Tag: New York City (page 1 of 2)

Navigating a New York Winter

Once again, it’s winter time in New York City.  People talk about the rough summers in New York, where the heat reflecting off the concrete is just about the worst thing in the world.  But you have to be prepared for the winters too!  People who are new to New York City are often clueless about how bad the winters can be.  A coat and boots aren’t nearly enough to prepare you for the hazards of walking down a treacherously icy subway staircase, dodging mischievous snowballers in Central Park and navigating slush puddles, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) in regards to New York’s winter hazards.  Here are some tips for surviving a New York winters, taken from a blog post by the inimitable Tracy Kaler:

What to wear: When New York is at its coldest and windiest in January and February, a down coat will be your saving grace.  You’ll also need waterproof boots to travel through snow and the inevitable slush puddles on sidewalks.  If you’re attached to stylish shoes, don’t wear them outside.  But don’t forget about accessories such as hats, scarves and of course gloves.  If you’re spending a lot of time outside, hand warmers don’t hurt either.

Snow removal: Unless you own a home in New York, you shouldn’t be responsible for shoveling or maintaining your sidewalks.  Your super and building staff will oversee that.  But when New York gets a lot of snow or several snow storms in a short period, it piles up quickly.  There’s nowhere to put it until it can melt, so visibility and walking are both tough.  So plan for additional time for your commute.

Parking: Owning a car in the city has its merits, but it’s also a big hassle in the winter.  If you don’t park it in a lot, you might want to, or opt for vehicle storage.  There are always more cars than spaces in New York, and when many of those spaces are snowed out, it’s particularly difficult.  

Dog owners: New York sidewalks are sprinkled with a whole lot of salt over the winter, and that can harm your dog’s paws.  Make sure that you avoid salted areas when walking with your dog, or better yet make sure they wear booties.  If they don’t have thick fur, then get them a winter jacket as well.  

Melting snow: When New York’s snow melts, it turns into a disgusting, gray slush.  Not only is it absolutely disgusting, but it also can cause flooding.  That’s where boots come in handy, because nobody likes stepping in slush puddles.  When the snow is melting, make sure you stand away from corners, otherwise passing traffic will splash the melted snow.

New York’s Holiday Attractions

New York is a special place to be all year round, but in december, as everybody gets ready for Yuletide celebrations, it’s particularly magical.  Whether it’s holiday markets, seasonal shows, department store windows, there are plenty of great things around the city for you to check out.  Here are a few of them:

Rockefeller Christmas Tree: Every year, a giant tree pops up in Rockefeller Plaza, decorated top to bottom in tinsel.  Overlooking the famed Rockefeller Plaza ice skating rink, it’s an essential sight to see, especially when it’s all lit up at night.  Just a fair warning: it gets crowded.

5th Avenue window-browsing: Every December, the various high-end department stores on Fifth Avenue put up elaborate window decorations based around various themes.  Most of the time they’re holiday-themed in one way or another, but each one is different, and even if you can’ afford anything in the stores, the windows are 100% worth perusing, regardless of the crowds.  

Christmas shows: The most famous of these is the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular”, but it’s by no means the only one.  Holiday-themed shows in New York City run the gamut, from more traditional (like the Nutcracker) to the notoriously raunchy Blunderland Variety Show.

Holiday markets: In various parks in Manhattan are “winter villages”, holiday-themed markets where all sorts of merchants congregate.  You can find just about anything, from jewelry to hot chocolate to socks.  A perfect place to go if you want to find gifts for everybody on your list in just one place.  They can be found in Union Square, Bryant Park and Columbus Circle.  

Ice skate: Even if it isn’t cold enough for the water to freeze, various places around the city offer ice skating during the Holiday season.  The most famous of these is Rockefeller Plaza, and while it’s certainly a great time, it’s hardly the only one, and it does get a bit crowded.  You can also try out Central Park, Bryant Park, Chelsea Piers, Riverbank State Park, and that’s just in Manhattan!

What To Look For This Thanksgiving Day Parade

Since 1926, Macy’s has hosted a Thanksgiving Day Parade that marches down the streets of New York.  In the 90 years that it’s been around, this parade has become synonymous with Thanksgiving, as people all around the world tune in to see the various gigantic floats.  In just several days, onlookers will be lining the streets of New York to get a glimpse at these gigantic floats, the same as they have for generations now.  Every year, typically a week before the parade actually happens, Macy’s opens the Parade Studio in Moonachie, New Jersey to a select few to take a look at what’s to come.  This year, it was a lucky group of about 300 third-graders.  I read an article recently that talked about some of the floats to look out for, and I know that I’ll be keeping my eye out for these this Thursday morning:

Girl Scout Float: Decorated with silhouettes of Girl Scouts and adorned with “badges”, the Girl Scout float pays homage to the organization’s storied history while also showing that it’s an up-to-date organization.  The float also features a giant crane operated by Girl Scouts.  

Krazy Glue Fun House Float: This float is bursting from top to bottom with color and lights, and in the center features a rotating room.  Performers will be inside the rotating center, who have been training on how to stay balanced inside the moving circle.

Aloha Spirit Float: While the floats on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are typically Thanksgiving- or Christmas-themed, this one is tropical, with palm trees and a cabana.  In addition to a glowing volcano, the float features a working waterfall.  Let’s hope it doesn’t freeze!

Balsam Hill: Christmas decoration outlet Balsam Hill not surprisingly made an extremely “festive” float this season, decked with toys, five different trees (one of them three stories tall) and lined with over 300 feet of garland.  

The parade will be kicking off this Thursday at 9 am, Thanksgiving Day.  Be sure to tune in, or if you’re in New York, stop by for a visit!

New York’s Bialy Scene

There are those New York foods that everybody knows about: pizza, bagels and hot dogs.  Then there are those that aren’t as well-known, such as knishes or the legendary hot dog/papaya juice combo.  And there are those that are even less known, yet still undeniably New York, such as the bialy.  The bialy is a cousin of the bagel, yet fluffier and instead of a hole, it features a depression filled with sweet onions.  It was originally brought to New York by Jewish immigrants from the town of Bialystok, Poland.  While they aren’t nearly as well-known as bagels, they have a fiercely loyal cult following.

In recent years, a new crop of culinary mavens have revived interest in traditional New York Jewish cuisine.  New Jewish delis began springing up, such as Shelsky’s and Mile End, in addition to modern bagel boutiques.  While bagels were one of the main focuses here, the bialy was mostly forgotten.  Yet bialys are delicious, and its slender profile make for more balanced sandwiches.  The bialy has many benefits: they’re crusty and chewy, but nonetheless soft and piant.  The depth of flavor in the onions can’t be underestimated either.  Bialys are part of the tradition of Jewish onion breads, which evolved among impoverished European Jews that needed to make good-tasting food out of limited ingredients.  The bialy fans of today have been trying to revive interest in onion breads, specifically the bialy.  

One of the oldest bialy spots in New York is Kossar’s in the Lower East Side, which has been open since 1939.  In 2013, it was purchased by a group of bialy fans who were interested in reviving interest in this unique type of food.  The Jewish community of Bialystok, who developed the bialy, is since gone, having either emigrated or been wiped out by the Holocaust.  In New York, this culinary tradition has been able to live on, but it was at risk of becoming extinct.  By the turn of the millennium, the oldest bialy bakery in the city closed and Kossar’s was in decline, but in the mid-2000s the Hot Bread Kitchen made it their mission to revive the bread, and began selling them by the truckload at the New Amsterdam market.  Since then, other bakeries, old and new, have been joining in on the action.  

Beating the Heat in NYC

Starting this week, a major heatwave is hitting the East Coast, and New York is hardly safe from its sun rays.  New York is a great city, but the heat can sometimes get unbearable in the summer.  You might want to just blast your AC and not leave your apartment for a week, but if you’re not taking advantage of what New York has to offer, even when it is boiling hot out, then you’re doing it wrong.  Luckily, there are fun ways to beat the heat in NYC.  Here are a couple ideas:

Free city pools: There’s plenty of fun free stuff to do in New York in the summer, such as concerts in the parks, outdoor movie screenings and parades.  But most notably, the NYC Parks Department opens the gates to public pools around the city.  Manhattan has 16 public pools alone.  Bring a swimsuit, a towel and a combination lock, and you’re ready to go.

Boat rides: If the heat of the concrete gets to be too much, you can still sightsee from the water.  New York has plenty of cruises allowing you to check out the sights from the water.  There are plenty of guided boat rides, with fun and entertaining guides who offer both great views and interesting facts.  

Kayak on the Hudson: While you might be tempted to jump into the Hudson, that isn’t the best idea.  But the New York City Downtown Boathouse has three kayak docks open to the public from May through October on weekends and holidays.  The kayak, life vests and paddles are all provided, and it’s 100% free.  

Get some frozen treats: The ice cream trucks on every corner are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to New York treats to cool you down.  You can grab delicious ice cream from Emack & Bolio’s in the Upper West Side or Ample Hills in Gowanus, or maybe a frozen dark & stormy or margarita at Battery Harris in Greenpoint.  

New York Public Library: All locations of the New York Public Library offer free Wi-Fi and blast AC, while offering quiet reading corners.  

Go to the movies: This is the season of the summer blockbuster, sitting in a dark, air-conditioned theater to watch entertaining flicks.  You can see all sorts of movies at the different theaters around the city, from the newest Marvel movie to an indie French flick from the 60s.  

Visit museums: You know what’s also got AC?  Museums!  Not only that, but they offer terrific art, and most of them aren’t expensive at all (places like the Met and the Museum of Natural History have “suggested donations”, but you can get away with just paying a dollar).  There are all sorts of museums around New York, so you’ll have plenty of options.

Drink outdoors: I’ve written about outdoor drinking in New York before, and there are some great outdoor spots all over the city.  If you’re into ice cold beer, you can grab a mug at Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Beekman in FiDi or Radegast in Williamsburg.  There are plenty of outdoor bars around the city, such as Loopy Doopy in FiDi, Blockheads in Hell’s Kitchen or Northern Territory in Greenpoint.

Fighting New York’s Rats

Rats are just as much a part of New York City as dollar pizza, an unreliable G train and rising rent.  While most rat sightings are regulated to the subway tracks, these fuzzy rodents can be found on the street, on your stoop or even your apartment.  They’re mostly harmless, but they’re nonetheless alarming, and in some areas pretty aggressive.  And they don’t make the best roommates.  

I recently came across an article where the author attended Rat Academy, a city-run program dedicated to teaching New Yorkers about how to deal with rats.  After finishing the half-day course, you’re given a rat-proof garbage can, in addition to some invaluable tips.  Here are some of those:

1) Contain all garbage in a bin with a tightly-fitted lid.  If it’s open, then the food in your garbage can will attract rats.  

2) Plug up any gaps in the walls, whether they’re on the top floor, ground floor or anywhere in-between.  Rats can climb and can contort their bodies to fit through a hole the size of a quarter.  

3) Wash down sidewalks and areas where you see rats (or signs of them).  Rats use trails of urine and droppings to communicate, which can tell other rats where to find food.  If you can eliminate that trail, it will leave rats in the dark.  

4) Since rats can’t vomit, poison is particularly effective: once they ingest it, they’re finished.  However, rat poison is just as dangerous to humans as it is rats, so make sure that you’re careful when handling it.

5) Rats hate peppermint.  It might sound weird, but spraying peppermint oil is a great way to keep them away.  It isn’t as effective as actual rat repellant, but it’s more environmentally friendly, and cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil can be a great way to drive rats out of hiding and away from your house.  

Great Health Food in NYC

New Yorkers love their late-night Seamless orders and hot dogs washed down with sugary papaya juices (seriously one of the most underrated combinations out there).  Yet there are many health food stores in New York that can help you lead a nutritious lifestyle instead of falling asleep on a weekend night with a belly full of beer and $1 pizza slices.  Yet eating right is a major key to living a long, healthy life.  Here are some of the best health food stores in New York, based off an article that I found on Timeout New York:

Food For Health: This Upper East Side spot carries all sorts of brands that many bigger markets don’t carry, in addition to natural and organic food produce that isn’t nearly as expensive as Whole Foods. There’s organic, paleo and vegan prepackaged foods, a juice bar and even an on-site biochemist!  

Westerly Natural Market: If you can’t find that supplement or rare granola bar flavor you’re looking for, chances are you’ll be able to find it at Westerly.  While the extent of diversity can be a bit overwhelming, there’s also an easy-to-navigate selection in the back of premade foods, a list of 15 soups and a full juice bar.  Prices might be what you expect for a specialty market in Manhattan, but there are also frequent online coupons and in-store sales.

LifeThyme: With a vegan bakery and dine-in seating area, LifeThyme is a place where you can get both lunch and groceries.

4th Street Food Co-op: This small, nonprofit, vegetarian co-op in the East Village receives daily deliveries of fresh produce almost every day, making it an easy place to embrace the healthy lifestyle.  It’s entirely volunteer-run, with members receiving discounts.  Tip: bring containers, since the shop charges for produce bags and jars.  

Sai Organics: If you like free stuff, come visit this family-owned market in Astoria, where you get a free gift for spending $20 or more.  There’s no shortage of take-away premade meals, in addition to a solid collection of bulk food items, a small produce selection and various grocery staples.  

A Matter of Health: Stocked with all sorts of foodstuffs and organic products, this place offers a huge selection for most dietary needs, from Kosher to gluten-free.  Apart from offering staples and specialty items, there’s an impressive selection of take-away items.  

Greenpoint Natural Market: If you live in the hipster Mecca of Williamsburg/Greenpoint, you’re going to want to shop for everything here.  A local hotspot for everything from organic meats to health and beauty products, it also offers an impressive selection of fresh juice and smoothies.

Go Natural Health Foods & Juice Bar: Here in Sunnyside, you can pick up specialty products and homemade meals, such as black bean burgers and vegan chocolates.  Although you can pick up all the standard health-food items here, the best things here are far and away the juices and homemade meals.  

Rooftop Farming In New York This Summer

If you were thinking about a summer garden but you got distracted with other things this spring, you might think that it’s too late to plant a garden this summer.  But it isn’t too late just yet; you can plant plenty of veggies, herbs and flowers this summer.  I recently came across an article about creating a rooftop garden in New York this summer, which interviews rooftop farmer Annie Novak.  

If you’re starting your season late, look for crops that mature within the time frame of your growing season.  For example, many tomatoes bear fruit within 55-90 days.  If the transplant doesn’t have a tag that says says how long it takes to grow, then you can look up the variety online and see how many days there are between planting and harvesting.  Then figure out how many days you have left until the frost.  You’ll want to harvest before Halloween, which is typically when the first real cold spell hits New York.  Typically, any crop that you eat for the root, stem or leaf can be planted twice within a season, while the plants you harvest for the fruit/flower/seed do best when only planted once.  

Container growings, which are really the only way to grow in New York, depend on all sorts of variables: the material and size, what growing medium you use, how much sun it gets, the list goes on and on.  But the key is drainage.  Make sure that both water and air can move through your soil.  Healthy soil promotes bigger populations of the right microorganisms, which are the key to plant health.  You’ll know if your growing medium is too dry or waterlogged by how it looks, feels and smells.  

Apart from what containers you use, keep weather conditions in mind.  There are, thankfully, a few simple workarounds.  For one, use a higher-volume container that can help stop the growing media from cooking.  If you’re using basic potting mix, add in compost.  And if your plants are really struggling, then continue to select for plants that handle hot growing conditions well.  For example, if you’re having trouble with heat, go for peppers over tomatoes, which can handle heat much better.

Visit the Beach This Summer

Memorial Day is just around the corner, the official start to the summer season.  New York might not have as many beaches as, say, Los Angeles or Miami, but they do have three that stand out: there’s the Rockaways and Jacob Riis out in Queens, and Coney Island out in Brooklyn.  They might not be the best beaches in the country, yet they offer a unique experience that you really can’t get anywhere else in New York.  This summer, all three of these beaches are offering new food stalls and storefronts to provide additional attractions.  Here is a guide to what you can expect this summer, from an article that I found on Timeout New York:

Jacob Riis: The Riis Park Bazaar features some great standards, such as Ample Hills and Fletcher’s BBQ, but there will will be some other additions this summer.  Brothers Max and Eli Sussman, the men behind Roberta’s Pizza and Mile End Deli, will be opening Ed & Bev’s coney-dog stand and Samesa shawarma.  Other additions include Whit’s End Neapolitan pizzeria, fruit-popsicle Trop Pops, Lizzmonade, Mighty Edible jerk chicken and La Newyorkina.  

Coney Island: Starting on May 27 and going until November 1, Dinosaur BBQ will be bringing their pulled pork and chicken wings to a location near Nathan’s Famous.  If you aren’t in the mood for hot dogs or barbecue, then stop by the new IHOP location at 1019 Surf Avenue, which will be opening in July.

Rockaway: Tacoway Beach will be slinging their famous fish tacos at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club this summer, in addition to a weekly Family Meal series that spotlights goods from local fishermen and farms.  Rockaway Brewing Company will be debuting two projects: a pop-up outdoor beach bar on Beach 67th and a temporary tasting room.  Sharky’s will be opening at Beach 97th and selling four types of grilled cheese, Beach Bistro 96 will be offering French-Brazilian food and a new museum about Rockaway’s surf culture will feature a bakery.  If you’re more into healthy options, Brothers will be debuting at the Beach 106th Street Concession stands with smoothies, toasts and grain bowls.

Experiencing NYC Like a Local

For many tourists, it’s easy to think of a New York where everything is like Times Square.  Yet real New Yorkers know that isn’t true at all!  There are plenty of ways for people visiting to appreciate New York like a true New Yorker.  If you want to choose some good neighborhoods, I would suggest Chinatown, the East Village, the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side and Park Slope.  Here are some of the things you’ll need to check out:

Chinatown

Take in and embrace the chaos and sensory overload that is Manhattan’s Chinatown.  It might be easy to get lost among the winding streets, but there’s plenty to do, and it thankfully isn’t too big.  You’ll absolutely have to visit Joe’s Shanghai on Pell Street to get soup dumplings and a side of peanut noodles, and if you can find it, grab a drink at Apotheke, a speakeasy on Doyers Street that used to be an opium den.

East Village NYC

In many ways, St. Mark’s Place, the street that makes up the heart of the East Village, is New York’s “alternative” Times Square.  It offers plenty of exciting things to do for a fraction of the price, none of the massive crowds and no annoying people dressed in costumes trying to take your money.  Old-school residents might lament the loss of the neighborhood’s “edge”, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had.  Visit Barcade, a bar featuring 80s arcade games, grab a snack at Papaya King, then drop into one of the great bars on St. Marks and neighboring streets.  Some recommendations include Jimmy’s No 43, McSorley’s and Veselka.  If you’re in the neighborhood on the weekend in the early afternoon, I would also suggest visiting Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen, home to some of the most authentic Ukrainian food in the city.

Upper West Side

This doesn’t have the restaurant/bar scene in Brooklyn or downtown, but you’ll have easy access to both Central park and Riverside Park.  The weather is perfect in May, so spend plenty of time outdoors.  You’ll have access to Zabar’s and Citarella, which offer great prepared foods for a quick meal.  Some other must-sees include the Soldier & Sailor’s Monument, the Museum of Natural History and the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts.

Upper East Side

Here you’ll find a better selection of restaurants and bars.  Transportation isn’t as good out here.  Some places of interest include Jones Wood Foundry, Caledonia Scottish Pub, Heidelberg, Schaller & Weber, the Met, the Guggenheim, the Carl Shurz Park and the Promenade.

Park SlopeProbably the biggest draw here is the “park” after which this neighborhood is named.  It’s also a good launching point to explore the rest of Brooklyn.  Indie coffee shops like Gorilla and Grumpy, the Prospect Park Zoo and the various restaurants on fifth avenue (Pork Slope is one standout) give this place plenty of variety.