NYC

South Street Seaport: NYC’s Best Place for Outdoor Concerts

I don’t go to too many concerts these days, and when I do attend one, it’s usually a free summer show. There’s no shortage of them, and that’s one of my favorite parts of summertime in NYC.

After seeing shows at various venues over the course of several summers, I noticed something strange: I enjoyed the concerts at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 much more than anywhere else. This surprised me because I generally try to avoid the Seaport at all costs. (Well, except for Front Street, which is a little restaurant row north of Pier 17 where tourists rarely venture, for some reason.) I find Pier 17 to be an oddity; it can best be described as hollow. There’s nothing distinctly New York about the place. In fact, it feels more like a cross between a suburban mall and a circus, and I can’t figure out why tourists flock there to shop in stores they could visit anywhere, eat at overpriced restaurants, and gawk at cliche street performers. (Oh look, another silver-painted person!) You could transport Pier 17 to any waterfront city; just look at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Same vibe.

But somehow, when there’s a concert there, Pier 17 becomes great place to spend a Friday evening. The bands are usually unknown, so it never gets too crowded. There’s an area right in front of the stage where people can stand, but we prefer to sit off to the side, closer to the shops, which offers a great view of the performers, as well as other people walking around. And this is the real reason I love concerts at Pier 17: the people-watching is unparalleled.

For such a diverse place, New York can often feel quite segmented, with different groups never really mixing. At every other NYC outdoor concert venue, you get a homogenous group of people based on the location and the act. SummerStage shows that feature indie bands are filled with hipsters and, a bit strangely, with high school and college kids eager to spend a day in the city. SummerStage dance shows can be a bit more diverse, but when it comes down to it, it’s mostly the arty, well-educated crowd. Pier 54 crowds have a bit more variety, but most people tend to be 20 and 30-somethings of the not-quite-hipster-but-almost variety. And any Williamsburg concert? No explanation necessary.

So in that respect, South Street concerts are refreshing. There’s no dominant group there. Instead, it’s a nice cross section of people of all ages that includes locals from all boroughs, office workers hanging out at the end the week, some hipsters and arty people, U.S. and international tourists, families, people who just happened to walk by an see a concert going on, and so on.

Plus, watching the sun set over the water and the buildings of lower Manhattan is pretty sweet, too.

The Craziest Apt Set-up in NYC

My boyfriend spent the weekend apartment hunting with one of our friends. They saw several places, mostly in Hell’s Kitchen, the UWS, and Morningside; some were nice and large, others were tiny and unlivable. But the scariest/craziest/most ridiculous place they saw was in the West Village.

This two-bedroom was in a prime location near 6th Ave. and W. Houston. But it didn’t have a private bathroom. The toilets were down the hallway behind two padlocked doors. On the “upside,” though, it did have a tub and shower — that was conveniently located in the kitchen, right next to the sink.

This apparently led to an animated discussion about whether it would be worse to share a toilet or shower with strangers. I, personally, would rather share a toilet and have my own shower; there’s nothing grosser than dealing with other peoples’ hair. Except, maybe, washing your veggies in a sink right next to your shower.

The Best Part of My Current Office

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working at an in-house web editing gig. The offices are on the 15th floor of a typical, nondescript building in the 30s — there’s nothing remarkable about the space except for this feature: a tiny patio that looks out at water towers, rooftops, and other buildings. Sure, there are cigarette butts scattered around the floor and the railing and door are rusty. But it feels like such a luxury to be able to step outside and get a breath of fresh air every so often in a quiet spot in the middle of midtown.

Michael Jackson Remembered in Harlem

The Apollo Theater has become NYC’s unofficial Michael Jackson mourning spot. Soon after the King of Pop’s death, heartbroken fans transformed a makeshift wall next to the theater into a shrine covered with scrawled remembrances and photos. Yesterday, thousands of mourners attended an MJ tribute at the venue that included music, dancing, and a eulogy by Al Sharpton. Tonight, the Apollo’s Amateur Night will be dedicated to Jackson.

My gym is in Harlem, right across the street from the Apollo, and I stopped by after my workout. It was only 9 a.m. but people were already writing messages on the memorial wall; others were lined up outside the theater. Nearby, TV vans waited by the curb and vendors unloaded Michael Jackson merchandise onto folding tables.

It was hard to look at the makeshift memorial and not feel a little choked up. No matter how odd or freakish Jackson has been in the past years, there’s no denying the impact he had on music — or the impact his music had on the world — and an incredible amount of talent has gone to waste.

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First Washington Heights CSA Pick-Up of the Season

I wanted to join a CSA since I first read about community supported agriculture. The majority of my grocery budget goes to buying produce (mostly organic), but I tend to buy the same fruits and veggies (spinach, arugula, bok choy, mushrooms, bananas, plums, etc.) all the time because they’re what I’m familiar with and they’re usually not too expensive. I’m also not a great cook — I’m constantly stuck in food ruts — and I figured a CSA would force me to learn how to cook new dishes since I’ll have no control over the fruits and veggies I’ll receive. Oh, and it also seemed like a good way to support local, organic farmers.В 

After doing a bit of research last fall, I learned that there’s a Washington Heights CSA that distributes veggies in Fort Tryon Park, which is only a few blocks from my apartment. The produce comes from Windflower Farms, a small, organic farm upstate in the Taconic Hills. Joining the CSA was the hard part. Apparently, a glut of people also wanted in, so I was on a waiting list for several months. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail stating that I was accepted from the waiting list, and I signed up for a vegetable share (22 weeks) and a fruit share (20 weeks).

Yesterday was the season’s first pick-up, so I headed to the distribution site, at New Leaf Cafe, in Fort Tryon. I was surprised to find a rather long line of people also picking up veggies. Apparently, the CSA has quite a few new members, and a volunteer kept reiterating that they’d never had a line before.В 

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It moved quickly, though, and soon I stood before a row of boxes, each bearing a different veggie. A large chalkboard informed us how many of each were were allotted.В 

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I returned home with this gorgeous array of veggies, fruit, and herbs. Then came the hard part: washing, breaking down, and deciding what to do with all of it.

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Checking Out the High Line

I have to admit, all the hype about the High Line made me a bit dubious about the project. For years, there have been sporadic flurries of stories in the New York media about how the High Line is coming, and now it has more funding, and here’s how its progress is going, and so on. And, of course, there was the celeb involvement, which made my skeptical side think that somehow, despite the High Line being a public park, it would be co-opted by New York’s upper crust. Plus, it starts in the Meatpacking District, and that alone made me think the neighborhood would rub off on the park and tinge it with a bit of pretentiousness and douchebaggery, for lack of a better word.

On Sunday, when we went to check out the High Line, it initially seemed like my skeptical assumptions would turn out to be true.В 

For the time being, you can only enter the park at Gansevoort Street, which is a bit of a bummer if you’re walking from uptown, like we were. We ended up walking below the High Line, on the street (what a tease!), until we reached Gansevoort…and saw a mob of people. A huge line of people waiting for wrist bracelets to get in would have stretched into the West Side Highway if it didn’t curve back into the street.В 

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At that point, I was tempted to turn around and come back on a weekday morning, but one of the line monitors assured us that the line moved quickly. He was right. About 20 minutes later, we went through a few rows of carrells — similar to the ones at amusement parks — and finally stepped onto the High Line.В 

I was pleasantly surprised. Judging from the hordes of people waiting to get in, I expected the park to be jam packed. But it wasn’t. I suppose the High Line’s length allows people to disperse quickly, so I never felt like I was crowded in or jostling to get around people.В 

The park design is beautiful, too. There’s something quite gorgeous about the way new plants and quirky-looking flowers are growing amongst the rusty old freight train tracks. Plus, the park’s elevation makes you feel like you’re insulated from Manhattan’s hustle and bustle, but still in the heart of the city.

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I especially loved these lounge chairs. I plan on coming back one weekday to take full advantage of reading and sunbathing:

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Despite the park’s beauty, it’s hard not to view it with a grain of cynicism. As one of my friends said, you have to wonder how many other city parks could have benefitted from all the money that flowed into this project…
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