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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.

Visiting Casa Adela

Although it’s far away from any subway line (at least by Manhattan standards) and a blistering inconvenience for those who don’t live nearby, Alphabet City remains a popular destination due to the various bars, clubs and restaurants that grace its streets.  The neighborhood has changed a whole lot since it was the subject of the musical “Rent”, and its older residents may bemoan its loss of an “edge”, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had.  While it’s easy to miss and not as well-known, there’s one spot in particular on Avenue C and 5th that’s a true gem: Casa Adela.  

It’s Puerto Rican grandmother food at its absolute best; literally! The operation is run by Adela Ferguson, a 79 year-old great grandmother; and the staff is made up of Ms Ferguson’s neighbors, friends and family.  Adela opened her first luncheonette a block away in the early 70s, where she made the perfect seasoning and calculated the optimal timing for roasted chicken before opening Casa Adela in 1976.  The recipe is a heavily-guarded secret, and for good reason: the tender, fall-apart-in-your-mouth chicken is easily the best rotisserie I’ve ever had.  It’s a popular spot for Puerto Ricans throughout Manhattan, who claim it’s the most authentic Puerto Rican food to be found in the borough.  As many of the remnants of the area’s Puerto Rican heritage have since passed, Casa Adela remains, and doesn’t seem set on closing any time soon.

In a neighborhood where $7 for a beer sounds reasonable, Casa Adela is a paragon of affordable prices; $10 will get you half of a chicken and a generous serving of rice and beans, more than enough to satisfy even the hungriest New Yorker.  While the other restaurants in that area are perfectly delicious, they’re a whole lot pricier; at nearby Maiden Lane, $10 won’t even get you a tin of anchovies (that’s not even a joke).  Maybe it’s that combination of delicious food, affordable prices and an authentic experience that keeps drawing all sorts of New Yorkers, and will continue to do so as long as Adela Ferguson’s family keeps it running.


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.  

Free Date Ideas in NYC

New York is expensive; it’s a place where $5 for a beer and $1300/month for a shoebox apartment in a crummy neighborhood are considered “cheap”.  Dating can also be pretty expensive, and going out in New York with your significant other can do a number on your wallet.  If cheap date ideas aren’t cutting it, there are all sorts of stellar free date ideas that are just as fun and easy and they are cost-effective.  I recently came across an article that shared some of these, listed below:

Nature Walk: There isn’t a whole lot of wildlife in New York outside of the zoo (except for rats and dirty pigeons, but those hardly make for a romantic date idea).  Yet any bit of green space can help relax you in the concrete jungle that is New York.  Find urban guides, which can teach you how to identify the different species of birds and insects that can be found in New York’s parks.  

Bushwick street art tour: The rows upon rows of warehouses in Bushwick and East Williamsburg are home to some amazing street art, with artists turning the bleak industrial cityscape of Bushwick into something truly beautiful.  Guided tours require a reservation, but you can also take a self-guided walk with your camera.

Outdoor movie night: With the summer upon us, outdoor movie screenings at the various parks make for one heck of a date idea.  All sorts of movies play in the parks, from Jaws to Chocolat.  So grab a blanket, sneak in a flask and get ready for the movie!

Central Park Summerstage: Free outdoor live music is one of the few things that could actually be better than free outdoor movies, which is why Summerstage is such a great place to be.  From now until the end of September, there’s live music for every kind of music lover, from rap to opera.  

UCB comedy night: Although you have to pay for the bigger names here, it’s definitely worth visiting for free weekly events.  It’s a bit inconsistent, but at times can be well worth watching!

River to River Festival: From June 16th to 26th, the parks of lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island are alive with music, dance and visual art.  

Wine tasting at Astor Wines: Not only does this East Village spot have one of the biggest wine selections in New York, they also offer classes and free tastings.  If you want to buy a bottle to bring home, the knowledgeable staff will help you pick a winner from their various offerings.  

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.

Brooklyn’s Cat Cafe

Since they first took off in Asia a few years back, cat cafes have exploded in popularity, and spots have been slowly but steadily popping up across the globe where you can pet cuddly felines.  While Manhattan got its first cat cafe last year, opening tomorrow is Brooklyn’s first permanent cat cafe, aptly named “The Brooklyn Cat Cafe”.  The cafe is operating at 149 Atlantic Ave, and will be operated by the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition.  You can reserve a time to hang out with cats for $5 per half hour, and if there’s a cat you fall in love with you can adopt it.  An adult cat costs $100, and you can read more about adoptions here.  If you’re not ready for a full-time commitment, you can also help with fostering a cat.

You can purchase packaged drinks, treats and snacks here from local business such as Divvies Vegan cookies, Salty Road Taffys and Jmart chocolates.  On weekends, you can order coffee and tea at the front desk from next door’s Atlantic Bagel Cafe.  You can also buy food and drinks from Atlantic Bagel yourself and bring them in so long as you bring along your receipt.  The cafe is still trying to raise money to help get things started; you can still buy tickets for the grand opening party tomorrow for $75, and there are all-access passes and raffle tickets you can buy.

The first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998.  Although it was a Taiwanese invention, it was in Japan where the concept really took off; Japan’s dense population and crowded living spaces mean that most apartment complexes don’t allow pets, so cat cafes quickly became popular places for those Japanese who wanted to find companionship and comfort in the form of a furry friend.  Cat cafes only came to the US in 2014, yet have since sprung up in various cities.  There are currently two cat cafes open in New York, not including the one opening tomorrow.  How popular they will become remains to be seen.

Regulating Characters

The costumed characters that flock Times Square and offer to take pictures with tourists for money have quickly become synonymous with the area.  Yet that might not be a good thing; these performers have developed a reputation for being aggressive and actually scaring a lot of people away from Times Square.  Recently, a council member from the Bronx has quietly resurrected a bill that require these characters to register with the City and wear identification.  Failure to do so could risk civil and possibly criminal charges.  This comes less than a month after the Council voted to confine these characters and ticket sellers to designated zones within the Times Square pedestrian plaza.

The bill’s sponsor, Andy King, said that this move is necessary to identify whether or not any of these costumed characters are “bad apples” who could cause trouble.  The bill, Int. 467A, would require all “costumed individuals” who solicit for tips to register with the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and obtain a license that would be worn at all times.  Registration would require $30, proof of address, a “full-face” photograph and a government-issued ID.   Anybody found soliciting tips without a proper ID would be subject to a fine.

The business-interest group Times Square Alliance has lobbied heavily for activity zones in the area in the aftermath of a flood of tabloid coverage and civilian complaints about aggressive behavior from these costumed characters.  Not surprisingly, these characters have pushed back in protest, and have even been joined by some city politicians, who believe it “criminalizes the least among us”.  One lawyer who represented costumed characters has stated that most of his clients’ charged are dismissed in court, and that the bill would encourage unlawful arrests.

The lack of any criminal penalty presents a challenge to law enforcement, since, as Chief William Morris of Manhattan South pointed out, there wouldn’t be any practical way for a police officer to properly issue a civil penalty.  King said he was amenable to adding criminal penalties in an effort to add “teeth” to the bill.

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

Queens Beer Week

If you like beer, then you’re in for a great treat: the third annual Queens Beer Week is happening this May between the 13th and 22nd, and it’s going to be worth a visit for any beer lover.  For ten whole days, you’ll be able to get your fill of beer throughout one of New York City’s more underrated boroughs.  There are 70 different spots participating that include tours, special brews, tap takeovers and all sorts of special events.  If you’d like to find out more, you can take a look at the venues here.

To start everything out, there’s a Queens Beer Week Kick-Off party on May 14th.  Beer lovers from throughout the New York area will be coming upon the space at LIC Landing for a beer-centric time.  All of the Queens brewers will be there, taking advantage of a captive audience to show off their newest beers, some of which will be created just for Queens Beer Week.  Local food vendors will be there, and this is a ticketed event.  So far, however, the event page hasn’t been created just yet, so you need to stay tuned.

While its breweries aren’t as iconic as the Brooklyn Brewery further south, Queens is the hometown of an impressive level of breweries, many of them just a few years ld: Barrier Brewing Co. (Oceanside), Big Alice Brewing Co (LIC), Bridge and Tunnel (Ridgewood), Descendant Cider Co (Maspeth), NY Finback Brewery (Ridgewood), ICONYC Brewery (LIC), LIC Beer Project (LIC), Rockaway Brewing Co (LIC), SingleCut Beersmiths (Astoria) and Transmitter Brewing Co. (LIC).  In addition, the borough is home to some of the best beer gardens in New York, such as Studio Square and Bohemian Hall.