10 Things You Didn’t Know About Queens

10 Things You didn't know about queens by Ari KellenWhen asked what the “hot” borough is, most New Yorkers will tell you it’s either Manhattan or Brooklyn.  And there’s plenty of great stuff to do in both, without a doubt.  But that’s not to discredit their eastern neighbor, Queens.  In a city as unique as New York, Queens still stands out.  It might not boast the brunches of neighboring boroughs, but it’s still got a whole lot to offer, and is rich in history.  Here are some facts you might not know about Queens:

It’s really big: With 2.3 million residents, Queens has just 400,000 less people than Chicago.  If it seceded from the rest of New York, it would be the fourth largest city in the US; the country’s current fourth-largest city, Houston, is a few thousand residents behind.  

It’s actually named after a Queen: Like many places in Colonial America, Queens is named after a British monarch: Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II.  When the British took the area from the Dutch in the 1660s, the region got some new anglophile names: “Nieuw Amsterdam” became “New York” in honor of the reigning monarch’s brother, the Duke of York, while the neighboring counties were renamed “Kings” and “Queens” in honor of the reigning monarchs.

It’s the final resting place of Harry Houdini: Located a good distance from any subway line, Machpaleh Jewish cemetery is fairly nondescript.  However, it’s the site of Houdini’s grave, a popular mecca for Halloween revelers and aspiring magicians.  It’s fastidiously looked after by The Society of American Magicians and the Houdini Museum in Scranton.  

The Rockaways is New York’s premier surfing spot: Located at the very end of the A train, the Rockaways is arguably New York’s best beach.  Hurricane Sandy hit it hard, but it’s been making a major comeback, and its beach is home to some great waves.  Even without a board, it’s well worth the trip.

It’s the most diverse neighborhood in the world: New York’s always been a diverse place; when it was a remote trading post with only 400 people living there, there were 18 different languages.  But Queens brings that to a whole new level; the 2000 Census counted 138 languages spoken in the borough, yet some experts estimate that number to be around 800.  Furthermore, a lot of these languages can’t be heard anywhere else in the world.  

The food is amazing: The brunch spots in Queens might not be as well-known as Brooklyn’s or Manhattan’s, but that’s not to discredit the food scene in Queens.  The neighborhood’s ethnic diversity means that you can get a whole lot of delicious and authentic food you can’t find anywhere else in the city.

Some of the world’s best pianos are made in Astoria: Although New York was historically a center of manufacturing, that’s changed recently due to high taxes and expensive real estate.  Yet the piano company Steinway & Sons, founded in Astoria in 1853, is staying just where it is, and has been using the same factory for 100 years.  

It’s the site of a major film studio: Kaufman Astoria Studios is an historic movie studio, and home to New York’s only backlot.  Classic films and TV shows such as “Animal Crackers”, “Goodfellas” and “Sesame Street” have all been filmed there.  It’s also the home to New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, a great museum chronicling film history.

There’s an abandoned Civil War fort in Queens: In 1862, the government built a fort to watch over the ships entering and leaving New York Harbor.  Although Fort Totten Park never saw battle, it had a long history as a base and training station for the US Army.  Some of it remains a training ground for the army reserves, but the public part is a great park.   

It’s the hometown of a lot of big names: The Ramones, Simon & Garfunkel, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Cyndi Lauper, Tony Bennett, Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent and Louis Armstrong are just a few famous musicians who come from or have lived in Queens over the years.  

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration http://ift.tt/2lddYOl


NYC’s Lesser-Known Attractions

NYC's lesser known attractions by Ari KellenNew York’s got plenty of iconic and exciting attractions.  The Met, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the 9/11 Memorial, the list could go on and on.  Yet for all of these famous, iconic attractions, there are those that aren’t as well-known.  Here are some of the quirkier attractions in New York that you should be sure to not miss, taken from an article in Timeout:  

BLDG 92: This small museum, located in what was once a military residence at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, pays homage to the historical significance to the area.  It features exhibits for the history buff in all of us such as Civil War ironclads, Pearl Harbor casualties and the stories of those who worked on these various ships in Brooklyn.  

Panorama of the City of New York: It could take a lifetime to explore all of New York City, so luckily the Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum makes it easier for you.  It’s a 9,335-square-foot model of the city, where each inch represents about 100 real feet.  

The Met Breuer: The brand-new Met Breuer (it’s less than a year old!) is designed to make the Met a major player in 20th and 21st-century art.  There have already been some unique exhibits; one notable example is an exhibit of unfinished works by artists ranging from da Vinci to Warhol.

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum: Located in Pelham Bay Park (itself named after the family who built it), the Bartow-Pell mansion is built on the estate of the Pell family, who settled in the region in the 17th century.  The mansion itself, which was built in the early 19th century, offers a unique look at life in 19th-century New York.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center: Most New Yorkers seldom visit Staten Island, but if you do, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, spread across 83 acres, is a must-see.  In addition to an enormous botanical garden, it’s surrounded by cobblestone streets and tiny paths of Victorian and Tudor-style homes.  There’s also a “Chinese Scholar’s Garden”, designed to resemble the landscape of ancient China.  

City Reliquary: Located in the heart of Williamsburg, and looking like a small and nondescript storefront from the outside, the City Reliquary is able to pack an amazing amount of stuff, all tied to New York’s history, into a pretty tiny space.  In addition to being a Williamsburg institution, it serves as an active presence in the Brooklyn community by organizing special events and fundraisers.  

Green-Wood Cemetery: While most graveyards don’t scream “tourist destination”, most graveyards aren’t the Green-Wood Cemetery.  Filled with Victorian mausoleums and stone statues, it’s the resting place of a half million New Yorkers who range from Leonard Bernstein to Boss Tweed.  It also features Battle Hill, one of the highest points in Brooklyn and a major site in the Battle of Brooklyn during the American Revolution.

Woolworth building: When it was finished in 1913, the Woolworth was the tallest building in the world, and to this day remains one of New York’s 20 tallest buildings (a coveted position to say the least).  The building has passed hands regularly, but you can still tour the lobby, decked out in glass and marble interiors.  

Socrates Sculpture Park: In 1986, a group of artists and activists came together to create this 4.5 acre city park over an Astoria landfill.  Designated specifically for artists to create outdoor works, it hosts large-scale sculptures year-round, in addition to a Greenmarket, free yoga and tai chi classes.  

from Ari Kellen| Travel Page http://ift.tt/2kvQA0E

Trading Lagares

trading lagares by ari kellenEven as Mets fans are still grieving over the loss of Bartolo Colon to the Braves, the Mets are receiving trade interest for outfielder Juan Lagares.  They could use his $4.5 million salary to address their bullpen, although they already did that be resigning both Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins.  Yet they still might choose to trade Lagares.  I recently read a blog post that discussed the pros and cons of this move.  Here’s what they have to say:



  • There are too many outfielders making too much money: Since the Mets weren’t able to trade Jay Bruce, their outfield, made up of him, Lagares, Granderson, Cespedes and Conforto has got a combined salary of more than $55 million.  While most of these outfielders will see plenty of games, Lagares is mostly limited to a late-inning defensive replacement.  So $4.2 million for a player with 15 at-bats a week and is mostly being used for his glove doesn’t make much financial sense.
  • He’s not a “prospect” any more: Lagares is going on 28, and isn’t nearly as fit has he used to be.  After he sprained his thumb, he wasn’t able to play as regularly last season.  At some point, there isn’t going to be any more improvement.  
  • He’s got value: While the Mets aren’t in a dire need of center fielders, they’re still valuable.  Lagares is signed through 2019 for $20.5 million, and is under team control through 2020 with a $9.5 million option.  



  • He’s the only actual center-fielder on their roster: As Granderson plays center fielder regularly for the first time in years, the Mets will need to replace him for defense in later innings.  
  • They need him for 2017 and beyond: Even though he’s mostly just a glove man, the Mets need help to balance out their young pitching and unmemorable offense.  


  • It’s against the Mets philosophy: General manager Sandy Alderson doesn’t want to give away players simply because they’re seen as valuable.  Since the Mets didn’t want to give away Bruce simply to get him off the team, it’s unlikely they’ll do that with Lagares.

from Ari Kellen | Sports http://ift.tt/2kHntG5

America’s Priciest Coffee

America's priciest coffee by ari kellenIn the classic Christmas film “Elf”, there’s a memorable scene where the naïve title character, having just arrived to New York from the North Pole, sees a sign outside a nondescript diner advertising the “world’s best cup of coffee”.  Taking the sign for truth, he rushes into the building and congratulates everybody on their supposed accomplishment.  Later on in the film, he takes a girl to the same diner to sample what she dismisses as a “a crappy cup of coffee”.  It’s a pretty hilarious scene, but one that’s particularly funny for New Yorkers, who on a daily basis see signs for businesses that offer the “world’s best” or “New York’s best”.  Without a doubt, New York is one of this country’s top gastronomical destinations.  Yet saying you offer the “world’s best”, “America’s best” or even “New York’s best” cup of coffee is subjective.  But I recently read about something New York is able to do, and that’s offer the country’s most expensive cup of coffee.  

According to Eater, the honor goes to Industry City’s new coffee and tea shop, dubbed the ever-pretentious “Extraction Lab”.  They sell a cup of coffee that costs an impressive $18.  To put that in perspective, a sandwich from Faicco’s Italian deli costs $12.  How do they justify that?  With a super high-tech machine that can brew individual cups of coffee combining elements from French press, drip and espresso.  And it’s all operated on an iPad.  Yet luckily, the Extraction Lab sells cups of coffee for cheaper than $18.  If you’re not up for forking over too much, then you can get a cup for the relatively affordable $3.

In a city where $5 for a beer is considered low, it’s not surprising that New York can boast such a “victory”.  The only competition could come from San Francisco, a city even smaller than New York where height limits on buildings put a premium on real estate.  And the previous record-holder actually came from San Francisco, at $16.  Yet considering the epic and ongoing feud between the East and West coast of this country, New York was not one to be outdone.  

While New York can proudly call themselves the country’s most expensive coffee, they can’t yet claim the title of the world’s most expensive cup of coffee.  That goes to kopi luwak, made from coffee beans that have been digested by an Indonesian civet cat.  While that does not at all sound appealing, it’s extremely rare and is in high demand.  A 1lb pound bag could cost up to $600, while a simple cup could cost $100 in a regular coffee shop.  It’s extremely rare, but if you can’t find it in New York, you can’t find it anywhere.

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration http://ift.tt/2kiwnZG