Coney Island Fun Guide: Food and Art At Coney Smorgasburg & Coney Art Walls

coney-island-smorgasburg-barI'm a big fan of Coney Island–by which I mean the beach, the boardwalk, the diverse crowd, the games and rides–because even as it gets more and more spruced up, even as it adds more and more bland chain stores, there still remains the gritty, side-show, carny-barker heart of the place. Yes, the Scream Zone and the Thunderbolt are state of the art, but the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel feel as thrillingly old-school as ever (not to mention the DIY-looking Ghost Hole haunted house ride), and if you ever venture into the games area in the "back alley" between the boardwalk and Surf Avenue, you'll see a lot of folks who have been hustling suckers for a looooong time. That said, my biggest complaint about Coney has always been the (really bad) food. Yup, even Nathan's Famous, which is one of the worst restaurants I've ever bothered to eat at in all of NYC. And then suddenly, a miracle! Smorgasburg has just opened up shop in a big lot right off the beach, with a dozen first-rate vendors, two bar areas, AND nearly 20 amazing murals created by some of today's best street artists. 

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Dining, NYC Events, Other Neighborhoods | Leave a comment

Here Are The 5 Best NYC Things To Do In July

best-nyc-july-2015-bastille-day-petanque

Summer really started out right this past June, which may have been the busiest month for fun, mostly free events, and festivities that I can ever remember. And there's no slowing down in July! Well, maybe a little–we do need some days off, too, with nothing more pressing to do than lounge around and laugh and read in the sun–but still, a quick look at all the things going on in July tells me that soon there will be no such thing as a slow season in this city. Anyway, in addition to all of the ongoing art exhibitions, both public and in museums, as well the scads of free movie and concert series, here's a highly subjective list of the 5 Best NYC Events in July..

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYC Summer Adventure: Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens

socrates sculpture park summer 2015 living pyramidThe Socrates Sculpture Park, located at the western end of Broadway in Long Island City, Queens (about a half mile walk from the N/Q station), is one of the great grass-roots success stories of the past few decades here in New York City. In 1986 a group of local activists and artists banded together and, with some help and leadership from world-renowned sculptor Mark di Suverno, transformed an illegal dumping ground and abandoned landfill into both a working studio and a public exhibition space right on the banks on the East River. Nearby LIC residents make great use of the space as a pleasant place to do everything you might normally do in a park, but it's the two primary exhibitions, one in the spring, one in the fall, that always bring me to this tranquil little spot. Like last week, for instance, when I made the trek to see the five new works taking over this NYC gem.

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

7 Santiago Calatrava Sculptures Line Park Avenue

santiago-calatrava-park-avenuemedian

This hasn't been an easy time here in New York City for the world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. His World Trade Center Transit Hub–officially called Bird In Flight but sneered at by critics as a "kitsch stegosaurus", or a dead fish, or a picked-over Thanksgiving turkey–is some eight years behind schedule, $2 billion over budget, and STILL not open, though apparently we will get to go inside a portion of it "soon". I happen to think it's aesthetically pretty amazing, and am looking forward to the time when we'll all have freedom of movement throughout the whole site, but the outrage over the cost and snark about the design has taken its toll on the architect, who recently told the Wall Street Journal, "I have been treated like a dog." In the meantime though, as all of that plays out downtown, Calatrava has another, much simpler and really quite lovely thing going on in Midtown, an exhibition of seven new sculptures on the Park Avenue median in the low 50s.      

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

NYC’s Best Ice Cream List Adds Two New Contenders

nyc-best-ice-cream-milkmade-tasting-room-flightTrue story: I've eaten ice cream every day for just about sixteen years now. And, for the record, with as much frequency as is normal for all of my (many) years before then. I started the daily routine for a very specific reason, and though pretty much everything else has changed since then, the ice cream habit gloriously remains. The point, though, is this: I've tried a LOT of different brands and purveyors in my day, and am unforgiving when it comes to anything mediocre or worse. Which is why I'm genuinely thrilled that two brand-new, highly-anticipated parlors–Ice & Vice on the Lower East Side, MilkMade Tasting Room in Carroll Gardens–not only live up their promise, but need to be immediately included on any Best NYC Ice Cream lists.

Continue reading

Posted in Downtown, NYC Dining, Other Neighborhoods | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Summer Guide To Governors Island

Have you been to Governors Island yet this season? I missed the great Figment Participatory Art Festival for the first time in years earlier this month–June was been crazy full with fun parties and spectacles–but the good news for laggards like me is that several of the event's primary attractions remain in place all summer long. I took the afternoon boat from Manhattan's Maritime Building over to Governors Island last Thursday (remember: the island is open every day again this summer!) and while it felt a bit lonely, the adventure gave me a good opportunity to check out all of the new installations left behind by the Figment crew down there at the southern end of the park's magnificent Parade Ground.

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Exploring America’s Great Migration at MoMA

jacob lawrence great migration moma suitcases

It's one of the most significant (and, to my mind, one of the most interesting) stories in American history, the epic tale of the "Great Migration" of American blacks, as six million descendants of slaves fled the Jim Crow south to the cities of the north and west between the First World War and 1970, and forever changed pretty much everything about the nation, economically, culturally, politically, sociologically. There's so much to this vast demographic shift, the implications so deep and lasting, that it's impossible to fully capture in a single art exhibition, or book, but two recent endeavors–one an exhibition at MoMA, the other a Pulitzer Prize-winning book–do an excellent job of bringing the story to life. 

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Your Guide to Rockaway Beach 2015

rockaway-beach-2015-sand

No question, Rockaway Beach got hit hard by Hurricane Sandy almost three years ago, and recovery's been slow-going in parts, but there's also no doubt in my mind that Rockaway Beach remains New York City's best subway beach. By which I mean: exit the subway, and you're just two blocks or so from the water. Farther out on Rockaway there are a couple of terrific public beaches, at Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis Park, but you'll need a car, or a bike, or a bus, to get there. But to get to what most people call Rockaway Beach, the A train, usually plus the Shuttle, puts you right there. I went out to Rockaway a couple of times over Memorial Day Weekend, mostly around the popular Beach 90 to Beach 99 area, and here's a quick look at what's new, and what still needs some work.

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Dining, NYC Events, Other Neighborhoods | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dominque Ansel Kitchen takes to the West Village

dominique ansel kitchen west village outdoor

The first time I gorged myself silly at Dominique Ansel's Bakery in Soho it was back when we all still lived in the pre-Cronut world. Yes, Ansel was much-acclaimed at the time (he was the Executive Pastry Chef at Daniel for six years before venturing out on his own), and the small, friendly shop was usually pretty bustling. But it was neighborhood crowd mostly, as would be expected at any bakery. And then Ansel unleashed his mad-genius Cronut monster, and soon the Bakery opened every morning to around-the-block lines, every tourist guide in on the planet sent visitors to his place, and a tremendous amount of hype greeted his every next creation. For example: the Frozen S'mores, and the Cookie Shots, which still might be my personal favorite Ansel creation (full disclosure: I've never had a Cronut). And now the chef has finally expanded his realm here in NYC with the brand-new Dominique Ansel Kitchen in the West Village which, in a pair of bold moves, serves about a half dozen savory dishes, and absolutely zero Cronuts. 

Continue reading

Posted in Downtown, NYC Dining | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

One World Observatory Now Open to the Public

one-world-trade-center-observatory-view-east
It took eleven years to build, which sometimes seemed like forever. Especially that first half decade or so when there was just that monster hole in the ground, and the construction process was more about meetings and arguments than the actual laying of steel. And then, after a burst of building, all of a sudden One World Trade Center was done, with the first tenants moving in last fall, and, last week, the One World Observatory on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors–the piece that the rest of us were waiting for–opened to the public. As expected, tens of thousands of tourists eagerly plunked down at least $32 for the privilege of seeing for miles in all directions on opening weekend, but there were plenty of locals in the crowd as well, including myself. Here's my report.

Continue reading

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment