My favorite place in all of New York City is a front stoop on St. Marks Avenue in Brooklyn. On a vacation last spring, I’d sit on the stoop every morning and sip my coffee, watching the sun come up and the world go by. Alas, we saw and did much on that all too brief vacation, and my wife and I discovered many potential favorite places across the city, but I’ll take the front stoop.
Contending for favorite place was the first restaurant we visited: Pork Slope, located along 5th Avenue in the Park Slope neighborhood. The beauty of airbnb is that you can choose to stay in a proper neighborhood. We chose the third floor of a brownstone just off Flatbush Avenue in Cobble Hill. We had a grocer (“bodega”) on the corner, homemade ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery the other way down the street, the subway two blocks away, and an abundance of great restaurants, particularly along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.
Contending for favorite places in New York are two small refuges. On our way to see the High Line (unique and pretty cool, but not a contender) on our first morning, we walked through Jackson Square, a tiny park hemmed in by Greenwich Street, 8th Avenue and Horatio Street.
A block further on, a portion of pavement at an odd intersection at Gansevoort Street and 8th Avenue was pedestrianized, quite likely under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan. She may be best known for pedestrianizing portions of Times Square, but there are also these wonderful little plazas sprinkled elsewhere in the city. Combined with little parks like Jackson Square, it is these traffic-free zones that provide necessary calm in a chaotic city.
Who doesn’t like Bryant Park? After several visits to area code “212,” I finally made it to Bryant Park, and I wasn’t disappointed. It has the basic elements of a great urban park, including shade, places to sit, a fountain (a place to meet or take a picture), and great management. Of course, there is much else to do there, and being framed by beautiful buildings including the New York Public Library doesn’t hurt, but getting those basic elements right is so important for a successful park. It made me wonder if we could pull it off at home in Minneapolis.
Our rationale for the trip was Jen’s and my 10th wedding anniversary, but the timeline was determined by scoring tickets to The Daily Show. This involved sitting in line on a sidewalk for a chunk of the day with a side trip to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (well worth the price of admission). The wait for the Daily Show was totally worth it, but needless to say we weren’t interested in fighting Times Square crowds nor eating at Sbarro for dinner. So it was a pleasant experience to have the conversation about whether to have dinner in “the Village” or “back in the neighborhood” in Park Slope. We chose a romantic place in the Village, followed by ice cream back in the neighborhood, both strong contenders for favorite places in New York.
If you can’t get to Central Park (and you should), by all means stroll through Prospect Park. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is in Prospect Park, and we were lucky enough to be there at the peak of the cherry blossoms. Yet another strong contender.
Once again the following morning, I was back on the front stoop with my coffee. Most people passed by from my right to left, headed to the Bergen Street Subway station. Birds chirped in the trees, illuminated by the morning sun. Workers were hard at it renovating yet another brownstone across the street. Nannies pushed strollers past. I felt like I was on Sesame Street. In a short couple hours I’d be passing through security at Kennedy but for now I was enjoying the last of my coffee on the stoop. My favorite place in New York City.