The Best Neighborhoods for New New Yorkers

The Best Neighborhoods for New New Yorkers

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and move to New York City. Congratulations! Making your way in this city can be intimidating, but knowing where you want to settle can take much of the pressure off of your transition. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a neighborhood in NYC, so read on for some ideas about the best areas for newcomers.

Long Island City

If close proximity to Manhattan at sub-Manhattan prices sounds good to you (and it should), LIC is a great place to call home. This former industrial hub offers a peaceful escape from Manhattan with hard-to-beat views and a rapidly growing restaurant scene. If you’re confused by the name, don’t worry. Just know that while you’re technically on Long Island (as Queens and Brooklyn are geographically part of the island), but well within the confines of the five boroughs.

Washington Heights/Inwood

This neighborhood perched at the upper tip of Manhattan will give you all the prestige of a “New York, New York” address at a fraction of the price of more southerly options. A number of pre-war buildings make for affordable lodgings for someone making their entrance to the city. One great attraction is Inwood Hill Park, the only piece of Manhattan that stands untouched as it originally was before the city became the concrete jungle it is today.

Crown Heights

If Brooklyn calls out to you, Crown Heights has the perfect combination of culture and affordability to welcome any newcomer. Though new developments are popping up fast, the neighborhood still holds both classic charm and up and coming hotspots. A remarkably diverse region, it’s one of the few places in the city where you’re equally likely to hear Yiddish and Creole spoken on the same block.

Chinatown

As long you’re not intimidated by living in what’s most likely the busiest neighborhood in the city, the affordable rents in Chinatown make it a good option. While it may be a bit daunting, the proximity to cultural hubs like SoHo and the Lower East Side mean you’re never far from somewhere new and exciting. Just try not to make any major purchases on Canal Street.

Sunset Park

You might have thought there was nowhere to get great Latin American and Chinese food, but then you didn’t know Sunset Park. For a wide variety of quality eats on a budget, it’s hard to do better than this Brooklyn nabe. Sunset is also home to the rapidly growing Industry City development, which promises a wealth of new shopping and entertainment options that’s sure to raise the neighborhood’s profile in the near future, so you’ll be glad you got in early.

Biking to Work in New York City: 6 Tips and Tricks

Biking to Work in New York City: 6 Tips and Tricks

So you’ve decided to join the ranks of the bicycle commuters. Now, job number one is to prepare and take some precautions to be sure to avoid any potential pitfalls, especially if you’re in a big city like New York.

It should go without saying that you need to have a helmet and reflectors. Rear-facing mirrors and a knowledge of hand signals won’t hurt, either. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are a few tips and tricks to help get you started:

Act Like a Car

Even though you’re a lot smaller and more vulnerable, if you’re running with the big boys, you’ll need to fit in. This means recognizing that you’re a part of traffic and not some rolling observer. In the absence of bike lanes, you can ride in the normal traffic lanes like a car would. Just don’t forget, this means following all traffic laws, too. Riding around like red lights, stop signs, and one way streets don’t apply to you is asking for trouble.

Do a Dry Run

Even if you ride all the time, there may be some idiosyncrasies of your planned route to work that you won’t be expecting. Before setting out at commute time when the most cars will be on the road, consider taking a few hours during the weekend or any other off-time to ride the route and get used to it. You might even find a better path than the one you’ve mapped out.

Prepare for Changes

This might seem obvious to most of us, but for the sweaty 1% out there: you are probably going to stink. At the least, keep some deodorant in your desk. You might want to consider a gym membership close to your office, even just for the showers. You’re already getting a great workout with your commute, so if the gym fees aren’t too high, just think of it as paying for a daily shower. Your coworkers will appreciate it.

Take Your Time

You know how stressful it can be to push through a crowded subway station to get to work when you’re late. Now imagine instead of commuters, it’s trucks and taxicabs. Budget yourself more than enough time to get to work so you won’t have to speed through traffic just to make it in by 8:59. Your safety is more important than staying up late the night before.

Start Small

Yes, you want to whip yourself into shape and bring down your carbon footprint. But that doesn’t mean you need to transform yourself into a riding warrior on day one. Start slowly, because even biking one day a week is better than nothing at all. The last thing you want to do is overexert yourself and get hurt, and have to take substantial time away from the road.

Know Your Ride

You won’t have to break down and rebuild your bike, but knowing how to change a flat or replace a broken chain can be a godsend if you’re stuck out on the street by yourself. The better you can do it on your own, the less you’ll have to rely on an expensive technician’s help. Plus, the grease stains on your hands will give you something to brag about when you get to the office.

Will the M.T.A.’s Plan to Combat Subway Delays Succeed?

Will the M.T.A.’s Plan to Combat Subway Delays Succeed?

Delays in New York City are getting worse, and the M.T.A. has rolled out several initiatives to fix things. Will it work?

Opened in 1904, covering 236 miles of routes, praised in songs like “Take the A Train” and movies from “The Money Train” to “The Warriors,” the New York Subway is legendary, huge and iconic.

But right now, it’s a tarnished icon as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A.) struggles to fix problems ranging from overcrowding to signal malfunctions—all of which are causing train delays and passenger frustration.

A recent New York Times article describes the M.T.A.’s recently released plan to address the worst of the problems, starting with the 8th Avenue line– which experiences line car equipment breakdowns about 25 times per month, that last 19 minutes on average, and cause delays not only to the affected train but to all trains along the line.

So, what’s their plan?

It starts at the top, literally, with reorganizing the leadership structure so that the position of Chairman (big picture leader) and CEO (day-to-day management) are separate.

There will be new subway cars and improved maintenance on old cars.

Improving tracks and signals, especially via preventative maintenance that targets signals most prone to failure, is a key point. As a safety measure, the New York subway was built to be “fail-safe.” That means when a sensor is tripped all lights go red, everything stops and delays occur.  The M.T.A. also will also increase the number of rapid response teams available.

Likewise, the authority plans to have EMT’s at five specific stations to speed the response to sick passengers (who are often hard to locate) and coordinate better with the NYPD so that when issues that require police intervention arise, police arrive faster.

Finally, the plan calls for streamlining passenger loading and unloading and dealing with system bottlenecks.  

This all looks good on paper, but will it work?

Fixing and maintaining the New York subway is always a balancing act of meeting short-term needs, addressing long-term needs and dealing with budget constraints.

Unfortunately, the M.T.A. has a long history of money running out before the subway problems are fixed.

According to the Times the 1970’s illustrate the multi-level problem the best.  In May, an article published by the paper begins, “Nearly four decades ago, New York City’s subway system hit rock bottom: track fires, graffiti-covered cars and crime came to symbolize that era.

An intervention was required. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, under the leadership of Richard Ravitch, persuaded the governor and legislative leaders to allow the agency to issue bonds — clearing the way for a $7.2 billion, five-year capital program.”

The money wasn’t enough, certainly not enough to address all the bridges, tunnels, commuter railroads, bus systems and the specific-to-the-subway problems that the M.T.A. oversees.  

New train cars were added, and much of the fleet refurbished, but long-term goals, including the Second Avenue subway line project, were abandoned.

It was only in January of this year that the first section of the proposed Second Avenue line opened.

Given that it took 40 years to achieve one goal, and that funding continues to be limited, what are the chances that the goal of fewer delays and easier commutes will be met?

It’s hard to say. There are a few things in play that indicate the M.T.A. will step up. First, the press and the public outcry, including on social media. The M.T.A. has already responded with educational campaigns (for instance, don’t pull the emergency break for a sick passenger) and that alone- public outreach- is a step.

The outcry has also resulted in the formation of an advocacy group, the Riders Alliance, which can organize outcry into action.

Finally, there is a plan in place. As the saying goes, the first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. The M.T.A. has clearly admitted there’s a problem and the plan to address it is, at least, a good first step.

6 Amazing Novelty Desserts You Can Find in New York City

6 Amazing Novelty Desserts You Can Find in New York City

New York City… you come for the sights, but you stay for the desserts. With each borough teeming with a variety of cultures, cuisines, and surprises, New York-style cheesecake is just the beginning of what the Big Apple has to delight your palate.

Visitors and residents alike have long flocked to new “novelty” dessert spots, even and especially if it means waiting in a long line for a sugary fix. Remember the cronut, that legendary croissant-donut hybrid? You can now preorder them and skip the line. But cronuts are so 2013, and while the flaky goodness is still recommended, there are other fish in the sea.

Here are a few other delicious novelty desserts you can find in New York City. Given their nature, we advise that you practice moderation. Or not. It’s your mouth!

Boozy Ice Cream at Tipsy Scoop

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Deciding between drinks and desserts can be difficult, while opting for both comes off as a bit excessive. The solution? Boozy ice cream. Tipsy Scoop, New York’s first ice cream “barlour” so to speak, has opened in Kips Bay. The best part? Their treats, spiked to just over 5% alcohol, can actually get you buzzed. Enjoy flavors like Mango Margarita and Strawberry White Sangria Sorbet, and don’t forget your ID.

Rainbow Crepe Cake at Dek Sen

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Photo via The New York Times

Besides the Statue of Liberty, crepes may just be France’s best gift to New York. What you might not know is that crepes are also a staple dessert in Thailand, and that Dek Sen, a restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens, sells a 20-layer rainbow crepe cake with seams of whipped cream. For New Yorkers sick and tired of Starbucks’ basic Unicorn Frappuccinos, here’s a colorful alternative for your ROY-G-BIV-fix.

Decadent Rice Pudding at Rice to Riches

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Ice cream is ubiquitous, but rice pudding? Now that’s a way to pack flavor without a brain freeze. There are several rice pudding parlours in New York City, one of which is Rice to Riches in Nolita. The parlour offers delightful flavors such as “Almond Shmalmond” and “Sex Drugs and Rocky Road,” which are not only vegan, but can be shipped overnight.

Cookie Dough Confections at DO

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If you’ve ever binged on cookie dough, you’ve known true bliss and risk: after all, raw eggs aren’t usually your friend. The West Village’s DO, Cookie Dough Confections offers the bliss without the risk by subbing eggs with pasteurized egg product, eliminating any risk of bacteria. Enjoy straight-up, unbaked cookie dough, ice cream sandwiches, cookie dough milkshakes, or any number of baked and unbaked products.

Raindrop Cake by Darren Wong

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Last year at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg, Darren Wong’s incredible Raindrop Cake became a cult sensation, and we’re thrilled to say its back this year. Based on a Japanese dish called Mizu Shingen, the gelatinous creation is clear, vegan, refreshing, highly-photogenic, and with the help of some ube (purple yam), a whole new hue.

Ice Cream Rolls from 10 Below

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Located in Chinatown, 10 Below is New York’s first establishment to serve Thai-inspired ice cream rolls. Watch as your ice cream is crafted with fresh ingredients right before your eyes as ingredients are poured, mixed, and rolled on a cold plate. Enjoy flavors ranging from fresh avocado to thai iced tea flavor, rolled up for your pleasure beneath unlimited toppings.

Ghosts of New York City Real Estate: Hard to Spot, Harder to Bust

Ghosts of New York City Real Estate: Hard to Spot, Harder to Bust

New York City is a beautiful, historic city with some of the most lovely and desirable neighborhoods in the country. But the Big Apple also has a ghost problem. In the always-desirable New York housing market, behavior at each end of the economic spectrum illustrates why New Yorkers looking for a place to live can face considerable difficulties.

First up: Ghost apartments. Not literally haunted, ghost apartments are units that are owned by a wealthy person (or a shell company) that, for the most part, remain unoccupied.

Why is this a concern? There are multiple reasons but, primarily, it’s the hidden costs associated with the empty apartments that contribute to the overall housing challenges in New York. Starting with the most obvious impact—there’s no one living in the apartment. That means that a costly piece of real estate has been purchased or rented, but no money is flowing into the economy on that street. If no one lives in the apartment, there is no one shopping at the corner store, eating out, joining the neighborhood gym or even grabbing the occasional cup of coffee.

The math is pretty simple. Fewer housing units mean fewer people, less foot traffic, and not as much need for local goods and services.

There’s a second major impact on the housing economy when wealthier residents rent an apartment, rather than purchasing a single-family home—taxes. Single-family homes in New York are taxed at a higher rate and produce more tax revenue than a single rental unit generates.

Finally, there’s the cost to the average New Yorker—time. When “ghost apartments” become common, residents may move further away from their place of employment, or areas that are familiar socially. Walking is replaced by long commutes, and employers have less ability to hire hyper-locally.

So, what’s an average New Yorker to do?

Some choose to go off the books and become ghost tenants, another not-so-supernatural phenomenon. Ghost tenants are people (adults) living in an apartment without being on the lease, or having any formal status as a tenant. According to a 2016 article in Slate, which focuses on public housing, “Although 400,000 people officially live in New York City’s traditional public housing units, it’s estimated that as many as 100,000 to 200,000 more reside there secretly.”

The market rate for a one-bedroom apartment in New York, in 2015, was $3,100. In the Slate article, the Ghost Tenant “Gigi” was sharing a mid-town apartment, with her parents, in a public housing project that rented for under $1,000.

If “caught” the whole family can be evicted from public housing. In both public and privately owned buildings, more tenants mean more wear-and-tear on facilities which can lead to hazardous or unpleasant living conditions. At best, the rent will increase based on the income that’s brought to the household by the ghost tenant, which is hardly helpful in reversing the problem. 

Then there are communication and safety concerns. If a ghost tenant has a P.O. box and no official street address, they are harder to find, by, say, a school or employer, if needed. If there’s a problem in the building—a gas leak, a fire–emergency responders won’t know to look for the ghost tenant.

When it comes to real estate, it’s best kept balanced and affordable when the appropriate amount of tenants live in an apartment, and when the owners of said apartments actually live there. But eradicating these ghosts is easier said than done, and productive solutions remain few and far between.

It’s clear that ghost apartments and ghost tenants are part of the New York real estate landscape, and one the Ghost Busters can’t solve. These issues, present on both ends of the economic spectrum, must be addressed by developers focusing on building, refurbishing, and maintaining housing units that are affordable by the average New Yorker who lives in the wonderful city so many call home. 

When Two Bookstores Close, Another Opens in Cobble Hill

When Two Bookstores Close, Another Opens in Cobble Hill

When one door closes, another opens, and though this is not always the case for bookstores, the adage is holding true in Cobble Hill—to some extent, anyway.

The Brooklyn neighborhood recently suffered the news that BookCourt, a Cobble Hill staple, would be closing after 35 years in business when its owners retire at the end of the year. This news came not long after the neighborhood’s chaotic but lovable bookstore, aptly called Community Bookstore, was cleared of its unkempt stacks.

Luckily, another independent bookstore is in the works, and in a world where it sometimes seems bookstores big and small are losing business, it will be a welcome addition.

The new store, called “Books Are Magic,” is set to open on or around May 1. While the name may seem a little trite, most bibliophiles can agree that books are magic (if not actually, then certainly metaphorically). The new store is a business venture by Emma Straub, author of novels such as Modern Lovers and The Vacationers, and a former employee of BookCourt. According to her website, “A neighborhood without an independent bookstore is a body without a heart. And so we’re building a new heart.”

The store will be located on 225 Smith Street between Butler and Douglas, not far from BookCourt’s old location. As she’s been preparing for the opening, Emma has shared her journey on social media and with the press. She’s even hinted at collaborations with neighbors including Warby Parker and the cheese shop Stinky Brooklyn. Books, glasses, and cheese? Sounds like Brooklyn alright.

One independent bookstore replacing two may not be ideal for residents used to having their choice of store, and the “two out, one in” is annoyingly reminiscent of the Trump Administration’s regulation policy. With Barnes & Noble just a short walk down Court Street, too, it seems the community’s dedication to books (or magic, if you will) will live on.

And who knows? Maybe another overstuffed literary treasure trove will pop up to fill the hole left by Community Bookstore, too. Stranger things have happened in Brooklyn.