NYC’s Affordable Art Spots

NYC's affordable art spots by Ari KellenMuch as I don’t want to admit it, there are some of bad things that you can say about New York City.  Thankfully, however, one thing you certainly can’t say is that they don’t have a flourishing art scene.  It’s a city covered with art galleries that allow you to take some unique art home.  Yet art in New York, like many things in New York, is expensive, often jaw-droppingly so.  While the more fabled art galleries in the city have got absurd price tags, there are plenty of places selling art that, relatively speaking, is actually reasonably priced!  I recently read a post on the excellent blog “Tracy’s New York Life” that shared five places to find affordable art in New York.  Here they are:

Printed Matter: As a non-profit, you already know off the bat that it’s going to be reasonably priced, because nobody is supposed to profit!  Since its founding over 40 years ago, Printed Matter has been committed to fostering a knowledge and understanding of art books.  While the focus here is on books, they’ve also amassed a huge amount of edition prints, ranging from leading contemporary artists to lesser-known up-and-comers.  

Collyer’s Mansion: Lower Manhattan may have a reputation as the center of New York’s art gallery scene, but Brooklyn, and not just Williamsburg, is slowly stealing its thunder with places such as Collyer’s Mansion, designed to offer livable pieces that double as art.  Here you can find an eclectic assortment of unique pieces that will keep your apartment, no matter how small, nice and stylish.  

Pierogi Gallery: Established in 1994 as an alternative to traditional “white cube galleries”, Pierogi Gallery has been fighting the mainstream since before it was cool.  From its new Lower East Side location, it hosts a unique program of exhibitions and events while also offering visitors a chance to peruse their affordable art pieces.  

Whisper Editions: By working with artists and designers, Whisper Editions offers a great collection of art and art objects.  Here, the overall aesthetic is something like “modern rustic”, but with a clean, sleek finish.  You can get pieces ranging from gold-dipped antler to prints to surfboards.

Beam: Since it was first established in 2013, this Williamsburg spot has been offering well-curated products from both emerging and seasoned artists.  The offerings here are an eclectic mix of different styles, all united by undeniable personality.  

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Wanted: Subway Genius

Wanted: Subway Genius by Ari KellenThe song “Charlie on the MTA”, made famous by the folk group the Kingston Trio, tells the story of a man trapped on the Boston subways because of an MTA fare hike.  It’s a goofy song, and the story behind it is absurd, but it highlights the people of Boston’s dissatisfaction with their subway system.  And while New York and Boston are different in numerous regards, in that they can at least agree (even if their reasons for dissatisfaction are a little different).  Even Governor Cuomo seems to agree; yesterday, when addressing a crowd at CUNY Graduate Center, he challenged the MTA to look internationally for “groundbreaking and innovative solutions” for the crowding and delays for which our subways have become infamous.  And if the best solution requires funding beyond the $8 billion committed by the State to the MTA, then Cuomo has promised to find a way to pay for it.  

Cuomo’s “MTA Genius Transit Challenge” has called for three different categories: 1) signal system overhauls, 2) new subway car designs or overhauls to the preexisting ones and 3) WiFi and cell service throughout the subways.  The winner in each category will win $1 million.  When discussing the challenge, Cuomo compared other cities and their metro systems.  Copenhagen, for example, has driverless electric trains with open-ended cars, while every station in Hong Kong has high-speed Wi-Fi.  He argued that the technology is out there in different cities, for New York it’s just a matter of utilizing that technology to good use.

This comes as a different approach from before; as recently as last week, Cuomo was trying to distance himself from the MTA.  Watchdogs and advocates have expressed their approval of Cuomo’s initiative, but still have concerns about what an actual plan would entail.  Under Cuomo, the State has appropriated $5.4 billion of a promised $8 billion in capital funding for the project, yet that only becomes available after the MTA drains all of its capital resources from previous years.  To be implemented in New York City, many of the transit innovations that have worked in different cities could end up being more costly due to both a 24-hour system and the complexities from navigating preexistng infrastructure.  

Cuomo has also expressed his willingness to take over renovations of Penn Station from Amtrak and prioritize the Gateway Tunnel project, which would expand the rail line between Newark and Manhattan.  Doing this, however, would require federal, State and private funding, and how that’s going to happen remains to be seen.  

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

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Seaside Bars of New York

Seaside Bars of New York by Ari KellenWith spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, plenty of New Yorkers are letting themselves go outside and walk around.  Even if few New Yorkers want to take the day off to go to Coney Island just yet, and much of New York’s waterways are much too dirty to want to swim, there are still ways to enjoy New York’s waterfront during this weather, namely the floating bars, whether they’re barges or actual boats, surrounding the boroughs of New York.  Here are a few of them:

The Brooklyn Barge: Located right next to Transmitter Park, easily one of my favorite parks in Brooklyn, this 80×30-foot barge features a full bar, as well as a “land” area with picnic table-style eating.  Beyond drinking, the barge offers scuba and sailing classes, vessel tours and paddle boarding.

The Crow’s Nest: Located in that part of Murray Hill beyond where the clubs are, the Crow’s Nest offers one of the few reasons to explore that part of the city.  Looking over the Manhattan skyline on one side and the Queens and Brooklyn skylines on another, it features burgers, a raw-bar and cocktails.  

North River Lobster Company: Red Hook Lobster Pound and Luke’s Lobster are both delicious, but none of their locations are on a boat.  That’s where North River Lobster Company comes in.  This boat lets you sail around the city for just $10 while offering both beer and lobster rolls.  

Grand Banks: Modern Tribeca is a swanky neighborhood with high heels, higher prices and even higher rents, but at the same time you get what you pay for.  If you’re looking for that Tribeca experience, but on a boat, then visit Grand Banks, docked at Tribeca’s Pier 25.  It’s like a nautical tribeca, with classy cocktails and oysters.

Frying Pan: After a Coast Guard lightship sunk off the coast of Maryland, it found a second life after being salvaged and turned into the Frying Pan, one of the most famous boat bars in New York.  With its vibrant bar and great atmosphere, it’s a place that stands out.  

Willy Wall: Willy Wall is considered by many to be one of New York City’s great summer secrets, but it requires effort to get to.  It’s so far out, that you can’t even get there by subway; rather, you need to pay for a ferry ticket to take out there.  On the plus side, this means it’s less likely to be crowded.

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New York’s Night Mayor

New York's Night Mayor by Ari KellenNew York, as a city that never sleeps, is known for its nightlife, and indeed it’s a $10 billion industry.  New York never sleeps, so that means the people running it shouldn’t either.  That’s why one city councilmember, Rafael Espinal, is in the process of creating a “night mayor”, who would serve as a friendly go-between for City Hall and New York’s booming nightlife and independent art scene and ensure that wouldn’t be hindered by unnecessary bureaucracy.  

The concept of a “night mayor” is new to the US, but it’s an idea that’s been steadily gaining momentum across the ocean since Amsterdam adopted it in 2014 to “transformative” results.  Zurich, Paris and London have all followed suit, realizing the potential of a thriving nightlife to kickstart a city’s economy.  In Espinal’s proposal, the focus of New York’s “night mayor” would go beyond nightlife, and also be focused on keeping the DIY spaces and smaller venues around the city open.  Espinal, who represents parts of Bushwick, East New York, Brownsville and Cypress Hills, pointed out the closure of punk venue Shea Stadium as a reason for a New York “night mayor”.  He claims that the city has gotten to the point where the only sustainable venues to survive in the city are high-end clubs or places with similar models, which is hardly conducive to an innovative arts scene.  

Many of those who own these venues are in favor of Espinal’s goal of enacting “sensible nightlife policies”, although the power of such an office remains unclear.  Many feel that current interdepartmental regulations are flawed at best.  Espinal and one venue owner, John Barclay, have pointed to a Prohibition-era law that requires dance venues to have a “cabaret license”, which is in turn owned by less that 1 percent of the food and beverage establishments of New York.  This is used as a failsafe to shut down any businesses that New York or the NYPD doesn’t want around.  In addition to adopting a “night mayor”, Espinal hopes to abolish this law.  As of yet, however, the actual structure of this office remains unknown, and Espinal doesn’t have any names in mind for a proposed “night mayor”.  

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The Beginning of The End’s Lawsuit

the beginning of the end's lawsuit by ari kellenStarbucks recently attracted plenty of attention due to its brightly-colored, over-sugared Unicorn Frappuccino, a fascinating drink that changes colors and flavors as you drink it.  I tried to order it a couple times just to see what it was about, but each time they were out of it, and now they don’t sell it any more, which I take as a sign that I should not be drinking it.  And apparently, they’re pretty bad for you.  A grande Unicorn Frappuccino contains 59 grams of sugar, more than what the FDA calls a daily recommended intake, setting you up for an inevitably devastating sugar crash.  But hey, at least it’s unique, right?  Dunkin Donuts certainly isn’t serving anything like this, and I doubt that any small coffee shops in Brooklyn could think of something this creative?

You’d think so, but then you’d be wrong.  Back in December, The End, a coffee shop in Williamsburg, started selling a Unicorn Latte, months before Starbucks.  Owner Bret Caretsky alleges that Starbucks harmed his business by launching their own version.  Caretsky’s lawyer points out that the size of Starbucks offers them an “unfair advantage” in the competition.  Starbucks, in response, claims that their Unicorn Frappuccino was inspired by unicorn-themed drinks that have been trending in social media, as opposed to the unicorn-themed drinks that were created by coffee shops in Williamsburg.  The End, according to the lawsuit, wants an undisclosed amount of money for damages, as well as a public apology.  They had applied for a trademark for its latte in January, but it’s still pending.  

Both drinks look pretty similar and use the name “unicorn”, but that’s admittedly where the similarities end.  The End’s version uses healthy ingredients such as ginger, spirulina and maca root, which are nowhere to be found in any Starbucks Frappuccino named after a mythical creature.  While The End was the first coffee shop to sell a unicorn-branded product, it’s part of a “unicorn” food trend that’s been around for much longer.  Furthermore, this isn’t the first time that a New York restaurant has accused Starbucks of taking one of its ideas; in the past, David Chang attacked the coffee giant for stealing the “bagel bombs” from his Milk Bar.  I think it’s an unfair thing for a big business to try and hijack a smaller business’s ideas, but what I can tell you is that Both David Chang and Bret Caretsky can take comfort knowing that their versions are a whole lot better.  

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