Each year on Brightest Young Things we ask people what they love about their city. You can love a city without being in love with a human being!
For this year’s Why We Love NYC we asked comedians, musicians, publicists, restaurateurs and MORE what they love about NYC. (Hint: water and dogs were big talking points!) A must-read if you’re looking to rekindle your romance with ye olde Big Apple!
Chef and Owner Laurence Edelman || Left Bank
Washington Square Park. I have long felt that Washington Square Park has a spiritual energy like Machu Picchu or Big Sur. I love to walk around the park with my dogs and watch the skateboarders, people having lunch, students, other dogs, and especially (when he’s there) Colin Huggins, playing his full size classical piano, and the group of people that gathers around it. I’ve never seen him coming or going, but I often see him there.
I’ve seen no other place in the world that is so into dogs. New Yorkers have so much love for dogs and we treat them like family members, because they are! The French are famous for being dog people, but Parisians don’t hold a candle to us when it comes to man’s best friend.
Walking and walk-ups.The simple act of walking around, walking to the subway and up and down the steps, walking up the stairs to our apartments, walking on our daily errands, and just walking to go for a walk, is something that keeps our blood pumping and our senses engaged. I’m sure I walk a mile everyday without even noticing it. And on days off, forget it: so much walking.
The water. Seriously, the drinking water is so good right out of the tap. I rarely think about it until I’m somewhere else and am reminded that most tap water sucks.
I get to be friends with so many strangers. I’ve developed relationships based on proximity and not much else with doormen and bouncers along my daily and nightly route, the people at the coffee shop, the crew at the drugstore, I might not know much about them personally or the specifics of their lives, but I’ve developed real relationships with so many strangers that I see all the time. We smile and say have a good day, but we know. We know about each other. And when the zombie apocalypse comes, we’ll take care of each other.
Sophie Santos || Writer, Comedian, Actress and Co-Host of The Lesbian Agenda
Saying “hey I’m walking here!!!” One day a car will almost bump into you and you’ll shout this glorious catch phrase. And when you do, your heart will swell and you’ll feel a sense of pride you never knew you even had. When I said it for the first time, I’m pretty sure I shouted “I’m a New Yorker” to myself the rest of the way home. Hell yeah.
No drunk driving!!! Listen, when you’re in your twenties (or thirties or eighties) you’re gonna party. And that’s totally cool. And you can do it safely. Take the train or call a car and you’re good to go. Who doesn’t love a drunk Lyft. You’ll also feel like you have a personal driver which is totally cool to feel.
The Woods on Wednesday! It’s the perfect place for ladies who like ladies to meet their first group of lesbian friends or their first fling. It’s also one of the first places I could feel completely comfortable being gay. I’ll never forget seeing 100 lesbians packed into one bar and realizing that I’m not the only one.
Delivery baby! I GET EVERYTHING DELIVERED. Food, tampons, a computer duster that I needed for a sketch, you NAME it. There’s no reason you should have to leave the house to get something when you can keep doing your thing and get it personally packaged!
Playing “Empire State of Mind” in a car and recognizing it’s okay to love this song. Hey! They wrote it for a reason right?! My first New Year in NYC, a group of friends and I blared this song while driving (safely in a Lyft) down the highway and I haven’t regretted this moment since. Full disclosure: the Lyft driver was also into it.
Cobble Hill. Just take the F train to Bergen and you’ll see why.
Marc Vidal || Executive chef of Boqueria
Authentic People – In New York, people are true to themselves and don’t care what others think about them. They wear what they want, say what they want, and eat what they want.
Diversity – There is no other place in the world that embraces different cultures, cuisines, people, and ideas like New York does. Each neighborhood is designed like a different city, from the architecture to the celebrations (like block parties!).
Tap Water – In Spain, the tap water tastes terrible. Being able to drink from the tap is such a luxury. Plus – free water at restaurants!
24-hour Businesses – Whether I am craving a 5am breakfast sandwich or a 3am slice of pie, I always know I will be able to get what I want when I want it in New York!
MoMA – Visiting is such an experience, no matter how many times you have been. It is also free on Friday nights!
Allie McDonald || 1/2 of EXES
Noam Grossman || Founder of Upside Pizza
Photo by Molly Tavoletti
The Tap Water – Not only is NYC tap water perfect for dough making, it is also accessible to everyone — truly a win-win.
The Spaghetti (and staff) at L’Artusi – Hands down the best spaghetti in NYC, in my opinion. Exceptional flavor profile, chew and presentation. Plus they’ve perfected the balance of spice, salt & savory.
Hot Dog Carts – A New York staple. Nothing is better than grabbing a good old water dog (better make it two) and topping it with some kraut and mustard.
The Italian Job at Lilia – Homemade gelato topped with honey, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt & fennel pollen. I’d do bad things for this dessert.
The People – This city is one of the most diverse places in the world, and I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people with different backgrounds and unique stories to tell. I’m a big believer that you can learn something from everyone.
Shauna Alexander || Director of East Coast Brand Partnerships at The FADER
BODEGAS – even when you stumble in at half-past 4AM and are so hangry you’re making a Snickers commercial look tame, there is the trusty bodega… ready to serve you an egg sandwich that is out of this world delicious… and then there are the bodega attendants… who never give you side eye when you come in sober/hungover the morning after slurring my order at them four times in a row. God bless them.
YOU CAN WALK EVERYWHERE – listen, many do not realize what a divine treat it is to be able to only have to rely on your feet (not even the subway!) to get anywhere. Plus there are so many weird wall murals and shops, street art and weirdos on any given sojourn that even if it’s 20 degrees, the walk is always worth it (and probably more reliable anyway).
SAMPLE SALES – I am convinced New Yorkers are the best dressers in the world (don’t @ me) and the only way to keep up (if that’s your thing) is to be on the hunt for Sample Sales. My Balenciaga collection has grown 500% thanks in part to stumbling across one of these bad boys unexpectedly. Truth is, they’re easy to find if you know where to look (cough, 260samplesale.com, cough)
THE SKYLINE – I’m lucky enough to have my own office on the 13th floor, so when I’m having a shitty day I close the door, turn on some Interpol, stare out the window and then I am reminded this is the best city in the world and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else (do @ me, I’m prepared to fight anyone on this topic).
RANDOM, MAGICAL, INSANE, FUN, ADVENTUROUS, UNBELIEVABLE NIGHTS – Sure, you can have all the fun in the world almost anywhere… but there’s a magic to New York that is just… indescribable. And if you let that magic take hold, you’ll find yourself having the best night of your life, with the best people you could ever meet. Because that’s the beauty of New York… we’re all just trying to survive amongst the chaos so when you give into it? Well, sparks fly. Which leads to…
MAKING OUT ON STREET CORNERS – Sorry, but every other city (except maybe Paris?) gets this wrong. New York is the ideal background scene when it comes to making out with a stranger on a street corner. There’s always someone yelling, and an ambulance going by, and maybe It’s a clusterfuck, and the line for the pizza place might be dangerously close to getting in your way, but it doesn’t matter because you’re in New York and you’ve got a hot babe to play tonsil hockey with… and despite what it looks like, it absolutely feels just like it looks in the movies.
ROCK & ROLL HISTORY IS EVERYWHERE – Some say Rock & Roll is dead, but I see it alive and well while skipping up and down Avenue A, diving for records on St. Marks, chatting with Christian Benner in his studio, strolling past the Joe Strummer mural and even while accidentally sitting behind Richard Hell in a movie theatre. I cannot help but nerd out about what’s happened here (and there are 4,000 books I can recommend if you are as obsessed as I am about it all).
ART / MUSIC / FILM / FASHION / FOOD / CULTURE – Honestly, we’ve got it all. And if doesn’t start here, it usually passes through at some point. And we are incredibly lucky for that.
Toby Moskovits || Founder & CEO of Heritage Equity Partners + Owner of The Williamsburg Hotel
Still a place anything is possible (said a first generation New Yorker who is a single mom and accidental developer)
Every neighborhood you visit is like a different city (try walking up Bedford Avenue from Lee to North 10th in Williamsburg where you will be hard pressed to answer “Hasid or hipster”)
How can you appreciate spring if you don’t have to deal with a New York winter?
Parks that make you feel like you are somewhere other than the greatest city in the world (if you love Central Park try Prospect Park – it might convince you to move to Brooklyn)
The most beautiful brownstones are still in Brooklyn – Uber yourself to Pratt in Brooklyn, take a stroll and feast your eyes.
Bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel. Available at every corner deli at any time you want. Chef’s kiss
The prevalence of possibilities. If you put in the work and the time, New York can be a place where your dreams can become a reality.
There are five boroughs but endless neighborhoods. Each borough vibrates with the diverse energies of its communities. Little Italy has its idiosyncrasies as does Koreatown as does Flushing…the list goes on. Whatever kind of food you want to eat or activity you want to do, it’s gonna be available.
Things are open 24 hours. You don’t realize how much you take being able to order a bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel at all hours of the night until you try to do that in not New York.
The people. Native New Yorker or not, everyone here has a unique story and perspective to offer, and has something they’re here to achieve.
Greg Stone || Comedian (He’s got an album release show TONIGHT, 2.14, at The Comedy Cellar’s Fat Black Pussycat Lounge!)
The trains. Love being able to get drunk and not have to worry about getting home because they rarely let me drive.
It’s a great city to be poor in. I made 8K a year once and managed to live. All you have to do is jump a few turnstiles and eat at a friends house or get some dollar pizza. When I was broke in NJ, if you are out of gas you can’t leave the house.
The food. We have all the best food. If you do a great thing in your town, there is a very good chance someone can do that thing here. Yea, BBQ in the south is the best but we managed to get ours up to an 8. That’s not bad being as in the same day you can have killer Mexican, burgers and Pho.
The comedy. Hands down the best comedy clubs in the world, some people like to argue LA but I’m not there so they can suck it.
The art. Turn a corner in NYC see a Banksy, turn a corner in NJ? See a bank, that someone spray painted a giant penis on. Not as great.
Christmas. I love a white NYC Christmas. Nothing prettier, except the mountains. I love the mountains but this isn’t about the mountains, so I probably shouldn’t have even brought them up. But damn, the mountains are pretty.
Alicia Sinclair || CEO & Founder of COTR Inc.
The Energy – I’m a person that thrives in creative, bold, passionate energy and from the moment I step into the city I feel surrounded by it. Every visit is an opportunity to bask in the beautiful strength of this energy, which quite literally, feeds my soul.
All the Different Kinds of People – I grew up in a military family, with change of people being a consistent theme. Being in one place, with people who look/act/think the same leaves me craving uniqueness. In New York, difference is everywhere. It’s incredibly satisfying.
I Always Learn Something New – New York is the epicenter of so many ideas, trends, and movements. While I’m in town, I – without a doubt – will always learn something new. It’s a very childlike feeling and I enjoy the excitement that comes along with never knowing what I don’t know (yet!).
Awareness – New Yorkers generally have an awareness about the world, their city, and themselves that is refreshing. Sure, they’re often tough, but also incredibly real.
The Food – Beyond the abundance of choices (which I truly love), there is an abundance of quality. It’s hard to get a bad meal. Or – as I often say to my friends when I return from to Miami – I eat my way through New York.
Bronwyn Ariel Isaac || Comedian and Writer
The Movie Theaters. I know people say you don’t move to New York to watch television, but the selection of movie theaters here are AMAZING! Even though Moviepass has pretty much died, whenever I’m out in the city and I have a few spare hours I can always find a cute indie theater nearby to pop into and take myself on a date. That is a rare luxury in most places, and I now have countless memories of discovering an old classic or a new indie flick because of this option!
Eating Food Outside. The street food here is no joke, which is a super big selling point to me because I love going on long walks to attempt to chill out my endlessly anxious brain. I love knowing I can find a taco truck or a delicious halal cart, or even a questionably dangerous hot dog cart on any sidewalk while I’m traipsing through the city. The street food is usually relatively cheap for how delicious it is, and it means I can chow down while I cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
Older Lady Fashion Goals. Listen, people like to talk a lot of garbage about what women can and cannot wear past a certain age, and New York is full of fabulous older women wearing whatever the f*ck they want. Few sights fill my soul with more joy than seeing a woman in her 70s rocking green hair or a full animal print outfit, and this is the perfect place to live if you’re trying to compile a heaping journal full of aging fashion goals.
Sexy Stranger Eye Contact. I’m currently in a very happy relationship, but that doesn’t stop me from loving a good eye-flirt with a stranger on the sidewalk or subway. This city gets a lot of flack for being rude or short-tempered, and there’s for sure a good dose of aggression here, but the mere volume of cute people makes for plenty of passing flirtatious moments. I LOVE me some smoldering passing eye contact.
Strangers’ Window Decorations. Okay, before you call the cops on me, this is not some Penn Badgley on Netflix’s “You” fetish I have going. I’m not talking about strolling up to people’s windows and peeping in for some stalker action. I just love the fact that this city has so many wild decorations and lights that people drape both inside and outside their windows. On any given walk you will see cultural flags, posters plastered on windows, decorative candles set out on your neighbors’ stoops, and I feel like one of the most beautiful and compelling parts of the city is how people express themselves through their window and housing decorations.
Miss Cissy Walken || Drag Queen, Singer, Comedian and Chef
Sheep’s Meadow: In the summer when all you want to do is lay out on the beach but only have an hour lunch break to do it, I just got lay out in Sheep’s Meadow and take in all the sun!
Halal/falafel: Truly the best food you can get on the streets of New York City. If you eat meat you can get chicken on a stick. And if you’re veggie like me then you already know the falafel’s better. There are so many good spots but my two favorite are Duzan on Steinway Street and King of Falafel in Astoria.
The Met: As the epicenter for culture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art always outdoes itself in bringing impressive and important exhibits from all of art’s history. Plus, if you’re low on cash then you give only a few dollars and deal with the grumbles of the staff!
Drag: Simply put, New York City is the best place in the entire world to see drag performances. Whether you like singers, dancers, vogue, comedy or just plain weird there are so many venues across the four boroughs (sorry SI) to see amazing shows.
Dianna Daoheung || Executive Chef of Black Seed Bagels
Free Entertainment – There is free entertainment every day of the week in the city. Especially in the summer, you can always find free movies, free music and things to entertain yourself. You don’t ever have to spend a dime.
The mix of cultures within a few blocks – I love walking around and just getting lost within the mixes of culture we have. It’s amazing how one minute you feel like you are in Italy and the next your in China. It’s like an Epcot without Mickey Mouse!
The city forces you to stay young – The forever changing and competitive environment forces you to stay young, even if you aren’t trying. As a New Yorker, we are also the first to see trends, tech innovations and actually apply them to our lives.
City Kids – It always blows my mind when I see these city kids taking mass transit; going to museums, eating oysters and foie gras and doing “adult things” by themselves. They are forced to grow up much faster by default. At the age of 3 they all have better wardrobes and a better sense of the world then I currently do.
The cheap eats – The fact that you can still get 8 dumplings for $2 and $1 pizza slices is a great thing. Unfortunately it is a dying breed due to rent and salary hikes, but I will hang on to that favorite.
Jessica Louise Dye, Frontwoman of High Waisted and DJ
It’s a great place to fake that you’re not super poor. The city offers so many free arts and entertainment options: parades, to festivals, to art galleries, to live music – you can go out and do cool shit for free all the time.. As well as nom down on cheap eats like pizza, dumplings, Indian food and chug $2 beers at Welcome to the Johnsons.
Culture shock in your own city. The melting pot of NYC means you can immerse yourself in different cultures and cuisines all in a few square miles. Living on a street still claimed by Little Italy real estate but resembling Chinatown, I never know what I am going to open my front door to. Sometimes it’s entire parades with dragons and confetti. Sometimes it’s a 3 story tall ferris wheel, cotton candy, and people carrying oversized stuffed animals as they eat meat-on-a-stick.
Dog watching. There are nearly 600,000 dogs living in NYC and they all love going for walks!
Invisibility cloak. I have left the house and taken public transit in massive tutu dresses, just my undies, panda costumes, covered in fake blood, lingerie, roller skates, and a Marie Antoinette costume. No one blinked an eye or even noticed me, and I’m talking in non-Halloween months. I once walked half-a-mile of busy Midtown streets during rush hour with my left boob completely out before someone bothered to tell me. You can let your freak flag fly and no one will judge.
We all openly talk about money. Before I lived here I would never have felt comfortable asking someone, upon entering their apartment, “OMG what do you pay in rent? What was the broker fee? What’s your salary?”