Bittersweet parting…One chapter ends, a new one begins.

Here I am in my tiny apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, getting all weepy about finally moving.

You see, I’ve lived here for nine years. One place, nine years. Leaving is difficult. I know. I stayed here way too long. It always was too easy to not leave. The old velvet handcuffs. I had no compelling reason to go.

I never tire of this view

I never tire of this view

I have never lived in any one spot this long in my life. I got quite attached to my humble little abode. I don’t think I’ve ever simply had time to get attached to anything ever before. Due to the transient nature of my upbringing and, later, my occupation, I’ve never stayed in one place for very long. So nine years is a LONG time.

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I love the layout of this tiny space that the rental agent assured me was 476 square feet. It seems so much smaller. And, like most people, I’ve acquired a lot of stuff over nine years. I decided three months ago to leave and the move has been looming large and heavy over my head like a big black cloud. It’s almost over.

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I adore my neighborhood. Hell’s Kitchen was still on the gritty side when I moved in here, nine years ago, on Halloween. Now it’s all gentrified, a dozen high rises have gone up around me, bringing thousands of new people into my neighborhood. It’s definitely not the same place it was when I moved here. But I’ve been fortunate to watch it grow up. On the downside, all of this new building took away my distant and twinkly view of the George Washington Bridge and the cruise port along the Hudson. Still, I never tired of the view.

In case you didn’t know, Hell’s Kitchen was once home of the The Westies, the notorious New York City Irish Gang. “West Side Story” is based on this very neighborhood. So there’s lots of history here. It’s always been known for its tough reputation. Hookers. Drugs. Homeless. Weirdos. There was a grisly murder in the high rise down the street long before I moved in. The guy who coined the “Club Kids” recently got out of prison for chopping up his roomate and leaving him to dissolve in acid in their bathtub during a frenzied, drug crazed crime spree. There was a heroin manufacturing factory in a brownstone a half block away a few years back.

My apartment is 14 short blocks away from work, 20 minutes on foot, including elevators. I love the convenience. I am so spoiled. I am about to become a commuter. Adding at least an hour to each direction of my daily commute. Am I crazy? Maybe.

So many sounds make up this place. Interestingly, I always needed the white noise of a fan to sleep before I moved to New York. Here, I have the sounds of the city to lull me into slumber. I have a hard time sleeping when it’s too quiet.

First, there’s the white noise, the din of the city. Then there are the sirens and car horns and the sounds of boats on the Hudson: everything from cruise ship horn blasts and their muster drills to pleasure and tour boats, water taxis and tugs…the one long and three short blasts of their horns as they back away from their piers into the river. Fleet Week always was centered on the pier closest to me — my Pier 84. I always vowed to take a cruise leaving that port, even so I could just say “I walked here to the cruise ship from home.” I just never got around to it.

The World...right outside my window

The World…right outside my window

One Sunday morning a few years back I was awakened waaay too early to the sound of Oprah Winfrey’s voice bellowing and ricocheting off the high rises. She was doing some kind of event near the Intrepid. I saw Chicago, Lionel Richie and Earth, Wind and Fire perform on the Intrepid. Plus countless fireworks shows that launched there, usually without warning, but always a pleasant surprise. During Super Bowl weekend, the Bud Light Hotel was parked at my dock. I had almost a front row seat for the Foo Fighters concert, from my bed. I actually sang along, the sound was so clear and so loud. (It was a great show).

I’ll also miss the boys next door at FDNY Rescue 1, as they go screaming out of their fire house on runs. It’s always been comforting to have them so near. They’re the best neighbors you could ever have.

I’ll miss the rumble of the Amtrak train as it passed under my building, always wondering about the stories of the travelers on the thousands of trains I’ve watched entering and exiting New York over these last nine years. Yes, the train drove me crazy at times. I used to work the night shift. But every morning at 7:25, that train would stop in its tracks, waiting to roll into Penn Station and would blast its horns. Really loudly. Sometimes, seemingly, loud enough to blast me right out of my bed.

I could hear the roar of the crowds in Times Square from my apartment — I live two blocks away. The city would literally vibrate on New Year’s Eve. I walked over there on New Year’s Eve once, as a regular person and fought the crowds and had an awful time. I went twice as a news producer and had the time of my life. I generally avoid Times Square, unless company wants to see it. It’s too congested, too expensive, too commercial.

Andy's first photo as "Andy" in Times Square

Andy’s first photo as “Andy” in Times Square

Each night around 1:30am, I hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves. There’s at least one carriage that goes down my street, back home to its nearby barn after a very long day ferrying tourists around Central Park. A sound you just wouldn’t normally associate with urban living.

Hansom cabs in Hell's Kitchen

Hansom cabs in Hell’s Kitchen

I will miss an incredible view of the city’s skyline, especially at night. I have never gotten tired of my view, as you’ve probably gathered over the years from my numerous postings of photos. I’ve seen rainbows and spectacular lightning through these windows. I once witnessed a shooting in a parking lot, where a high rise now stands.

Beauty after the storm

Beauty after the storm

Every year I got a free preview of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade the night before, as the floats traveled up Tenth Avenue to their assembly spot. For a couple of summers I watched the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks throw my window from the comfort of my sofa.

On nights I couldn’t sleep I’d gaze out the window from my bed and count the yellow taxicabs. I always told myself, once I hit 100 cabs, I should be well on my way to sleep. It usually worked. Not tonight. My last night here.

Other nights I’d watch the jetliners as they lined up, dots in the sky, either approaching Newark on the Jersey side of the Hudson, or I’d simply look up. On certain nights, the flight path to and from LaGuardia Airport goes directly over my building, along the Hudson. The planes fly quite low. Sometimes, I worried, too low. It was fun when I’d fly back to NYC when I could see my apartment roof and sometimes wondered if there’ll ever be a day we could just say “here” and parachute home.

The moon cast its own special glow over Manhattan from my point of view. I’d watch it rise, casting a surreal light over Midtown. On at least three occasions I watched the International Space Station fly over Manhattan under a clear, starry sky.

Lots of interesting things have happened to me over this last chapter, in this apartment, which in the truest sense, has been my haven. My last two precious dogs lived here with me. Their little nose prints still dot their favorite window. I never had the heart to clean those tiny prints off.

Little doggie nose prints. The dogs loved the view, too.

Little doggie nose prints. The dogs loved the view, too.

I was here when Superstorm Sandy hit two years ago. Feels like yesterday. The water rushed up my street, as I am in a flood/evacuation zone. But it didn’t get as far as my building, thankfully. I took my little dog Andy to look at the damage along the Hudson the next morning.  We checked out his dog park, it was okay. (Boy, I’ve missed that place, but since he passed, I can’t bear to go there. So many friends with dogs. Sometimes you know more dogs than people in your neighborhood through the friendships your dogs make). We were most fortunate. Just a few blocks to the south, Manhattan was shrouded in darkness for two weeks. Other places, as you know, were devastated.

I’ve seen TV shows and movies shot on my street. Actors wandering around. Photo shoots with models in front of some of the grittier buildings across the street. The President’s motorcade tore down my street once. Another time we were shut down because of a bomb threat. On September 10th of this year, THOUSANDS of motorcycles screamed down 43rd St. To honor those lost on 9/11. It was quite a site.

Stay inside or risk being on TV!

Stay inside or risk being on TV!

Back in January there was a horrific fire in the  high rise on the corner. One man died.

I witnessed the mighty New York Times move out of its building down my street to its new headquarters.

I’ve seen THREE (!!!???) bowling alleys pop up in my neighborhood, countless wine stores. I guess the new people moving here need to drink and bowl. I’ve watched restaurants and businesses come and go. Neighborhood characters, too. I’ve made quite a few friends in my apartment building.

For a while they shot “Project Runway” in my building. I just learned the other night that Patrick Ewing visits frequently, as he shares custody of his dog with his ex-wife. I’ll miss Ellen, the actress down the hall. She’s lived here longer than I have and she’s always been so nice. I also met a matchmaker who lived here, a medium, an agent for actors and an author. There’s a dog who’s lived down the hall longer than I’ve been here but I’ve never once seen. His owners never, ever take him out (that poor dog). Many of the people who work in this building have become friends who I will surely miss. So many interesting people. Lots of characters I’d see on the street, too. The homeless man who collects returnable bottles. I was startled to see him in another neighborhood once. The school crossing guard, Desiree, who always has a kind word. The man I nicknamed “Batman” because he had this miniature wooden bat he waves around in front of the corner bodega.

I’ve watched probably one hundred businesses turn over on Ninth Avenue over the past nine years. Again, the main reason, as I’ve spoken to business owners: The Rent is too Damn High. Seriously. My friend and former co-worker Matt once told me “you know you’re a real New Yorker when you can walk down a street and point to store fronts and say ‘this used to be…that used to be….'”

I’m going to have to reconfigure my routes to the airports. It was always so easy launching from the Port Authority two blocks away. The “A” train will always be my train. The M-11 is my bus. I have my favorite meat market and vegetable stand. My pizza joint. My Chinese place. The Little Pie Company.

So if it’s so great here, why am I going?

It’s time. Hard as it is. I stayed here way longer than I should have.

The rent is getting ridiculously high. The rent really is too damn high. I don’t know how people can afford to live here anymore. In fact, a new study came out today: NYC’s homeless population in every category — singles, families, children, blacks, whites — is on the rise. I’m not surprised. This city is becoming one of “haves.” I definitely can afford the $575 monthly rent hike, but why should I pay it? Enough is enough. I’m sad the neighborhood is changing so much, too. Change is a part of life. I get that. But this neighborhood is losing its character by the day.

I also haven’t slept too well for a few years due to all of the construction. Relentless jackhammering, yelling, blasting. I remember the day I moved in, I rushed to the warehouse across the street because the lettering on the building said “New York Public Library.” Voracious reader that I am, I was so excited. So I burst through the front door with my library card, only to be turned away. The building was owned by the library, but it was a central depository, meaning they brought books from all over the city to this warehouse, only to be redistributed among the libraries. So many books, yet none I could read. Two years ago they closed the depository and started tearing down walls and adding stories. That old warehouse now will house the new Beacon High School. That means, after all the construction and upheaval: teenagers! Yikes.

Yet another new building goes up in HK.

Yet another new building goes up in HK.

Not sure why I’m so sentimental over this place. I’d tell anyone else who wrote this tome that it’s time to grow up, to move on, to roll with the changes. Or as Taylor Swift would sing “Shake it Off.”

Hell’s Kitchen has a piece of me and I definitely have a piece of it in my heart and my psyche as I move forward. Starting a new chapter, a new adventure, a completely new and outside-my-comfort-zone living situation, a vastly different neighborhood, new people, new things to do, places to see.

Hell's Kitchen: Beautiful in all seasons!

Hell’s Kitchen: Beautiful in all seasons!

So November 1, I hit the reset button on my life in New York.

But for now, here on my very last night in my Hell’s Kitchen, I will listen to the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves as I do now at 1:44am and I count the taxi cabs, as a light mist seems to fall only over West 43rd Street, Hell’s Kitchen, NYC.




Posted in Apartment Living, How to Live in NYC, Manhattan, New York, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Rent Rant

The rent.

It’s too damn high.

Jimmy McMillan said it first. You remember Jimmy McMillan. He’s the guy who was running for New York governor when, during the 2010 debate, he had a little outburst: “THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH!”

To be sure, that debate was bizarre, to say the least. Among the seven candidates, besides Jimmy, representing, of course “The Rent is Too Damn High Party,” we watched a convicted madam, a former Black Panther, and of course, current governor Andrew Cuomo, who, looking back, had to have been more than amused at the barbs flying back and forth. I must say, I was working that night and I’ve never been so entertained. McMillan has gone on to run for other various political offices. He is currently running for state comptroller, representing, of course, “The Rent is Too Damn High” party.Saturday Night Live did several parody sketches about him and his crusade. He always draws crowds wherever he goes. His mantra is catchy.

Crazy as it seems though, Jimmy McMillan had a point: the rent IS too damn high. I mean really, how can people afford to live in Manhattan anymore?

The rent is SO high that I’m moving. I have no idea where. Pains me to do so. I’ve happily lived in my Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood for nine years. The longest I’ve stayed in the same place ever. That’s saying a lot.

But it’s time to go. Plus, change is good, right?

I was thinking of going anyway. My apartment building owners gave me the nudge I needed to get moving. They’re raising my already-too-high rent by $325 a month for a one-year lease, $525 a month for a two-year lease.  Yeah, you read that correctly. Whoa. Really?

Oh, I can afford this, um, little blip, as my landlord put it. But why should I pay it? To get the same thing for so much more money? No way. I could downsize AND buy a place in Florida or wherever for what I pay in rent. I may just do that.

You’d gasp if you knew how much I shell out a year in rent. Recently a friend of mine from Michigan who has a pretty nice, big spread in Okemos told me he pays less for his mortgage and taxes a month than I pay in rent. Oh the price of living in the big city.

My neighborhood has drastically changed since I moved in. At least a dozen highrises have gone up around me, some obstructing my beautiful view. There’s a new high school under construction across the street. The noise level is ridiculous. Beginning at exactly at 7am, six days a week: banging, hammering, drilling, jackhammering, blasting, yelling. Consistent. Relentless. Deafening. And, for whatever reason, the construction workers have butterfingers. They can’t seem to hold onto their tools. So we hear loud clanging about every ten minutes. Dropped wrenches. Tipped-over dumpsters. Kicked-over buckets. Ugh. Yes, the noise is too damn loud. On top of that, once the school is completed, I’ll have teenagers lurking on my block. No thanks.

I never get tired of this view. I think I'll miss it more than anything else.

I never get tired of this view. I think I’ll miss it more than anything else.

My neighborhood is a changin’…the tourists are getting closer. Before, Hell’s Kitchen was just too far away from Times Square (two big city blocks). But since I’ve moved here, there are lots of new bars and great restaurants. Hence, more tourists.

I know I’ll miss the convenience of “The Kitchen.” My door-to-door-commute-including-elevators is 20 minutes. I’m spoiled. I’ll admit it. But I’m not crazy enough to pay ridiculously high rent anymore. My faucets need to be coated in gold to fetch what my landlord is asking. Ain’t gonna happen.

So…the search begins. And it’s not like searching for an apartment anywhere else. Where you live, you can search the want- pads, drive up to a complex and rent a space. Here, wheeling and dealing is involved. If I  use a broker — they seem to have the best buildings — I’ll pay a fee that feels like extortion — up to 15% of the year’s rent. This amounts to THOUSAND$ of dollars. I’ll have to do a lot of homework, but that’s okay too. It’s a great way to see the city. Do I have the gumption to look at the death notices to see who’s vacating their apartments? I don’t think so. But folks do do that. Do I have the desire to move to New Jersey? No way. This will be an interesting challenge for me and I have to have it figured out by October 1.

I have no idea where my search will take me. Gasp…maybe over a bridge or through a tunnel. A different borough. Yes, I admit it. I have Manhattan snobbery disease. Bad.


But…the rent is too damn high.

PS: the noise is too damn loud.


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Racing to bring up the rear…

I wish I could say I’m jumping for joy after finishing the Manhattan Half Marathon.

Instead, I’m just here to say I finished. Period.


Ok, maybe feeling joy a bit, since I did finish. Don’t get me wrong. I FINISHED!

Ready, I thought, to run.

Ready, I thought, to run.

But, dammit, I know I could have and should have done better.

Brought up the rear — hey, somebody has to do it, right? I wasn’t dead last, there were many behind me. But I was definitely in that last pack of stragglers. I prefer to look at my placement as a community service to the other runners.

I wanted to throw-up for the entire race. I wanted to quit after mile 2. I had to pee through most of the race (note to self: limit the amount of coffee before a major race).

I carried on an interior dialogue that went something like this: “What the Hell am I doing here?” You’re running a half marathon. Why? Because you set a goal. Well, so much for that. I want to quit. Why? You’re not a quitter. Why start being a quitter now? Good point. I don’t quit. I had this conversation with myself for about three and a half hours. Yeah, 3.5 hours. I was getting tired of hearing myself.

1/13th of the way there...little did I realize how hard this would be.

1/13th of the way there…little did I realize how hard this would be.

I couldn’t find my stride. I never did, the whole race. It’s as if my muscles never warmed up. I couldn’t even feel my butt. Imagine a globe and all of Asia disappears. I didn’t feel happy like I did when I was running the Long Island Half Marathon eight months ago. I don’t know why, either.

I questioned my training. Truth be told, I could have been better prepared had I been more conscientious. I found a solid six-week training plan. But I took days off when I shouldn’t have. I got lazy. I paid for it.

Off and running.

Off and running.

After awhile, my internal conversation turned to the physical. My feet hurt. My torso wanted to disconnect from my body. My knees felt like disconnecting from my legs. I was cold. I was restricted in my movement because I probably had on too many layers. I also was carrying a heck of a lot more “junk in the trunk” since my last race. (note to self: empty that $%#@&^* trunk). That extra, um, “baggage” made a big difference — my joints took a major and much heavier pounding this time than the last race.

I'm buried under layers. Four on top, two on bottom. Too much, I guess.

I’m buried under layers. Four on top, two on bottom. Too much, I guess.

Finally I told myself to forget about what’s hurting and to just move forward. So I did. I tried to remember that I was running on a beautiful sunny (but very cold) day in my favorite place in the world to run. And it really was spectacular. Central Park is amazing. But maybe 5 degrees warmer minus the 20-mph wind would have made a difference. Or not. I don’t know.

My favorite place to run.

My favorite place to run.

The volunteers really made it a little easier for those of us who needed an extra push. Cheering all the way. Some spectators held signs  with the phrase “You Can Do It!” and other inspirational messages. Some runners had the phrase “Run Like Hell” emblazoned on the back of their jackets. I trotted behind another woman with my last name for awhile (it was on her shirt).

I cheered my fellow runners.  A group of slow runners that was “praying on it” eventually shuffled past me. A couple of walkers passed me. But it was okay, I was racing against myself, I’d wanted to finish better than I had in the LI Half. When it was evident I wouldn’t, just finishing was all I wanted. By now I was dreaming of a nice fat bagel and a hot bath.

I drank frozen water. I slurped slushy Gatorade. I plodded on. I cursed. I sang. I ran.

I finally had enough as I passed mile marker 13. That, my friends, is where the dam broke. I burst into tears, which froze on my face. Yeah, that freakin’ cold. I  headed for the finish line. Thank God.


The dam burst here.

Except it was gone.

Yes, the finish line was nowhere to be seen.

Gotta hand it to the New York Road Runners — they’re one efficient machine. They tore the whole shebang down. So as I’m running to where I think I should be going, I ask one of the guys loading up the finish line apparatus onto a truck “Where…the Hell…is the finish line?”

He pointed forward. Another guy said “you passed it. here’s your time 3:29:00, tell the people in that van.”

So I did. Officially — based on his watch — 3:29:00, though I was so far back in the pack, I didn’t pass the starting line until six minutes after the front of the pack. So my time was about 3:23:00 (ha ha, huge difference). Doesn’t matter anyway. I finished the race. The guy in the van told me because I completed, I can use the race as a marathon qualifier (as if).

But…no bagels. No bananas. No water. Nothing left at the end of the race. Nothing for the slow pokes, maybe the people who need it the most. Everything was gone, put away.

It’s okay. Run faster next time for the rewards at the end. I know now what I need to do to avoid this kind of disappointment in the future. Train better. Be more serious about it. Try harder. No problem.

But I can say I finished.

Yes, I finished the 2014 Manhattan Half Marathon.

I did it.

And I’m quite happy about that.

See you in May on Long Island.

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Happy Holidays NYC Style: Christmas on Steroids

I swear, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station can probably see Brooklyn, New York. Blazing in all its green, red and tinselly glory.

Clark Griswold, eat your heart out!

Clark Griswold, eat your heart out!

How could they not?

The good folks of Brooklyn celebrate Christmas like no place I’ve ever experienced. You know. New York-style.

I joined a group to take a walking tour of the Dyker Heights section — it’s between Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst — this past weekend.  Others arrived in buses for guided Christmas lights and Cannoli tours. Yes, that’s what we do here.

A spectacular display.

A spectacular display.

I kid you not. And why not?

These Brooklynites put Clark Griswold to shame. In a HUGE way.

I half expected Chevy Chase to emerge from somewhere behind all those glittery lights with a crazed look on his face, dragging miles upon miles of extension cords.

Some even hire professional companies to design, set-up, manage, take-down and store their motifs…to the tune of $30k a season. WHAT?

They do it all...plan, set up, take down, store...

They do it all…plan, set up, take down, store…

Displays range from tasteful and elegant to over-the-top and seizure-inducing. From the simple to the sublime. Something for every taste.

Blinking lights. Even an Eiffel Tower!

Blinking neon lights. Even an Eiffel Tower!

I seriously wonder what the combined wattage is beaming, or should I say BLASTING out of Dyker Heights. These people know how to do Christmas. And then some.

Baby Jesus in the spotlight. Santa is not far away, either.

Baby Jesus in the spotlight. Santa is not far away, either.

I remember as a kid we’d venture out in the car after Christmas dinner with my grandparents to see the pretty Christmas lights in our own neighborhood. Usually in Michigan. Sometimes in Wisconsin. But what we saw then couldn’t hold a candle to this. Wow. It’s like comparing birthday candles to sticks of dynamite.

Apparently Dyker Heights’ holiday-on-overloaded-circuits display got started about three decades ago when a woman decorated her house. Her neighbor tried to out-do her. (Surprise, surprise…) They engaged in that age-old suburban mine-is-better-than-yours warfare. Then others on the block got into the act. And before you knew it, the holiday decorating frenzy spread like, well, electrical current. And today’s modern-day spectacle is quite the sight to behold. Partly because it’s tradition. Partly because there are so many different choices for lighting. Strips. LEDs. Icicles. Traditional bulbs. Spotlights. And mostly because they got the professionals involved.

In fact, the original home where this all started — and is still going strong today — we are told, spends about $3,500 a month in electricity. Merry Christmas Consolidated Edison!

It all started right here, with this house, about 30 years ago. We're told the power bill is $3,500 a month.

It all started right here, with this house, about 30 years ago. We’re told the power bill is $3,500 a month.

The streets this past Saturday — the one right before Christmas — were crowded with hundreds, maybe thousands of people — don’t even try to drive through there — families, singles, people on dates spilled into the streets from the sidewalks. It is a festive atmosphere.  Electrifying. The NYPD directs traffic. It all gets underway right around Thanksgiving and continues until just after the New Year.

They come from near and far...

They come from near and far…

Everybody was on display: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Santa, nutcrackers, wise men, elves, dancing snowmen, sugarplum fairies, pink nightmares. You name it. We saw it. Themes from religious to whimsical and everything in between. In all of its shimmery, sparkly, highly-illuminated gaudiness. And I use gaudy in the best way possible here. I mean think about it: it’s New York City, where we do everything bigger, better, faster, brighter, flashier. And by God, are we competitive or what?

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Frosty.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Frosty.

Hey Look! It's Ralphie, the "Pink Nightmare!"

Hey Look! It’s Ralphie, the “Pink Nightmare!” from “A Christmas Story.”

Some exhibits are quite "fragile."

Some exhibits are quite “fragile.” Notice the “major prize” is just above the Virgin Mary. It’s all about juxtaposition, people, Juxtaposition!

And some of us got to wondering: what motivates particular displays and specific color schemes? How much planning goes into these elaborate displays? Do we go spiritual or secular? Or do we combine the themes? Is it plotted out on paper? Is it budgeted? Does neighbor trash talk fellow neighbor? And what about the folks who refuse to participate? Do they scoff? Do they feel left out? Do they care? Do they hide? I mean, in a competitive atmosphere like this one, if you were not participating, would you even want to show your face? Huh, Scrooge?

Bright as day and beautiful.

Bright as day and beautiful.

OK, I know other NYC neighborhoods also go all-out like this. One that comes quickly to mind is the Broad Channel neighborhood of Queens. I know there are countless others. But this one? Dyker Heights? It takes the fruitcake. For sure.

This was the "Make A Wish" display, where kids of all ages could sit on Santa's lap.

This was the “Make A Wish” display, where kids of all ages could sit on Santa’s lap.

If you find yourself in our fantastic city during your Christmas vacation, a walking tour of Dyker Heights has to be on your list of things to do and see. You really won’t regret it. Just channel the Griswolds and enjoy yourself as you walk down that holiday road.


***If you go: take the “R” train to 86th Street in Bay Ridge (86th St. and 4th Ave.), proceed across 86th to about 13th Avenue and go around the blocks…85th, 84th, 83rd…and bring your camera. And then plan to hit a pastry shop afterward for some truly wonderful dessert after your beautiful walk. I can’t believe it took me this long to do this…it’s now going to be an annual tradition. And it’s a gorgeous neighborhood.  I think I’ll be coming back for daytime walkabout one of these days soon.

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See Forever…from the Top of the World Trade Center

Look out world, the so-called Yankee Stadium of observation decks is opening in 2015!

That’s what the creators and sponsors of One World Observatory say about the space which will occupy the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors of One World Trade Center —  formerly known as The Freedom Tower — as it soars proudly over New York City.

2013-04-02 08.23.47

And what a place it will be. It offers us a view that hasn’t been seen since September 11, 2001.

I got a chance to go to the media preview back in April to see the plans for construction of this soon-to-be magnificent place to view New York City from a 360-degree radius. Not only that, you can see Jersey, the Ocean and…well, forever, or what seems like forever.

2013-04-02 09.39.44(1)

The perch offers spectacular and breathtaking views of the greatest city in the world. And that’s just what you get when you look out of the huge windows. (Unlike the Empire State Building, this observation deck will be fully enclosed.) Once completed, the three-floor “experience” (which should take at least an hour or two) as the Port Authority touts it, will be a multimedia interactive extravaganza from the second you walk up to the front door until the moment you leave. Everything from the views to the minute-long “Skypod” elevator rides, to the displays about the history of the building and of NYC to the theatrical program to the tour “ambassadors.”

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There also will be restaurants and a gift shop and space for special events. Can you imagine having a wedding or party up there?2013-04-02 08.07.26

The Port Authority calls it “the one and only place to see all of New York.” In fact, Scott Rechler, the Vice Chairman of the Port Authority, calls One World Observatory the Yankee Stadium of observation decks. It can’t get much better than that!

On a clear can see The Bronx!

On a clear day…you can see The Bronx!

Incidentally, the observatory will be run by Legends Hospitality, whose partners include the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys and Checketts Partners Investment Fund.

Ticket prices haven’t been set yet, however we were told they’ll be in line with what similar attractions in the city charge.

100th Floor

100th Floor

As we made our way up to the 100th floor, I got a chance to glance around a bit at the construction going on inside the building. It really is remarkable. And it — the construction — continued through the press conference…in fact the Port Authority officials occasionally referred to the noise, reminding us of all the work that goes on in this building day and night. I don’t know about you, but I’m always fascinated by construction sites and this one surely doesn’t disappoint.

2013-04-02 10.19.28

I’ve watched this spectacular building “grow up” from Ground Zero and it’s been a fascinating process to witness. You can see it from many points in the city as you look down the Avenues heading south. I run past it — in fact, last time I did, I had to stop and just gaze up and marvel at it.

Once completed, One World Trade Center will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It’s already the tallest building in the Big Apple.

2013-04-02 10.33.322013-04-02 10.19.532013-04-02 07.45.45I remember when I was a kid, standing on top of the World Trade Center observation deck on the south tower and seeing NYC on high for the first time ever. It was spectacular. I remember the building gently swayed, a sensation and view I’ll never forget. I got to see that view again today for the first time in decades and I can’t wait to come back.

One World Trade Center rises up...currently at 105 floors.

One World Trade Center rises up…currently at 105 floors.

Someone during the news conference referred to the building as “the most important building in the world.” David Checketts, the chairman and CEO of Legends Hospitality called it “the most significant destination in the world.” The press release referred to it as “a beacon of hope, a monumental icon of renewal and rebirth, an enduring testament to the resilience of the human spirit.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Stunning. Strong. Breathtaking. Soaring. Proud. New York.

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Rikers by Moonlight. Pollyanna goes back to Prison

The razor wire glistened in the moonlight, as a scrawny black cat skulked across the parking lot, lighted by a nearly-full moon.

I don’t make this stuff up. This was Rikers…in the moonlight. On a fall evening. Oh the mystery.

Rikers Island — New York City’s massive jail facility — takes on a whole different persona at night. It’s creepier and more shadowy than during the daytime, the bleak gray of day segues into a chilling black in the night. The dreariness that pervades the landscape seeps into one’s mind and mood. For nocturnal viewing think darker, more shadowy, desolate, desperate. It has an evil vibe. Not easy to describe, but definitely felt. Oh, and the air this fine evening smelled like raw sewage.

Oh, the ambience. Thankfully I don’t scare easily. However, admittedly, I wouldn’t want to find myself anywhere near here alone. Ever.

The night I was there, several months back, it was very cold. Very still. Very dark, save for that moon, its light casting dramatic shadows everywhere.

Again, this place isn’t for the faint of heart, yet I came back. To see a someone who’d been a “guest” of the facility since mid-September.

This was my second visit to Rikers. As I looked closer at the place, I saw things I’d missed before. Ironic little tidbits.

Like the fact that there are actual “smiley faces” on signs here. One reminding you to have a nice day and to buckle up, to enjoy your tour. Right. It’s almost as if those smiley faces are mocking you as you enter this no-man’s land.

Interestingly, back in Queens, there’s a guy selling underwear and socks on a table on the sidewalk near where the MTA bus comes to take visitors to Rikers Island. I never thought much about it, as you see people selling all kinds of stuff on the sidewalks all over New York City. Then on this night, I observed a man buying underwear before he got on the bus. He was taking it to an inmate. One stop shopping. On the way back from the lockup, I observed a woman carrying hundreds of pairs of Ralph Lauren “tighty whiteys” down the same street. I’m not sure if there’s any connection. I’m not even sure they were legitimate. They looked like knockoffs.

The good people of Rikers have a strict code as to what you can bring inside to the inmates. For instance, no black clothing. No navy blue. My mission on this evening was to bring this woman, this former friend who found herself in a bizarre situation, some clothes, as the seasons were changing and she was cold in there. I did not buy the sidewalk skivvies.

So it’s off the bus after about a 30-minute ride through outer Queens, past places where you could buy live chickens and goats and have them slaughtered for you, past car washes and various bodegas, convenience stores and other assorted “on the edge” shops. We get dropped off at the intake center, where the same guard I had encountered before, the one who looked like Denzel Washington, was on duty again.

It was a long line waiting to get into intake, the first stop through the metal detectors. Many of the people with whom I waited had tattoos. One young woman had the words “live, love, die” etched into the skin of her neck. There were also a lot, and I mean A LOT of babies and toddlers waiting in line with me. Most of them were dressed in very cute clothing, completely oblivious to their dreary surroundings. Happy babies on an adventure I hope they never remember.

Other signs — or should I say graffiti — are etched into various areas around the complex. At the bus stop at the Rikers gate someone etched “Kill all Thugs.” There also was the missive: “The Only Good Thug is a Dead Thug” scratched onto the wall. Perhaps a message for anyone with a criminal intent?

So after my initial wait in line and screening session at the intake building, once the bag I was carrying in full of clothing for my friend was completely torn apart, clothes I brought strewn around and sent through the metal detector, once I went to the window and interrupted a guard on a personal call to get clearance to come into the lockup, I boarded the renovated school bus for the Rose M. Singer Center, the place where my friend had set up temporary housekeeping, albeit against her will.

As I walk in, who’s walking out of the Singer Center but eye-patch guy, the “friend” I met last time (my first time) I was here. He had been visiting a lady friend. He remembered me, said hello and hustled himself onto the bus to go back, back to freedom.

So, after sharing a happy greeting in such a bleak place, it was back to business.

Oh, and speaking of criminal minds…the CBS show “Criminal Minds” was playing on the television set in the waiting room of the Singer Center before my visit, a visit I almost didn’t have because the guard stopped me as I walked through the metal detector and accused me of trying to carry contraband into the lockup. What? Contrband? Excuse me? ME? You talking to ME? Miss Straight and Narrow? Really?


She gave me a quick contact drug test. (no drugs here). So what was the contraband, I asked, as I didn’t fit the profile. I didn’t hide a file in any part of my anatomy.

No. I was chewing gum. Gum. Apparently chewing gum is considered contraband. I had no idea. I assured her I would never put myself in jeopardy of becoming a more extended-stay resident. The contra-, er, chewing gum, was a mistake. I said, as I spit out my contraband. She allowed me to continue my visit.

Ironically, I just saw an article about the stuff the guards have been caught smuggling into Rikers. Everything from illegal drugs and weapons to household items.

So after more waiting, I finally had my visit. The visitors room took on a drearier appearance at night. There were fewer people visiting — only three of us in the room on this night, except for about five corrections officers. It was quieter. My visit went well, considering. My friend was grateful she had some warmer clothes.

Speaking of clothes, inmates here, at least in this particular facility, are allowed to wear street clothes, as long as they conform to the rules. You don’t see gals in the orange scrubs like on that Netflix show “Orange is the New Black.” HOWEVER, I did see some trustees wearing orange and white striped get-ups around the intake building, where they were picking up trash. So yes, some in jail do wear stripes. And some wear orange.

After the 45-minutees or so conversing about prison life, what’s happening on the outside, what’s new, it was back to the bus for me, into the night. As we rode through the complex, I took in my surroundings and looked for detail at night I’d missed during my day trips. All I can say is that this whole experience, compared to my last visit, was literally and figuratively like night and day. I felt more uneasy than my first visit. I’m generally pretty brave. But for whatever reason, the surroundings, the smell, the darkness just left me with a very unsettled feeling. I couldn’t wait to get away from there.

The staff was rude on this night. I guess, because it was the end of a long day, they were tired and cranky.

Back safely on the subway I happened to get into a car that advertised my employer. I thought that was rather interesting, as we rode through the night, as a homeless man on the E-train advised me not to mess with him.

Not on this night, Sir, not on this night.

***I wrote this quite awhile back. I just found it as I was wading through my old drafts. I’ve lost contact with the person I was visiting in this God-awful place. It’s okay, too. I hope I never visit this place again.

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Lonnie Quinn rolled up his sleeves.

That’s how we knew it was going to be really bad.

WCBS TV's Lonnie Quinn

WCBS TV’s Lonnie Quinn

Not only that, Lonnie — CBS New York’s Chief Meteorologist — was walking and talking and taking us through the hallways of WCBS during its extended weather coverage.

He wasn’t kidding. New York City will receive about a foot of snow before the storm is over. Parts of Long Island, even more. We get a nice shot of freezing cold air along with the snow.

It’s our second snowstorm in two weeks. We knew we were getting another “Arctic Blast” mid-week. Nobody really started talking about much snow until early yesterday.  Nobody was talking up to a foot of snow for NYC until this morning. But, as they say, it is what it is…it’s here and we make the best of it. It is winter, after all.

The irony isn't lost on me...check out what this cab is advertising.

The irony isn’t lost on me…check out what this cab is advertising.

Hundreds of flights are cancelled. Hotels are packed. The streets are, for the most part, empty.

Going nowhere...

Going nowhere…

Mostly empty streets.

Mostly empty streets.

I’d like nothing better than to be out “in it” taking pictures in Central Park. But the truth is, it’s just way too cold. The wind is rattling my windows. I hear it howling through the hallway. Lonnie says the Ocean is fueling this storm. I’m quite content to stay in and watch WCBS TV’s outstanding weather coverage.

It’s been snowing here in New York City since I left for work around 7:30 this morning. For awhile it was snowing sideways. My skyline view has disappeared. We watched the forecasts all day at work. Watched the weather feeds roll in from the Midwest to the Northeast.

We watch the grid of the various feeds coming in from all over the country.

We watch the grid of the various feeds coming in from all over the country.

Everybody seems to be complaining about it, especially the teachers who are begging for a day off of school.

Slippery sidewalks.

Slippery sidewalks.

But the thing is, New York City is absolutely beautiful under a blanket of fresh snow. For a few hours. Then we wreck it. The snow turns grey, then black. Ankle-deep puddles of slush occupy each street corner. People get cranky.

Then it all melts.

Then we start over and wait for the next time Lonnie rolls up his sleeves.

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A city dweller’s greatest fear

I live in a high rise apartment building in Manhattan. Millions of New Yorkers do. It’s really a nice place to live — I always wanted to live in one since I was a little kid growing up in Michigan. The view outside of my window is amazing. A panorama of New York City that looks different every single time I gaze at it. And believe me, I do spend a lot of time looking out of my window for that very reason.

My skyline view.

My skyline view.

On Sunday, the high rise next door — The Strand — had a serious fire, which resulted in one death and several injuries.

One of my worst fears. (Photo by Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

One of my worst fears. (Photo by Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

Scary stuff if you live in the city. In a tall building. You always wonder: what would I do if it happened here? Would I get out? This one happened so close to home. Too close.

The man who died, identified as 27-year-old Daniel McClung, apparently was killed by smoke inhalation as he tried to escape in a stairwell on the 31st floor. The FDNY says he might have survived had he stayed inside his apartment and even opened a window after the fire broke out.

Photo by Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

Photo by Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

I understand that. But still. My first instinct would be to get out. And we always hear, “use the stairs, the elevators will be out of service.” But staying has never even occurred to me as a viable option. And opening a window is something I think I wouldn’t have done before, as I always have heard how oxygen feeds a fire. I live on a high floor in my own building.

The fire broke out in a 20th floor apartment after its occupant darted out to the store. The FDNY is investigating as to just how it started. The man who died in the fire did not live in the apartment where it started. He just happened to be a neighbor who was home at the time. On a typical January Sunday morning in Manhattan.

Photo b Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

Photo b Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

I didn’t even realize anything was wrong as I lay in my bed watching a program on my iPad. I heard sirens, but I hear sirens all the time.  (In fact, as I write this, the boys next door just now headed out on a run) I live next door to FDNY Rescue 1 — the city’s elite firefighting company — they do high angle, water, subway and other hard- to-reach rescues, besides fighting fires. They’re the McGyvers of the FDNY.  (I am so comforted, too, knowing they’re always there, on guard, ready to roll, ready to save lives) So I’ve gotten used to hearing them head out on their runs. After awhile the sound of sirens just blends in to the general din, the white noise, of the city.


My friend Vinnie, who lives downstairs in my building, posted a picture on Facebook. That’s what alerted me to the fire. Me being me, I put my shoes on and headed out with my camera to find many of my neighbors standing in the rain on the street or on the sidewalk, staring in disbelief, speaking in hushed tones. And fire apparatus and crews and NYPD officers for blocks and blocks.

As I made my way up the block, the ambulances were rolling in, the FDNY EMS people were rolling gurneys into The Strand’s front door. All I could think to myself, and yes, I said it out loud: “oh no.”

The Strand, where the fire was, is on the left. My building is on the right.

The Strand, where the fire was, is on the left. My building is on the right.

I arrived as people were being evacuated from the building. Residents carried their dogs with them. Many were without coats. Most were in their pajamas. One man was walking across icy 10th Avenue barefoot. I quickly tried to give him my own socks, only to be stopped by a police officer who said the man would be taken care of. I’m sure he was. The American Red Cross was also there. Dozens of people need a place to stay while the building is repaired.


The fire happened a day after I noticed in my pile of mail that instructions were on the way — a reminder to review my own building’s annual Fire Safety Plan. I know I’ll be paying much closer attention this year.

But when you live in any building with multiple units, you’re at the mercy of everyone else who lives there. You hope everyone is responsible with their cooking, smoking and candle use.

Photo by Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

Photo by Keith Lowry/NYCFireWire

I think, like in most things, we get lulled into that false sense of security that “this can never happen to me.” Unfortunately, too many of us learned today that’s just not the case.

I — and all my neighbors — send sincere condolences to Mr. McClung’s family and friends.

Posted in Apartment Living, How to Live in NYC, Manhattan, New York, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Snowmageddon-aclypse-o-rama-gasm. Or something like that.

It’s a snow day in New York City.

The first “big one” of the year!

IMG_00002136It’s gorgeous. This city is at its most beautiful when it slows down like this.

NYC is beautiful when it snows.

NYC is beautiful when it snows.

It’ll last for about two more hours, then we will wreck it. The snow will turn dirty, slushy and gross.


But for now, we’ll take it.

We knew it would be significant when WCBS TV’s Lonnie Quinn rolled up his sleeves last night to tell us how bad it was going to get.

It got started last night.

It got started last night.

Just hours ago — a million people crowded into Times Square. As of 7 this morning, it was like a ghost town.

The "Cross Roads of the World" look more like rural roads to nowhere at 7am.

The “Cross Roads of the World” look more like rural roads to nowhere at 7am.

The governor shut down the Long Island Expressway, the New York Thruway and I-84. That’s kind of a big deal.


Nobody’s getting anywhere fast.


IMG_00002196Teachers are happy, the new Mayor Bill de Blasio closed schools. He even did a photo op shoveling his sidewalk. This first big storm is a HUGE test for him.

Schools are closed! Snow day for kids and teachers, too.

Schools are closed! Snow day for kids and teachers, too.

The new mayor shovels his own snow for the cameras (pix from WCBS TV video)

The new mayor shovels his own snow for the cameras (pix from WCBS TV video)

Kids will have a blast sledding in Central Park today. Wish I could be there, too.


We’ll enjoy this while it lasts — it’s supposed to warm up and rain on Sunday. Then the beauty turns into grey slush soup.

IMG_00002190Oh yeah…we received 6 inches of snow in Central Park. Part of Long Island saw 10 inches.

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