Travel and Culture

Getting More Out of New York

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Written by Prue Scott

Writer and traveller Prue Scott spends her New York visits looking for something a little different.

Brooklyn’s rooftop farm

The old naval yards in Brooklyn are being reinvented, complete with rooftop farming. Brooklyn Grange is home to the world’s largest rooftop soil farm, its organic vegetables and herbs used by NY restaurants. The tour shows you how the future might look, there are great views back to Manhattan, and you can then eat lunch in Brooklyn. 

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Brooklyn Grange. Photo: Prue Scott

Group group group your sights because moving around Manhattan takes more time than you imagine. For example: take the #1 line to 114th St which is the Upper West Side. This will put you close to Columbia University, St John the Divine, and the Hungarian pastry shop with its exquisite almond horns. Walk down to 110th St where the Upper West Side Market has a head-turning fruit and vegetable display outside and fabulous food within. Back onto the subway for 80th St where you will find the Designer Shoe Warehouse (name brands, top end included) and Zabars deli. That’s a morning’s worth.

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Upper Westside Markets. Photo: Prue Scott

Then take the #2 subway downtown

New York’s subways feature wonderful tiles or mosaics. The #2 has some of the best as you head downtown via Houston, Canal, Franklin, Chambers and the World Trade Centre. At the latter, you can head out for the memorable 911 memorial pools, now open in a beautiful piazza.

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Intricate subway mosaics. Photo: Prue Scott

Listen

Seriously, listen.

The subway announcements are real gems.

“…. trainonly….then…tsfaoiruaiunurghy1epodfshdawayhjdjhfline.”

I can only imagine some people have ended up in Far Rockaway and never found their way back.

Which way do you insert your card when entering the bus?

Driver: nyurghafterthun!

Ah, I see, it goes that way up. Thank-you.

At Mood Fabrics (of Project Runway fame), an older woman fingers chiffon and talks over her shoulder to a similar older woman behind.

Older woman #1:        She should worry. It’s not her wedding.

It’s a classic from any movie or film featuring a stereotypical New Yorker.

Mood Fabrics is three floors of fabric with nearby shops selling every button, boa and ribbon you could want. Yes, the Garment District still exists, even if much reduced.

Street art in Bushwick

Brooklyn was once the wild west, but Bushwick is now the frontier. It’s gentrifying rapidly, so go while it’s still there. Take a street art tour with the wonderful Freedom. The street art is some of the best in the world, and you’ll get some history as well. Stay for lunch; the restaurants are pretty good.

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Bushwick Street Art. Photo: Prue Scott

Bethesda Terrace in Central Park

I’ve seen a young couple practising their dancing, without music. The bubble guy. A bizarre duo who played beautiful music with such skill. A woman stopping to provide an aria to the musician’s playing. The terrace is home to some wonderful performers. Do toss a few coins to thank them. The same goes for the better musicians on the subway trains and in the stations.

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Dancers practicing in Central Park. Photo: Prue Scott

Governors Island

A few hundred metres by ferry from Manhattan and the New York world changes. As they say, “never-before-seen views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor”. This former military post is now a car-free paradise. Recreation, culture and innovation, a team of Border Collies to keep the geese away, and some world-class art exhibitions inside and out. Hire a bike and ride around the island, have lunch, go kayaking, or camp overnight

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Governors Island. Photo: Prue Scott

Four quick things

  1. Take, or buy, a strip plug, so you can charge all those devices.
  2. Midtown is full of office buildings and chain hotels – no personality after dark. But, it is home to Junior’s Cheesecake behind Times Square – the best you’ve ever eaten.
  3. Portion sizes are huge.
  4. Tour the harbour at dusk on the old sailing boat. Corny, but the view of Manhattan all lit up is breath-taking.

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