Ever wanted a New Yorker’s opinion on something? Where to go? How to avoid everyone? Where to find hidden spots? This week in the New York on My Mind interview series, My New York, Brooklyn local and music PR at Red Cat Publicity, Jason Paul Harman Byrne, shows us around his Bay Ridge neighbourhood and to an overlooked alternative to Central Park…
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Are you a native?
Yes, I was born in Mount Sinai Hosiptal in Manhattan, and raised here, so the city is the only home I have ever known.
What do you love most about your neighbourhood?
It’s quiet here at night, and it smells good (like my parents’ hometown of Weymouth, UK) when the wind blows in off the Hudson River, which it does often. The tree-lined side streets (with many beautiful, grand homes) that all lead down to the bike path which runs alongside the New York Harbour. Down here you will find the best views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which just celebrated its 50th Anniversary (pictured above), and it’s a lovely, inspiring place to stroll, run, bike, roller blade, or just sit and watch the boats and ships cruise by. You’re in the city, but it feels removed from the hustle and bustle. I also love that living in Bay Ridge I’m five minutes away from one of the city’s finest public golf courses, Dyker Beach.
Favourite time of year in the city?
Well, it’s a toss up between spring and fall, but fall would probably win out if I was pressed for an answer. Perfect weather to enjoy the city and everyone quickly gets over the hazy, hot and humid doldrums of our long summers! Plus the NYC Marathon takes place during the first week of November, which is always a great time.
A new Mexican Restaurant in Bay Ridge, Coszcal De Allende – absolutely phenomenal, authentic food, served by a great family.
Best meal ever?
Daniel on the Upper East Side for my 40th birthday – everything was absolutely beyond perfect.
It used to be Drummer’s World on 46th Street, but the exhorbitant rent ($15K a month) forced the owner to pull the plug. So now by default, it is Steve Maxwell’s Drum Shop on 7th Avenue and 48th Street.
Building you’d most love to live in?
Any of the doorman buildings on Central Park West from 65th on up. Or any of the breathtaking townhomes that line the blocks just off 5th Avenue in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
City’s most overlooked site?
Perhaps the beautiful New York Botanic Gardens in the Bronx. You can truly escape in its beauty for hours and hours.
The Gardens of The Church of St Luke on Hudson Street and Barrow Street. The public is welcome into these private, meticulously and beautifully maintained gardens, that provide for an idyllic spot in the city to relax, contemplate, read, or just people watch. It can also be a wonderful spot for date – perhaps a brief interlude between drinks and dinner. Also, if you live here you have to get out of the city every few weeks for a day or two to stay sane.
What would you do as Mayor?
I would make it really difficult financially for chain stores and chain restaurants to operate here, thereby discouraging them from opening a location in NYC. I would do everything in my power to foster an environment in which independently owned shops, cafés, restaurants and cultural institutions could thrive. NYC must remain NYC, in all its uniqueness. We cannot allow NYC to become one big strip mall – it is happening now – and it’s nothing short of a travesty. I would do everything possible to make sure that artists of every stripe can live, create and work in this city – if these people leave NYC then NYC ceases to be the greatest city in the world. The thing that has always made NYC great is the incredible depth and breadth of supremely talented musicians, artists, actors, dancers, etc who took inspiration from their lives in NYC and created the most wondrous sights and sounds the world could ever imagine. The Mayor’s first priority should be to protect that.
How would you spend a spare afternoon?
In Central Park, preferably with a picnic lunch comprising of treats from Zabars. Or walking the High Line and then lunch at Friedman’s Lunch or The Green Table, ice-cream at L’Arte De Gelato, followed by an espresso from Ninth Street Espresso (all located in Chelsea Market). Then maybe browsing Strand Bookstore.
Best thing a taxi driver has said to you?
“That’s it, get the hell out of my cab!” Back in the 90s I was playing drums in a wedding band every weekend. Not having a car at the time, I usually took my drums by taxi to Maspeth, Queens to meet the band’s truck and drive to the gig with them. Queens is a place many New Yorkers never go unless you absolutely have to, and a place most cab drivers dread going to, as it involves bridges and the much-despised BQE (which is perpetually under construction and just generally brings out the worst in drivers). So here I am on Central Park West and 85th Street, I hail a cab, he stops, I ask, “Are you OK going to Queens?” He looks at his watch and says, “No problem”, and opens the trunk. I load my gear in and off we go. We proceed to hit traffic the whole way, and this cabby has to return the cab in about 20 minutes or he gets charged for the use of the cab for another shift. He starts going beserk on the Kosciuszko Bridge, blaming me for the traffic, and yelling all sorts of obcenities through the divider. While this is happening, a livery-cab driver is witnessing this, so I yell to him, “Hey can you take me to Maspeth?” He yells back, “Yeah, let’s go”. I make the cab driver stop the car on the bridge and proceed to move my drums, cymbals and everything else into the town car, all the while everyone behind us is honking and screaming. After we get everything in the other car, the cab driver comes over and says, “That’ll be $17.50.” I can’t repeat here what I said to him, but suffice it to say, he didn’t get his money.
What inspires you about New York City?
I was born in Mount Sinai Hosiptal in Manhattan, and raised here, so the city is the only home I have ever known. I feel as comfortable on these streets as I do in my own bed, so this city is in my blood, in my heart and in my head, always. I love it, and I hate it, often from one minute to the next. I never want to leave it, but I would love to. The city belongs to the most creative, the most ambitious, and the most determined person, so you cannot be mediocre here. If you wish to succeed you must be the best, or willing to put in the work to be the best, in your field. From time to time I remember that there are millions of people around the world who dream of visiting NYC, or perhaps living here. These notions and thoughts are inspiring.
Craziest thing about living in the city?
Years of dealing with constant crowds, the noise, the filth, the frantic pace, the blazing heat, the bitter cold, etc, all start to wear down a person’s sense of reason.
A word of advice for tourists…
Hey, who am I to give anyone advice? But since you asked: look sharp, act and dress like a local (in other words, wear black, or dark-colored nice clothes, and don’t wear sneakers out to dinner, or shorts to a show), and just generally try to look like you know what day it is. Don’t eat in chain restaurants, you can do that at home if you must. You are in a world-class epicurean destination, try restaurants that are unique to NYC, and treat yourself to at least one extravagant meal. Last but not least, take in as much art, music, theatre, dance and film as you possibly can – you are in the greatest city in the world for arts and entertainment, take FULL advantage.
PS: Don’t ask where 37th Street is when you are standing on 36th street, it’s self-explanatory.
Thanks for talking to me, Jason! Have you been to any of the places he mentions? I’m a big fan of Chelsea Market, and inspired to give Zabars a try.