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.
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.
This might be the city that never sleeps, but we certainly know how to kick back and relax every once in awhile. For summer sun by the sea, there’s no need to leave the five boroughs. Check out these 8 great beaches and see what the city has to offer at the edge of the land.
Immortalized by the Ramones, you can take the A train, the Q35 bus, or the newly opened ferry line if you don’t feel like hitching a ride to Rockaway Beach. This surfer-friendly span runs adjacent to a beachfront community that wouldn’t look out of place further down the coastline, and the view of the Manhattan skyline on a clear day is the only sign that you’re still in NYC. Recent years have brought a wealth of DFD (Down For the Day-er, a local term for visitors)-friendly eating and drinking options right off the 5+ mile boardwalk.
Neighboring Rockaway Beach but featuring its own unique charms is Riis Park Beach, named for photojournalist Jacob Riis. For those on four wheels, this beach features a massive parking lot that gets remarkably close to full during summer weekends (parking on the streets in Rockaway is banned from May to September). New eating options at the Beach Bazaar right on the boardwalk have brought this beach into line with the other sandy shores of the area, and a pitch-and-putt golf course offers further reason to give this beach a look.
An oasis in the Bronx, Orchard Beach is the northern borough’s lone public beach. Usually bustling with activity during summer days, you’ll want to get there early for a prime spot near the water. On the weekend, be ready for blaring boomboxes to bring some rhythm to your relaxation. If that’s not your cup of tea, several nearby nature trails offer a quiet respite from the crowds and some enchanting views of their own.
NYC’s most famous (and crowded) beach, Coney Island has been a destination for New Yorkers since the 1830s. No longer the resort town it once was, this spot still is home to a wealth of entertainment options including the longtime favorite Cyclone rollercoaster and many new parks and rides, as well as a newly opened amphitheater that hosts a diverse number of performers from the Beach Boys to Daddy Yankee to the Violent Femmes. For the quintessential NYC beach experience, joining the crowd is well worth it.
For a less busy option just a few subway stops away from Coney Island, Brighton Beach has the boardwalk charm without all the noise. Food options nearby are mostly offered in Russian and Ukrainian, so many traditional favorites like borscht and potato dumplings can bring a touch of local (via Odessa) culture to your Brooklyn beach outing. The dense residential neighborhood connected to this beach makes this a unique place to spend your day by the shore.
Called the “Riviera of New York City,” South Beach on Staten Island was given a facelift after suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Now home to brand-new fountains, playing fields, and a spectacular view of the Verrazano Bridge, South Beach has become a destination for those who make the trip. Anglers can also take note, as the beach is home to an 835-foot fishing pier, one of the longest in the area.
Don’t let the name fool you, this sandy spot is one of the furthest points from Central Park in the NYC area. This quiet, crescent-shaped beach at the bottom of Brooklyn, accessible by the B1 and B49 buses, is a destination mostly for locals and is a great spot for a picnic or barbeque. Adjacent tennis and basketball courts are open all year, so don’t hesitate to bring a ball and get a game started.
To be fair, this one isn’t within the five boroughs, but it merits mention as one of the premier oceanfront spots in the NYC area. The six-mile-long beach on Long Island (accessible by car and the Long Island Railroad) is a fully-fledged destination, featuring golf, restaurants, and Renaissance-inspired architecture just off the sand. Memorial Day weekend brings the Bethpage Air Show to the beach, one of the largest in the United States. There’s so much to do here, you might want to get a room at one of the many nearby hotels and make a mini-vacation out of it.
It’s become a cliche at this point to point out that Little Italy is littler than ever, and while it’s certainly true, that doesn’t mean that NYC is lacking for great Italian food. Those willing to take a trip up north to the Bronx neighborhood known as simply Arthur Avenue (after it’s main drag) are in for some of the finest traditional meals with a local flavor all their own.
Declared New York’s best food neighborhood by Esquire Magazine, the area also called Belmont features a long history of Italian-American culture from immigrants who came here in the early 20th century. Like its more famous equivalent in Manhattan, this cozy neighborhood might seem a little closed to outsiders at first, but after taking your first bite in one of these fine eateries, you’ll feel like family.
A short walk off of Arthur Avenue, away from the tourists, should take you to this local favorite where the meats are plentiful and cooked to perfection. They might be best known for their falling-off-the-bone short ribs, which come smothered in rich sauce that could have come from any number of area grandmother’s kitchens.
A favorite of the celebrity crowd, Robert Paciullo opened his two-floor trattoria which features a rotating menu of top-quality, Michelin Guide-approved dishes. Come in one night for tender risotto with cuttlefish, come back tomorrow for the tender braised rabbit. If you’re like most diners, you’ll stick around for one of Roberto’s signature desserts as well, like sbricolata crumb cake with amaretto, or his old country-style tiramisu.
For those days when you’re not feeling as fancy, you can take in a lunch at this marketplace where the eggplant parm is a year-round hit. The owners also run the neighboring Bronx Beer Hall if your group is looking to follow up your sandwiches with some craft suds. Mike’s olives and burrata are a must-try.
Vincent’s Meat Market
For a taste of Belmont that you can take home with you, visit Vincent’s Arthur Avenue storefront for all the smoked meat, sausage, and custom beef cuts your carnivorous heart desires. Open for over 60 years, Vincent’s always-fresh meats, expert customer service, and worth-the-trip prices all make it clear why they’ve been the neighborhood’s top butcher for all these years.