NYC’s Secret Places

NYC's Secret Places by Ari KellenThere’s no shortage of amazing things to see and do in New York City.  Most of these places are pretty out in the open, but plenty of other ones are hidden away, available only to those who are willing to look for them.  Here are a few of them, taken from an article I found online:

City Hall Station: If you’re riding the 6 subway downtown, don’t get off at the final stop (Brooklyn Bridge).  Rather, stay on the train, and you’ll pass through the now closed City Hall Station.  This small station is one of the most beautifully-designed in the city, with Guastavino tile vaults, skylights and Romanesque Revival architecture.  Very rarely, the New York Transit Museum offers free tours of the station, but you need to sign up quickly.

The Henry C. Frick bowling alley: Housed in the former home of millionaire Henry Clay Frick is one of the best European art museums in the city.  The cellar of the mansion is home to a private bowling alley that Frick added in 1914.  Unfortunately, getting to see it is nearly impossible if you aren’t a member of the museum.

NYPL book vault: Attached to the NYPL is a two-story, underground vault holding some of the rarest books in the library’s collection.  Although it isn’t open on a regular basis, it does host a handful of annual tours.

Harlem’s High Bridge: Built in the mid-19th century as an aqueduct, this once carried water from Westchester to Manhattan.  It now serves as an attraction for walkers and park-goers.  To get there, take the 1 train up to 168th and walk east to Highbridge Park.  

Rockefeller Center’s Rooftop Gardens: Hidden at the top of Rockefeller Center is a beautiful rooftop garden filled with well-tended flowers and a reflective pool and garden.  If you’ve got a lot of money lying around, you can rent the space for a private event.  

GCT “whispering spot”: In front of the famous Oyster Bar in Grand Central is an archway.  If two people stand at opposite ends of the arch, they can talk into the wall and have their partner hear what they’re saying on the other side.  

Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Ruins: Crowded as New York is, there remain plenty of abandoned buildings, including this 19th-century building on Roosevelt Island.  Population density and a steady arrival of immigrants from Europe meant that New York suffered from smallpox for a long time, and the building served as a quarantine for those infected.  

Fragment of the Berlin Wall: Around the corner from the MoMA is a section of the Berlin Wall, specifically in the lobby of 520 Madison Ave.  This five-section wall is one of the largest sections still intact.  Although it’s inside a building, the lobby is open to the public, so come and visit.

Loew’s Theater: Although it was once a thriving theater in earlier years, Loew’s on Canal Street is now vacant, awaiting restoration.  It was one of the biggest movie theaters in the country when it opened in 1927, but fell into disuse in the 1960s.  Although it’s vacant, its designation as an official New York City Landmark means that it can’t be torn down.  Luckily, developers are in talks to get it renovated.  

Speakeasies: Although speakeasies are now obsolete after the repeal of Prohibition, that doesn’t make the gimmick of a hidden bar any less appealing.  In the past decade, a new wave of speakeasies, most of them cocktail-centric, have been springing up everywhere from Harlem to Brooklyn.  Their entrances are seldom marked, and you often need to know where to look if you want to find them, but they’re a whole lot of fun if you can.  

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Great Halloween Bars in NYC

Great Halloween Bars in NYC by Ari KellenHalloween might be on a Monday this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still go out!  There are plenty of great Halloween-related activities.  In addition to classic haunted houses, plenty of New York bars are great at getting you into the spooky mood.  Here are some, based off an article I read on Timeout:

The Manderley Bar: This cocktail parlor located inside the McKittrick Hotel is littered with all sorts of themes related to its theatrical heritage: drama masks playing cards and velvet curtains, just to name a few.  In addition, it serves as a venue for live entertainment that ranges from jazz to comedy.  

Sanatorium: Albert Trummer, best known for founding Chinatown’s speakeasy Apotheke, recently opened Sanatorium in Alphabet City after a two-year stint in Miami.  Detail is king here, with test-tubes, x-ray light boxes of radiographs and stoppered glass bottles.  

The Headless Horsemen: Plenty of bars around the city have tried to channel the “olde pub” feel, but few have done it quite as well as The Headless Horseman.  There are plenty of great classic cocktails, as well as tasty dishes to munch on.  

Le Boudoir: History buffs rejoice; Le Boudoir is a bar modeled after the private chambers at Versailles of the infamous Marie Antoinette, even featuring a doorknob lifted from her bedroom.  It’s a speakeasy, with an entrance disguised by a bookshelf modeled after one from Marie Antoinette’s library.  The cocktails here have French Revolution-themed names, such as the famous “guillotine”.  

Beetle House: As you enter the unassuming Beetle House, a doorman in full Beetlejuice garb lunges out at you to welcome you into this Tim Burton-themed bar.  It’s decked with all sorts of memorabilia, from surgical instruments reminiscent of Sweeney Todd to caricatures of Winona Ryder.

Otto’s Shrunken Head: Hailed as New York’s only “Rockabilly Tiki Bar”, this is a great place to let loose on the wild side.  The decorations here are designed to look like a gaudy ‘50s beach bar, with a drink menu that emphasizes tropical (and often frozen) drinks.  As New York’s last rockabilly bar, the back room serves as a venue for all sorts of live music that makes this place jump on the weekends.  

Fraunces Tavern: If history is your thing and the Boudoir wasn’t enough for you, then head on over to Fraunces Tavern, one of the oldest bars in New York (George Washington drank there).  It’s also hailed as one of the most haunted buildings in the city.  Come here for a spook and a pint!

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Ghostly Day Trips From NYC

ghostly day trips from NYC by Ari KellenNew Yorkers love their weekend getaways: the Poconos, the Jersey Shore, the Catskills, etc.  Yet New Yorkers might not think this is a great time to take a weekend trip; most of the leaves upstate have fallen, apple picking season is over, it’s starting to get cold, but there isn’t any snow for skiing yet.  But with Halloween just around the corner, a weekend ghost tour could be fun!  Here are some haunted places outside of New York that could make for a great day or weekend trip:

Amityville Horror House (Amityville, NY): Whether or not the events described in the “Amityville Horror” book or the 17 films it spawned actually occurred, this Dutch Colonial-style home does hold some dark secrets inside its walls.  In the early 70s, before the events of the book occurred, a young man murdered his parents and four siblings in the house.  The next family to purchase the house fled after 28 days, claiming that they were harassed by evil spirits, although no subsequent owners have reported anything unusual.  You can’t enter the house, but you can drive by, or maybe buy it (it was recently put on the market).  

Letchworth Village (Thiels, NY): The little hamlet of Thiels is home to Letchworth Village, which previously served as an insane asylum.  Like many historic insane asylums, Letchworth gained a reputation for mistreatment, and the ghosts of patients are said to still haunt the grounds.  Although the buildings are off-limits to the public, trespassers have reported such phenomena as weird sounds and moving objects.  

The Spy House (Port Monmouth, NJ): As one of the oldest houses in New Jersey (built around 1663), the “Spy House”, named after a previous owner who served as an American spy in the American Revolution, has had plenty of time to accrue ghosts.  Hailed “the most haunted house in America”, it once boasted 22 active ghosts, including a woman dressed in white, a bearded sea captain and a small boy.  It was previously open to the public for tours, but those have since stopped, fueling the suspicion that officials were trying to cover up the paranormal presence within the house’s walls.  

Union Cemetery (Easton, CT): This ancient cemetery, featuring graves from as far back as the 17th century, is said to be one of the most haunted places in Connecticut.  According to legend, a ghostly figure with long black hair wearing a white gown, known as “the White Lady”, haunts the grounds, floating among the gravestones and scaring drivers by appearing in the middle of Route 59.  

Shades of Death Road (Allamuchy, NJ): Nobody knows how Shades of Death Road got its grisly name, but whatever happened, it’s known as the site for all sorts of paranormal activity.  The road has hosted all sorts of grisly events over the years, such as an outbreak of malaria, car accidents, gruesome murders and brutal highway robberies.  Ghosts and other supernatural phenomena have been reported at various points along the road.  

Warrens’ Occult Museum (Monroe, CT): Ed and Lorraine Warren were a couple who worked as a team of paranormal investigators for over 50 years.  They claimed to have investigated over 10,000 cases during their career, including Amityville, and their work has inspired such films as “The Conjuring” franchise, “Annabelle” and “The Haunting in Connecticut”.  Their home in Monroe serves as the “Occult Museum”, where they keep various haunted objects that they’ve confiscated over the years, including the infamous Annabelle doll.  It boasts the “largest array of haunted artifacts and items that have been used in occult practices throughout the world”.   

Forest Park Cemetery (Brunswick, NY): Not for the faint of heart, this cemetery features inexplicable “cold spots”, where the temperature drops dramatically.  Apart from a general feeling of creepiness, visitors to the Forest Park Cemetery have reported glowing orbs and headless statues that bleed from the neck.  

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More Food Trucks!

More food trucks by Ari KellenIn recent years, the food truck has taken New York City by storm.  In a city where space is a premium, food trucks are mobile and convenient, allowing New Yorkers to enjoy their goods just about anywhere.  And lucky for food vendors, New York City Council has been trying to make life easier for them and facilitate their growth.  Over half a dozen members of the City Council have introduced the Street Vending Modernization Act legislation, which would double the number of food vendor permits over the next seven years.  For those who fantasize about a halal truck on every corner, their dream may soon become a reality.  

The last time the number of food vendor permits was set was in the 80s.  Since then, there’s been a cap of 4,235 permits available at one time.  These permits, leased to an individual, are a precious resource, leading to an exploitative shadow economy that oppresses New Yorkers in a cycle of extortion.  Of course, the nature of street vendors in the city of New York has changed drastically since the 80s.  Food vendors at that time were restricted to the standard hot dog, candied nut and halal stands that have always been synonymous with New York.  But nowadays, while New Yorkers still love their halal trucks, a new breed of food truck, serving more “high-end” food, has become popular as well.  Food trucks in New York have slowly but surely evolved, going from the classic hot dogs and gyros to everything from grilled cheese to lobster rolls.  

Under the new legislation, 600 more licensed vendors would be roaming the streets each year for the next seven years.  Out of the 4,200 permits, preference would be given to those 2,500 who were already on the city’s waiting list for permits.  35 of them would be allotted to veterans and people with disabilities.  The cost of a two-year permit would go from $200 to $1,000, but that’s also a lot cheaper than the $25,000 it costs on the black market.  This legislation is helping to address the restrictions imposed on food vendors that result in thousands of dollars in fines and make running this business even more difficult.  

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Best Comfort Food in NYC

Best Comfort food in NYC by ari KellenOctober is now upon us.  That means the giant costume store by Union Square will actually be packed, pumpkin spiced lattes will be in everybody’s hands and the weather is, of course, finally going to cool down.  It’s also the time for comfort foods.  Here is a list of great comfort foods this fall, and where in New York you can pick them up:

Bigos: Also known as “hunter’s stew”, this stick-to-your-ribs food is an essential staple of Polish cuisine.  The recipe depends on who is making it, but it’s often tomato-based, and always includes sauerkraut and pork (typically in the form of pork shoulder, bacon or kielbasa).  Even if you aren’t a big cabbage fan, do yourself a favor and give this unique and delicious dish a try.
Where to get it: Karczma (136 Greenpoint Ave, Greenpoint)

Ramen: New Yorkers love their ramen.  And I’m not just talking the freeze-dried stuff they pick up at the bodega.  New York restaurants easily make some of the best and most creative ramen on the East Coast.  And with the weather getting colder, New Yorkers now have an excuse to dig into a bowl of this delicious noodle soup.  
Where to get it: Hide Chan Ramen (248 E 52nd St, Midtown East)

Lamb mafe: Senegalese food may not be as popular in New York as, say, Chinese or Italian, but that’s not to take away from how delicious it can be.  One of the best (and most comforting) dishes in Senegalese cooking is lamb mafe, a creamy peanut-based stew made with lamb and tomatoes.  Served hot over rice, it can warm up even the coldest New Yorker.
Where to get it: Joloff Restaurant (1168 Bedford Ave, Bed-Stuy)

Matzoh ball soup: If matzoh ball soup has become a cliché of New York cuisine, that’s only because it’s absolutely delicious.  Hailed as “Jewish penicillin”, it’s an essential fall dish for those New Yorkers who get sick when the seasons change.  And even if you aren’t sick, matzoh ball soup is still just as tasty.  
Where to get it: Mile End Deli (53 Bond St, NoHo; 230 Park Ave, Midtown or 97A Hoyt St, Boerum Hill)

Soup dumplings: No, this isn’t “dumpling soup”, these are dumplings with soup inside them.  They’re difficult to make, and even harder to master, but when they’re done well, soup dumplings are easily the best part of any dim sum spread.
Where to get it: Joe’s Shanghai (9 Pell St, Chinatown or 24 W 56th St, Midtown)

Mac and cheese: Whether it comes from an artisanal restaurant in Williamsburg or a box you bought at the supermarket, you can’t go wrong with mac and cheese.  It goes great as a side dish, but also stands just as well on its own.  
Where to get it: Queens Comfort (40-09 30th Ave, Astoria)

French fries: French fries are everybody’s favorite side dish, whether they’re served with a burger, dipped in milkshakes (I promise you it’s delicious!) or smothered in gravy and cheese curds.  Maybe deep fried sticks of potato aren’t that great for you, but that’s not to discredit their value as delicious comfort food.  
Where to get it: Pommes Frites (128 Macdougal St, Greenwich Village)

Burritos: Guaranteed to fill you up, nothing beats a good burrito filled with hot beans, rice and guacamole.  Since Chipotle took the country by storm several years ago, various burrito joints have sprung up across the US (including New York); although none of them have been able to match the success of the fast food giant, many of them have made burritos that can easily go toe-to-toe with them.  
Where to get it: Dos Toros (various locations)

Beef Patties: Since they were first brought to New York City by West Indian immigrants some 50 years ago, Jamaican beef patties can be found everywhere in New York from hole-in-the-walls in Crown Heights to your local bodega.  Served piping hot and packed with spices, they’ll be sure to warm you up.  
Where to get it: Miss Lily’s (132 W Houston St, Greenwich Village or 109 Ave A, East Village)

Naan: There’s beauty in simplicity.  And you can’t get simpler (or tastier) than a simple piece of buttery naan.  It’s an essential part of any Indian restaurant experience, whether it’s served as an appetizer or used to dip into your chicken tikka masala.   
Where to get it: Masalawala (179 Essex St., Lower East Side)

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