By Jacqueline Micucci, Writer/Editor | New York (and Seattle)
What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?
New York is such a walking and eating town, and I love to do both. I love walking around my old neighborhood in the East Village—checking out the wares inSustainable NYC, grabbing a cocktail at local farm-friendly Back Forty and munching on some ridiculously delicious pork buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar. I also love walking through Union Square, perusing the farmer’s market, meeting local artists and rooting on the kids showing off on their skateboards.
Uptown, my favorite spot is the fountain at Lincoln Center. When I was younger we used to just sit there and watch the people all dressed up going to the ballet and the opera house. If I want to escape the city without ever leaving it, I visit the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. The views of the Hudson are just spectacular and the gardens and buildings really make you feel like you’ve been transported into medieval times. The art’s not too shabby either.
Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?
My worst fear is sort of already happening. People are moving out because it’s just too expensive to live here, especially in Manhattan proper. I’ve got more than a few friends who are living in places like Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. They might as well be in the suburbs at that point.
Which historical figure would do best in your city?
Queen Elizabeth I. A strong, single woman who would not let her power be usurped by any man sounds like the perfect Manhattanite to me.
Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?
New Yorkers are a resilient bunch. We give each other space, but when things go wrong we band together. The obvious example is September 11th, but even during the blackout in 2003 people went out of their way to help. There were vendors in Chinatown giving away food to people on the streets and ordinary citizens directing traffic until the police came so chaos wouldn’t ensue.
I’ll never forget walking into Brooklyn and there, at the end of the bridge, was Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz on a megaphone declaring, “You’re in Brooklyn now. You’re safe.”
Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?
It’s overcrowded. It’s very hard to find space to be alone for a little bit unless you’re in your apartment and even then, most people have roommates. Plus whenever anything remotely interesting is going on, whether it’s a concert in the park, a cool art exhibit or even the opening weekend of a new movie, it feels like half the city is already there by the time you show up.
What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?
That New Yorkers are rude. We are a guarded bunch, but if you ask us for directions or start up a conversation while waiting in line at the store, we are more than happy to be helpful or chat. In my experience the rudest people tend to be the tourists who think they have to be rude to navigate the city; this is especially true on the subway.
What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?
New York is a place where you can experience many extravagances. Pick your poison: Eat a meal at Masa, which has only 26 seats and no menu, and have an amazing omakese experience; go to Tiffany & Co. and buy a diamond necklace set in platinum for $1 million; or go have something called the microablation and triphasic combination facial for a mere $500 at the Cornelia Day Spa.
What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?
New York is the city that never sleeps, but its inhabitants do. Most of us are not party people who stay up until the wee hours of the morning. A lot of those alleged hip clubs and lounges are the domain of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd (suburbanites from Long Island and New Jersey).
To avoid the onslaught of drunken revelers, many of my friends spend Friday nights at home. We stay in, invite friends and family over, order delivery and have some wine.
What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?
I love the old art deco architecture of the ’20s, but around the late ’60s/early ’70s they started building those drab, glass monstrosities. Now they just put up buildings willy-nilly without any thought to the personality of the neighborhood. For example, Soho, where I used to work, is characterized by (relatively) dainty buildings with cast-iron facades, but people like Trump are putting up these tall, ugly structures so they can cram as many apartments in as possible.
When was your city’s hey-day?
New York is a place that’s had more than one hey-day. I’d definitely say the ’20s was one period. You had the Harlem jazz age in full swing. All those beautiful art deco structures were being built. The city was also the center of the literary world. It was when the New Yorker magazine was born and, of course, all those boozy lunches at the Algonquin with Dorothy Parker and her vicious circle were taking place too.
The ’90s was another one. Everyone had money. There were tons of great restaurants and nightclubs. The fashion scene was thriving. Mayor Giuliani was ruling with an iron fist (the rumor was that he would have the homeless bused over to Newark). And my beloved New York Yankees were winning the World Series almost every year. Good times.
If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?
How expensive everything is, especially rent.
What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?
It’s not a place of little niceties. New Yorkers aren’t overly polite or don’t go out of their way to be friendly. It’s more of a live and let live kind of a place.
What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?
New York takes in enormous numbers of immigrants from every nation, race and creed, and shapes them into bonafide, proud Americans. While life may not be easy for new arrivals, the sheer diversity and promise of New York does more to convince people to make a productive life here than any jingoistic slogan could ever do.
If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?
Just how tall and dense a place it was. What comes to mind immediately is that scene in the The Planet of the Apes when Charlton Heston finds the top of theStatue of Liberty on the beach. Only, for me, it would be the top of the Chrysler Building. Of course, if Charlton had been able to see his reflection in the Chrysler Building he would have realized how desperately he needed to be manscapped.
What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?
The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building are both iconic structures that make you think “New York” in a nanosecond. If you mean a true acquisition, then the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I mean, my God, they shipped an entire Egyptian temple over. Now they rent it out for cocktail parties.