A Much Needed Breath of Fresh Air: Summer Streets 2017



It’s that time of year once again when, on its best days, the public transit system is relegated to a crude pneumatic tube belching hot air through the bowels of the city. We can add to that the now frequent occurrence of trains being delayed or stalling for prolonged periods of time. And then, of course, there were the three frightening derailments that have transpired since March. The truly incredible obsolescence of this integral system has been laid bare, the ugly truth plain for all to see. And no amount of half-measures–duct tape or bubble gum–can fix the mess. Andrew Cuomo’s “Summer of Hell” is in full swing.



New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

And that’s precisely why Summer Streets, now in its 10th year, is such a breath of fresh air. The Department of Transportation’s eagerly anticipated program offers residents and visitors the opportunity to travel on a car-free route from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park for three consecutive Saturdays in August. The event’s purpose, according to the NYC.gov website, is to provide “space for healthy recreation.” But it also “encourages New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation.” To ensure no one chokes on a drink at that statement, it should be noted that the MTA, not the DOT, is responsible for the transit needs of New York City’s 8.6 million population.

Along the route this year, participants will find the usual unobstructed lanes for cycling, running and walking. There are also Rest Stops with booths and installations from innumerable city agencies, organizations, and companies offering free activities, information, demonstrations and products. Highlights include the LG sponsored Quadwash Water Park, a 165’-long, 30’-high zipline ride, free workouts at the Health and Fitness Zone, Citi-sponsored Food Sessions, and the Vita Coco-sponsored Beach and Beach Slide.



New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We ventured out to Summer Streets early this past Saturday morning despite the ominous forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms. Fortunately for us, it never quite materialized. Our pictures might have a New York City-meets-The Walking Dead feel to them, but we were otherwise unaffected. (Though it’s quite an interesting contrast from our outing last year.) It was great to get the blood flowing and breathe some fresh air. Summer Streets offers a little something for everyone, whether it be families, sports enthusiasts, community advocates, or amateur photographers. There are still two Saturdays left, so don’t miss out!

You can find additional details, including route information, here. Certain activities require registration, have limited availability and are scheduled at designated hours. It’s recommended participants sign up ahead and show up early.

Dates & Hours: August 5, 12, and 19, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m



Pair it with:

Brunch at Atla

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Many participants of Summer Streets start downtown and work their way up to Central Park. The idea is to continue their “healthy recreation” in the park or, perhaps, to end the morning with a picnic on that gorgeous lawn. And sure, we get that. But Lynn and I have a different strategy. And that strategy is best reflected by this question: Would one be more likely to find food of the best quality and variety uptown or downtown? Exactly! And that’s how we ended up in NoHo at Atla, which is located directly on the Summer Streets route.

Atla is an all-day cafe offering contemporary Mexican bites in a bright, open, relaxed space. It’s another example in an increasingly crowded field of high-end chefs making moves at the casual end of the restaurant spectrum. In this case, it’s Chef Enrique Olvera, well known for Mexico City’s Pujol and the highly regarded New York City restaurant, Cosme. We found the trio of dishes we ordered simple, fresh, and tasty: the scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and chilies served with fresh corn tortillas, the huevos rancheros smothered in a smoky-sweet salsa, and the creamy, mildly tart whipped coconut yogurt with fresh blueberries dressed with just a touch of olive oil. It was the perfect meal–not too heavy, not too light–after such an early morning and so much walking.

Location:
372 Lafayette St

Hours:
Monday to Friday 8am – 4pm, 5pm-11pm
Saturday 10am – 4pm, 5pm-11pm
Sunday 10am – 4pm, 5pm – 10 pm

– J.

Bird Hunting in New York City: The Audubon Mural Project



Did you go camping when you were a kid? I did. Do you have fond memories of sleeping in a tent and fishing in a lake? I don’t. Camping taught me one valuable lesson: that I hate camping. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that camping in Malaysia often involves thick jungle, humid air, mosquitoes, leeches, and ghost stories. And sorry, but Asian ghosts are TERRIFYING.

I’m a city girl, through and through. Do I love nature? Sure. I’d love to go on an African Safari or visit a wildlife sanctuary. But camping out in a wooded park in New Jersey? I’ll pass. So when I say “Let’s go bird hunting!”, I’m meaning for bird murals, of course.



Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Peter Daverington. Endangered species: Bald Eagle
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Jason Covert. Endangered Species: Brown Pelicans
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Don Rimx. Endangered Species: Yellow-headed Blackbird

Why bird murals specifically? Because we have a ton of them. And it’s not a coincidence. John James Audubon, the name synonymous with ornithology, spent his final years in a large rural estate in upper Manhattan. The first bird preservation society, The National Audubon Society, was named in his honor. It’s since evolved into a powerful non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the conservation of all natural ecosystems.

The Audubon Mural Project is a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Harlem art gallery Gitler &_____. Together they set out to create murals of climate-threatened birds throughout John James Audubon’s old stomping grounds in New York City. In 2014, The National Audubon Society issued a Birds and Climate Change Report, which studied how North America’s birds may respond to future climate change. It found potential impact on 314 species. So the goal is to commission artists to paint murals of each of these species to bring awareness to the issue.

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Shawn Bullen. Endangered Species: Western Bluebird and Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: ATM. Endangered Species: Townsend’s Warbler

The Audubon Mural Project is still very much an ongoing venture, with only 67 of the 314 species painted. The murals are scattered throughout the neighborhood on gates, doors and walls. Use the map above to track down all the existing murals. Just note that the ones located on gates might not be visible if the business is open, so plan your bird hunt strategically.

The Audubon Mural Project is still seeking sponsors. Donations would fund the artists and help obtain the supplies needed. If you’re interested in offering assistance, you can contact Avi Gitler of Gitler &_____.

Featured photo is courtesy of Audubon.org, Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon.

Note: This post is part of our continuing summer series on street art in New York City. Learn about the Welling Court Mural Project, the Bushwick Collective, or link to the others through this post. We promise the breadth of the talent will astound you!



Extra Credit

Harlem has an extremely rich history, and has been home to a very diverse demographic. Besides John James Audubon, its famous residents have included Alexander Hamilton, Harry Houdini, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. More recent famous residents include George Carlin, Alice Neel and Moby. It’s an essential piece of New York City’s story. Walk around and explore, you’ll come across quite a few gems!

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Pair it with:

Dinner at Oso

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Oso is a special restaurant in Harlem that captures a magical mixture of good food, good drinks and great ambiance. It manages to feel fresh yet familiar, easy yet sophisticated. The Day of the Dead-inspired wall art is the perfect find to top off a day of mural-hunting. Oso takes Mexican street food and turns it into a dining experience.  It strives to makes sure its dishes maintain authenticity by working with a family from Puebla on the menu. The pozole was delicious, and I was particularly enamored with their Pulpo entree, which combines octopus, potatoes, stewed pimento and mandarin oranges. It’ll make you wish Harlem was your neighborhood, and this was your joint.

And here’s a random fact: it’s owned by Alex Trebek’s son!

Location:
1618 Amsterdam Ave

Hours:
Lunch
7 days 11:00 am-4:15 pm

Dinner
Sun – Wed 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Thu – Sat 5:00 pm – 12:00 pm

– L.

On the Hunt for the Perfect Shot: A Photo Walk with NYC Photo Safari


“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
– Richard Avedon

If my marriage hinged solely on my aptitude as an “Instagram Husband”, I would have become a divorcée long ago. Though I greatly admire the artistry found in photographs, I’ve never been particularly keen to play the architect of their creation or the subject of their inspiration. Much of that can be traced back to my father’s overeagerness with a camera throughout my formidable years.

So that brings me to a confession. A confession as embarrassing for an adult as the admission of not knowing how to swim or ride a bike: I never learned how to take a photograph. I’m not talking about pointing a camera in a particular direction and applying a little pressure to a button. In truth, it takes a fair amount of knowledge and skill to take a great, good, or even adequate photograph. That’s perhaps a shocking admission for a blogger, but thankfully, Lynn has happily filled that void. Whenever I’m asked by tourists to take a photo, it’s a foregone conclusion that I will gesture to Lynn and hand her the camera. “Trust me”, I always say, “You’ll want her to take your photo.” I didn’t want them to forfeit a cherished memory.



NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
St. Patrick’s Cathedral photographed with a smartphone

Recently, though, I finally decided enough was enough and set out to find a way to learn some photography basics in an environment that would be both supportive and fun. This is why I was so excited when I stumbled across NYC Photo Safari. They offer a number of photography tours and workshops around the city, and welcome all skill levels. We decided to join the Iconic NY (P1) tour, which explores classic New York City landmarks and locations such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and Central Park. The group sizes are small, which allows the experienced professional photographer leading the walk to offer personalized suggestions and feedback to sharpen your photography skills.

We were paired with Zim, who is an accomplished photographer with nearly 30 years of professional experience. She provided valuable tips into composition and lighting, as well as other technical aspects. She explained basics like exposure and shutter speed in simple terms, and before we knew it, we were capturing motion blur on a train pulling into the station. Lynn and I love taking tours, and we know that a guide can make or break the experience. Zim had a great sense of humor and was accommodating at every juncture.



NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Though it rained for a good portion of our tour, we had fun and learned a tremendous amount. Three hours simply flew by. While waiting out the rain, I found myself experimenting with some shots and angles. Something I never would have done before.

If you’re visiting New York City as a tourist, taking a tour with NYC Photo Safari is a great alternative to a regular walking tour (or simply hunting down the main attractions yourself). You can pick up some new skills and take home some unique vacation photographs. But if you’re a local looking to sharpen your photography skills, NYC Photo Safari is also a fantastic way to spend a few hours in the city. You can have as much fun shooting with your smartphone as your hefty DSLR. We loved looking at the buildings with a new eye (and getting the opportunity to spruce up our Instagram feed!).

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
No, I’m not taking pictures of the mannequins at Victoria’s Secret. This window is where you’ll get the reflection shot we posted above 😉
NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A photo of Noguchi’s sculpture we took for our Rockefeller Center post published earlier this year
NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The same sculpture photographed on the walk with a different perspective

At the end of the day, what constitutes a beautiful photograph is subjective. But learning a few tricks and forcing a change in perspective can give you just the right amount of confidence to find your own point of view. Check out all the tours offered by NYC Photo Safari on their website here.

Pro Tip: Dress appropriately for the weather since the tours are rain or shine. You don’t need to own a camera, you can rent one from them too. Camera phones are welcome, though technical limitations will depend on your model.

Thank you to NYC Photo Safari for partnering on this post.



Pair it with:

A meal at Made Nice

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Occasionally, we attempt to eat something on the lighter side. Let’s call it “healthy-adjacent”. That doesn’t mean we’ll accept something mediocre and tasteless, which can often be the compromise in such a pursuit. Enter Made Nice.

This fast-casual dining experience, from Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park (recently declared World’s Best Restaurant) and The NoMad, opened back in April to much excitement. Made Nice offers a selection of vibrant salads and plates, and a highly popular Chicken Frites dish.

We went with a trio to share: the Nicoise Salad, the Curry Cauliflower Salad, and the Chicken Rice. The Chicken Rice was underwhelming. Maybe after a decade-long love affair with Halal Cart, this was doomed by comparison from the start. I quite enjoyed the Nicoise Salad but the star of the show was the Curry Cauliflower Salad. The combination of Cauliflower Stew, Tofu, Couscous, Coconut, Lemongrass, Watercress, Almond & Grapes was absolutely delicious. I’m eager to return to try out the roasted chicken since our neighbors at an adjacent table were devouring theirs like wild animals. And you might be able to convince me to grab a cup of Milk & Honey Soft Serve Ice Cream with Honey Brittle and Oat Shortbread.

Location:
8 W 28th St

Hours:
Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Closed Sundays

– J.

Falling in Love with Astoria, Starting with Welling Court Mural Project



Not so long ago, I sat across from a colleague at work–for the purposes of this post, let’s call him “Scott”. Scott owned an apartment in Astoria. And I used to tease Scott about his choice of residency mercilessly. This was mostly because Scott had a mouth on him, and making fun of his neighborhood was one of the few things, besides trashing his beloved Yankees, that would get a rise out of him. And I won’t lie, I enjoyed getting a rise out of him quite a bit.

“We’d do Happy Hour up there where you live, Scott”, I’d say, “but my passport has expired”.



Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Fast forward to our recent journey to Astoria to explore Welling Court Mural Project, after an Instagram friend (thanks, Susan!) reminded us that we couldn’t possibly exclude it from our summer series on street art. (This post links to others in the series.)

We don’t make it out to Astoria often, and shortly after we arrived I was quickly reminded: boy, was I ever wrong to ridicule this neighborhood. For the uninitiated, Astoria is a northwestern neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. It’s incredibly diverse, with inhabitants represented from all different walks of life. And, contrary to my previous trolling, it is just a short subway ride away from Manhattan. (Approximately 30 minutes from Union Square, even less from Midtown.)



Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Welling Court Mural Project is an annual multi-block, art beautification event. The most recent one took place this past June, for the eighth consecutive year. It’s an incredible celebration of art as well as the culture and diversity of the neighborhood, and it beautifully exemplifies the symbiosis that can be found between artists and communities.

Though Welling Court Mural Project feels a little more low-key, random and spread out than, say, Bushwick Collective, that is absolutely not, in any way, meant to infer that the art is any less ambitious, complex or meaningful. Welling Court Mural Project, with its picnics and potlucks, exudes a vibe that’s a little more intimate, subdued and local. Support is welcome in the form of monetary assistance, supplies or time. You can find a map of the art on their website, but we particularly enjoy just wandering around on an urban treasure hunt of sorts. There are so many gems to discover.



Extra credit: Socrates Sculpture Park

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re making the trip out to Astoria for Welling Court Mural Project, we’d encourage you to also pay the Socrates Sculpture Park a visit. The former landfill was co-opted and transformed into an outdoor museum and exhibition space. The beautiful waterfront property is ideal for picnics and morning strolls. Besides thoughtful art exhibitions (the current one features Jamaican artist Nari Ward), the park also offers a number of free events and programs throughout the year.  Enjoy outdoor cinema or any number of fitness programs, gratis.



Pair it with:

Brunch at Queens Comfort

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When our resident Astoria expert, kindred spirit and blogger-in-arms, Lauren from Girl in Gotham City invited us to meet up with her for brunch at Queens Comfort, we were quite excited. Like me, she’s a donut hound, and Queens Comfort partners with one of the better purveyors, Donut Diva. But, of course, we weren’t there just for that beloved breakfast dessert. She pointed us to their Instagram account beforehand, and we were giddy with anticipation of the bizarre, Texas State Fair-meets-Saturday Morning Cartoons take on seemingly staid and predictable comfort-food dishes.

If logic informs your decision-making, you’ll never find yourself answering in the affirmative to the following questions:

Is it reasonable to eat a Cap’n Crunch Crusted Chicken Sandwich?
Can something vegetarian be ridiculously unhealthy?
Should I eat something as dubious as the Deep Fried Guacamole Onion Rings?
Is Oreo Brioche French Toast worth miserably flunking my next cholesterol test?
Should I wash all of that down with a Nutella Glazed Strawberry Donut?

Now, sure, I would never recommend eating these types of things on a regular basis, but every once in awhile, you have to live a little. Queens Comfort is a great place to do just that and with a heaping helping of flair. And besides, if we made good decisions all the time, what fun would that be?

If you missed our Instagram Stories from that weekend, we threw a couple of clips into this quick video:

Pro Tip: Queens Comfort does not accept reservations. Show up 15 minutes before open and get in line to ensure you make the first seating. Getting there early is its own reward, as James Avatar (whose story is a worthy read in its own right) offers a dazzling display of showmanship. The self-proclaimed “barker” and host of Queens Comfort is the perfect introduction to the wacky, childlike joy that awaits. BYOB and cash only.

Location:
40-09 30th Ave

Hours:
Tue-Fri 11am–4pm, 5:30pm–9:30pm
Sat 10am–3:45pm, 6:00pm–9:30pm
Sun 10am–3:45pm

– J.

Up on the Roof: The Theater of Disappearance by Adrián Villar Rojas at The Met


“When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space”
– Up on the Roof, The Drifters, 1962

There are very few things New Yorkers love more than the following (in no particular order of appreciation): soaking in the sun, lounging on rooftops and imbibing a few cocktails. Offer any of these things, or all of them at once, and you’ll find hoards of the city’s faithful congregated.

The Met’s Cantor Roof and its incredible ongoing series of installations is, perhaps, a nonpareil example of this. Most recently, Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas was honored with reimagining the space, and let’s just say he made the absolute most of it.



Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Villar Rojas added a new pergola, a grand tiled floor, a bar, public benches and augmented Botanical arrangements. Set within this and atop the black and white chessboard pattern of the tiles, were introduced sculpted replicas, in black and white, of nearly 100 objects from The Met collection, including human figures, furniture, animals, cutlery, and even food.

On our recent visit, it was with little difficulty that I ignored the awe-inspiring views of the city, the long lines at the bar or the security officers scolding those who venture a smidge too close to the sculptures. (Okay, that was us. Photo evidence below.)

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Just showing some New York hospitality 😉



Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
This the flipside of the piece above!

Instead, I focused entirely on Villar Rojas’ engrossing creation. It was a doomsday chess match of sorts, or at least that was my initial thought. However, it occurred to me shortly thereafter that the installation also reminded me of something else. It brought to mind images of the archaeological sites depicting the aftermath of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, particularly Pompeii’s The Garden of Fugitives. And upon closer examination, the figures, animals and inanimate objects were fragile, desiccated, dusty, entombed in their final resting positions in remarkably similar fashion. It was at once beautiful and eerie, and it made for an insightful and memorable visit to The Met once again.



Pair it with:

A meal at Blake Lane

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It’s no secret we’ve thrown shade on the food options on the Upper East Side on more than one occasion. But we have to admit, recently they’ve been stepping up their game. Blake Lane is a perfect example of that elevated gamesmanship. It’s a simple, casually elegant, California-style restaurant that serves salads, sandwiches and bowls, as well as cocktails, of course! And though the now ubiquitous “bowls” are surely good, we went with their “plates” (read: mains). And boy, were we surprised. Lynn went with a curried trout on black rice that was absolutely delicious, and I dug into a shrimp creole topped with enormous, perfectly cooked shrimp and just the right amount of heat (read: tissue required). Given this latest experience, maybe it’s time to give the fresh, new Upper East Side a whirl.

– J.

Sun, Surf and Street Art: A Visit to Coney Art Walls



Coney Island is a destination whose season bookends the New York City summer. While there are the requisite roller coaster rides and bumper cars, it’s so much more than an amusement park. It’s home to the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. There’s the beach and the boardwalk. Fireworks on Friday night. And let’s not forget legendary annual events like the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Film Festival. Countless memories are made here.

And it’s for this very reason that Joseph J. Sitt brought Coney Art Walls to life. The President & CEO of Thor Equities felt Coney Island had lost some of the shine he remembered from his youth, and he wanted to help bring it back.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Marie Roberts
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: D*Face


Artist: Crash

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Work in progress, Artist: Alexis Diaz
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Nychos

Coney Art Walls is an outdoor street art museum that features many incredible talents like Nychos and D*Face. Instead of painting murals on a building, the artists get to display their work on freestanding walls placed throughout the space located between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. Shipping containers house food vendors, so visitors are free to enjoy quick bites while surrounded by some of the most amazing contemporary art. New pieces have been added each season since its inauguration in 2015, and they mingle with ones from prior years. The unmistakable Coney Island Parachute Jump and other roller coaster rides provide a unique backdrop for the outdoor gallery.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: The London Police
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Miss Van
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
When retro beauties present themselves, you photograph them! Artist: Eine
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Icy & Sot
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chris Stain



Coney Art Walls is part of our summer series dedicated to celebrating street art in New York City. In case you missed it, be sure to check out earlier posts in the series which include:

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It’s My Party And I’ll Paint If I Want To: A Street Art Mural Party in New York City

As a reminder: The best way to get to Coney Island is always using the subway. This is, in fact, one of those cases where your subway fare is a steal! Take the D, F, N or Q subway to Stillwell Avenue, which puts you right in the heart of the action. Just build in a little bit of time for the travel, it takes approximately 45-60 minutes to get there from Manhattan.

Any street art lover will not regret traveling out here to experience the amazing public art space, which has found a home in a classic New York summer destination.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Daily 12 pm – 10 pm



Pair it with:

A hot dog from Nathan’s Famous

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There’s a certain mystique to the original Nathan’s Famous near Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. Forget, for a moment, that over its legendary 100-year history it has survived Prohibition, founding family squabbles and damage from Hurricane Sandy. Disregard the fact that the neon signs are the originals from the 20’s or that it holds one of the oldest post-Prohibition beer licenses in New York. Ignore the anecdotes about the famous names attached to it, like Al Capone, FDR and Frank Sinatra. Pooh-pooh the annual July 4th International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Sure, that’s fascinating, but it’s all just noise.

Focus instead on what truly makes it special and quintessentially New York: the all beef frankfurter in natural casing. A dog in a roll. Simple. Don’t add a bunch of garbage. Just meat and bread.

Many New Yorkers will swear that even though you can get Nathan’s hot dogs all over the city and in your grocery store, the ones at the original Coney Island location taste better. There’s no science to it, but we’re inclined to agree.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Sun-Thu  9 am – 11 pm
Fri-Sat  9 am – 12 am

– L. & J.

 

Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade



Throngs of visitors come to New York City every year to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s such a popular event that hotel rooms along the route have the equivalent of “surge pricing” and still manage to sell out way in advance. That kind of fervor can only mean one thing: New Yorkers will stay very, very far away from it. 

New Yorkers who want to enjoy a good parade will, instead, make their way out to Coney Island for the annual Mermaid Parade. There is no need to bundle up to fend off freezing temperatures. (Quite the opposite, as you’ll see.) There is no need to claim your spot along the route at 6 am. The parade starts at a reasonable hour and covers a short route. It ends on the boardwalk, where the party continues throughout the day. It oozes a fun, laid-back vibe: just show up and have fun.



2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Rain or shine. And they mean it.

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re conjuring up images of Disney’s wholesome The Little Mermaid, thinking this is strictly an event for little girls and tweens, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Mermaid Parade celebrates the city’s creative spirit, providing its denizens with an outlet for self-expression. There are no boundaries, and is celebrated as such. Every year a new King Neptune and Queen Mermaid is crowned to kick off the parade. The notorious list has included Judah Friedlander (30 Rock), Carole Radziwill (Real Housewives of New York City), Moby and Queen Latifah. It sets the tone for what to expect from the parade quite nicely. This year’s King and Queen were none other than Chris Stein and Debbie Harry. Yup, BLONDIE, guys. Pardon me while I scream into a pillow.

Here are some highlights from our time at the 2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade:

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Confetti bomb
2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
If you look closely… it’s a mirror selfie from a sanitation truck!



All in the Family

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Politics as Usual

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Creatures of the Sea

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Crafty

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bust a Move

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Squad Goals

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The best way to get to Coney Island is always using the subway. This is, in fact, one of those cases where your subway fare is a steal! Take the D, F, N or Q subway to Stillwell Avenue, which puts you right in the heart of the action. Just build in a little bit of time for the travel, it takes approximately 45-60 minutes to get there from Manhattan.

If you missed the Clamilton performance on our Instagram Stories, we’ve uploaded it to YouTube. (Excuse the quality, it was shot from a smartphone on a cloudy day!)

Our summer street art series will resume shortly, so stay tuned!

– L. & J.

It’s My Party And I’ll Paint If I Want To: A Street Art Mural Party in New York City



Summer in New York City is more of a feeling than a season. Even though temperatures fluctuate wildly, everyone wants to be outside. That makes it a great time for one of our favorite activities: hunting down street art. We’ve decided to do a small series of posts on it here on the blog, which we kicked off last week with our post on the Bushwick Collective.

What’s unique about the Bushwick Collective is that there’s an active curator who obtains the necessary permits and blessings. But elsewhere, most street artists still operate under the cloak of darkness. Illegal pieces are tucked into corners and slapped onto doors. And just as quickly, they can get painted over or removed.



Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

In Alphabet City, we recently attended a mural party organized by Robert Galinsky. As an active member of the neighborhood, Robert observed that bare walls invited less desirable tagging. So even though the activity isn’t officially sanctioned, he’s taken it upon himself to curate the walls of the city-owned building he manages. On this particular occasion, he invited three artists to contribute: Funqest, SacSix and XORS. He doesn’t offer them compensation, just a space to display their craft.



Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by FUNQEST (@funqest) on

Funqest is an artist of Japanese heritage with a distinct, dynamic style. His recent murals are largely abstract faces built with colorful blocks and dark borders. But a quick visit to his website shows a large breadth of work beginning in 2013. Funqest dons a Japanese Gigaku mask to hide his identity. He works in tandem with a partner, who helps him execute his vision.

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by @sacsix on

SacSix has long been a fan of street art, but only became an active participant less than two years ago. But even within that short period he managed to capture a coveted commission for the 2016 MTV Music Awards. His wheatpaste pieces feature icons of pop culture…. and Mr. Poop. Mr. Poop is a pigeon with a recurring guest star role in many of his pieces. The “Be Great” wall is SacSix’s largest outdoor work to date, and it features notable women of color.



Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by Renee Snelson (@reneexors) on

Renee Snelson, who works under the name XORS, creates hyper-exaggerated images of shoes. But the shoes aren’t just there to promote a Carrie Bradshaw-level obsession (she’s also a talented shoe designer). The images of stilettos and high-heeled boots also speak to the darker side of fashion and the struggles women have with self-image.

Robert hand-selected the artists to blanket the block with vibrant hues, just in time for the summer. But if you happen to walk by, you may notice the new art has gone up around a couple of older pieces. One is a tribute to musician Gil Scott-Heron which locals are particularly fond of. The other, a simple wall by artist Chico that reads “Peace L.E.S”, was painted a week after 9/11. The old and the new capture the spirit of the neighborhood perfectly.

Location:
E 12th St and Ave C



Pair it with:

A meal at Superiority Burger

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Most people find the term veggie burger to be an oxymoron, but I’ll confess that I’m a fan. It’s a great avenue for creativity, and I’ve come across some very interesting varieties in my foodscapades. But if Justin doesn’t need to follow up a veggie burger with a “real burger”, then I know we’ve stumbled upon something good.

When Brooks Headley left Del Posto to open Superiority Burger, it caused quite a stir. He started with a pop-up, then opened his East Village joint. Lines snaked down the block, no matter the weather. Waits have eased up a little, but the vegetarian fare is still really good. Justin particularly enjoys their version of a Sloppy Joe, and the burnt broccoli side is a favorite. Give it a shot, we have a feeling you won’t miss the meat.

Location:
430 E 9th St

Hours:
Wed-Mon: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Closed Tuesday

– L.

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City



If you’re a fan of street art, then you’re in luck.  There’s no shortage of it here in New York City, and all you have to do is keep your eyes open.  (Judging by how regularly people bump into me on a sidewalk, this doesn’t seem to be as regular a practice as you might think.)  Thanks to its temporary nature, graffiti is both a literal and figurative fresh coat of paint — blanketing the city with different images, styles and personalities on a regular basis.  

Searching for street art in the city is a fun pastime of ours.  We’re fortunate that New York City attracts worldwide talents who turn our streets and alleys into art galleries.  While there are treasures to be discovered all over the city, fanatics can get a huge payoff by visiting one of the most well-known hubs where street artists go to create and collaborate: the Bushwick Collective.

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chor Boogie
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: FKDL



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Phetus88

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is easily accessible via the L Train.  A trip to Bushwick takes less than a half hour from Union Square, so a quick jaunt from Manhattan is entirely manageable.  It’s open year-round, so all you need to do is dress for the weather and bring a camera.

The Bushwick Collective is a non-profit group founded in 2012 by native Joe Ficalora, who still curates the walls in the area.  It was the natural heir to graffiti mecca 5 Pointz which fell victim to gentrification.  At the Bushwick Collective, artists submit recent work, bios and concepts for review and are awarded precious space for their ideas to come to life.  

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Louis Masai
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Oji



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Joe Iurato and Logan Hicks
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Adam Fujita

A broad range of artists are represented at the Bushwick Collective. You’ll find the work of Brazilian artist Sipros and Chilean artist Dasic Fernandez.  You’ll find the distinctive signature of Austrian artist Nychos.  British pop art murals by DFace will catch your eye.  But the walls aren’t simply decorative: many contain social and political messages of our times.  Take, for example, London-based Louis Masai’s “The Art of Beeing” series, which seeks to bring attention to endangered species.  Or consider the work of Adam Fujita AKA AdamFu AKA Atoms, the creative force behind the graffiti podcast My Life in Letters. His pieces are often topical, and have included political issues like national security and impeachment.

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Don Rimx



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Gustavo Gutti Barrios
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Straker

The Bushwick Collective recently held its annual block party, which provides the masses an opportunity to actually see some of the artists at work.  Food trucks line the streets, musical acts take the stage, and there is art at every turn.  It’s a fun event for those interested in a big, lively outdoor party.  (Follow their Facebook page for updates.) But be forewarned: it can get a little rowdy.  If you’re more interested in photographing the art you’re better off coming on a different day, when there aren’t as many people around.

Location:
Troutman St at Saint Nicholas Ave



Pair it with:

For large groups: Tutu’s

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Roberta’s is Bushwick’s most famous resident and it’s a lovely place, but there’s usually a wait.  Tutu’s is a quaint little place nearby.  Thanks to picnic table seating in the back room, it accommodates large groups nicely.  Tutu’s is the definition of casual dining, with a nice selection of burgers.  Time generally moves more slowly in Bushwick, so don’t expect super speedy service.  On the plus side, that means you won’t feel rushed out the door either.  Settle in and make a night of it.

Location:
25 Bogart St

Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11:00 am -1:00 am
Fri-Sat: 11:00 am – 4:00 am



If there are just a few of you: Arepera Guacuco

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This Venezuelan arepa joint has a bustling open kitchen that appears to work as rhythmically as the loud music blaring over its speakers.  There are a number of creative arepas on the menu, including a vegetarian and vegan option.  The Pabellon, which has shredded beef, cheese, sweet plantains and black beans is sublime.  The Mariscada, a tomato-based seafood stew with an arepa on the side for dipping, is also an excellent choice.  And don’t miss the popular cocada, a delightfully refreshing coconut milkshake.

Location:
44 Irving Ave

Hours:
Mon-Thu: 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Fri: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Sat:11:00 am – 11:30 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm

– L.

 

An Explosion of Color: Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden



If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you know that everything there is magnified and exaggerated by a factor of 1000, and it’s easy find yourself with whiplash from taking it all in.  I have somewhat mixed feelings on the “More Is More” mantra, but one thing I remember being notably impressed with was the stunning ceiling of glass flowers in the Bellagio. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first experience with Dale Chihuly’s masterful craft.

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Chihuly’s ceiling at the Bellagio, courtesy of Chihuly.com

If you happened to read our post on Chuck Close, you might notice some parallels here.  We’re​ drawn to artists who aren’t just pioneers in their field, but who have also overcome diversity on their way there. Chihuly’s path wasn’t a straight one.  He suffered the loss of a sibling and a parent early in life.  And after he had cultivated a successful career in the art of glass sculpture, tragic accidents left him with one blind eye and a dislocated shoulder.  As a result of the latter injury, Chihuly was unable to hold a glass blowing pipe. But he refused to stop creating, and assembled a team of glassblowers from around the world to execute his vision.  Now he likens himself to the conductor of a symphony.



ICYMI – Shots from our Instagram Story on the day of our outing.  There was also a duck video.  Find us on Instagram so you don’t miss any more duck videos: @madhattersnyc

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Blue Polyvitro Crystals outside the Metz Library (AKA the rock candy display)
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sapphire Star
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Red Reeds on Logs at the Reflecting Pool
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 and #2 at the Native Plant Garden

Like most artists, Chihuly is constantly extracting beauty from everything around him.  The idea for one of his installations, Float Boat came to him on a trip to Finland when he was standing on a bridge over a river.  He decided to throw glass spheres into the water to see which ones would shatter. When the pieces were retrieved and placed into skiffs, he was struck by the contrast of the contemporary glass forms against old wooden boats.

Memories of his mother’s garden have also been a great source of inspiration.  It seems only fitting that his kaleidoscopic creations have found homes in many botanical gardens over his career.  The current exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden isn’t his first, but is in fact a triumphant return after 11 years.



Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sol del Citrón

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
White Tower with Fiori



Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Glasshouse Fiori
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower

In an interview, Chihuly once stated that his motto is, “If big is good, bigger is better. If one is terrific, twelve is even better.”  Like I said in the beginning, I’m not entirely sure that’s true.  But if there were one artist who might convince me, it would be Chihuly.

The Chihuly exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden will run through October 29, so that it can be viewed as the seasons change here in New York City.  Additional Chihuly programs will also run throughout the course of the event.  Information can be found on the NYBG website here.  

Tip:  If you take the train from Grand Central it’s a short 20-25 minute ride. It drops you right in front of the Mosholu Gate entrance to the NYBG. On the weekends take advantage of the City Ticket, which offers a reduced rate. 

Location:
2900 Southern Blvd

Hours:
Tues -Sun: 10 a.m.–6 p.m
See website for exceptions



Pair it with:

A meal at Zucker’s

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Taking the train from Grand Central is usually our preferred way to get to the New York Botanical Garden.  While there are a number of options to meet any commuter’s needs in the terminal itself, another fantastic option lurks just around the corner.  A skip, hop and a jump away you’ll find the Midtown branch of Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish.

Zucker’s serves traditional New York style bagels — hand-rolled and kettle-boiled just as they are meant to be — with that crisp exterior and hefty, satisfying interior chew.  Try any number of their bagel sandwiches, like the classic Zucker’s Traditional with Nova Scotia salmon, cream cheese, beefsteak tomatoes, red onion and capers.

Zucker’s also partners with many local vendors, from their produce to their pickles to their snacks and coffee.  That means coffee lovers can get a La Colombe Draft Latte on tap here, and dessert lovers can top it all off with a Fat Witch brownie.  (We are both.)

Location:
370 Lexington Ave

Hours:
Mon – Fri: 6:30 am – 7:00 pm
Sat – Sun: 6:30 am – 6:00 pm

– L.