My Favorite Place in New York City

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.

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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.

The View of 5th Avenue From Pork Slope

The View of 5th Avenue From Pork 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.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

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.

A Plaza Likely Done on Sadik-Khan's Watch

A Plaza Likely Done on Sadik-Khan’s Watch

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.

The Bryant Park Fountain - A Place for Meeting and Pictures

The Bryant Park Fountain – A Place for Meeting and Pictures

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.

A Restaurant "Back in the Neighborhood"

A Restaurant “Back in the Neighborhood”

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.

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Cherry Blossoms – Brooklyn Botanical Garden

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.

My Favorite Place in New York City

My Favorite Place in New York City

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4 Responses to My Favorite Place in New York City

  1. mplsjaromir March 13, 2015 at 8:11 am #

    AirBnB’s business model is to intentionally circumvent numerous local laws and societal customs.

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini March 13, 2015 at 9:30 am #

      Probably. We should ask the question if those laws actually do more good than harm.

      Had a good Twitter conversation yesterday on this issue. For a single family home (maybe even an attached SFH like a rowhouse) or an ADU, would Airbnb really be much of a nuisance? Probably not – guests arriving and going about their business wouldn’t impact others all that much given the space between them. A landlord choosing to Airbnb a single apartment in a building where people sign 1 year leases & share (likely thin) walls with each other? Probably a bit more of a nuisance and maybe one of the reasons people sign leases in buildings like that is to avoid transients. Though aside from the noisy check-in/out process, I don’t really see them being much different than a regular neighbor.

      But there are benefits to allowing short-term rentals, and not just for tourists. I would think cities would do well to legalize airbnb with the requirement that it’s in a lease agreement for MF buildings, nuisance rules enforced (X instances and license to rent is pulled for X years), and applicable hospitality taxes enforced.

  2. Barb March 17, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    Its not just about nuisance, its about airbnb running up the price of rents and making cities like New York even more expensive and unaffordable places for normal middle class people to live.

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini March 17, 2015 at 9:28 am #

      Okay, that’s fair. The last report I saw said about there were about 35k airbnb units in NYC total. 58% of them (20k) were rented out as “whole home or apartment” – meaning the owner or whatever wasn’t staying there as an actual housing unit. 10k of those units were in Manhattan.

      There are about 3.5 million housing units in NYC proper. So, airbnb now makes up about 1% of all housing units, with the number of them actually being taken off the market entirely being .58%. This is not insignificant, but just putting context around it.

      I guess, if NYC (or any city) is opposed to airbnb in part because of supply/demand distortions to the housing market, then the waves of downzoning in the outer boroughs of NYC over the past 10-20 years should be seen as way, way worse.

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