BEST OF MANHATTAN: CITY LIVING

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best of Manhattan: CITY LIVING

BEST ROCK STAR JEWELRY

Chrome Hearts
159 E. 64th Street (betw. Lexington and
Third Aves.), 212-327-0707

Costly yet so cool. You can see Chrome Hearts’ dog tags and other sterling silver items spotted on everyone from Angelina Jolie to Paris Hilton, including actual rock stars like Slash of Guns N’ Roses. A very exclusive high-end brand, there are only two places in the city that sell this jewelry-the store on East 64th Street and an in-store boutique at Bergdorf Goodman. Chrome Hearts was started in 1984 by motorcycle enthusiast and designer Richard Stark. The brand, which became known largely for its fleur-de-lis design and daggers, gained popularity in the 1990s by catering to the music and fashion world elite.

BEST MUSEUM TO A DEAD IDEA

John Varvatos Store
315 Bowery (at Bleecker), 212-358-0315

As much as we were deflated by CBGBs closing, we have to admit that until that final farewell we rarely visited the stinky joint. Actually, the last time we visited, someone passed us a stinky joint, which made it much more fun to withstand the blisteringly loud guitar thunks. While there’s not likely to be much toking in John new tenant Varvatos’ high-fashion outpost of upscale rock ‘n’ roll attire, we have to admit that it’s an incredible homage to the legendary dive club. It’s all about selling a lifestyle, but instead of being glaringly obnoxious like an Armani or A&F chain store, the Varvatos shop is pretty damn cool. The posters and paraphernalia are preserved on one wall, the authentic vinyl displays, footwear are displayed with drum sets, turntables and speakers are next to vintage leather jackets; it feels like you’re walking into Mick Jagger’s closet or a museum of rock (same thing?). At least now you can try on a coat lined in exotic black hair and feel more like a rock star than you ever could by listening to crappy loud bands in a dank corner. We expect that it will serve as an inspiration to more haute boutiques looking to earn street cred by being dark and dingy-ish while actually hocking expensive wares. But few will do it as well.

BEST POP STAR-TURNED SAVIOR OF THE CITY

David Byrne (www.davidbyrne.com)
While we blame Sarah Jessica Parker for destroying the Village, and can’t walk more than two steps in the Meatpacking District without stumbling over an HBO character actor or Law & Order bit player, our music royalty are much less obnoxious and seem to be more interested in adding something to the fabric of the city. We sometimes forget that Bette Midler is doing more by planting trees than performing on stage or screen. But it’s been impossible to forget about low-key David Byrne, who seemed to continue to pop up where least expected. The former Talking Heads frontman continues to support indie musicians, including curating a concert of freak folk players in 2007; but in 2008 he stepped up his game with two odd-yet-pleasing artistic efforts of his own. First there was the incredible “Playing the Building,” in conjunction with Creative Time downtown at the Battery Maritime Building. He followed it up by the most pedestrian of accomplishments-bike racks. But Byrne’s bike racks weren’t just simple bits of steel, they were shaped like a busty gal, a coffee cup and a cartoon dog. Oh, and then he came out with a new album. Although his collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, was not as exciting (or avant-garde) as some of his other feats, but we’ll forgive him for that and wait in anticipation for the art guru’s next surprise.

BEST EXCUSE TO GO TO STATEN ISLAND

Snug Harbor
1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island,
718-448-2500

Just a few minutes from the Staten Island Ferry terminal, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center is an 83-acre space dedicated to the arts inside what was formerly a home for retired seamen. Among the attractions is the Chinese Scholar Garden (admission $5), which was built in Suzhou (down to the roof, floor tiles and stones) a decade ago and then brought by ship, where it was assembled at its present location and opened in 1999. There are also numerous plays and exhibits taking place at the center throughout the year, but the best thing is to enjoy a crisp fall afternoon relaxing in the Healing Garden, a large forest-like area that allows you to be (almost) alone with our thoughts. After the visit, walk a couple of blocks west for a drink at the nearby Adobe Blues restaurant, which serves affordable Southwestern fare in a saloon-like environment.

BEST NEW YORK POLITICAL STUD

Gov. David Paterson
This year shocked us into remembering-once again-that our politicians are sexual beings. After Eliot Spitzer’s downfall and sordid dealings, we also found out that Vito Fossella had some skeletons in his sex closet. The only guy who seemed to benefit from a sex scandal was good ol’ Dave P. When your legally bind guv can get it on, you feel a little more reassured. Right?

BEST NEW DRAG FOR AN OLD QUEEN

Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle

The white marble building that was commissioned by A&P heir Huntington Hartford and finished in 1964 as the Gallery of Modern Art has finally been transformed into the new home for the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). Architect Brad Cloepfil has retrofitted the structure with terra cotta, stripped some of the cladding to let light seep in and has managed to somehow retain some of the tacky glam of yesteryear with metal details and backlighting. The crafty collections already seem right at home here, but we’re fairly sure the sleek design will last only as long as someone decides it’s no longer fashionable enough to protect. And then this Old Queen will adapt to a new generation.

BEST MEDIA FEUD

Keith Olbermann vs. Page Six
The most amusing fight of the year kicked off in June, when the New York Post’s Page Six column reported that “Tim Russert’s body wasn’t even cold in the ground before MSNBC anchors Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann started jockeying for his job.” This sent Olbermann, a former sportscaster, off the deep end-as even his fans would admit, this was not a long trip-and he named a Post reporter as “The Worst Person in the World” (the first of two times he would do this) on his nightly broadcast. The accusations flew back and forth: in what was perhaps the most fun gossip item of the year, Page Six accused Olbermann of going postal in Washington, D.C., when he was denied ketchup packets (he called them liars and claimed the whole thing was made up). The paper then reported that Olbermann was fearful of assassination attempts at the Republican National Convention. This last bit turned out to be pointless, as MSNBC took the anchor off Convention coverage; however, we’re sure that the two parties aren’t done with one another by a long shot. Despite Olbermann having said, “You can go ahead and write whatever you want. That’s on the record and applies to all future items you might make up,” it seems unlikely that these foes will bury the hatchet any time soon.

BEST STUPID FASHION IDEA

Scarves in the Summer
What’s it gonna take to get people to realize that all the Croc-talk and skinny jean lip flap is really just fabricated to distract us from the bigger annoying picture? Scarves between the months of May and September. That’s right, the summer scarf, whether you call it a keffiyeh, or you twist it, braid it or tie two together, it makes absolutely no sense in 80-degree heat. If you’re faced with an especially cold neck, while the rest of you is warm and toasty, we suggest going to a cardiologist-there’s a clot in there somewhere.

BEST HOUSE WARMING GIFTS

Sara Japanese Pottery
950 Lexington Ave. (betw. 69th & 70th Sts.), 212-772-3243

The ceramics at Sara Japanese Pottery are truly unusual. Find hand-crafted goods by world-class ceramist Uko Morita, who was commissioned by the former first lady Hillary Clinton to create a piece that became registered as a part of the White House’s Christmas collection. Rob Barnard, one of the most highly acclaimed potters in the United States, also sells his creations there. Sara carries cups, saucers, bowls, plates, tea pots and other clay things. Yet the shop goes beyond ceramics with glass, bamboo, textile, lacquer and even iron sculpture items. The goal is “to introduce masterful works of art to be enjoyed by everyone.”

BEST REASON TO HATE THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT

Florent Closing
69 Gansevoort St. (nr. Washington St.)

The death of the diner Florent early this summer (from escalating lease rates) may have signaled the neighborhood’s final transformation from edgy urban hinterland to over-hyped theme park. In a city of silos-segregated worlds of bankers, media types and fashionistas-Florent opened its doors to everyone and, at one point or another, it seems as if everyone showed up. It had an effortless cool that endured as the rest of the city changed. No velvet ropes, scowls or eye rolls, it was the antithesis of the über-chic nightmare the area around it has become. It will be sorely missed.

BEST EXAMPLE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES PIMPING OUT ITS OWN WRITERS

David Carr Book Hype
Reporters, time to update your resumes! The once-staid New York Times, which used to frown on its reporters having a criminal record, now rewards its staff sinners. This summer, the newspaper of record seemed overjoyed at the prospect of its star media reporter, David Carr, promoting a book that chronicled his years of cocaine, crack and wife abuse. Not only did Carr’s revelations of past crimes not cost him his job, it also earned him a spot on the paper’s best-seller list and two rave reviews! We plan to call the Times immediately and inform them of our Internet porn preferences and see if it gets us that gig on the op-ed page we’ve always wanted.

BEST NEW YORK POST COVER

‘Ho No’ Spitzer Cover
The night it was revealed that Gov. Eliot Spitzer had been spending thousands of dollars to have sex with a Jersey girl prostitute in a Washington, D.C. hotel room while his attractive wife sat at home, the whole city was buzzing. We were most excited, of course, to see what the Post would say the next morning. And they didn’t disappoint “HO NO” blared the headline, running above a photo of Spitzer puffing out his cheeks and his wife Silda looking like she was half in the bag. Granted, we felt like a drink after hearing the dirty details of the governor’s sex (and socks!) life, but the glee of seeing the paper on the newsstand on March 11 was something nobody can ever take away from us.

BEST BATHROOM TO MAKE OUT IN

Tiffany & Company
727 Fifth Ave. (at 57th St.), 212-755-8000

We’ve done some research for those of you who want to sneak off for some hot lovin’ in public bathrooms. Trump Towers: dreadful. The Plaza: disappointing. And so you heard it here first: you can get breakfast and get it on at Tiffany’s. Bring a croissant and gaze at diamonds in the window display to get in the mood. Then, make your way past throngs of tourists to the elevators in back. We told the attendant we needed to get something engraved so he would take us to our true destination: the women’s lounge. Yes, it’s a single-sex bathroom, but the second floor is so quiet that no one noticed us stealing across the marble floors to the prettiest public bathroom in town where mahogany doors seal each closet-like stall for the utmost privacy. The lighting is soft and pale-we found it romantic. Once inside the stall, the cool, marble walls are hard and unforgiving, so canoodle with care.

BEST PUBLIC-ISH BATHROOM

W Hotel in Union Square
201 Park Ave. South (at 18th St.),
212-253-9119

The line at Starbucks is always out of control and most restaurants want you to buy something, so where is there to relieve yourself when you’ve got to go so bad your teeth are floating? Why, the W Hotel, of course. Don’t mind the scary doormen or the hordes packed into the lobby bar, just saunter over the grand staircase, walk up one level and follow the signs marked “WC.” What you have here are clean, delightful restrooms with no lines and no purchase necessary.

BEST NEWSCASTER

Kaity Tong, CW-11 News at Ten
Who could forget how the divine Kaity Tong shone in 2007 when she brilliantly covered the now-infamous “Fried Mice” story of a Canarsie Chinese restaurant where a woman found a rodent in her meal. Turns out the story was a hoax, but our feelings about Kaity remain true. With none of the haughtiness of Rosanna Scotto (who was recently shoved into the morning news slot at our local Fox affiliate) or the blue language of foul-mouthed Sue Simmons, Kaity, who has been working in local news since 1981, manages to be professional, quick-witted and-rare for a newscaster-actually funny every night at 10. We might not know where our children are, but we sure know where to turn for the best in local television news.

BEST-LOOKING OLD TIMER

The Brooklyn Bridge at 125. Sorry Ed Koch…

Brooklyn Bridge

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