Corner of Chrystie St. & Hester St., 888-881-0887
Girl with a brown ponytail, green eyes and perfect cheekbones, we saw you
from the window when you bought your ticket in the friendly little shop on Chrystie Street. And as
you loaded your duffle into the carrying compartment, we know you saw us too. When you boarded, the
bus was nearly empty, no smell wafting from the restroom, yet you sat in front of us. And as we made
our way across the Manhattan Bridge, you reclined your seat, tilted your head backward and smiled
at us. That was quite a maneuver.
Now, we’re not vain. Maybe you were just smiling because you paid $14.50
online as opposed to $15.75 for Fung Wah. Maybe you were happy about the short walk to the bus from
the Grand Street stop. Or maybe you were lost in anticipation of a peaceful ride to Beantown, free
from toilet malfunctions, Chinese power ballads or spontaneous combustion. It’s a superior class
of people on Lucky Star, and they expect a superior standard of cheap-ass transportation.
Maybe something nice happened to you? Had you forgotten your e-ticket
printout, and had they looked for your name on their list (not pretending that they don’t speak English)
and let you on for free? They did that for us once, and surely they would’ve for a beautiful girl like
you. Girl with a brown ponytail, we’re sorry for ignoring you. Will you take the Lucky Star Bus with
Best Bike Shop to Get Your Flat Fixed with a smile
560 Vanderbilt Ave. (betw. Dean St. & Bergen St.), Brooklyn
We love our bike. Yet we’re clumsy. And have the mechanical competence of
a lobotomized monkey. So when we crash into a curb and our bike’s gears become as mangled as British
orthodontics, we head to our friendly neighborhood bike shop. It’s not an oxymoron.
Most bike shops operate on a business model based on the high school senior:
We’re too cool for you, dweeb. All too often we’ve rolled our rust-dotted 10-speed into a shop only
to be met with a sneer: What are you doing bringing anything less than a titanium fixed-gear in here,
That’s why Prospect Heights’ Bicycle Station is such a welcome change.
At the cluttered shop, mechanics listen to our problems with a thoughtful ear, even if we’ve mucked
our alignment by running into a parked car. While drunk. Again.
Even better, the prices are fair, with tune-ups running just $35 and
the flat-tire fix barely more than the cost of the inner tube. Walk-ins are always welcome, though
you may have to grab a seat and watch bike-race reruns. Soon enough, your squeaky wheel will get some
grease—and you’ll get a welcome grin.
Best Free Clinic
NYC Free Clinic
16 E. 16th St. (betw. 5th Ave. & University Pl.)
Without a full-time job carrying benefits, the best plan is to stay healthy.
Failing that, our “Red City” offers, if not exactly socialized medicine, at least some first-rate
NYC Free Clinic is the best of the bunch, which is how it ended up in this
issue. The medical students are mostly idealists, and the doctors are informative. When you make
an appointment, you can request a social worker to walk you through the eligibility requirements
for Medicaid, Family Health Care Plus and other programs.
The clinic specifically asks that you don’t undergo STD testing there,
since there are countless free services for below-the-belt needs. Nonetheless, doctors will
provide gyno and basic primary care. And prescribe cheap pharmaceuticals.
The annoying part: Only one hour per week is available to schedule an
appointment by phone: Mondays from 4 pm to 5 pm. But that inconvenience is a small price to pay for
paying nothing at all.
Best Hat Store
J.J. Hat Center
310 5th Ave. (betw. W. 31st St. & W. 32nd St.)
Hats off. There’s simply no competition here. Most hat stores—and
there are hundreds of them in the city—are crap. Gaudy, cheaply-made hats sold at volume
for way too much money. Come the first unexpected rain, they all but dissolve.
Then there’s J.J.’s Hat Center, which used to be known for the big red
electric Stetson sign out front.
You may not be able to find that viking helmet or propeller beanie you’ve
been pining after, but if you’re serious about your headwear, and if you want to go someplace that’s
staffed with people who are equally serious about headwear, there’s no choice but J.J.
The customer service is top-notch—quick, friendly and helpful
without being overbearing. The selection (again, if you’re looking for quality) is unmatched.
And they always steam a hat clean before you walk out the door with it—a tiny touch, sure, but
a telling one.
And if you can’t get over to the store (which you should—it’s a
real breath of old New York), you can order from their catalog online at jjhatcenter.com.
Best site to find out how to get rich by investing in shit you’ve never heard of
Even if you’re one of those assholes who subscribes to the Wall Street
Journal, you probably haven’t heard of companies like Sasol, Fast Search, Fording Canadian
Coal, Seitel and Cosine Communications. These are all companies in FindProfit.com’s Special
Opportunity stock portfolio, which was up a whopping 14.5 percent from January to the end of July.
FindProfit.com was founded by Bill Martin, the investing whiz who previously
launched now legendary stock-discussion site Ragingbull.com, and contributors include Ben
Silverman, the former take-no-prisoners “Dotcomscoop” columnist for the New York Post.
These are no-bullshit fellas who consistently find hidden gems that should convince you to invest
some of that money that’s under your mattress.
Best Place to Buy Offbeat Gifts
117 Atlantic Ave. (Henry St.), Brooklyn
In desperate need of notebooks made out of old LP covers? No? Well, then, how
about foam laptop holders, armchairs, coasters decorated with laminated buttons, restaurant
diaries… The list goes on at Brooklyn’s Nova Zembla, an emporium of the wonderful and slightly
strange. The prices are hardly bargain basement, but Nova Zembla (whose Smith Street outpost recently
closed, leaving one store on Atlantic Avenue) is pretty much the only place to find this stuff.
If you’re like us, you’ll find yourself craving all this stuff once you’ve
seen it. We have a personal hankering for the coasters made out of old records, but maybe that’s just
us. Prices range from $5 for some of the smaller trinkets to more than $1,000 for the couches and chairs
for sale and all stops in between. The furniture is classy but absurdly expensive, so we do most of
our work among the other stuff, which caters to the Brooklyn-come-lately inside all of us. And yes,
extra points to those who spotted the reference to Nabokov’s Pale Fire in the store’s name.
That and $8 will get you a coffee at Starbucks.
BEST $1 BOOK RACK
2246 Broadway (betw. W. 80th St. & W. 81st St.)
“A dusty old mystic book land” is how a friend of mine recently described Gryphon
Book Shop and I’ve never heard anything more accurate. It is brilliant—exactly the used
bookshop any avid reader dreams about on lonely nights. There’s a second floor, a ladder running
up the side of one wall and books stacked damn near everywhere. But the best thing about Gryphon Books
is outside under the awning.
Right out front, they have the best $1 bookrack we’ve ever seen. We like
to think of any visit to the bookrack as a game with Fate. We figure there will always be something
we need to read; it is Fate’s job to make sure exactly what we need is on that rack. Once it was The
Hunchback of Notre Dame, which we never would have picked up had it been more than a buck. But
we’re glad we did.
Sometimes, it seems Fate wants us to read a trashy romance novel or an
equally trashy mystery novel and, like any respectable $1 book rack, Gryphon stocks plenty of this
crap. But they also always have books on everything from psychology in the ’70s to great literary
works that we’ve been meaning to read our whole life, but never before had the opportunity to buy
for a dollar.
Best local clothing company
LOVE NICO, the T-shirt design company created by Miss Corinne Alexis Hall,
painter, illustrator, and comic book creator, offers anything but the usual bullshit. She’s on
a mission “to infiltrate pop culture and provide generic, non-band-name rock n’roll shirts to
One shows a young man (a fine piece of ass at that) in a baseball cap standing
alone in front of a microphone. He is off to the lower left corner of the shirt, with only the microphone
cord stretching across the shirt’s belly. It’s like having an absurdly hot guy live right over your
ribs, which would be convenient. Others have beauty-scarred women in the throes of sex-pain.
Several of the designs feature iconic pop symbols—guns, guitars
and all the rest. Our personal favorite, though, features a unique set of Corinne’s handprints
in thick red ink and FUCK LOVE in a modern typeface contrasting with a comic-style illustration
of a pair of scissors.
Best Place to Get Flair
Menkes Theatrical Shoes
250 W. 54th St. (betw. 7th Ave. & 8th Ave.)
Some stores are good if there’s something you really need to get (Duane Reade,
say). But other stores are made for stuff-looking. Take, for example, Menkes, a store of flamenco
apparel and accessories, which is at once a practical store for the New York flamenco artist and
a really good time for the average Jose.
Arrays of mile-high hair combs and wide hoop earrings call to you in blue,
green, yellow, red, white and black! Silk flowers, some modest and realistic, others flamboyant
and polka-dotted, coax you to pin them into your hair or grip them daringly between your teeth. Classic-looking
dance shoes in all shades of suede and patent leather coo from the shelves to be put on and paraded
about. And flouncey skirts in pure black and white are so dramatic and striking that they call, “Put
me on and stamp around!”
By the time you’ve tried the matador hats at all different angles, you’re
ready for the embroidered shawls in shades of dusty rose, tying them around your waist or shoulders.
Then you flip open some of the patterned fans—just for the effect. If you’ve gone so far into
the trove of a store, you might as well check out the assortment of castanets and ask to hear some of
the CDs or watch some of the dancing videos. And if you’re lucky, some pro flamenco dancers will waltz
in for a last-minute costume addition before taking the stage.
Best Neighborhood Hotel
4624 13th Ave. (betw. 46th St. & 47th St.), Brooklyn
Trump never slept here. There aren’t too many hotels in Brooklyn. This one,
the very Jewish Avenue Plaza, situated on the main commercial artery of Borough Park, caused some
raised eyebrows when it first went up on the site of an old bank building in 1998.
Miriam Feuer, a receptionist at the front desk since opening day, told
us that “People in the neighborhood couldn’t see a need… They felt it was going to stay empty
all the time. But the minute we opened, the need became so great that everyone is now hoping we’re
going to expand.”
People in town for weddings and bar mitzvahs, sales reps with steady
accounts in the neighborhood—these are among the hotel’s regulars. Gentile guests are
not unknown, but none were in sight when we visited.
We were also charmed to hear from Ms. Feuer that the staff draws entirely
from neighborhood residents—a true neighborhood hotel. While inspecting one of the upstairs
rooms (“Look how clean,” said a proud Ms. Feuer), we ran into one of the local staffers—Stanley,
the Polish maintenance and housekeeping manager—who informed us, “I doing everything.”
Best Place to Pick Up a Gay Sugar Daddy
206 E. 58th St. (3rd Ave.)
The days of bathhouse parties may be long gone, but the activities remain.
The next generation has discovered their own destinations from saunas to nightclubs, and why shouldn’t
they? In a country where mainstream media sources accept all gays on the condition they fit the Queer
Eye stereotype, it’s no wonder men have gone looking for no-frills spots where intentions are blatant
and the company is screened.
On an unassuming street in the lower UES a plain jane bar in a typical Manhattan
brownstone beckons. Copies of the latest FX and Advocate magazines line the front
table where at least one patron lurks, guarding the door to intimidate unwelcome intruders. To
the naïve, this Yankee-style, old world bar is just an upscale pub with loveseats, a horrible
pianist, and salty nut mix. But to the weathered New Yorker, it’s a known hideaway where men of all
ages go to parade and pursue.
In between the front and rear rooms, a loveseat provides a place for strangers
to acquaint themselves. In the back room, couches provide comfortable seating for long chats,
and more. However, in various nooks you’ll find guarded doors and pseudo love connections between
Mr. Robinson and the boy next-door.
A word to the wise—though this UES bar is an experience every adventurous
New Yorker should partake in, know that if you’re an outsider they’ll make your presence known with
Best Place to Get your Six-Year-Old Nephew a Maddox Jolie Fauxhawk
Brooklyn General Barber Emporium
144 Bedford Ave. (N. 9th St.), Brooklyn
Remember your fun aunt? The one who taught you how to make a dirty martini before
you’d even had your first communion and always let you rummage through her purse for mints and lipstick?
Sure, she wasn’t too pleased when you mistook her diaphragm for a “little Jewish hat,” but she only
stayed mad for a minute. Auntie Funhaver knew that the best thing about being an aunt is doing all
the good stuff and then handing them back to mommy and daddy the second they get a little whiny or poopy.
To obtain your place in the fun auntie or uncle hall of fame, the next time
you’re stuck babysitting make a play date at Brooklyn General.
Plunk the wee one down on the shiny red airplane seat and let hottie haircutter
Joey trim his tresses into a suitably Billyburg coif (i.e., one that’ll give mommy heart palpitations)
for $18—less for a clipper cut.
As you slide into the big-girl chair for a quick bang trim (six bucks!),
you can further cement your status by letting junior pick a toy, most of them priced below ten bucks,
from the store’s huge retro selection. Since your sister’s going to hate your guts anyway, grab
a bag of rock candy for the kid and a Goo-Goo Cluster for yourself. Then drop your charge back home
just as the sugar starts to kick in.
Best Place to buy Crispin Glover’s Birthday Present
Obscura Antiques & Oddities
263 E. 10th St. (betw. 1st Ave. & Ave. A)
What to get the genius who played Willard and filmed the groundbreakingly
twisted What Is It? The boring old gift standbys (potpourri and power tools) won’t do. No,
siree, you’re going to have to think harder (and sicker) than that.
You’ll find your answer in a dark, cluttered shop on East 10th Street—push
open the door and you’re no longer on a trendy block in the East Village. You’ve been transported
in time to a flea market designed by the bastard spawn of Tim Burton and Sweeney Todd. A giant 3-D snake
watches over the interior, which is crowded with jars of teeth and glass eyeballs on the shelves.
Moose heads hang off the walls. Sensory overload is an understatement.
How else to explain the feeling of shopping for taxidermied two-headed
weasels, Masonic fezzes, antique dental charts (from Germany) or vintage notecards illustrated—in
vibrant color—with repulsive skin conditions? A gift from here will put a twisted grin on
just about any creepy Crispin.
Best Use of Gigantic Arch Commemorating Yet Another Stupid War
The New York Puppet Library
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
At first blush, Brooklyn’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial arch is just
pretty, albeit useless, public art commemorating America’s hard-on for war. Bronze horses! Civil
War soldiers! Blah. But inside one of the arch’s 80-foot columns sits a most unusual library: the
New York Puppet Library, a lending institution offering more than 200 multicolored papier-mâchè,
cloth and cardboard creations.
Since last May, the Puppeteers’ Cooperative has run the four-story
repository, which has puppets stacked like firewood. On one floor sits an “aviary.” Another alcove
contains skull-baring skeletons. Needle-eyed insects huddle in another corner; the next doubles
as a pony pen. Renting’s free, and you can check out as many puppets as you can carry. As for how to use
the puppets, that’s up to your overactive imagination.
Best Place for Midnight Groceries
1080 McDonald Ave (Avenue I), Brooklyn
Some prefer yoga, some opt for the nearest barstool; we prefer the 24-hour
ShopRite on McDonald Avenue. If you’re anything like us, you look at grocery shopping as a fine art—a
sensitive, yet highly pleasant task that asks to be fastidiously considered. At the end of a stressful
day, nothing quells frayed nerves like a stroll down the frozen foods aisle.
The possibilities are endless: Skinny Cow is featuring a new strawberry
shortcake ice cream sandwich, Mrs. T’s potato-cheddar pierogies are on sale, and Tyson’s Mac ‘n’
Cheese dinner is buy two, get one free.
If this doesn’t excite you, you aren’t initiated into the exciting world
of after-hours grocery shopping.
Number one, grasshopper: Avoid the throngs of Brooklyn locals by shopping
after midnight. Avoid coming during the day, especially Friday afternoons, as you will wrestle
with throngs of Orthodox families creating a pre-Shabbat shopping nightmare.
Number two: take your time. This is a time to think about the day’s activities,
the stresses, quarrels and worries. Take a deep breath as you pass fresh produce, hold it, then exhale
it out to the deli section. As you round the corner to baked goods, check out the raisin scones and
imagine inner peace in a box of Betty Crocker.
Number three: Enjoy the company of the spirited midnight stock crew,
hum along to ’80s soft rock. You will only occasionally be interrupted by a testy checkout lady’s
shrill voice calling for Bobby, a manager who seems to have gone missing whenever we visit. This
will pass, and Michael Bolton’s soothing baritone will continue through the lonely hours.
BEST BROOKLYN BARBER
1505 Cortelyou Road (E. 15 St.)
Vincent’s, directly across the street from the Cortelyou Q stop in Flatbush,
is the holy grail of outer-borough barbers. Vincent bought the space in 1975 but the storefront
has housed a barbershop since 1912 and looks like it hasn’t much changed over the years. Small and
relatively unadorned but for an MTA poster of historic Brooklyn churches, it serves only two at
a time with Vincent and his son Vincent Jr. (who just had a third Vincent about a year ago) working
It used to be that every so often a recently arrived Italian relative
would work there for a while, but it’s been years since the last one passed through. Once, in high
school, under the nefarious influence of adolescent vanity, we got our hair cut at Astor Place.
When our father found out he almost disowned us.
As we recall, he said: “Want to be a stand-up guy instead of some Manhattan
schmuck who smells like a woman, then get your hair cut at Vincent’s or at the very least by another
old Italian guy with an accent as thick as his gold chain.” Words to live by.
Getting one’s hair cut is a real matter of trust and it used to be that a
lot of people would bypass the son and wait for Vincent himself, creating hour-long lines while
Jr. patiently waited for a customer. These days, though, Jr. has grown into a master barber in his
own right and gets almost as many customers as his father.
Still every now and again, we’ll let people cut in front of us and wait
for Vincent Sr., who has these really beautiful hands that he keeps in constant motion while he’s
working. Even when he’s not actually cutting your hair, the scissors are always snipping, looming
overhead until they close in on an out-of-place strand.
The prize finish is when Vincent draws shaving cream from a heater, and
applies the warm lather on the back of your neck and around your ears to clean up the rough edges of
his work with a straight razor.
Best Dirt-Cheap Comic Store
The Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway (W. 12th St.)
So the Fantastic Four movie sucked. Hell, we could have told you that, but
you’re not giving up, no sir. You know the old-school stuff was worth it, squaring off against Galactus,
the Shiva-ish devourer of worlds, or even that goofy mainstay, Mole Man. But maybe you’re not ready
to revisit them at Forbidden Planet’s or St. Marks Comics’ rapacious prices.
If you’re willing to forgo mint condition, there’s hope. Along with
significantly enlarging its art section, the Strand’s redesign quadrupled the space allotted
to comics. Not that you can find whatever you want, but for the intrepid there’s a veritable horn
o’ plenty: Japanese manga by the pound, Vampirella’s brand of cheese-cake smut, plus all the mass-market
stuff you can eat.
Recent casual perusals turned up a complete trade collection set of
fantasy author Neil Gaiman’s ’90s oeuvre The Sandman, the last issue of Toe Tags (George A. Romero’s foray into the land of the zombie comic) and Will Eisner’s The Plot.
Also, the Strand’s goblin of an owner has finally air-conditioned the joint, so you won’t drip sweat
onto your pulpy little treasures.
Best Sign of Life
7th Ave. Books
202 7th Ave. (betw. 2nd St. & 3rd St.), Brooklyn
Park Slope Books
200 7th Ave. (betw. 2nd St. & 3rd St.), Brooklyn
Twenty years ago, Park Slope was a book lover’s paradise. Three independent
bookstores lined the main stretch of Seventh Avenue, while several other shops had used-book sections.
Book dealers set up tables all along Seventh Avenue, most of them dealing in books of surprisingly
high quality. And book-heavy stoop sales popped up every weekend. We used to take entire days and
just move from one seller to the next.
Then the wave began to wash through the neighborhood. The indie drug
stores, weird little shops and small restaurants were replaced with Rite Aids, high-end boutiques
and Subways. The B&N made its inevitable appearance, too. It wasn’t long before the sidewalk
book dealers (the good ones, anyway) vanished, and at least one bookshop closed its doors.
But within the past few years, two used bookstores have opened along
Seventh Avenue again—and now, after 7th Ave. Books’ recent move, they’re all but next door
to each other. 7th Ave. Books is brighter and carries a number of both used and new titles, and tends
to be a little cheaper. But the narrow, shadowy floor-to-ceiling shelves of Park Slope Books hide
countless rare and forgotten treasures. Often if one store doesn’t have what you’re looking for,
the other will.
As every other bit of character in this city seems to be disappearing,
it’s nice to see that one thing, at least, just might be coming back.
Best New Guilty Pleasure In Union Square
DSW Shoe Warehouse
40 E. 14th St. (betw. University Pl. & Broadway)
Go in and leave without a pair of shoes. We dare you. You couldn’t do it, could
you? Since this Temple of Shoes arrived in Union Square, the city’s Carrie Bradshaws have found
themselves summarily seduced by the corporate maven called DSW.
After getting you in the door, employees sweetly inquire if you have
a DSW card, then they innocently secure your information. Now you’re in their clutches. They will
mail you monthly about all the irresistible deals, and entice you with a $20-off-any-purchase
Armed with the coupon, we take a cursory peek inside. We peer across endless
rows of Enzos, Ugg boots, Tims, leathers, sneaks, slipins and strappies before being drawn to our
old friend in the rear: the sale rack.
Replete with red, yellow and blue stickers, offering price reprieves
of 20 percent, 30 percent, up to 80 percent, it would almost be a crime not to buy something,
would it not? And then we see them: Anne Klein, lime green, not exactly fuck-me, but rather, throw-me-up-against-a-wall-and-love-me-slow
heels. Our feet have never felt sexier.
Best Flower Seller
It was a very rainy night. After dinner, we stopped under Life Cafe’s awning
with a friend, trying to decide on a bar. Up came the requisite flower seller, cheerful despite the
rain that must have been bad for business, a young man tunelessly singing “Purple Rose” to the tune
of (what else?) “Purple Rain” as he hawked his purple wares. “Purple rose, purple rose, I only want
to see you with a purple rose,” he sang down the deserted, rainy street. He walked up to us and started
harassing our friend, inquiring why he wouldn’t buy us, his beautiful girlfriend, a rose. After
enough badgering to break a KGB spy, our friend relented, even though we were not his girlfriend
Then he swore us to secrecy, under pain of death, for fear that his girlfriend
would be angry. We offered to return it, suggesting he give it to his girl instead. He took it, and
then gave it back to us again. He couldn’t give her a rose he’d bought us, he said.
He flagged down the flower seller, who had moseyed about half a block,
and bought another rose. Shocked and delighted at our friend’s rose-buying spree, the guy changed
his song. “Purple rose, purplerose, Ilovethissuckerforbuyingdollarrosesfortendollars,”
he sang, before disappearing into the dark, wet night.
Best idea for an Online Dating Site
The problem with dating sites is that everyone claims to read the same few
books, listen to the same albums, and so on, and everyone looks clever in a little profile. If you
want to find someone who’s actually up for the same things you dig, though, head on over to AppleDates.com.
By combining the same features offered by every dating site with a database of local events updated
weekly, Appledates offers the only Gotham-centric way to make time, and forces you go somewhere
more original than the same shitty bar you’ve already gone to with the last umpteenth shitty dates.
And Appledates uses New York Press‘ listings—why not use the front of the paper for
your needs this time?
Best Occult Hangout
341 E. 9th St.
Since Miss Stacy Rapp took ownership of Enchantments Inc., the spooky little
magic shop has become a far more lively and inviting spooky little magic shop.
And where are else are you going to go for classes in witchcraft? Enchantments
also has a good bookstore for anyone interested, the contents of which range from spells to herbalist
practices to Crowley paraphernalia to Santeria. You can pick up dried herbs, candles, oils and
a pair of bikini cut underpants endowed with a goddess or a pentagram.
Skeptics are always welcome and Enchantments’ charming staff will
never condescend to your beliefs.
52 E. 14th St. (betw. Broadway & 4th Ave.)
New York needs a place where we can all shit, albeit one at a time. Until the
blessed day when Elijah returns and the public toilets are installed, though, we’ll all have to
keep buying coffee to empty our bowels—a vicious cycle indeed.
At 14th Street, Gap-clad tourists and dog adorned yuppies park their
strollers outside the two Starbucks, while downtown crunchies flock to Whole Foods. Locals make
the trek up the escalator through the Barnes & Nobles, but real hoodies know there’s an air-conditioned
loo with no line in the Circuit City. Tucked away behind the plasma TVs these restrooms resemble
public school bathrooms, but there’s always an empty stall, and in NYC, that’s priceless.
Best LIC Parking
It’s harder to get a parking spot along 23rd Street in Long Island City than
it is to get a seat upstairs at the 21 Club. But right outside the 23rd Street/Ely Street station,
behind the green glass Citicorp is at least one street with no parking regulations whatsoever.
None. The only alternate side you have to worry about is the one you point to when you tell the meter
maid to kiss your ass. It’s a perfect spot. Less than a block away are the E, F, G and 7 trains. One stop
after you park and you’re either in midtown or Greenpoint. Put away the map, the quarters and fear
of the meter maid. girlfriend.
Worst Retail Demise
For those of us without the twenty-odd bucks to take in MOMA, there was always
Odd Job—a fascinating display of ephemera that never made it in the marketplace. Unlike
a gallery or even most retail stores, though, you could take the shit home.
Over the years, we’d gone to the Union Square Odd Job and bought a breathtakingly
ugly floral patterned umbrella that never broke; a mid-size red plastic tub with large, heart-shaped
holes on the sides, which meant nothing could really be stored in it but maybe bulky tube socks; a
startling bas-relief rabbit-shaped teapot, and so much more.
“Distributors Loss!” trumpeted the slightly ungrammatical signs
on top of these ungainly object d’arts, and we in-debt low-wage shoppers sort of identified with
Best Place for Exhibitionistic Yoga
208 W. 72nd St. (Broadway)
If Vrksasana voyeurism is your slice of heaven, boy do we have the New York
locale for you! Each day groups of folks display themselves doing The Tree in Speedos in the window
of Bikram, a yoga studio on the UWS. The teacher, a man with alert buttocks and (only) black briefs
wanders around correcting the angles of his students’ limbs.
And if this doesn’t seem like show enough, the studio is pumped full of
steamy vapor to increase the stickiness of the yoga enthusiasts. Is Lycra a principle of Zen? Does
Urban Outfitters (located on the opposite corner) get a rent discount for having to compete with
its nearly nude neighbors? You can’t take your eyes off of the enthusiast’s flesh as it bends, folds,
squishes. Way to put the nasty back into namaste!
As luck would have it, the M5—New York’s slowest and most unreliable
bus—has a stop right across the street, where restless commuters have nothing to watch but
the sweaty contorted figures of their fellow citizens a storey above. It is a thing to marvel at;
ask yourself whether the practitioners know that they can be seen by squadrons of city dwellers?
We think it’s a self-selecting group of those who like to do the downward-facing dog where people
can see. Check it out!
BEST BROOKLYN RESTAURANT THAT ANCHORED AN INVENTED NEIGHBORHOOD
1310 CORTELYOU RD 718-282-6661
The tree-lined part of Flatbush cut through by the Q line has long had the ingredients
for a neighborhood revitalization: a diverse, middle class population full of people from the
creative and professional classes, a park nearby, good transportation, even a new old- sounding
name—Ditmas Park. The one thing missing, that engine of commerce and reinvention in so many
other neighborhoods, was a good restaurant. In May of 2004 Picket Fence opened just a one minute
walk from the Cortelyou Q stop and just across the street from the elementary school that houses
the new farmers market.
Serving upscale comfort food at modest prices, it is the first real restaurant
the street has had in as long as we can remember. We grew up on take out Chinese and slices, two of our
favorite things, but for years those were the only two options this side of Midwood’s kosher bazaar
or Park Slope’s yuppie bonanza.
The indoor space is relatively small and usually packed with locals
or even people from outside who now have a reason to come south of Prospect Park other than for their
annual jaunt to Coney Island—all these years and all it took for our neighborhood to register
was a good food review in the Times. The food varies from burgers to gnocchi to pan roasted
tuna all of it delicious and well portioned. Outside they have a huge backyard seating section perfect
for eating and lounging. Try an omelet with sweet potato fries or one of the daily specials, it’s
quality food without pretense and a long overdue addition to the neighborhood.
Eibs Pond Park
A bridge over turbid water. For decades, this muddy park in deepest Staten
Island acted as a sediment curtain between a poor neighborhood and the advancing suburbanite masses.
Then a local church enlisted the TriBeCa architectural firm of Marpillero Pollak to design an outdoor
classroom for a nearby high school, and the public breach became a public place. The architects
fashioned a simple three-walled site where students can inspect local insects and fish, with a
landscape of wetland vegetation and a floating bridge. Old ladies now sit in the newly landscaped
park, and the apartment complex parking lot on one end offers clear views to the low-income Fox Hill
neighborhood on the other. We’re all from the same mud, after all.
Best intentions in the Disney zone
Times Square’s edgy effort
Mitigating the mousetrap. Some of you are too young to remember when Times
Square really, really bit. Trust us: the flashing-light porno theaters, the delis where roaches
roamed the display cases, the stink of human secretions. It’s nothing that warrants nostalgia.
But the Toys R Us /ESPN/Chevy’s patina that replaced it feels like it could be Tokyo. Or Vegas. And
darn it, we live here. Luckily, Times Square Inc., successor to the property owners’ association
that financed the Deuce’s cleanup, gets it. The association now sponsors a design competition:
now it’s trying to figure out how to include Hell’s Kitchen theater troupes and neighborhood restaurants
in its marketing. Times Square once reflected civic abdication. Now it reveals commercial overdrive.
Encourage the creative spirits and Times Square Inc, and the Crossroads of the World may seem like
a New York block.
Best outdoor space that’s not outdoors
the Staten Island Ferry Terminal
1 Whitehall St. (South St.)
You mean there’s a boat? The Whitehall Ferry terminal building’s narrowing
glass shape suggests a prow. Its grand staircases really earn their title. From the blah Coast Guard
Station they sweep up to a second-floor landing with wider sight lines than the boat. Unlike a train
station, the building invites noncommercial lingering: a wraparound terrace welcomes the briny-scented
air and sounds of clustering traffic. You can plot a day of adventure, survey the winds or just admire
the engineers who built and rebuilt the East River bridges. Of course, the city’s DOT has closed
the esplanade and mounted signs about “security concerns,” but never mind. The glazing on the windows
reduces glare and enhances light.
Best-smelling four square blocks in Manhattan
Ludlow to Norfolk, between Houston and Rivington
Take a whiff of this, dude. At night, this stretch (perhaps because it houses
Max Fish, perhaps because it’s easiest to find from the F train) reeks of cigarettes and downtown-slummers’
body wash. But in daylight, it’s an olfactory paradise. Pickling spices and fat prove that Katz’s
makes its own pastrami: head south past the potpourri of EarthMatters (and avoid the WhiteStrips-using
pretty boys spitting out their wheatgrass juice) and the dueling chipotle/black bean simmer from
El Sombrero and El Castillo de Jagua. Pick up the subtle hints of olive oil and Asiago at ‘inoteca’s
open doors, head east past Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s you-guessed-it notes, and move northward. Shoot
west on Stanton for San Loco’s catfish-taco bouquet. Who needs lunch?
Best argument for calling do-over on the South Street Seaport
the South Street Seaport at sunrise on a weekend
The foc’sle of solitude. A friend suggests that the ideal place for a tryst
would be the second-floor Pizzeria Uno overlooking the East River at the Seaport, because who would
ever find you there? In fact, when the Seaport is empty, rather than just full of hoodwinked tourists,
you could have a fine canoodle- or discussion, or game of catch, or run, or anything people do at waterfronts
that follow their own logic. The light off the river settles in bars of color, the air smells pleasantly
of striped bass and brine, the ships’ curves settle on the skyline and the cobblestone streets seem
simply old rather than olde. The whole serene scene puts the Seaport in perspective. It was a simple-minded,
publicly fattened copycat of a downtown-revival play fit for shakier, more polarized cities.
Thank God we don’t do that anymore.
Best developer bending the boroughs to his will
Brooklyn is the new Burbank. Joe Sitt bought the old Red Hook sugar factory,
a striking building that rises out of the harbor like a mammoth water tower. He’s gotten the city
to bless a glitzy Coney Island scheme that includes a hotel and a glassed-in amusement park. While
we understand our Boerum Hill comrades getting tetchy about an arena plan that would replace a dead
railyard with, um, housing and a source of jobs, Sitt makes us sigh. There are businesses working
coherently in Coney Island and there are organizations tending the Red Hook waterfront. When one
concern gets to declare a struggling area ripe for reinvention, the city seems doomed to become
a little more like a replica of itself.
Best advocate for footbridge-based revitalization
Adolfo Carrion, Jr
Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is learning. Not since Howard Roark has a
trained planner gotten so involved in the day-to-day business of political thought. Bronx Borough
President Carrion saw through a deal between the neighborhood and Bloomy’s favorite developer,
the Related Companies, to groom a stretch of the borough’s waterfront. But that’s just how he cleaned
up the political mess he inherited. On his own, Carrion spearheaded a rezoning of Port Morris to
create more legal loft living in this dense, bridge-strewn section near the river. And he’s running
programs to plant trees and start parks and open a footbridge to Randalls Island that would make
the Bronx a duffers’ destination. Borough presidents can’t redraw maps, perhaps. But Carrion’s
eye for parks makes the Bronx’s future seem open for unpredictable kinds of growth.
Best “old Manhattan” environment where nobody gives a shit about you
Fulton Fish Market
Swimming upstream. Late-night carousers or early-morning fitness freaks
who brave the Fulton Fish Market’s three-block stretch get a quick lesson in broken-field juking.
Despite what you’ve read about their imminent move to Hunts Point, the fish vendors here haul several
tons each overnight. That means slippery pavement with soapsludge and scales, and beeping forklifts
and jutting pallets. The guys here speak a hybrid of Spanish, English and jargon. They’ve got forklifts
and schedules to keep. As for getting out of your way? Hey, buddy, these aren’t meatpackers. Until
the Bronx site comes through, they have no obligation to act as colorful details.
Best grisly fact to make Brooklyn homesteaders feel, like, weird
the bones under the monument in Fort Greene Park
The revolution was not televised. The colonial rebels came in for a major
ass-whupping in the Battle of Brooklyn, all so that today’s Fort Greeners could argue over whose
dog crapped too close to whose tennis ball. Tough-as-nails British soldiers jailed colonists
and their mercenary supporters in ships on Wallabout Bay for days. Thousands died there, and some
of those patriots’ remains lie under the white hilltop column behind the tennis court and public
bathroom. Fort Greene Park’s sloping, multiculti park always seems so tailored for scampering
tots. It is. Just don’t let them loose with plastic shovels.
Best outdoor treatment Best place to work on your masterpiece
11 W. 42 St. (betw. 5 Ave and 6 Ave)
Watching life go by. Freelancers can be a self-flagellating bunch. In Starbucks,
they all put up with the whirr of the espresso maker and the shouting of the wage slaves, and they wait
obeisant for a one-hole bathroom. At Coliseum, the noise comes from folks saying “mm” while they
read books with titles like How to Make It in the Movie Industry or gab on their cellphones
about how they’re too old to audition for roles as extras, how they really want a permanent position
unless the right consulting engagement comes along…. You sit at a Formica counter the color
of a speckled egg in the window facing Bryant Park. The eye, leaving the laptop’s confines, sees
tidal bores of people walking east and west on 42nd Street. You see who’s pregnant,
who’s arguing, who likes what subspecies of Coca-Cola. People with and without beer guts, with
and without beards, with and without asspants. Around you, fellow itinerants are trying to force
forward stagnant careers, slugging sweet drinks and cramming moist pastries. Outside, though,
it’s a parade.
Write it down.