From the Statue of Liberty to the Washington Square Arch, public art is an inextricable part of the NYC landscape. Outside of these established landmarks, there’s never a shortage of intriguing and thought-provoking pieces popping up across the five boroughs. These are a few public artworks currently on display around the five boroughs that help keep New York a vibrant center of culture, showing you don’t always need to visit a museum to get in touch with the world of art.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
The sometimes controversial Chinese dissident’s latest piece uses the entire city as its canvas. At sites across Manhattan and Brooklyn, Ai Weiwei’s Good Fences Makes Good Neighbors serves as compelling commentary on the borders and separations that define our lives. Consisting of steel fences and pictorial banners strategically placed across the city, this piece is just the latest example of global artists using the city’s streets to make a vital statement.
On the more lighthearted side, this bright yellow construction consists of just two letters that carry a multitude of meanings for countless people. The 8-foot tall aluminum piece, depending on where on the Williamsburg’s North Fifth Street Pier and Park you’re standing, reads “YO” as in “I” in Spanish, or the slang “hey” salutation familiar to just about all New Yorkers. From the other side, the two letters read “OY,” perhaps a nod to the city’s many Jewish residents. Either way you choose to look at it, this piece by Deborah Kass is worth experiencing in person.
Flying High for Equality
A highlight of the City Parks Department’s Art in the Parks initiative, Flying High for Equality sits perched on the southern slope of Joyce Kilmer Park along East 161st Street in the Concourse Village neighborhood in the Bronx. A flock of multicolored sparrows representing the varied communities found in the city overlook the colorful neighborhood adjacent to Yankee Stadium.
Another piece sponsored by the Parks Department brings vivid color to the green parks of New York. Queens’ Rufus King Park in Jamaica already stands out thanks to a colonial manor central to the park, and Common Ground brings a more down-home feeling to the compact park space. Brightly colored benches featuring mosaic designs comprise this utilitarian piece of art, providing a place that encourages park visitors to come together and enjoy friendship and camaraderie any time of year.
The work of Polish-born artist Fitzhugh Karol, this highly interactive piece forms steel silhouettes into something new. Part public art, part playground, these works invite visitors to play and enjoy them while offering a highly unique aesthetic to Stapleton’s Tappen Park. Drawing inspiration from the freighters in nearby New York harbor, Eyes combines steel material with bright color.
As a center of culture, it should come as no surprise that some major literary names have called New York City home. From natives to visitors, there are plenty of different kinds of NYC authors throughout history, and many neighborhoods make up a vital part of their histories. These are just four of the many acclaimed writers who inhabited some of New York’s most beloved neighborhoods.
From the Mississippi River to Salt Lake City, there’s almost no corner of this country that the famed writer and humorist didn’t at least visit during his 74 years on Earth. His first visit to NYC at age 17 sparked a lifelong love of the Big Apple, and later in life, Twain lived in different addresses across the city: in the West Village, Gramercy, and even Riverdale in the Bronx, overlooking the Hudson River.
For a certain generation, the story of New York City is found in the words of this Park Slope-born author, whose memoir A Drinking Life recalls his youth and misspent adulthood in Brooklyn during the 50s and 60s. Hamill, whose brother Denis is a regular columnist for the Daily News, cut his teeth in regional papers like the News, the defunct New York Herald Tribune, the New York Post, Village Voice, and Newsday. He now calls Prospect Heights home.
This Catcher in the Rye author was famously reclusive, so it’s no wonder his time on the Upper East Side was somewhat brief. Salinger rented an apartment at 300 East 57th Street right after Catcher was published, and stayed in his sparsely furnished pad for only a year before he moved to obscurity in New Hampshire. He would remain there until his death in 2010, never seeing the city again.
The Moby Dick and Billy Budd author fed his nautical passions on merchant ships out of New York Harbor in the early to mid 1800s. Born into wealth in Lower Manhattan, his family suffered during recessions and Herman was forced to find work as a crewman, giving him the inspiration to write his beloved masterpiece in 1851. Unappreciated in his time, Melville died in his borough of birth in 1891 and was buried in the Bronx.
Summer weather is a distant memory by now, but NYC’s best museums have tons of great exhibits to get us through the winter. In a city with a huge range of things to do and see, these presentations show why these museums are cherished by New Yorkers old and new. Check out some of the featured collections that will make trekking through the cold well worth it in 2018.
Museum of Modern Art – Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age
New York’s premier Modern Art museum can always be relied upon for a look at the most cutting-edge and thought-provoking works, and this exhibit running until April 8 is no exception. Thinking Machines gathers artworks designed by computer software and even formulated with artificial intelligence. This collection promises a fascinating look at the implications of computer learning-if they can create art, what else are machines capable of?
Metropolitan Museum of Art – Celebrating the Year of the Dog
What better way to ring in the year of the dog than an artistic tribute to our four-legged friends? Humankind’s best friend for millennia, dogs have inspired artisans and artists throughout history, appearing in everything from practical metalworks to regal earthenware statues. Visitors to the collection are sure to gain a newfound appreciation for their loyal pooches. This exhibit gathers a wide spectrum of East Asian canine pieces from the Met’s extensive archives just in time for the Lunar New Year on February 16.
Museum of the Moving Image – Video Arcade
In their heyday, video arcades were the premier place to discover the latest and greatest games. While that action has moved to our living rooms, visitors to the Museum of the Moving Image can step back in time into a faithful recreation of the fun centers of the 1980s (minus the cigarette smoke). Games ranging from early classics like Defender and Frogger sit here alongside 90s favorites Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam, making this interactive exhibit a mecca for gamers of any age. Arcades like this are a thing of the past, and this exhibit will be the same at the end of January 2018. So gather up those quarters and hop the R train to Astoria before it’s too late!
Museum of the City of New York – Mod New York
1960s counterculture lives in NYC in 2018, thanks to this exhibit featuring the fashions that shocked one generation and thrilled another. The Mod look, originating in London, hit its stride on these shores with even First Lady Jackie Kennedy (she of Hamptons high society) trying on the revolution in self-expression. In addition to an extensive clothing collection, talks and film screenings bring the spirit of the anything-goes 1960s to the Museum’s Upper East Side address through April 1.
New York Public Library – Picturing the City: Illustrated Maps of NYC
The evolution of New York City is an endlessly fascinating subject for many, and this exhibition gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of those changes. Curated by historian and author Katherine Harmon, Picturing the City promises an illuminating look at the entire history of Manhattan’s growth from Dutch trading post to the cultural capital of the world. A special emphasis on creative maps adorned with rich illustrations and the character of the city makes what could be a dry presentation to a fun and engaging survey of shifting attitudes and the unique character of the streets of NYC.
One of Brooklyn’s most appealing neighborhoods for its proximity to Manhattan and relative affordability compared to it’s neighbor to the south, Williamsburg, Greenpoint is home to some of the most intriguing food options in NYC. Long a beacon for Polish immigrants, this area is home to some of the finest pierogies, kielbasa, and other favorites this side of Gdansk.
Polish and Slavic Center Cafeteria
Untouched by the new wave of residents, this old-fashioned ethnic hall serves up untouchable ethnic favorites in a declasse, cafeteria setting. The prices are nearly as pleasing as the food, with affordable options in old-country comfort food to rival any hipster cafe. The stark decor and still atmosphere mean you might not be coming here on a first date, but this is the kind of place you bring them once you’ve got someone special. These pierogies are so good, you’re not going to want to share them with just anybody.
Looking for something a little more modern? Opened in 2007, this popular rustic-looking Polish restaurant brings to mind an old country farmhouse, with the sumptuous dishes that could have come straight out of your babcia’s kitchen. Garnering praise from locals and tourists alike, Karczma stands out for having a friendly, knowledgeable staff and a wide array of menu options. If you’re looking to come by on a weekend, get here early! The only downside to the great food and atmosphere is that the place fills up quick.
Kiszka Meat Market
If you came to Greenpoint looking for a piece of Polish heaven to bring home, look no further than this deli and meat market in the heart of the neighborhood on Manhattan Avenue. Regulars come here to fill their freezers with the best fresh sausage, bacon and pork cuts at throwback prices. Even your vegetarian friends will love to come by Kiszka, with the city’s most tantalizing cabbage rolls on order.
Loved this culinary round-up? To see more great NYC food enclaves, check out our trips to Jackson Heights in Queens, the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue district, and Caribbean favorites in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
You don’t have to wait until the West Indian Day parade to get a Brooklyn-based taste of the vibrant Caribbean. Crown Heights might be transforming rapidly, but it’s still home to the best Caribbean food options in the city. These are just a few of the local favorites that bring the sensations of the islands up north to NYC.
De Hot Pot
Just a few steps away from the Prospect Park stop on the BQ line, this no-frills spot will work for day-trippers in a hurry and savorers alike. If you’re on a budget, satisfied visitors recommend their under $2 doubles (two flatbreads filled with curried chickpeas) for a Caribbean delicacy that won’t stretch your wallet. Wash them down with a Solo soda for the full island experience.
Don’t let the name fool you, because the patties here are often better than the more well-known Golden Krust, with seasonings straight out of Jamaica. The Caribbean nation’s savory national fruit, ackee, can be found here in a crisp, flaky patty that you won’t find in any supermarket freezer. Silver Krust also serves up traditional favorites in portions so huge, you’re really getting two meals. Clear some room in your fridge before you make your way here!
If the idea of eating while standing under fluorescent lighting isn’t your thing, this contemporary spot on Franklin Avenue is bridging the gap between old and new. With prices closer to old Crown Heights than new in a modern setting, you’ll be glad to settle in and try out their adventurous takes on traditional classics. The jerk lobster and bok choy take you outside of the usual Caribbean comfort zone while still keeping the essence of that island flavor.
If glamour isn’t a necessity for you, how does a cash-only joint squeezed between a Key Food and a Chinese takeout sound? The Islands’ interior is not so gritty, though, and once you sit down with a generous portion of perfectly moist stewed oxtail flanked by cabbage, rice, and peas, your surroundings won’t matter at all. Caribbean drinks like sorrel juice are available and offer a nice fruity counterbalance to the savory meats.
Rounding out your Brooklyn Caribbean tour, a taste of Barbadian life is on the menu at this Bajan favorite. Come here for seafood favorites like flying fish and the leaner kingfish, both regional delicacies. The polenta-like cou cou is a must, and not only on Fridays (as it’s traditionally eaten in Barbados). More typical Caribbean items like jerk chicken are on the menu here as well, and hold up to scrutiny from even the most discerning island foodie.
Loved this culinary round-up? To see more great NYC food enclaves, check out our trips to Jackson Heights in Queens and the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue district.
Of all the ways to get around New York City, nothing will give you a better appreciation of all the comings and goings of each particular neighborhood than riding a bicycle. While caution (and a helmet) are always needed, more and more areas of the five boroughs are being adapted to safely accommodate those on two wheels. More than 300 miles of bike-friendly paths have been established across the city in the last five years alone, and these four neighborhoods stand out among the best places for cyclists to set up shop in the city.
Considered a haven for young families with strollers, this neighborhood has made great accommodations in recent years for people riding on half as many wheels. Picturesque Prospect Park West’s dedicated 2-way bike lane, guarded against traffic by a parking lane, is one of the best stretches of Brooklyn for both weekend riders and daily commuters. Not to mention the 3.35 mile loop inside Prospect Park itself, great for exercise loops or slower treks to admire the scenery.
Battery Park City
This young neighborhood, despite being near one of the city’s worst areas for car traffic, actually offers a peaceful calm during the daytime, along with easy access to the Hudson River bike path. One of the most popular routes in the city, this path leads riders up the entire length of Manhattan’s West Side, making BPC a great staging area for your two-wheeled adventures. Most buildings in the neighborhood offer dedicated bike storage, meaning you won’t have to lug your ride on any stairs or elevators.
On the other side of the island, this locale east of the East Village boasts calm, quieter streets perfect for pleasant bike outings far from sometimes-worrisome crowds. There may not be too many subway stations around, but seasoned bike riders may consider that an advantage. Alphabet City’s proximity to the protected bike paths running along 1st and 2nd Avenues means your trips uptown won’t require a Metrocard, just your trusty bike and your own two legs.
Bike lovers will find themselves right at home in Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood, where a low number of train stops and long bike lanes along Kent Avenue and Franklin Street give bike riders a distinct travel advantage over straphangers. For jaunts into the city, the Williamsburg Bridge is a short ride away. If you’re ever in need of a fix, local spot B’s Bikes serves the neighborhood with notoriously knowledgeable but friendly service.