels isolated from the rest of the city, with not much by way of entertainment and such. It's hard to imagine a family wanting to buy a unit on the island though, since Brooklyn or New Jersey probably affords a lot more as far as conveniences and a social life for a young family. Thats why I wonder if maybe the island isn't still the home of mostly outcasts and loner types, who don't quite fit anywhere else in the city.
"Get a look at Manhattan below"
You'll want to go to Riverside Church (at West 120th Street and Riverside Drive) and be discreet about finding the Laura Spellman Rockefeller memorial Carillon. The reason for it, as you'll discover, is that you can ascend to the top and have an unobstructed view of the city below. Not at all like the metal grilles at the Empire State Building, you can really get a sense of the poetry of Manhattan's bird's eye view. I haven't been up there in many years, so I really hope they haven't caged it in by now. If they have, a trip up to Morningside Heights is still not wasted, since you can visit the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. The guidebooks say it's still not complete, more than a hundred years after construction began, and they are still pumping visitors for donations, which would go toward this or that construction. They offer a Vertical Tour periodically, up the stone spiral staircases and onto the roof of the building. If you're lucky enough to catch one of these tours I highly recommend it. Otherwise, there's not a lot of amusement going on in Morningside Heights, as the area is dominated by the Columbia University campus. Many of the buildings outside of the fenced-in campus at 116th Street are in one way or another part of Columbia too, so the area is just one big university town, really. It is definitely one of the more beautiful campuses you'll see, with pristine lawns and students hanging out on the steps of the big domed library in the center. But once you're not a student any more, the area doesn't have a lot to offer you, so you'd best just head downtown for any kind of entertainment.
"Home to an emerging African american middle class"
Not a lot of New Yorkers know this, but the Riverbank State Park is home to an olympic-sized pool that costs a whole $2 to use. It's over the Hudson River and part of a huge sports complex that also includes a running track and a soccer field. Now you know where to go if you need to train for the Olympics, or just want a day away from Manhattan traffic to do some sports and recreating. Harlem is important for many reasons historically, but what strikes me most when I walk around in the area is the high number of churches and other places of worship. One of the most famous is the Abyssinian Baptist Church near 138th Street, which produced some of the most prominent ministers to come out of Harlem. Another institution of sorts is Sylvia's Soul Food Restaurant at Lenox Avenue and 126th Street. Unfortunately it is over-run with tour buses these days, so if you want to enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens in peace, you should go late at night. Probably the best time to try is after Sunday service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and then you can get a pretty good feel for what Harlem is.
The other Harlem is the one you'll hear about from the real estate agents, since this area is a prime destination for young professionals who can't afford rents in lower Manhattan and want to take advantage of the easy commute to downtown. Although Harlem is gentrifying quickly, the base population is still a solid, middle class African American demographic that has deep cultural roots here that harken back to the days of the Harlem Renaissance. A lot of people say Harlem is now in a second Renaissance, and former president Clinton setting up his office in the area did a lot to revive interest in the last few years.
"The ultimate summertime hangout"
It's not an exaggeration to think of Central Park as the best public park in the world, when you think about how it provides recreation to millions of people every day. Besides its natural beauty, its historical highlights, and its beautiful views, the park also has many odd corners and surprising twists. Near 67th Street and 5th Avenue you can find a statue of Balto, a sled dog that saved Alaskan explorers from death, and a statue that has been sat upon by every kid who ever passed by. The Literary Walk is lined with Shakespeare and Burns, plus a spectacular collection of elm trees. At Box Bridge, a fine cast iron bridge, you can get your fill of swans, boats, and lovers. You can also visit Yoko Ono's Strawberry Fields and look at the “Imagine” mosaic, which is home to candles and hippies year-round. There's also a butterfly habitat to the left of the Boathouse restaurant, near where bicycles are rented. It is a fenced-in area with flowering wild plants specifically planted to attract butterflies. The Shakespeare Garden near Belvedere Castle contains all the flowers mentioned in all of Shakespeare's plays. But aside from all that, Central Park is the classic summertime hangout. You can grab a girl, a blanket, and a bottle of wine and make an afternoon of it.
- Families with kids
NoHo (North of Houston) is the counterpart of SoHo (South of Houston). It is wedged between Greenwich Village and the East Village. It is also a relatively new neighborhood in terms of Manhattan
nomenclature, since it was named only as recently as 1999. However, it contains many historic turn of the century houses and office buildings. Among the most beautiful and notable are the Public Theater on Lafayette Street, and a part of the Collonade Row which is just across the street from it. Also right nearby is the new Cooper Union building, a really interesting piece of architecture, though you can't see all the great design details inside the building unless you're a student. Many of the residential options in this area are loft style apartment buildings, so the real estate here is quite expensive. In addition, it is incredibly central, with Astor Place being a hub of traffic of sorts. A lot of the best eating and bar options in the area are actually more in the neighboring East Village or Greenwich Village, but you just can't beat this neighborhood for its central location.
"The ideal brunch neighborhood"
NoLita is a small and relatively recent neighborhood that has sprung up as its own entity, central to surrounding neighborhoods like SoHo, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. The neighborhood included some truly beautiful buildings. For example, the Puck Building, an ornate building that got its name from Puck Magazine, a publication that no longer exists. Another great building is the very old St Patrick's Old Cathedral on Prince Street. It is surrounded on all sides by a brick wall, which was erected to protect the cathedral, back when there were riots between protestants and catholics, in the early years of Manhattan. On Sundays the area just next to the cathedral is lined with vendors selling all kinds of merchandise, and if you walk around to Mott Street, you will see a beautiful old door that leads to the cathedral's courtyard. I would say Nolita is one great place to do brunch. Not only does it have good places like Cafe Habana and Cafe Gitane, but the people walking around are always stylish, which is absolutely important for a brunch experience. There are also a lot of small boutique shops in the area. One of my favorites is a men's barbershop on Elizabeth Street that has a real old-world atmosphere.
"Kind of a big rip off"
Historically, Little Italy extended as far south as Bayard Street and as far north as Bleecker Street, and ran west to east from Lafayette Street to the Bowery. It's hard to imagine that now, since it has all but disappeared, and been encroached upon by all the neighborhoods surrounding it. Basically, Little Italy is now a small portion of Mulberry Street, above Canal and below Broome. This area is lined with touristy shops, and especially touristy restaurants. These restaurants are predominantly popular with tourists, with almost no locals ever venturing inside. You'll see places that have cannolis stacked in the windows, and tacky signs advertising pizza and pasta places. There are also a lot of booths that sell tourist ware, like I (heart) NY tee shirts and key chains. Yeah, there's a reason locals don't ever bother to come here: the food is awful and a big rip off. There are some interesting Italian American areas in Brooklyn and in Queens, but this Little Italy has pretty much run itself out of steam. In the most recent register of historic places, Little Italy wasn't listed as its own area any more, but was blended into the listing for Chinatown.
One of my favorite Bowery places is the Bowery Ballroom at 6 Delancey Street. It's a building that was built just before the stock market crash of 1929, and most recently has become a great and renown music venue. Too bad CBGB's on the Bowery closed down, but not everyone knows that a part of 2nd Street at the intersection of Bowery and Bleecker Street was renamed Joey Ramone Place. You can also visit the thriving Bowery Poetry Club, and sit in on a poetry slam, or else go read a book along with other students and literary types at Think Coffee. Of course, the New Museum is located on the Bowery too. Many people feel the opening of this museum signaled and accelerated the Bowery's rapid gentrification in recent years. That is probably very true, and what was once an area full of flop houses and establishments of ill repute, is now packed full of pricey real estate and upscale bars and restaurants. It is not uncommon to see drunk and rowdy night-lifers stumbling around on the Bowery at all hours of the morning, but I would say they are distinctly better dressed in recent years. It's not surprising this has happened, as the Bowery is ideally situated between two important neighborhoods, SoHo and the Lower East Side.
"It's an adventure"
Chinatown is a city within a city, and it has expanded tremendously in recent years. It has basically grown to take over Little Italy and has reached well into the Lower East Side. Exploring this neighborhood can be daunting, especially since it is packed full of overflowing shops and sights that feel like you're in a completely different world. However, it can also be a rewarding experience. I think a visit to the Kam Kuo Food Corp at 7 Mott Street is definitely interesting. It is actually just a huge, sprawling supermarket, and inside you'll see people doing their regular grocery shopping. You will find some unbelievable foods there: shredded squid, melonseed crackers, some food you never knew existed. They are amazing and delicious. I also really love Pacifica Restaurant at 138 Lafayette Street, a restaurant on the second floor of a Holiday Inn. That might not sound like much, but inside you can sit in a serene place next to windows that overlook the teeming crowds below. The food is absolutely authentic and has always been consistently of the highest quality. Another favorite is Columbus Park, where throngs of Chinese, young and old, socialize, tell fortunes, play mah jong or dominoes.
"Great downtown living"
One of my favorite things about Tribeca is the Hudson River Park, which is a long strip of interconnected parks and gardens that runs from Battery Park City and up along the Hudson. You can run or bike along the path in real tranquility, away from the usual hassles of the city. There are several piers in Tribeca, where you can play golf or go fishing, and at two of the piers you can actually do free kayaking during the summers (Pier 26 and Pier 64), but you have to get up pretty early in the morning, since there are usually more people than there are kayaks. Known for its large and expensive loft style residences, Tribeca has many great bars and upper end restaurants that cater to the residents. I really like Odeon on West Broadway. Back in the 80's it was supposed to be one of the trendiest restaurants in the city. It has remained popular to this day because they have great food and a chic but not completely pretentious atmosphere. Another draw for me is the Taste of Tribeca, an annual event where Tribeca's finest chefs prepare their signature dishes, and are then available to sample all along Duane Street.
"Ghosts of New York and its criminals"
Aside from what everyone already knows about the Civic Center – that it is full of government buildings with interesting architectural features, and that it's an area you would typically visit if you have something official to take care of – the area also has a few strange secrets. One of them is the African Burial Ground Memorial at Duane & Elk Streets. The burial ground was discovered in 1991 during the construction of a federal building, and the small portion now preserved used to be part of an estimated five acres of burial site dating back to Colonial times. Another strange feature of this area is the Tombs, aka Men's House of Detention at 100 Centre Street, which was infamous for decades as a prime example of the deplorable conditions of correctional institutions. You can still see prisoners shipped in and out of the place via heavily grated buses, and I have heard them calling out to people on the sidewalk from behind the metal grilles. If you want to see the really gritty workings of the penal system up close, you can also go to night court at the Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre Street. It's open to the public, and the accused – from petty thieves to murderers – are arraigned around the clock. On a lighter note, my favorite piece of architecture in the area is the Surrogate's Court & Hall of Records at 31 Chambers Street. If you go during regular business hours, you can see not only the gorgeous lobby, but also the courtrooms upstairs made of mahogany and oak.
Battery Park City
"Beautiful water connected neighborhood"
Battery Park City is a great place to be a tourist because it offers a breathtaking view of the Hudson River, as well as a sense of the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan rising overhead. Among the sights are the esplanade and park along the water with views of Ellis Island, Governors Island, and Staten Island. Several public sculptures and monuments can be found here, including comical semi-human bronze pieces by the artist Tom Otterness. The scene is tranquil, with joggers passing and the rumble of tugboats nearby in the water, which is in stark contrast to the accelerated pace of Wall Street only a few streets away. A fairly new addition to the area is the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which includes the Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Another important tourist draw is the Skyscraper Museum, appropriately located in the area that can be called the birthplace of the skyscraper. The presence of hundreds of years of Manhattan's history is sometimes hidden under a lot of new construction and developments. However, it is there in the details, such as the narrow side streets that are typical of lower Manhattan, and the unmistakable connection to the water, which harks back to the city's merchant and immigration history.
- Families with kids
After September 11, the rents in the Financial District plummeted for several years, which encouraged a new set of residents to move into the area. Traditionally known as a place where office workers and finance businessmen converge for work, the area has seen several commercial buildings converted to residential buildings in recent years. The area surrounding the World Trade Center is strange and will continue to be strange for years to come, as a result of the constant stream of tourists and memorials related to the site. A serious effort to rebuild after the attacks means that there are new developments and a feeling of revitalization in the area, with South Street Seaport as the newest target of investment capital and planned redevelopment and expansion. Among the tourist attractions are the Museum of the American Indian, the Wall Street Wall and Wall Street Bull, Trinity Church, the Statue of George Washington, and a tiny museum called New York Unearthed which has artifacts from New York City on display. I don't know if this still happens, but there used to be a time around late July in the summers when there was a drumming jam session in Wagner Park. On Fridays, park employees would bring drums to the lawn, and invite people to join the drumming circle as the sun set over the Hudson.
"Loud and impersonal"
Huge and impersonal in its buildings, the Garment District can really defeat your best intentions. There isn't a reason you'd want to be here if you don't live here, except to make use of the obvious, centrally located big attractions. For example, Penn Station is in this area, which means all the shady characters who hand around Penn Station are also in the area. Their presence has gotten a lot better since Bloomberg and Giuliani, but still. Another obvious attraction in the area is the New York Public Library, the main one which features an enormous study room. It's a great place to get work done, since there are so few other distractions. Bryant Park is also nearby, and it's one of my favorite destinations during the summers. You can not only watch free films in the evenings, but just hang out and lounge on lazy summer afternoons, and read a book. Other large and imposing structures in the area include the James Farley post office, Madison Square Garden, and the Javitz Convention Center. The area is dominated by loud, glittering, and ultra-commercial Broadway, which then spills over into the side streets. Aside from these two destinations, Penn Station and the Public Library, I have found very little reason to head to the Garment District, as it feels imposing and impersonal to walk down the street here.
"A classic New York neighborhood"
Two great restaurants for fish in the West Village are Mary's Fish Camp on Charles Street and Pearl Oyster Bar at Cornelia Street. The West Village also has some amazing, and authentic pastry shops. Some of my favorites include Taylor's Bake Shop, Magnolia Bakery, and Patisserie Claude. Grange Hall is a perfect brunch place on a Sunday afternoon, and afterward you can stroll down the many small and winding West Village streets, and look in on the small specialty shops which are typical of the area. If you're in the mood for some culture, the Cornelia Street Cafe is very recommendable, not only because it has a typical West Village vibe, but also because it still hosts poetry readings and small concerts. Another small but historically important cultural institution is the Cherry Lane Theater, where Eugene O'Neill first got his plays performed in New York City. And while you're being literary, you should drink at Chumley's, a bar with a pedigree of literary former patrons and a layer of sawdust on the floor to hide the secret passageways that used to be in use during its Prohibition speakeasy heyday. The West Village once used to be the hottest place to go for jazz after Harlem, with gems like the Village Vanguard and Small's leading the way, but I think the scene isn't quite what it was in former years. Some of the authentic feel of the classic West Village hangouts has been diminished by the NYU student crowd.
"Perfectly good neighborhood ruined by students"
It's a good thing that Washington Square Village and the Silver Towers are built in a way that forms a small urban oasis at their center, otherwise these residential high-rises would have disappeared long ago under slow encroachment from NYU and its student population. As a result, The Washington Square Village is the only “grown-up's” place left in Greenwich Village. The rest of the area is effectively swallowed up by the very prominent presence of NYU buildings, and along with them, the crowds of NYU students. Actually, not a lot of those students live in the area, but they are constantly about, and many cheap local eateries and businesses cater to them. The residential buildings toward the upper border of Greenwich Village as you approach 14th Street are definitely exclusive and high end, and definitely not for students. However, it's the students one sees almost constantly on the streets. The famous, and still incredible Strand bookstore can be found at Broadway and 12th Street. It is a mecca of sorts for anyone who has ever read a book. Considering how central and how beautiful this area is, it's a pity the students kind of ruin it most days for me.
"Many textures, colors, flavors"
One of the small charming things about the East Village is the presence of a couple of community gardens. One is at 9th and Avenue C, another is at 6th and Avenue B. The East River Park, a man-made extension of land into the river, was created during World War II, when ships returning from Europe dumped the excess dirt they used as ballast into the East River. The dog run at Thompkins Square Park is one of the largest in the city and even comes equipped with a giant wooden statue of a bone. St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery Church is host to the Poetry Project, a crucial venue and hotspot of the New York downtown poetry scene. Cinema Classics offers a neverending stream of vintage films, plus beer. Veselka and the Second Avenue Deli are staples of Ukrainian and Jewish specialties, respectively. Meanwhile, on 6th Street, there is an entire block of Indian Restaurants. There is so much to see and do in the East Village, and so many textures and groups right next to each other, it's no wonder this area has been a destination and hangout place since the sixties. People complain that the yuppies have taken over this vibrant neighborhood, but it still has touches of its rich and colorful past. One day I noticed someone had embedded some colorful mosaic tile right into the sidewalk. That's the kind of place the East Village is. Or was, in any case.
"Just a really great park"
Madison Square, take broadly as a term is the area around Madison Square Park, within the Flatiron District. It should not be confused with Madison Square Garden, which is located further up, in the East Thirties. The square used to be Manhattan's shopping paradise, and many of the buildings that are still preserved in the area used to be the grand old department stores on New York's lavish past eras. The area is still packed with retailers, major hotels, and various establishments involved in the entertainment industry. Architecturally, the square is notable for the famous Flatiron Building, the most distinctive and beautiful of all the buildings in the area. Also very imposing are the Metlife Tower and the NY Life Insurance Company building, both examples of typical turn of the century skyscraper office tower architecture. The most recent addition, which is in contrast to the surrounding buildings, is the huge 50 story glass tower, The Saya, at one Madison Park. It is a residential skyscraper and unusual to the commercial interests in the area. Madison Square has historically been one of the most important squares in New York City, and continues to be a mecca of shopping and commercial activity.
The Flatiron District's commercial emphasis is on home furnishings and all things related to toddlers, including Zara Kids and Old Navy for clothing, Karma Kids Yoga for children's fitness, and Apple Seeds as a large play space for children. In the home furnishings area, there is the iconic and enormous ABC Home, plus Apartment 48 for décor, Aronson's Floor Covering for flooring, and Beckenstein's for fabric and upholstery. This largely commercial district also contains the Masonic Hall, a huge home of the Lodge of Free Masons, who have sometimes opened their space to public viewing. I really like the Eisenberg Sanwich Shop an old fashioned eatery right on Fifth Avenue, and a cluster of small markets around 26th street which is a great flea market year-round, known as the Annex Antiques Fair and Flea Market. While not everything you'll see there is inexpensive, it is certainly full of pieces you will never find anywhere else. The Flatiron District/ 23rd Street Partnership offers year-round free walking tours of the district to anyone who is interested.
"Formal and more affordable"
Murray Hill is known as an affordable alternative to neighborhoods like Midtown and Gramercy Park. While the prices for real estate are certainly lower, Murray Hill is nowhere near as vibrant as Midtown, and nowhere near as stylish as Gramery Park. Murray Hill also is the location of a large concentration of embassies and consular offices, plus several large industry headquarters. As a result, the people who work in Murray Hill are either in diplomacy, or else work for large international corporations. It is also the location of several large cultural institutes, including the New York Public Library's SIBL branch, The Nordic Center in America, the Mexican Cultural Institute. My favorite cultural spot in the area, which beats out even the New York Public Library, is the Pierpont Morgan Library, a gorgeous mansion the houses important Old Master artworks as part of its permanent exhibit. It is a perfect place to spend a quiet, reflective Friday afternoon, and to forget all about the busy Manhattan streets. Because of the presence of so many international and cultural institutions in the area, Murray Hill is a rather formal neighborhood, one in which the nightlife isn't an especially great attraction.
"Good place to get sick"
Kips bay is simply overrun with huge hospital buildings, which give the area an impersonal and alienating character. It is hard to think of this neighborhood as residential, since it is so unattractive and so blank in its features. No doubt the attraction to living here is convenience, especially for those who work in Midtown, but it has so little to offer otherwise as a neighborhood. One could never imagine hanging out around this place, or grabbing a drink with friends. The only time I have ever had a reason to cross over to this area is when I needed to attend some health workshops at the Rusk Institute, and I can tell you it was a nightmare having to navigate the area by car. The presence of so many hospitals and medical centers – the NYU School of Medicine and the Bellevue Hospital Center are also here, among others – makes the area a traffic nightmare pretty much constantly. Kips Bay also features a small park area right on the East River, with a man-made piece of landmass that extends out into the water. It was created from excess cement from the various construction projects nearby which was then dumped into the river. Overall, Kips Bay is unattractive and only desirable if you need easy access to Midtown.
"World's most expensive cocktail"
The area between 53rd Street and 60th Street (meeting up with the Queensboro Bridge) on the far East side of Manhattan is Sutton Place, a high end neighborhood of luxury condos, brownstones, and high rises. The relatively reasonably priced deals can be found on 1st and 2nd Avenues. By contrast, the prices and exclusivity on Sutton Place proper are both of the highest order, and all the detailing of old world, old money luxury are there: prestigious residents, luxury amenities, two parks overlooking the amazing river views, a quiet, tree-lined atmosphere in the middle of hectic Manhattan. You can get old world French cooking at Le Perigord or grab a stylish lunch at Gustavino's. You can throw around the names of various prestigious, brand name residents, including Steven Sondheim, IM Pei, and Sigourney Weaver. You can simply stroll around in the parks, which are build right over the FDR Highway and offer quiet, incredible views of the East River. For evening's entertainment, you can head over to the World Bar, which is located inside the United Nations Plaza Trump Tower, where you can enjoy the World's Most Expensive Cocktail, and admire Donald trump's idea of style. You get the point, right?
"Middle class suburbia at its best and worst"
This large Brooklyn thoroughfare starts at the waterfront in Bay Ridge, crosses through Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, and then ends near Gravesend at the border to Coney Island. The part that runs through Bay Ridge, from the waterfront to about the Gowanus Expressway, functions as a main street and shopping area for Bay Ridge. The street is lined with every kind of store you would expect to find in a mall in suburban America: the standard electronics stores, karate schools, Gap, cheap furniture stores, telecommunications shops, costume jewelry stores, hair cutters, and on and on. The products on offer are so typical of middle-class suburbia that you might think you are walking through a cliché version of it. Maybe a nightmare version of it, drained completely of any soul or distinctive markings. The mix of residents, however, is striking in this area. On a typical afternoon, you can see schoolgirls in parochial Catholic uniforms, young Jewish Orthodox mothers pushing baby carriages, and Muslim women wearing head scarves and long robes. It's very clear that the people who have settled here to raise children and live out modest middle class lives, are from an array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Somehow they all live in harmony in Bay Ridge, and all frequent these same shops on 86th Street. Which is why the stores on 86th Street, with their banal and soul-less products, their cliché decoration and offerings, are all the more surprising. If there are any niche stores that cater to specific ethnic or immigrant groups, then they must be somewhere on the side streets. Depending on how you look at it, this street is either a nightmare of suburban sterility, or the ultimate embodiment of the American Dream.
- Families with kids
"A neighborhood of extremes"
Crown Heights is an up-and-coming neighborhood in Brooklyn, bordered by Downtown Brooklyn, Flatbush, Brownsville, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. It is cut through by a large boulevard called Eastern Parkway, which has several lanes in each direction and is lined with trees on both sides. The fact that this used to be a posh neighborhood and residential center for some of Manhattan's upper middle class families can be seen in the elegant brownstone buildings that line Eastern Parkway. Before the second world war, Crown Heights was a premier neighborhood, with many cultural institutions and parks to offer. More recently, Crown Heights has historically been the site of violent racial tensions during the 60's and 70's. As late as 1991, the notorious Crown Heights Riot brought to the surface long-standing resentments among the neighborhood's two dominant resident populations: Hasidic Jews and African-Americans of mainly Caribbean origin.
Today Crown Heights is a mix of extremes in many ways. It has beautiful architecture alongside vacant, run-down buildings. It has a variety of people, shops, and worship centers, from Lubavitch Hasidim to brightly dressed Afro-Caribbeans. In the last few years, property values have risen and gentrification is slowly starting to be felt. There is still a high level of poverty here, but for the most part, crime levels have steadily decreased. Crown Heights is the site of the yearly West Indian Carnival, a colorful event that stretches from Utica Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. Millions of people participate in the festivities each year. The mix of people who live in this neighborhood includes older residents, college students, and new immigrants, who all live side by side. In 2008, some racial tension again flared up in the neighborhood, but it was relatively mild compared to the riots in the 1990's.
West 14 St
"Live here when you're young"
I love to live on this street for all the reasons everyone else loves it, it's fun, it's happening, it's full of energy. But I think I wouldn't imagine myself five years from now, so for me it's a place of transition, best enjoyed when you're young and carefree.