This is Why: Subway Opera

Oh, just another evening spent listening to opera while waiting for my train to arrive, thanks to Opera Collective.

This city is filled with talented street and subway musicians.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Tom Swafford

Colin Huggins

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

The Union Square station is one of the best stations in the city for catching live performances. It’s sprawling, so on any given night you might encounter up to half-a-dozen musicians.

*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

View-Lover’s Guide to NYC

I love a scenic view. I especially love a scenic view when I travel. I love taking photographs of scenic views during my travels and reminiscing about them later on. Are you like me? Well then check out this unnecessarily specific NYC guide.


Views of the City

1. The Cloisters: Marvel at the expansive views from this Uptown Manhattan city museum and garden, part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Enjoy medieval art and architecture (and cool temps on even the hottest days thanks to all of the stone), blissfully peaceful courtyards and balconies with dramatic views of the Hudson River and the lush green cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades.

99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan. (212) 923-3700. Open year-round with slightly longer hours in the summer. Recommended donation of $25.


George Washington Bridge and New Jersey as seen from The Cloisters

(Image via jwelsh,; made available under Creative Commons license)

2. Brooklyn Heights Promenade/Brooklyn Bridge Park: Start at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where you’ll to be treated to up-close views of Downtown Manhattan. If you’re into gawking at the other half, check out the back gardens and intricate wrought iron balconies of regal neighborhood brownstones whose backs face the promenade. (History Lesson: Brooklyn Heights is considered America’s first suburb.)

Follow Columbia Heights down to Old Fulton Street and enter Fulton Ferry Landing and Brooklyn Bridge Park. The views of the Brooklyn Bridge are unmatched, which is why you’ll be competing for photo ops with dozens upon dozens of wedding parties. The large green at Pier 1 is a great place for a picnic (if it’s not too hot, that is; shade is virtually non-existent), or a nighttime movie. There are plenty of concessions during the summer, but I suggest you save room for a cone at the excellent Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, which I pray is reopening in time for spring.

The promenade starts at the western end of Remsen Street, while the Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park can be reached by walking to the western end of Old Fulton Street.


Syfy Movies with a View on Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park

(Image via @NYCphotos-Flickr,; made available under Creative Commons license)

3.  Top of the Rock: You’re not going to the top of the Empire State Building. You’re coming to Top of the Rock instead, and I’ll tell you why: the views are just as amazing, plus, unlike the Empire State Building, whose 86th floor observation deck is surrounded by steel cage, the only thing between you and the entirety of New York City is a thick pane of glass.  AND! You get to see and enjoy the Empire State Building from here. It’s open late, so come at night to see the true splendor of the city.

30 Rockefeller Plaza, Manhattan. 8 a.m. to midnight. $25.


4. Green-Wood CemeteryYes, it’s a cemetery, and I get it if you’re not into things that remind you of your own mortality. But, if you can get past that, Green-Wood is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Pay your respects to famous residents like “Boss” Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, Horace Greeley, Jean-Michel Basquiat and George Bellows. Oh, and the views! Depending on tree coverage, you might be able to see the entirety of lower Manhattan if you venture up to the top of the hill. Be sure to catch a glimpse of the monk parrots nesting in the spires of the Gothic gates at the cemetery’s main entrance.

500 25th Street, Brooklyn. (718) 768-7300. The main museum entrance on Fifth Avenue is open until 5 p.m., with extended hours in the summer.

5. Governors Island: On a pleasant summer day, take a free 5-minute ferry to this former U.S. Coast Guard base. Explore the abandoned quarters and public art pieces and marvel at close-up views of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan and nearby Brooklyn. The island plays host to countless festivals and concerts, so check out the schedule before you go. A word about an alternative way to glimpse New York Bay: yes, the Staten Island Ferry is awesome and, best-of-all, free, but man, do I hate waiting in that terminal with nothing to do for the ferry back to Manhattan.

During summer weekends, ferries depart approximately every 20 minutes from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street in Manhattan, and Pier 6 on Columbia Street in Brooklyn.


A view of Lower Manhattan from Governors Island

6. Gantry Plaza State ParkA cute, well-manicured park with Midtown Manhattan views on the Long Island City, Queens side of the East River. It’s rarely crowded and offers a pretty stellar nighttime vantage point of one of the most dense (i.e. brightest) parts of the city. The famed Pepsi-Cola sign adorns the north end of the park.

4-09 47th Road.  Long Island City. (718) 786-6385. Park officially closes at 10 p.m.


A view of Midtown at dusk from Gantry Plaza State Park

(Image via imacnewyork,; made available under Creative Commons license)

7. The Standard Rooftop: Hear me out. Yes, at night The Standard’s roof is filled with the city’s highest-heeled residents paying top dollar for mediocre drinks, but during the day it’s downright peaceful. A great place to creep out on the some of  New York City’s most jaw-dropping rooftops. The sunsets over the Hudson River are pretty cool, too. Grab an expensive drink and consider it an admissions charge. (I once spent 3 hours nursing a $16 vodka tonic on a particularly beautiful late summer Saturday.) Be warned, depending on the time of year, weekend days can get crowded.

848 Washington Street, Manhattan. (212) 645-4646.

8. The High Line: Stop listening to the haters. Yes, this place is super-hyped, but it’s for a REASON. The High Line is, without question, one of the coolest places in NYC. Start at the park’s north end on 30th street, and work your way down to its southern entrance on Gansevoort Street. Along the way you’ll pass expertly planted wildflowers along the elevated park’s abandoned train track and glimpse the best examples of modern building design in the city. Check out this helpful guide to surrounding architecture from New York magazine.

Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street just West of 10th Avenue, Manhattan.

9. Wave Hill: I’m embarrassed to say that, although I consider myself a fairly adventurous urban explorer, I didn’t know about  Wave Hill until a few years ago. Please don’t be as foolish as I was. Imagine a secluded oasis with immaculate flower and herb gardens, spotless greens, scenic overlooks and walking trails. You’ll feel like you’re anywhere else but the Bronx.

West 249th Street and Independence Avenue, Bronx. Tuesday through Sunday. Hours depend on season. $8. 


View of the New Jersey Palisades from a pergola at Wave Hill

(Image via keroism,; made available via Creative Commons license)

Bites with a View

1. The River Café: Situated under the Brooklyn Bride, The River Café is one of many business still suffering from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. It’s closed until further notice, but I hope it reopens soon. The café boasts stunning East River and Manhattan skyline views and delectable upscale cuisine. If you’re here on a weekend, you’re almost guaranteed to spot a proposal or two. Please note: this place is not cheap; it’s a special occasion destination and is priced accordingly.

1 Water Street, Brooklyn. (718) 522-5200. Closed until further notice with plans to reopen.

2. Boat Basin Café: Grab a drink among the post-college crowd at the Boat Basin Café. It’s situated on the Hudson River, which equals gorgeous sunset vistas. Food is standard American fare. (Sidenote: See those boats bobbing in the marina? Some of those are houseboats! Yes, people actually live there year-round.)

Riverside Park and 79th Street, Manhattan. (212) 496-5542. Seasonal. Weather-permitting.

3. The Frying Pan: It’s easy to forgot that New York is a series of islands with a storied maritime history. Get in touch with your inner sailor at the Frying Pan (and brother ship fireboat John J. Harvey), moored at Pier 66 off the West Side Highway. Though it can get a bit “dude-y”, it’s still a fun, unique experience. Just try to come either early or on a low-key weekend. Grab a Pat LaFrieda burger and a bucket of Coronas and park it for the day. The breeze from the river is nice, but the boats and barge do sway on occasion–not the best place for the easily seasick.

Pier 66 Maritime, West 26th Street Hudson River Park, Manhattan. (212) 989-6363. Seasonal. Weather-permitting.


View of Midtown Manhattan from Pier 66

(Image via Yardena 2009,; available under Creative Commons license)

4. The Fairway Patio Grill: An under-the-radar spot for waterfront dining, the Fairway Patio Grill is an ideal place to enjoy reasonably priced eats while gazing at a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty and New York Bay. Unfortunately, the Red Hook location of the famed grocery store and its adjoining casual café were also victims of Sandy. A lot of the neighborhood was completely decimated, and I sincerely hope Fairway as well as other hard-hit area businesses are able to return soon.

480 Van Brunt Street, (718) 694-6868. Brooklyn, NY. Closed until further notice with plans to reopen.

*March 1, 2013 update: The supermarket and patio grill have reopened!

5. Met Roof Garden: Okay, technically it’s a drink with a view, since food options are pretty slim, but it’s a no-miss spot none-the-less. There’s always an exhibit to “ooh” and “ahh” over (whether Mike and Doug Starn’s oversize bamboo nest or Jeff Koon’s balloon animal dog made of stainless steel), and the views of Central Park are unparalleled.

Free with admission to museum


View of Central Park, the Upper East Side and Midtown from the Met Roof Garden

(Image via brownpau,; made available under Creative Common license)

6. Smorgasburg: I’m a total sucker for overpriced, locally sourced, artisanal fair, and there’s no better place to snag your own jar of premium horseradish than Smorgasburg. The weekly festival runs from April to October, Saturdays on the Williamsburg waterfront, and Sundays in DUMBO. Pick up a cemita (the best sandwich you’ve never had). Wash it down with a grapefruit, jalapeño and honey soda and a s’mores pie for dessert. Both locations are accompanied by great cross-river views. There are worse ways to spend a lovely summer day than gazing at Manhattan and stuffing yourself silly.

Saturdays, April through November, between North 6th and North 7th Streets, on the East River in Williamsburg, and Sundays at the Tobacco Warehouse on the DUMBO waterfront.

This is Why

New York City is addictive in the best possible way. When you’re gone, you miss the rush of it, the untamed energy, the possibility. There are also moments when it rips you apart, leaving you rocking in a corner in the fetal position, crying for “mama”.  And still you stay because each day has the potential to be a revelation.

It’s a place of duality and unexpected things. Yes, you may have spent your morning dodging discarded toilets and getting closer to your fellow subway passenger than you do to your spouse, but you can end your day with a free piano concert in Washington Square Park, dollar duck buns at a stall in Flushing, Queens or a Russian dinner and cabaret show in Sheepshead Bay.

After it kicks you around, the city always finds a way to remind you why it is you’re here.


*Stay tuned for a “This is Why” feature, which will allow you to share in the moments that remind me why I love NYC.

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