We Do New York: Local Queens Fun

Comment

We Do New York: Local Queens Fun

Things have been sort of bananas lately. Work has been crazy, and nearly every weekend has been chock full of travel, or visitors, or both. This weekend we had blessedly little on the docket, so we took the opportunity to spend time with some local friends and finally give the apartment a fraction of the TLC it’s been missing out on while we’ve run all over the place. While I was waiting for the Chinese food delivery guy (hey, I never said we were superheroes) to run up the stairs with our order, I looked at our newly clean living room and thought to myself, Hey, this place is actually pretty nice when it’s in some kind of order. I tend to get pretty negative about our apartment and everything we hate about it, but we’ve lived here for 2.5 years and it is most definitely a reflection of us, if nothing else.

So, about that whole hanging-out-locally thing. As residents of an outer borough, it is somehow very gratifying to spend an entire weekend without crossing that body of water that separates our home turf from Manhattan. The trains are basically always messed up on the weekends, and, well, it just seems so much further away if you have to go underground (the subways out here are elevated).  E and I spent Saturday during the day wandering around the old world’s fairgrounds further out in Queens, enjoying the beautiful 50 degree weather. The former fairgrounds are now a park that is in some disrepair, and is peppered with the remnants of New York’s 1939-40 and 1964-65 world’s fairs. Being something an enthusiast for theme parks and world’s fairs, this park was one of the things that made me excited about moving to New York when I was generally pretty unhappy about the deal. When we rented our apartment, we had to drive to a bank to take out cash to give our landlord, and we passed the fairgrounds on the highway. I saw the top of the Unisphere poking out above the trees and was immediately excited to visit, and that’s still true today.

As usual, we wandered around the New York state pavilion, and did some people-watching by the Unisphere. We had grand plans to go to the Queens Zoo, also in the park, but it was chillier than we anticipated, so we ducked into the Queens Museum of Art (recently — and oddly — featured in the movie New Year’s Eve) to visit our old friend, the Panorama of the City of New York. The park remains one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path sites in the city, and if you have the time to trek out there, I highly recommend it. I’m hoping to use a Mets game as an excuse to get back out there again in the coming months, to drink some beer and heckle some baseball players who make way more money than I ever will!

Saturday night, we met friends at a speakeasy-style lounge in Long Island City called Dutch Kills. No one in our group had been there, but it was a fun bar with a great vibe and fantastic cocktails. We got there around nine and were able to get a table right away, and all night the place was just the right amount of busy — you felt like there was a lot going on without being overwhelmed. I am not generally a mixed-drink kind of gal, but this bar was a delicious exception.

p2180336.jpg

Something we all oohed and ahhed over was the fact that each drink was chilled with hand-cut ice to suit the needs of that beverage. Above was my drink for most of the night, the Marie Antoinette, with its tiny little cylinders of ice. Other folks at the table had drinks “on a rock” — with literally one large chunk of ice — or “served long” in a tall glass with a single long, cylindrical piece of ice. Definitely cool (pun not intended, but appreciated). They also include the recipes for their cocktails on their menu, which you can download from their web site. That kind of inclusiveness helps counteract the pretentiousness of a bar this young masquerading as a speakeasy, and makes me pretty excited to try to recreate some of our favorite sips from the evening.

E and I both slept late this morning, which was well worth it for a lot of reasons. We’re gearing up to watch the season finale of Downton Abbey tonight, and I am more excited than I probably should be. I want to run out and get some snacks for the viewing, but can’t think of anything themey, and the whole point of watching television is themed snacks, am I right? Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was pretty stoked that time I made “fish biscuit” sugar cookies for a Lost viewing party. I do have a bottle of sparkling wine in the fridge. I mean, fancy wine is appropriate, no?

Comment

We Do New York: City Hall Subway Station Tour

Comment

We Do New York: City Hall Subway Station Tour

Visiting the abandoned City Hall Subway Station has been high on the list of New York Things to do since E and I moved here. This year, days before E’s birthday, I discovered that tickets for a tour were about to go on sale. E usually blows me out of the water with birthday/holiday gifts, so I was excited to finally have an awesome gift in the works. The City Hall subway station was designed to be the crown jewel of the NYC subway, and it had vaulted ceilings and skylights, lovely mosaics and an ornate wooden ticket booth.  It was abandoned in 1945, when changes in the design of trains made continuing to use the short, curved platform unsafe and impractical. Nowadays, subway riders can catch a glimpse of the station as the downtown 6 train loops through it when turning around to go uptown, or you can go on a tour of the station with the New York Transit Museum (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite museums in New York! Vintage trains! That you get to hang out in!).

On Saturday, September 24, we gathered on the downtown 6 train platform at the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station to wait for the tour to begin. It’s uncomfortably warm in the subway from April-October, so we were quickly annoyed by the heat and the grime and the noise down there, but what are you going to do. They gave us earpieces and radios so we could hear the tour guide on the platform.

And we waited. And waited and waited and waited. The tour was supposed to begin at noon, but the tour guide was late. At 12:15, they sent somebody above ground to call the guide. At 12:30, they said we could go to the abandoned City Hall station with the facilitator from the Transit Museum, which most of the group elected to do. She imparted what she knew about the station, but we didn’t have a formal tour — mostly we just hung out on the platform and took photographs.

It was disappointing to not get the full tour experience, especially given how pricey the tickets were (and, since the tour was only open to museum members, I had to buy a family membership as well), but the museum has said they’ll try to accommodate folks on their December tours. And, at the very least, the staff of the museum are to be commended for their flexibility and customer service. It wasn’t their fault that the tour guide, who I believe was independent of the museum, did not show up. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend the December tour and give a review of the tour content beyond just OMG THE STATION IS SUPER COOOOOOL. Which, if I haven’t said it yet, it was.

Comment

We Do New York: Stillspotting NYC

Comment

We Do New York: Stillspotting NYC

One of my priorities as I enter my third and possibly last year of living in New York City is to experience as much of the city as possible, as cheaply and meaningfully as I can. This means about a million things, from taking advantage of free admission days at local museums, to using the heck out of our museum memberships, to prioritizing those activities that are worth paying for that allow me to see the city in a new way.

One activity that fell into the lattermost category (but that I didn’t have to pay for myself since I went on a field trip with work, score!) was the To a Great City tour, part of the Guggenheim’s Stillspotting NYC, a series of installations around Lower Manhattan.

The staging of five recorded works by Pärt gradually transports visitors from the hustle and bustle of the streetscape to an elevated urban experience that makes them newly aware of their sense of hearing. Visitors can experience this confluence of music and architecture at five separate locations downtown that quietly celebrate the city, ten years after the September 11 attacks. Traveling through sites along the periphery of Ground Zero, participants encounter a green labyrinth created by the Battery Conservancy, reflect in an underground chamber at Governors Island National Monument, and enter otherwise inaccessible spaces in landmark skyscrapers. The stillness and seclusion of these spaces heightens awareness and recalibrates the senses. Over the course of a day, participants may visit each space multiple times at their leisure to understand how their perception changes based on circumstances such as time, stress, appetite, and sleep. Listeners become increasingly sensitized as they are drawn in and ideally are transformed to a focused and tranquil state.

We were able to hit 3 of the 5 sites (the other 2 located on Governors Island had to be skipped because we missed the last ferry of the day, boo), and so we got to walk a labyrinth in Battery Park, check out the view from the 46th floor of 7 World Trade Center, and hang out in the Woolworth Building. In each location, music helped to quiet the world around you and focus your attention.

I’d say, overall, the project wasn’t super successful. The coolest thing about it was getting access to non- or semi-public areas, and most often the music felt rather forced and awkward. I would have liked to have seen more spaces that New Yorkers take for granted (the labyrinth in Battery Park, for example) given a soundtrack for download and personal use. How cool would it be to be hanging out in Battery Park and see a few people walking the labyrinth with headphones on, participating in something you don’t know about yet, but want to find out about?  As it was executed, it felt rather stiff and formal.

That said, I was glad to have done it, and would have paid the $10 ticket fee myself. The inside of the neo-Gothic Woolworth Building was insanely detailed and beautiful (This photo hardly does it justice), and the views of the newly opened 9/11 Memorial from 7 WTC were lovely. I only wish we’d been able to see the sites on Governors Island to round out the experience – that might have changed my impressions of the tour overall.

Tours for To a Great City run from Thursdays to Sundays, September 15–18 and 22–25, 2011. Hours of operation are 11 am–7 pm, with the last ticket pick-up at 4 pm (but try not to miss the last Governors Island ferry!). Information available here.

Comment