Best of Manhattan 2010: City Living

| 13 Aug 2014 | 07:31

    Best New Nabe Makeover: Nomad

    OK, we admit that we’re certainly biased with this category since our editorial office is located right in the middle of the area north of Madison Square Park. We can totally go for grunge, but this neighborhood was a sad place to spend at least nine hours every day. We tripped over the haphazard hawkers lined up and down 28th Street, walked by the Oriental rug shops on Madison and eagerly awaited any new restaurant that tried to surface. We didn’t expect much to change in our daily work lives, but then the Ace Hotel opened and a bleak area of Manhattan finally became a destination. Unlike some dubious neighborhood titles, we even like the term Nomad for this unloved brown blot on the taxi map. With the recent inauguration of The Hurricane Club, a yuppie-Polynesian douchepit, and the Gansevoort Park Avenue, however, we’re already feeling the gentrifier jitters. Could an area that had no identity suddenly cross over into a place to avoid so soon?

    Best Bike Path: Owls Head Park to the Verrazano Narrows

    Marty Markowitz’s recent whining that Brooklyn isn’t Amsterdam merely bemoans our ignorance of comparative European geography and not his latent bike-a-phobia. If you squint your eyes and try hard enough, the view from Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge could be anywhere from Lisbon to Corisica. On a clear day, the blue harbor and green trees of Staten Island recall a surprisingly lush Mediterranean scene. Best of all, this view is front and center on the most glorious, uncelebrated double-bike lane in the borough: The delightfully spacious and spongy path stretches from the familyfrequented pier jutting out at Bay Ridge Avenue, along the shore of Brooklyn and all the way under and beyond the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

    Best Magazine One-upmanship: Dueling New York and New Yorker Profiles

    Maybe you trust the magazine awards and don’t question the absolute authority of our culture barometers, but this year gave thoughtful readers a chance to see what editors do and how easily a story can change when shaped with a different agenda in mind. New York magazine’s ongoing dark narrative promotes the seductive and destructive forces at work in the city, so Andrew Goldman’s July profile of David Koch in New York didn’t really do much in tearing him down. While Goldman revealed Koch’s moneyed schemes, like footing much of the bill for the Tea Party organizations (he called him “the Tea Party’s wallet”), it didn’t really press hard on his funding cancer research and hospitals while simultaneously creating the carcinogens that allegedly cause cancer. Then Jane Mayer’s Koch brothers story, titled “Covert Operations,” in The New Yorker, blew it away. That was followed by dueling Nick Denton profiles, with one side wallowing in vulgar exceptionalism and the other taking Denton to task while trying to locate a deeper motivation. As we continue to figure out the direction print media will go in a digital age, and the eroding of our trusted voices, we’ll need to continue to be more discerning readers, careful of the manipulation that is taking place. Now it’s your turn to decide which side to take.

    Best Rage Against the Machine: Lincoln Restler

    The most optimistic talk in city politics this year has been Lincoln Restler’s surprise victory in the recent District Leader race in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Fort Greene. Restler scored an upset over Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez’s preferred candidate. Getting district leaders—an unpaid party position held by hacks and loyalists that few non-politicos even know exists—elected is one of the county Democratic Party’s last vestiges of power. The elections are often forgone conclusions for the machine-backed candidate, but Restler’s victory shows that aggressive fundraising, canvassing and reaching voters ignored by conventional political campaigns can still launch a grassroots candidate to victory.

    Best Literary Sports League:

    Word Basketball League

    Word, 126 Franklin St., Brooklyn, 718-383-0096 You gotta love the idea of getting nerds to sign up to play basketball and giving them a lit quiz before they

    can join a sports team. The Strand Bookstore is known for its questionnaire for potential employees (which many of us have passed only to fail in more significant ways), but Stephanie Anderson, of Word, the indie bookstore in Greenpoint, has devised a simple test for book nerds that is only five questions long and should be able to be answered by anyone. Unless you’re not a Kurt Vonnegut fan and can’t name one of his novels (question No. 1) or have no idea of a single poet’s name (Dr. Seuss could probably even count) or can’t figure out what the best-selling book of all time could be. It may have all started out as a joke, but then people got serious and they’ve had two seasons so far. What’s next, a rugby team for computer programmers? Oh wait, that may have already been taken.

    Best Place to Freak Out Your Midwestern Friends: Sammy’s Roumanian

    167 Chrystie St., betw. Delancey & Rivington Sts., 212-673-0330

    This Downtown destination labels itself a “steak house,” but it’s really more of a vodka-soaked dinner-and-a-show kind of place. A safe haven for Eastern European Jews, Sammy’s combines schmaltz and kitsch with vodka frozen in blocks of ice and Kasha Varniskes. The live keyboardist holds singalongs throughout the night, and is happy to shout, “Goyim!” at any scared-looking WASPS. If you’re lucky, after the plates of liver and homages to Mel Brooks, the whole restaurant will break out in dance and your formerly scared pals will leave tipsy, happy and full. With stories to bring back home.

    Best Last Date Place: Doc Holliday’s

    141 Ave. A, at E. 9th St., 212-979-0312

    When we started to poll our friends about where to take a date before kicking her to the curb, we received puzzled stares. “Why would you want to go on a last date? Can’t you just de-friend on Facebook and leave it at that?” Woah! Have we really sunk so low that no one, not even a lousy lay, deserves a face-toface letdown? Although breaking up “in the middle of the street” was a pretty common solution (albeit still rude), we decided on Doc Holliday’s. First, it’s cheap (the idea of taking a last date to Cipriani just seemed gratuitously mean to both parties). Plus, as one gal explained: “It’s a honky-tonk bar, and that’s just good atmosphere for heartbreak.” Best Place to Mourn Our Collapsed Economy: The Shuttered ESPN Zone in Times Square

    Formerly at Broadway & West 42nd St.

    Amidst one of the city’s densest tourist areas, the ultimate sports bar couldn’t survive. Where can one get a beer and a cheeseburger and check in on the game after dragging the kids through Toys R Us? Nowhere. The simplest of concepts was perhaps too simple for such a dollar-driven area. It’s a painful reminder that brand names mean nothing in this day and age. Perhaps ESPN should have thrown a few employees in Chris Berman/Stu Scott costumes or hired former NYC sports stars to sit in the lobby and spin yarns from the good ol’ days.

    Best Untold Broadway Drama:Megan Mullally vs. Patton Oswalt After her quickie appearance on Parks & Recreation, we were eagerly anticipating getting some quality Mullally time last spring in the Roundabout’s revival of Terence McNally’s Lips Together Teeth Apart. But she apparently didn’t feel the same way about co-star Patton Oswalt. The gossip blogs (and the New York Times) alluded to a Mullally ultimatum: Oswalt or her. Director Joe Mantello called her bluff and Mullally was out in a huff. Too bad the best thing to come out of last year’s Roundabout season took place behind the scenes.

    Best Upstart Radio Station: Newtown Radio [ ](

    Launched in April of this year, Newtown Radio, a Bushwick-based web radio station, plays some of the best in local acts, but isn’t just for the Captured Tracks and Woodsist sets. We recently listened with our roommate during an afternoon of IKEA furniture building and heard Madonna, Prince and plenty of vintage hip-hop. Also of note are talk shows focused on New York culture and the daily Lo-Fi Lunch show—which is our favorite thing to listen to while we digest.

    Best Naked Impresario: Jonny Porkpie [ ](

    Our dentist keeps telling us to wear that mouthguard, but it’s not our fault: Every time we get another story pitch about burlesque, we grind our teeth. It’s not that we don’t like the fun and joy of the ladies who like to take it all off. It’s just that there doesn’t seem to be anything new happening in a scene that has been playing out for well over a decade now. But Jonny Porkpie, the self-proclaimed Burlesque Mayor of NYC, still keeps it interesting. As co-producer of Pinchbottom Burlesque, producer of Jonny Porkpie’s Bad Ideas and author of pulp fiction like The Corpse Wore Pasties, the man has a serious ego that only a city like ours could cultivate. Check out his upcoming boylesque Nov. 14 show at the Bowery Poetry Club titled Shocks & C*ocks, in which the guys get to tease and reveal, and you’ll see what we mean.

    Jonny Porkpie.

    Best Connection to East Village Ethos: East Village Radio

    Studio at East 1st St. & 1st Ave., [ ](

    The small dark storefront—which holds a DJ booth, a couple of rock nerds and a sign that reads East Village Radio—has caused many a passerby to walk past on the way to the F train and wonder, “What’s that all about?” While it is not technically a radio station, only broadcasting online, for the last five years, EVR has been one of the city’s few remaining connections to the freeform FM’s spirit, and offers 16 hours of free programming a day that crosses a spectrum of pop genres.

    Best Private/Public Toilet: Ace Hotel Basement

    20 W. 29th St., at Broadway, 212-679-2222

    How much more ink must be wasted in service to the “hipster hotel”? Well, there is one thing that we are grateful for: the beautiful, clean, sumptuous bathroom located in the basement. The bathroom doesn’t appear to be a closely guarded secret—and we’ve been using posh hotel facilities for years instead of the now-grimy commodes at Starbucks— and we’ve never been questioned when we had to duck in for a quick pee. But it’s most well-known by the squadron of coffice drones who take up residence in the lobby and nurse cups of java throughout the day while being zapped by social networkers. Hey, we’ve even been asked to hold a friend’s spot while she scurried down below to make water. Maybe that’s a potential part-time gig for needy freelancers: pee patrol.

    Best View to Inspire Naughty Desires: Standard Hotel 18th Floor

    848 Washington St., at W. 13th St., 212-645-4646

    We’ve been smitten with André Balazs’ hotel that straddles the High Line ever since it was under construction. Everything about this building proclaims sex. Last year the exhibitionists took to the windows to expose wanderers below to their wares, and it’s no wonder. While we’ve never spent an evening in a room, the good stuff is available on the top floor and in those super-sexy bathrooms. Once you leave the sumptuous bar and lounge area and travel to the toilet, decide on a private stall. You then enter into a black room that is shiny, lacquered, mirrored and buffed. One wall is all glass and it feels like the city is watching you as you take out your stuff. That room was made for fun–every sort you can imagine. In the men’s room, the row of urinals is just as titillating: Look out at the skyline as you piss and imagine that you are, for a brief moment, a master of this universe.

    Best Job We Didn’t Know Existed: Vegetable Butcher Jennifer Rubell is the “vegetable butcher” at Eataly, according to co-owner Mario Batali. Didn’t know there was such a thing as a vegetable butcher? Neither did we. Rubell will peel your carrots for you. She’ll trim your artichokes (the only veggie that does make us feel like we’re tearing into something fleshy). She’ll make sure your pretty veggies that you’re paying a shitload for are even prettier, and you never even have to touch them. Who knew that New York could get that much crazier?

    Best Mob-Like Joint: Two Toms

    255 3rd Ave., at Union St., Brooklyn, 718-875-8689

    People are once again fantasizing about the good ol’ Prohibition days when the Mob was ruling the city. With tables full of guys who look like they just walked off the Goodfellas set, Two Toms is not for the faint of heart— or stomach. There are no windows in the basement eatery. And menus? Fuggedaboutit. The spot’s one waiter will spout off a list of what the kitchen is making that evening, and he doesn’t like to repeat himself. Try the handmade pasta or anything with “chop” in the name and you won’t be disappointed. But really, we know you probably just want to feel like you’ve stepped into a New York that was wiped clean long ago.

    Best Picnic Spot: Roof of Lincoln at Lincoln Center

    142 W. 65th St., 212-359-6500

    We don’t really plan to dine anytime soon at the super swanky Lincoln restaurant located alongside the reflecting pool and Henry Moore sculpture on the Lincoln Center campus. But the restaurant’s paraboloid roof is perfectly free. Planted with a special grass to compete with the swarms of visitors, the roof may seem like a gimmick, but the architecture firm of Diller, Scofidio Renfroe understand how to create an enchanting space for people to enjoy on multiple levels (remember, they’re also behind the High Line). Take a walk on the roof and you’ll see that it is one of the most captivating and unusual views in the city. The best is at night, when you can peek into Alice Tully or Avery Fisher halls across 65th Street as the well-heeled promenade for you. Remember: They can’t see you.

    Best Unusual Celebrity Spotting Destination: SPiN NYC

    48 E. 23rd St., at Park Ave. South, 212-982-8802

    While the ping-pong craze never fully materialized in other locations and the trendthat-never-was may have already passed, SPiN NYC remains the spot for table tennis enthusiasts and semi-pro diehards. It also continues to be the best place to have casual encounters with all sorts of celebrities on weeknights. It’s not uncommon to be sipping a drink at the bar and have co-owner Susan Sarandon saunter over, acting completely casual. Other TV actors and musicians are known to stop in for a quickie game or a chance to chill out, but it’s Sarandon who keeps us panting and wanting more.

    Best Cool Space in a Meatpacking Building: Gasser & Grunert Gallery

    524 W. 19th St., betw. 10th & 11th Aves., 212-807-9494

    The starchitect development in the Meatpacking District may have slowed a bit, but there are still some bright spots to discover. Although Shigeru Ban’s Metal Shutter house is pretty much a snooze, the gallery located on the ground floor has proved to be a fascinating work in progress. Gasser & Grunert Gallery is still a large, raw concrete space that is just as much fun to visit as the exhibits on view. Artist Tim Roda took over the space earlier this year and created a strange world in the raw concrete play area. The subsequent exhibit, titled Games of Antiquities, was composed of photographs that showed the building populated in some sort of Roman spectacle with strange rituals, with some of the objects created on display. Sometimes it’s better to leave things alone and let the imagination take over.

    Best Reason to Have Meatsweats: Meatopia

    Who knew that so many people would want to travel by ferry to Governors Island to stand in line and gorge themselves on fancy cuts of meat? We admit we visit the underdeveloped (keep it that way!) island at the slightest opportunity, but the heat meat was a bit too much. Blame it on the humidity or the hangover (so what?), but after a couple plates of ribs and choice flank, we were through. Luckily the rain helped wash all our carnivorous sins away. For a minute. Then the meatmares visited us that night. Best New Reason to Say Goodbye to All That: Richard Johnson & Jeffrey Deitch Leaving for L.A. A friend recently visited Lost Angeles and told us that it seemed vibrant, alive with creativity. We’re not buying it. But it seems like the wave of high-profile flights out west has just begun. First Jeffrey Deitch broke the news that he would abandon his Soho gallery and all the hobnobbing that came with it for Los Angeles MOCA. Where would Yoko Ono be able to exhibit her peculiar works? Then Richard Johnson finally made his big break and left Page Six. Who will be next? It’s only a matter of time before they decide the sunny clime won’t bring them the same notoriety and they return. Right?

    Best Organization Making Downtown Cool: Lower Manhattan Cultural Council [ ](

    As much as we all want artists to prosper, it’s difficult for most to navigate the ins and outs of the city’s bureaucracy or figure out a way to gain any sort of traction if they do manage to surmount the many hurdles put in their way. That’s where an organization like the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council comes in. Keeping Downtown culture alive, LMCC provides grants for arts groups to collaborate with public education institutions as well as presenting work downtown to imbue overlooked spaces with vibrant energy. For example, choreographer Christopher Williams enacted his The Voyage of Garbhglas, based on Irish Faerie lore, at the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City. Even more ambitious, the 37,000-square-foot outdoor exhibition and performance space named LentSpace opened this summer and hosted rotating artworks commissioned by LMCC. The city is healthier (and wealthier) because of the hard work of organizations like this.

    Best Reason to Leave the Staten Island Ferry Terminal: Sri Lankan restaurants Much time has been spent devising ways to entice tourists to step off the Staten Island Ferry and explore the forgotten borough. Perhaps the most overlooked reason is the incredible and incredibly cheap Sri Lankan food near the Staten Island Ferry terminal. The food is spicy, authentwic, reasonably priced and the portions are plentiful in these tiny establishments. Next time out-of-town friends want to take the Staten Island Ferry for a free view of the Statue of Liberty, take them to SanRasa at 226 Bay St. or New Asha on 322 Victory Blvd. It beats staring at fish tanks in the ferry terminal while waiting for the next boat back to Manhattan.

    Best Places For Guys To Pick Up Guys, Brooklyn: Blackout Bar

    916 Manhattan Ave., betw. Greenpoint Ave. & Kent St., 718-383-0254

    While Metropolitan is usually cited as the most happening gay bar in the borough, and we’ve enjoyed many a night there ourselves, there’s something a little bit more exciting about Greenpoint newcomer Blackout Bar. Whether it’s the parties that the practically-Goth boite holds (a launch for raunchy bear magazine Pin Ups, a naughty mixer for gay librarians) or a regular old night drinking whiskey and Schlitz—almost always served up by a devastatingly handsome plaid-clad lad—in the spacious yard, this is one spot that begs you to log off of Grindr and take a look around.

    Best Hetero Meat Market, Manhattan: Brother Jimmy’s BBQ

    181 Lexington Ave., at E. 31st St., 212-779-4727

    The frat-boy fave is popular for all sorts looking to score (in one way or another), but this Murray Hill location is the winner when it comes to boy-on-girl contact sports. It’s the largest of the chain’s locations and has the same amped up sweat and spirit that makes them popular with kids who hail from the South and Midwest. What we love most: watching the girls take off their NYC duds at the door and quickly slip on a T-shirt and put their hair in a ponytail so the male customers can remember their sorority girl dreams.

    Best Activist Group: Not An Alternative

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    Part volunteer hub, part conduit of art and activism, Not An Alternative is what happens when you don’t really feel that nihilist urge and you want to get involved in your neighborhood and take part in what’s going on in the world. The organization hosts lectures and events at its Brooklyn-based gallery No-Space (formerly known as The Change You Want to See Gallery). During the day it is also a co-working space, meaning you can barter or rent time at the space so you’re around like-minded folks instead of at the coffee shop.