City Life

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★ BEST NEW NYC NATURAL DISASTER 

First, weary travelers started complaining of contaminated hotel beds (and we’re not talking about splooge). Then, the city’s finest found they weren’t alone come bedtime. That’s right, bedbugs have invaded New York City! (Dun … dun … dunn…) Now, after nearly a 50-year absence, the United States is getting reacquainted with these nasty blood-sucking pests. Experts blame their return on travel, saying the critters hitchhike from one place to the next and, like those guys in Rent, are nearly impossible to evict once they’ve set up house. Next time you’re stalking Craigslist and come across a free leather couch or jumbo king size mattress, you might think twice before snuggling up to an item that’s already been around the block. But if it’s too late, there might still be a way to kick these suckers to the curb: The Bed Bug King. That’s right, give Mark a call at 347-217-5900 (or visit www.bedbugking.com) and he’ll haul out any creepy-crawly surprises leftover from bringing home that freebie.

★ Best Secretly Obvious Way to Get to JFK

LIRR To Jamaica, Then AirTran To Airport 

Reaching JFK is an exercise in price-gouging, time-wasting lunacy. Travelers can either sell their first-born to afford a $45 cab ride, or grow grey and wrinkled on the endless subway trek before forking over another $5 for the AirTran. Though the monorail surcharge is as unavoidable as the sunrise, we love lopping our voyage time in half by taking the most secretly obvious route to the airport. Hop on the Long Island Rail Road, either at Grand Central or Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue, and you’ll be expressed to Jamaica in less time than it takes to hail a rush-hour cab. The ride costs $5 or $10, but it offers endless intangibles: Unlike the MTA, the LIRR runs with Mussolini-like precision, picking up passengers and depositing them damn near on time. Better yet, the LIRR lets tipplers guzzle brew on the train. It’s a perfect nerve calmer—before airport officials wave their wands where they don’t belong.

★ Best Failure of Public Transportation

Roosevelt Island Tram

We’ve been caged in an N train beneath the East River. Our buses have broken down when crisscrossing Williamsburg. But no public transportation has failed quite so spectacularly (without fatality) as the Roosevelt Island Tram. This April, during evening rush, two blood-red trams stalled, dangling over the East River like apples. Haha, we’re suspended above the East River, passengers probably reasoned. Surely the city has the competence to free us in a timely fashion. One hour turned into four, which slipped into seven. Frantic riders passed notes to rescuers below. “Please give us … bottles and diapers for babies,” begged a note found on First Avenue. Before asking for a “pee bucket” and “if you can fit a pizza in, we’d appreciate it.” Finally, rescue baskets were sent up to the cars, taking passengers down 15 at a time. Eleven hours after the ordeal began, everyone safely kissed ground—and the tram was shut down until September. When tram cars reopened, they were stocked with blankets, water, food and, yes, a toilet with a privacy curtain.

★ Best Move to Rein in Brokers’ Out-of-Control Insanity

With Craigslist, Craig Newmark revolutionized how New Yorkers locate apartments and attract lonely deviants with dirty fetishes. But for all Newmark’s power-to-the-people approach, the brother’s still gotta eat. And who better to fill his pot belly than fat-cat real estate brokers? This year, New York’s Craigslist started charging $10 per listing. This is a nominal fee to reach every bored New Yorker trawling the Web at work. And it has also had the effect of quelling brokers’ obsessive-compulsive behavior. For these dollar-hungry parasites, it’s not enough to post just one ad. No, in the past, they have felt compelled to slap up 14 ads for the same flea-bitten tar-hovel located off a train line with an unloved consonant like J or G. But since the $10 fee was implemented, brokers have resisted this urge, creating clutter-free listings of apartments that still nobody can afford.

★ Best Stubborn Activist in the Face of RAMPANT GENTRIFICATION

Dan Goldstein 

And we thought we were stubborn. Dan Goldstein, a bespectacled trouble-making mensch, is the last resident in his Prospect Heights condo not to sell out to Bruce Ratner (aka Ratzilla)—the pudgy Atlantic Yards mastermind. While his neighbors have accepted mega-bucks buyouts, Goldstein has spearheaded Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a grassroots nonprofit opposing Ratner’s stadium and skyscraper plans. Now, we’ve lived in Prospect Heights for four years, and we’re no fan of the proposed train yards stadium site. It’s a coal pit eyesore, as attractive as Giuliani in drag. We crave intelligent development, not brownstone-dwarfing luxury towers. But our motivation disappears as soon as we crack the night’s first beer. Not Goldstein. While Mayor Bloomberg, Dan Doctoroff and Ratner make plans to shiv Goldstein in his ghost-town condo, he fights on, sending strongly worded e-mails and waving angry, hand-painted placards. Its obstinate dedication, and it’s to him we cheer a beer from our comfy couch, far away from blocks threatened by eminent domain.

★ The Best Place for a Seductive Kiss

Every bridge-and-tunnel girl knows that the suburbs are no place to make out, not when you have the sexy city right next door. But if you don’t set the tone from the start, you’re doomed to return to the Dark Side at the end of the evening with nothing more than a matchbook from the latest reincarnation of the Palladium and de-poofed hair, a much worse fate for a Jersey girl than a broken heart.

Whether you live in Jersey or just visiting, you can set the stage for sin by taking the NY Waterway ferry from Weehawken’s Port Imperial to Midtown Manhattan (at West 39th Street). Sure, it’s a splurge—$11 for round-trip fare and $9 for parking—but the buses are free. Besides, the sweat-infused stench of NJ Transit and urine-soaked, grimy subways just don’t have the same je ne sais quoi as the ferry. If you want to inspire someone to take off his clothes—and you don’t want to guzzle gas in your own automobile—then NY Waterway is your ticket.

There’s more to this than just choosing the right transportation. Sitting on the enclosed lower deck, with its white-as-a-hospital feel, isn’t going to cut it. You and your man need to climb to the open, upper deck and let the night breeze—the crisper the better—blow through your hair. (Don’t worry, we’re sure the gel will hold.) Leaving at dusk or when it’s already pitch black is optimal because the glorious New York skyline will serve as your candlelight. Lean into your beau just as the ferry is about to dock and the tops of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings come into full view. Lock lips and apply just enough pressure—and tongue—to prove that this is no ordinary trip into Manhattan. And the city won’t be the only one not sleeping that night.

★ Best Reason to Own a Bike

Every spring, we watch a competition more intently than we do the Tour de France: Transportation Alternative’s annual commuter race, in which cars, bikes and the subway battle for the top transit time. This year’s contestants zoomed from Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza to the Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum. The biker (25 minutes) trumped the subway (32 minutes), which kicked the taxi’s ass (40 minutes). The commuter race only reinforces an unfortunate truism: mass transportation and cab rides are for suckers. These days, the MTA is threatening a fare increase every other month. A few less transit workers here, a few less trains running at night, a couple transit strikes there and—voila! It’s monopoly economics, with one low-cost, get-out-of-jail-free card: a bike. Yeah, yeah, the cops are kicking some Critical Mass ass, but bikes remain the city’s only reliable form of transportation. They’re never threatened by blackouts, strikes or sporadic late-night service. Sure, you could blow a tire or spill your brains like soup, but you’re going to die anyway so why worry?

★ Best Blogger Fall-Out

Who knew you spelled schadenfreude O-X-F-E-L-D? After exactly a year copiloting Gawker.com’s snarky keyboard with Jessica Coen—who’s oft-preoccupied penning beauty fluff for Elle—Oxfeld’s I’m-a-gay-Jew shtick grew as thin as matzah. Really, we know you’re frightened of pink tacos. Did you have to remind us every third post? Then came the squabble, and e-mail kafuffle, with media nut-job Nikki Finke. None of this boded well for Oxfeld, whose one-year contract was running out right around the July 4th weekend. You know, the perfect time to dump unwanted stories—and deadweight employees. So one fine afternoon, right before fireworks exploded high above the sky, Oxfeld was kicked deep into the gutter. His wordy weapons were removed, rendering him as defenseless as caged veal. We’d call it a fall from grace, but how far can you really drop when you’re only sitting at a computer chair in your grimy, two-day-old boxer shorts, nursing a sweet hangover and perceived superiority?

★ Best Ignored Impending Health Crisis 

Despite the lessons learned in 14th century Europe during the Bubonic Plague, New York City continues to allow the rat population to explode unabated. Waiting for a subway train you’ll see them cavorting joyously on the tracks, usually traveling in packs of four. Walking the streets of Soho you’ll find your inner Kobe Bryant as you leap five feet into the air avoiding cat-sized bundles of rodent terror waiting just behind the next sidewalk trashbag you can’t walk far enough away from. Unlike the battle scarred pigeons swarming the city, the rats of New York have slowly evolved to the point where they no longer fear the hand of Man. You will know true horror when you haplessly wander onto Bond Street after 10 p.m. and face off against a rat that returns your imperious gaze with an intelligent—nay malevolent!—inhuman twinkle in its eye. The Rat Apocalypse is coming! 

★ BEST GEEK HEAVEN TOY STORE

Toy Tokyo

121 2nd Ave # 2F

212-673-5424

Retail shopping in New York has usually been about finding things you could never buy in any other State. But as Gotham gradually succumbs to the homogenization of the chain stores, the uniqueness of shopping in New York is beginning to wither. That’s why the few gems that remain are that much more important. Toy Tokyo, hidden on the second floor of an East Village tenement, is one of the best toy stores you’ll find on the planet. Opting for taste over catering to mainstream marketing campaigns, you could easily get lost pouring over the hundreds of varieties of figures nestled every corner. A couple of rules are best to follow before visiting. Don’t bring a kid along unless he’s one of the smartest/weirdest kids in your neighborhood. And do not enter the place without spending money, you’ll regret it. 

★ BEST REASON TO FEAR AN NYC ‘70S RECESSION REDUX

Some of the most god awful ugly modernist buildings in Manhattan were built during the ‘70s, and the economic that smacked the city seemed like a karmic backlash against the aesthetic affrontary. In the wake of 9/11 the City has seen a new surge of develop accompanied by a uniformly hideous parade of architectural “vision.” Proof: Sculpture of Living, Astor Place (glass building in front of black cube sculpture); 26-story mega-dorm in place of St. Ann’s Church, on East 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues; 

The Bowery Tower, 4 E. 3rd Street at Bowery (another glass masterpiece); Avalon Chrystie Place, 229 Chrystie Place; 40 Mercer (building bling at its best); Freedom Tower, World Trade Center (if this is the best they could come up with, why not just rebuild the orginal towers?).

★ BEST LOCAL SCIENTIST

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

One the increasingly rare breed of prominent native New Yorkers, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (Central Park West at 79th Street, 212-769-5700). Currently the host of PBS show “NOVA scienceNOW,” Tyson is the co-author of Origins: Fourteen Billion Years Of Cosmic Evolution, is a frequent guest on “The Colbert Report,” was appointed by President Bush to serve on a nine-member commission on the Implementation of the U.S. Space Exploration Policy, has matched wits with pro-string theory scientists and even has an asteroid named after him (13123 Tyson). Because of all that, we won’t hold it against him that People magazine named him “The Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive.”

★ Best City To Escape To After You Realize NYC is No Longer NYC

As much as Brits talk smack about the United States, the fact is, they’ve already caved to their own Orwellian nightmare as automated video cameras watch their every move and swift justice is delivered for even the smallest infraction. The French fare no better, admonishing our homestead while their local African/Muslim residents burn the city in protest. Meanwhile, here in New York, the cultural castration is in full swing as even graffiti artists need major corporate sponsorship to survive and punk palace CBGB’s is being forced to move to Vegas (Vegas?!). You moved here for the arts, culture and adventure, and all you got was this crummy Bathing Ape neon headband courtesy AOL/TimeWarner (home of your next billionaire mayor). So where do you escape? A few years ago the answer was Prague, but the new hot spot is Berlin, apparently full of cheap apartments, cheap sex, cheaper drugs and expensive art. We’re more than happy to ruin it for everybody and begin Berlin’s gentrification by shining the spotlight on those traitorous cockroaches. 

★ BEST LOCAL THINKER

Howard Bloom

In recent years the idea of the “Renaissance Man” has often been reduced to the idea of someone who can play piano and do calculus, all while exhibiting sartorial aplomb. Nevertheless, real renaissance men do still exist. Born in Upstate, New York and now living in New York City, NYU Graduate Psychology Department professor Howard Bloom continues to take the disparate disciplines of science and art and postulate what they all add up to in a manner that has earned him legions of followers. Bloom has successfully traversed the worlds of music, Neo-Darwinian theory, film, quantum theory, magazines and genetics. Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, Bloom’s latest paper, released just last year, is titled “The Xerox Effect: On the Importance of Pre-Biotic Evolution.” One of Bloom’s most interesting creations is called Omnology. Of the newly created discipline Bloom has said, “If one omnologist is able to perceive the relationship between pop songs, ancient Egyptian graffiti, Shirley MacLaine’s mysticism, neurobiology, and the origins of the cosmos, so be it. If another uses mathematics to probe traffic patterns, the behavior of insect colonies, and the manner in which galaxies cluster in swarms, wonderful.”  

★ Best Political Descent Into Hell

Mark Green

We’d name former Governor Jim McGreevy, who, after being forced to out himself as “a gay American,” wrote an embarrassing memoir of self-loathing and pity politics … but he’s from Jersey—so who really cares? The most uncomfortable political story in recent years has been the realization by former Public Advocate Mark Green that New York voters just don’t like him. In 2001, despite winning the debates and walking like a winner, Green lost a close race to Michael Bloomberg. Bad timing. In a city still reeling from the World Trade Center attacks, a billionaire Republican endorsed by Giuliani was exactly what New Yorkers needed to heal the wounds. Green was so clearly devastated that he vanished from the public eye to regroup, only to return several years later in a bid for the Attorney General’s office. Again, bad timing. Andrew Cuomo, son of NY Jedi Master politician and former NY governor, Mario Cuomo, has been grooming himself for this political moment for years. Despite endorsements from the New York Times and former mayor David Dinkins, Green never had a chance. Once cock-sure and stately, Green is well past middle-age and, well, no longer very green. It may be time to start lobbying for that AM talk radio gig. 

★ Best “F-You” To New Yorkers

The transit strike of New York in 2005 was so evil on so many levels, most New Yorkers are still mildly scarred by the experience. Coming just days before Christmas, during snow conditions and temperatures hovering around 20 degrees, thousands of workers were forced to trudge across commuter bridges to get into Manhattan to work in a city that was largely closed for business anyway. Even Manhattan residents felt the pain as hundreds of smaller stores remained closed, adding a special sting to the holiday season. Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU) President Roger Toussaint offered only bumbling logic, inexplicable outrage and ham-fisted gangsterism as the city lost billions a day. Ultimately, the TWU blinked and called off the strike, but not before the damage had already been done and the city’s holiday shopping season was tanked for sure. For all this, Toussaint was subsequently sentenced to a mere 10 days in jail—he only served 3. Even if the union’s new presidential candidate Barry Roberts manages to oust Toussaint, it still burns that no one really paid for killing Christmahanakwanza 2005. 

★ BEST LOCAL POLITICIAN

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Politics are not just about budgets, zoning and pointless speeches. It’s also about the potential for hot girl-on-girl action. This year, Christine Quinn became the first (openly) lesbian speaker of the Democratic hellhole that is the New York City Council. She also scored trophies for being the first woman speaker, first Irish speaker and first Irish lesbian woman speaker. Quinn’s personal embodiment of the city’s diversity could only be more perfect if she were also a black, Puerto Rican, Hungarian-speaking, Mafia-connected, union delegate. There’s still time for that. For now, her own politics have been surprisingly good for someone filling a role that amounts to being a substitute teacher in a rowdy kindergarten class; she opposed the atrocious West Side Stadium, supports gun control and works for pre-K education. That’s hot.

★ Best New York Fashion Staple Comeback

The Puma “Clyde” and the Puma “Basket” were special sneakers in 1980s New York City. Mostly worn by Manhattan b-boys, the Basket came in treated white leather and the Clyde in suede. The shoes were so simple yet futuristic in their own way, that they instantly became classics. Available in colors ranging from white, black, red, blue and even pink, the Puma Clyde (named after Walt Frazier, the New York Knicks legend of old) was a particular favorite of hyper-style conscious b-boys, while the Basket was mostly used by breakdancing floor warriors in need of a more rugged exterior. If you look closely at the old Hanna-Barbera future shock cartoon “The Jetsons,” you’ll notice that the characters all look like they’re wearing Puma Baskets with fat laces — the shoe was just that cool. Recently, Puma wisely decided to re-issue the Clyde (originally released in 1973) and now even fat laces are finding their way into them again. These aren’t your uncle’s ridiculous old school shell-toed Adidas—these really are classics.

★ BEST PUBLIC BATHROOM IN A SEEDY BAR 

Town Tavern

134 W. 3rd St. (At Sixth Ave.)

During happy hour, drinks at Town Tavern are just two bucks each, so imagine all the trips to the can. In addition to common luxuries such as toilet paper, the Town Tavern bathroom boasts an assortment of amenities. Mints, hair spray, even candy necklaces are at your disposal as you stare at yourself in the mirror wondering when you traded in your dignity for candy necklaces. Who even wears those anymore? Monitoring the whole process is a bathroom attendant who probably hates you for pissing all over the seat, but sings along with a smile as you butcher Bon Jovi. Next time you’re stumbling along West 3rd ready to tinkle in your pants—i.e. later tonight—stop in Town Tavern for the classiest feeling since that time you got screwed outside a subway stop in Queens. 

★ BEST WORST SMELLING SUBWAY STATION

If you need a good reason to vomit, transfer from the V or the E train to an uptown 6 train at 53rd Street. The underground passageway between these two tracks either hosts a nightly pissing competition that gives bonus points for projectile sharting, or it captures the scent of a nearby chef who boils soiled toilet water. In any case, when you reach the top of the escalator off the E/V line, begin breathing deeply in preparation. Nevermind the salty taste of group body odor trailing from your fellow commuters; it pales in comparison to the soggy air trapped between the semen-coated walls that awaits you. At the top of the steps, hold your breath and run. Don’t walk. Don’t even walk fast. Run. And don’t be afraid to take out any hobbling meanderers up ahead. The smell is ruthless and so must you be.

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