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.

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.

Blink and You’ll Miss It: Street Art Helps a Neighborhood Say Goodbye at Market Surplus



Things move quickly in New York City. What’s here today may very well be gone tomorrow. You’ll wake up one morning and find this fickle city has reinvented itself overnight. Your favorite bar is now a Pier 1 Imports. That bodega, where you buy your egg and cheese on a roll every morning before work, now serves tall, grande, and venti something-something-somethings. Oh, and that legendary theater where you saw that incredible set by Black Keys? Yeah, that’s gone. I have it on good authority it’s gonna be another high-rise luxury condo project. And so goes, for better or worse, the perpetual metamorphosis of this great metropolis.



Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Hanksy AKA Adam Lucas. Look closely for a map of the Lower East Side.
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Buff Monster
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Anna Laurini

Our recent visit to the Market Surplus is just such an example of the city’s transience. It was a three day flash exhibition held at the historic Lower East Side building formerly home to the Essex Market. It’s a building which, sadly, is scheduled for demolition in the coming weeks.

Market Surplus was the brainchild of New York-based artist, Hanksy, who worked, with the assistance of the developer, Essex Crossing, to bring to fruition his vision. The goal was to produce typically outdoor, semi-permanent, large-scale murals within the confines of this impermanent interior space, all with subtle or explicit thematic references to the neighborhood.



Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Elle
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: BK Foxx. In memory of Mark Clemente, who battled drug and alcohol addiction. He passed away due to liver complications earlier this year.
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Pixel Pancho
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Faust

Although Hansky (Hank See as he playfully signed his work in this case) was a contributor, he was only one of many. He brought with him such renowned street artists as Buff Monster, Elle, Faust, NDA, BK Foxx, Owvbics, Pixel Pancho, Sonni, and L’amour Supreme. Market Surplus was meant to come together quickly and disappear quickly, sans the usual hype and promotion.

It was quite a spectacle, seeing so much art crammed into what was, until very recently, just another vacant space. But it was also an impressive show of community. There were neighborhood kids running around. Locals were taking photos and telling stories from days past when they visited the market. A group of dancers were being filmed for a music video. Even the artist himself, Adam Lucas, was on hand to discuss his work as well as the larger exhibition. Donations were accepted to benefit the LES Girls Club. Sure, the building, as well as the art within it, will soon be gone (if not already), and that is certainly a loss. But it’s a loss that the neighborhood can overcome, so long as the culture and community don’t go along with it.

Note: This post is a continuing part of our summer series on street art in New York City. Find the work of many other talented artists in earlier posts below:

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

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

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




Pair it with:

Brunch at Chef’s Club Counter

Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re as food-obsessed as we are, you’ve probably read listicles, watched Instagram stories and participated in Twitter chats about what the next Avocado Toast is going to be. But we have a confession to make: we’re not ready to move on. And hence we found ourselves at Chef’s Club Counter. We were there for one reason: the Breakfast Plates from Chef Alvin Cailan’s (of LA’s Eggslut fame) guest menu that will soon be part of his new venture Paper Planes.

I went with a safe choice, The Farmer: sautéed asparagus served with 7-grain toast topped with fresh avocado spread and a sunny side up egg. Lynn, being uncharacteristically adventurous (that’s usually my role) went with The Fisherman: Smoked salmon spread on 7-grain toast topped with a sunny side up egg, red onion relish, pickled mustard seeds and chives. And you know we had to share a side of the Hash Nuggets, or as Lynn ridiculed, “fancy ass tater tots”. Okay, she’s right. But you know what? All of it was delicious, even those “fancy ass tater tots”. So there!

On a shameful side note, if you are the kind of person who would consider eating ice cream following brunch (cough: Justin), then it might be important for you to know there’s a carnival-themed Chef’s Club Counter pop-up of Brooklyn’s OddFellows Ice Cream located in the adjacent space for the summer. But only if you’re that kind of person.

– 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.

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.

It’s a Small World After All: A Visit to Gulliver’s Gate



I’m not sure if you can tell from the pictures we’ve posted, but I’m kind of… petite. Height-challenged. Runty. Low-profile. Diminutive.  Short, okay, I’m short.

Other shorties know the troubles I’ve seen.  Trying to discreetly jump to reach something on the top shelf in the grocery store, then finally having to ask for help.  Searching for “cute shoes that provide height yet remain comfortable”. (An urban myth, by the way). Having almost every piece of clothing altered. And standing-room concerts? Forget about it.

Studies tell us that taller people are more successful, more attractive, more happy.  Shorter people are supposed to be less accident-prone (yay?), but thanks to depth perception issues, I don’t benefit from that advantage either.  Pretty bleak, I know.  But changing your point of view can be simple: enter Gulliver’s Gate.



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Brookfield Place’s atrium, including its giant palms
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Miniature buildings call for miniature street art
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Do you see the Hamilton billboard? Yup, still sold out.



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A staff member tinkering with the models
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The least crowded Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade you’ll ever attend

Located in the heart of Times Square, Gulliver’s Gate is a miniature model fan’s dream come true. And for a petite girl like me, it’s a fresh change in perspective.  Sprawled before me in a 50,000 sq ft space, there are miniature versions of my favorite New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building.  Some newer additions to the skyline are also included, like the stunning Via 57 West building.  And miniature Times Square comes replete with its own Hamilton billboard (which we FINALLY got to see last month, you can find that post here).

For travel buffs, Gulliver’s Gate is a fun trip around the world — you’ll find recognizable structures from France, India, Russia, and more.  The project is the result of a collaboration between model-makers around the world, which leaves local touches throughout.  It’s also a little bit of a treasure map: you’ll have to look closely to uncover secrets.  Interactive features are built into the models for children (or curious adults that have trouble keeping their hands off things).  With a touch of a button, you can attend a Queen concert, or see the Loch Ness monster (and accompanying miniature paparazzi trying to photograph it), or send Santa off in his sleigh.  

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Are there miniature copies of Hillary’s emails here?
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Most of the figures in Mecca are in white, which is what men wear when completing the pilgrimage
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Grand Palace of Bangkok



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Chords Bridge in Jerusalem, which is illuminated with a blue light at night just as pictured
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
I maybe look kind of tall here, right?

But it’s not just models loaded with playful features, there’s tech too.  If you want to truly immerse yourself in this fantastical universe, you could get 3D-scanned in a giant orb and have miniature versions of yourself placed anywhere in the Gulliver’s Gate world.  Want to get to the top of the Aztec ruins without killing your thighs?  This is how.

Gulliver’s Gate is currently open for previews at a reduced admission rate through May 8.  There are a few incomplete displays but there is still much to see, and if you choose to return after the official launch your admission will be discounted.  This might be a great play if you have friends and family visiting later in the year and you know you’ll be back.  The miniature universe also plans to evolve, so there will continue to be new things to discover.  Visit the Gulliver’s Gate website for additional information and to purchase tickets.

Location:
216 W 44th Street

Hours:
Daily 9 am – 10 pm



Pair it with:

Brunch at Gotan

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We’ve griped about food choices in Midtown many times before.  We regularly cry about chain restaurants and bitch about overpriced food.  So when we find a gem like Gotan, it’s truly something to celebrate.  

Gotan is located in Midtown proper, so we’re not even sending you on a little trek.  It’s a surprisingly large space, with bar seats up front and tables in the back.  The coffee is good (they serve Counter Culture, one of my favorites), and so is the food.  And guess what?  The weekend brunch here is a steal.  You heard me, a bargain brunch in Midtown.

If you order off the brunch menu, you’ll receive orange juice, coffee and an entree for under $14.  Or order off the a la carte menu, which is still reasonably priced.  The avocado toast and the breakfast plate hit the spot.

Location:
20 W 46th Street

Hours:
Mon – Thu 7 am – 5 pm
Fri 7 am – 4 pm
Sat 9 am – 3 pm

– L.

Diane Arbus at the Met Breuer



There are artists that inspire other artists, and Diane Arbus is one of them.  Even if you’re not familiar with her name, you’re likely to be familiar with her work.  You might recall seeing her famous photographs, Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park or Identical Twins, Roselle, NJ (which happens to bear a striking resemblance to the twins from Kubrick’s The Shining).  You might also recall a movie starring Nicole Kidman based loosely on her life.  When her photographs were shown at MoMa in 1967, the Director of the Department of Photography at the time included Diane Arbus in a new generation of photographers which he believed varied from the photographers of the past in that they “had a belief that the world is worth looking at, and the courage to look at it without theorizing.”

Diane Arbus Met Breuer

Diane Arbus Met Breuer
Woman in white fur with cigarette, Mulberry Street, NYC, 1958
Diane Arbus Met Breuer
Elderly woman whispering to her dinner partner, Grand Opera Ball, NYC, 1959

Diane Arbus: In the Beginning recently opened at the Met Breuer, and it features works from the first seven years of her career.  She’s probably most well-known for capturing characters from the fringe, and some people took it as an act of mockery.  While there might be some truth in the fact that she profited from her aberrant subjects, she actually spoke of them with (an albeit somewhat distorted) sense of reverence.  In an interview Diane Arbus said the following:

“Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats”. They have “a quality of legend” about them, “like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle.”

Diane Arbus Met Breuer
Kiss from “Baby Doll”, NYC, 1956
Diane Arbus Met Breuer
Female impersonator putting on lipstick, Hempstead, LI, 1959
Diane Arbus Met Breuer
42nd Street movie theater audience, NYC, 1958
Diane Arbus Met Breuer
Headstone for “Killer” at Bide a Wee Cemetery, Wantagh, NY, 1960

Diane Arbus was born and raised in New York City, and she met her unfortunate early demise here as well.  Artists often see beyond the obvious, and one could argue that it takes a psychological and spiritual toll on them.  She was known to have suffered from extreme highs and lows, and eventually took her own life at the age of 48.  Her early pictures are on display at the Met Breuer in no particular order, and I found the shadows and light in her pieces were able to cast both a sense of wonder and disquiet.  Diane Arbus: In the Beginning is on display through November 27.

Location:
945 Madison Ave

Hours:
Closed Monday
Tuesday–Thursday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10 am–9 pm
Sunday: 10 am–5:30 pm



Pair it with:

A lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster

Luke's Lobster NYC

Luke's Lobster NYC

Luke’s Lobster epitomizes the entrepreneurial mantra “find a need and fill it”: the son of a lobsterman from Maine goes to work for an investment bank in New York City, hates it, realizes there are no good lobster rolls in New York City, teams up with his father, posts an ad in Craigslist for a partner and goes on to create a lobster roll empire.  You can now find Luke’s Lobster in nine states and counting.  This Upper East Side location was his second, and it was after he signed its lease that he finally quit his banking job.  (Bankers, there’s hope for all of you.)  Aside from having a truly reasonable price point — when comparing it to other lobster rolls, of course — Luke’s lobster rolls are the no-frills version that serves as our favorite baseline: here they butter and toast the traditional hot dog-style buns, swipe just enough mayo so it melts, then add the fresh lobster, and season with a shake of salt, pepper, and celery salt.  Located less than a mile from the Met Breuer, it’s a great way to bring the beach to the city this summer.

Location:
242 E. 81st St

Hours:
Sunday-Monday: 11am – 10pm

– L.

Public, Private, Secret at the International Center of Photography Museum



We’re fiercely private people, Lynn and I. And we’re aware — lest you think the irony went unnoticed — that the notion seems laughably conceited coming from bloggers. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

We struggle, regularly, with the ever more blurred and increasingly subtle distinction between the public and private aspects of our lives. Time and time again, we’ve drawn a line in the sand, erased it, moved it forward and back again, in seemingly endless repetition. For most people, this isn’t even an issue. Or, more accurately, it’s not even a consideration. For most people, this line we’ve agonized over, drawn out as some rudimentary, theoretical principle, is a testament to the futility of resisting a new and inevitable reality: there is no line. They believe ours to be a fool’s errand. From their perspective, we might as well have drawn our line near the ocean’s edge at low tide.

So it was with an ambivalent spirit that we recently visited the ICP Museum to experience Public, Private, Secret, an exhibit that was equal parts unsettling and fascinating. It explores “the concept of privacy in today’s society and studies how contemporary self-identity is tied to public visibility” and showcases the work of such talented artists as Zach Blas, Martine Syms, Natalie Bookchin, Cindy Sherman (whom we’ve written about previously in this post here), Nan Goldin, and Andy Warhol.  It also includes live-streams of images and videos from myriad social media sources compiled by Mark Ghuneim and ICP’s New Media Narratives students.  

ICP Museum NYC

ICP Museum NYC

ICP Museum NYC

ICP Museum NYC

ICP Museum NYC

There’s an overabundance of incredible work included in Public, Private, Secret, which is organized primarily by curator-in-residence, Charlotte Cotton — maybe too much, as others have criticized. Still, there were a number of pieces that left an enduring impression upon me. Upon first sight when entering the exhibit through ICP’s expansive lobby, one is confronted by mirrored partitions, behind which are concealed live-stream works projected on sizable viewing screens. The experience is jarring. The audio from the live-streams, comprised of overlapping narration and a host of other sounds, assaults the ears while one stares into the mirror, giving the sensation of a jumble of noise in one’s own head. On the one hand, it’s as if the mirrors are meant to ridicule us for our narcissism, reminding us that our voyeuristic tendencies are not simply limited to others, but are internalized as well. On the other hand, one might guess its purpose is to compel us to take a good, hard look at ourselves and confront some very uncomfortable truths. Whatever the intention, it primes the audience for viewing Natalie Bookchin’s My Meds from Testament, 2009-16, a montage of found video diaries expounding upon topics such as unemployment, sexuality, and psychopharmacology and Jon Rafman’s Mainsqueeze, which focuses on the darker, more subversive elements of the web.

Hardcore photography buffs might be disappointed with the variety of media in the exhibit, but we feel that it’s important to remember that ICP intends to include photography as well as other forms of visual culture.  The comprehensive scope is true to its mission.  The ICP Museum recently relocated to its new space on the Lower East Side and Public, Private, Secret — its inaugural exhibition — will run through January 8, 2017.

Location:
250 Bowery

Hours:
Mon Closed
Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun 10:00AM-6:00PM
Thur 10:00AM-9:00PM



Pair it with:

Dinner at Le Turtle

Le Turtle NYC

Le Turtle NYC

Le Turtle NYC

Le Turtle NYC

At the corner of Chrystie and Rivington Streets, you’ll find the restaurant, Le Turtle, dubbed “French New Wave” by its proprietors. Taavo Somer and Carlos Quirarte are the restaurateurs behind such notable establishments as Freeman’s and The Smile. By “French New Wave”, one may simply replace the phrase with a reductive synonym such as “experimental”. And that description doesn’t just fit the dishes you order. No, it’s a pervasive, holistic concept, from the walls to the tables to the floors. And though some experiments are more successful than others (we found the portion of the wall covered in what appeared to be gold mylar a little peculiar), Le Turtle triumphs where it counts: the food. The menu includes four entrees and a varied selection of small plates. The fresh cheese with ramps managed to be light and refreshing, and the scallops were perfectly juicy.  Our entrees, which included unexpected notes like bee pollen and grapefruit, were interesting without being overly experimental.  In short, we enjoyed every single item we ordered, and we’d order them again if afforded the chance.

Location:
177 Chrystie Street

Hours:
Open daily from 6:00-11:00PM
Weekend Brunch 11:00-3:30PM

– J.