While you’re in the neighbourhood

You don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy New York City. The neighbourhoods and boroughs have lots to offer off the beaten track

Sat, Dec 21, 2013, 01:00

Y ou don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy New York – in fact, travelling on a budget gives you the perfect opportunity to explore the lesser visited neighbourhoods and boroughs of New York City.

Using the subway, renting Citibikes (citibikenyc.com) and – gasp – getting out of Manhattan for a day can help you experience the local New York while leaving funds for the inevitable downtown shopping.

For our trip we were based in the Beacon Hotel on Broadway and 75th Street where Tom Travers, the gregarious manager gave us an entertaining nickel tour through New York’s history, its diverse population and the merits – and otherwise – of the five city boroughs.

Manhattan may be the main draw for tourists, and Brooklyn and Williamsburg have quickly become the city’s cooler cousins, but for something completely different head to Queens, the easternmost borough of New York City and home to Long Island City (LIC), just one stop on the 7 train from Grand Central Station. The last mayor of LIC (before it was incorporated into New York City in 1898) was an Irishman who went by the name “Battle-Axe” Gleason.

Things have been gentrified since then – although LIC hasn’t lost its industrial edge – and it’s now a hub for the arts community. Galleries such as Museum of Modern Art offshoot MoMA PS1 (momaps1.org) sit alongside 5 Pointz – an outdoor art space in a disused 200,000sqft factory that drew graffiti artists from around the globe over the past three decades. Sadly, it was whitewashed last month in advance of a planned demolition, but organisers are planning new projects (5ptz.com).

LIC is also home to TV and film studios, such as Silvercup Studios, where films like Gangs of New York, Julie & Julia along with TV favourites such as 30 Rock, Sex And The City and Sopranos were filmed. It doesn’t offer tours but often shoots on the surrounding streets (silvercupstudios.com).

For a real-life taste of Italian America, head north to the “real” (as they’ll have you believe) Little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

The Bronx, despite its dense population and high-rise projects, is one quarter open space, taking in the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Zoo, Pelham Bay Park and Woodlawn Cemetery – resting place of such musical luminaries as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Irving Berlin.

Bronxites are fiercely proud of their homeplace, and despite a chequered history, it’s bursting with energy – a place on the rise. You can get there via the familiar streets of Broadway or Park Avenue that run north from Manhattan but it is the finely named Grand Concourse that brings you through the heart of the Bronx. Modelled on Paris’s Champs-Élysées, it runs from Harlem in northern Manhattan, six miles north past the Yankees Stadium, Fordham University and the wonderfully incongruous and well preserved Poe Cottage.

The Cottage, at the intersection of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road was home to author, poet, editor and critic Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem The Raven made him a household name in the US in 1845. He lived in the cottage – which has been moved a couple of hundred metres to assist preservation – during the late 1840s and his young wife Virginia (also his cousin, they married when she was just 13) died here, inspiring much of his later work. You can tour the cottage and adjoining visitor’s centre (bronxhistoricalsociety.org)

With your appetite for history sated, fill your belly by heading west off the concourse to Arthur Avenue. The avenue is a dozen blocks long but head towards 187th Street, home to the Italian American community.

Restaurants, delis, bread stores and pizzerias line the streets, with signs saying Mario’s, Giovanni’s, Roberto’s. Old men, gold chains swinging like Sopranos wiseguys, shuffle along with bags of cannoli and bread, greeting each other in a mishmash of English and Italian. It’s so mimicked in TV and film that it takes a minute to remember art imitates life here, not the other way around. This has been a way of life for this community for generations. The 99-year- old Teitel Brother’s deli and grocery (teitlbros.com) – packed to the roof with salamis, cheeses, sauces, dried fish and more – is so beloved, the street sign on the corner of Arthur and 186th St says Teitel Bros St.

The Arthur Avenue Market (arthuravenuebronx.com) houses nine merchants (compared to 115 in the 1940s), from Casa Grande hand-rolled cigars to Liberartore Gardens, where locals have been buying little packets of seeds for years, and Mike’s Deli, run by Mike and David Grecco, who make mozzarella daily and import oils, meats and cheeses from Italy (arthuravenue.com).

You can have lunch here while the Greccos bellow at each other and their customers – delicious antipasto ($26 for four) or bowls of steaming farfalle with mushroom and mascarpone, or fried baby ravioli with tomato dipping sauce ($11). Or forgo another pair of shoes in Manhattan and buy their flavoured oils to squeeze into your suitcase.
For more, see nycgo.com/neighborhoods or tel: 01-631 9604

GET THERE

Aer Lingus flies Dublin to New York twice daily and three times weekly from Shannon (additional flights from April 2014). From €229 each way.
EAT

Red Farm Innovative Chinese food, delicious ‘Pac Man’ shrimp dumplings & Katz’s pastrami egg roll.
2170 Broadway, NY 10023, redfarmnyc.com
Arthur Avenue Market
Eat your fill from the stalls, buy more to bring home.
Arthur Avenue/E187th St Bronx, NY 10458
STAY
The Beacon Hotel Great location, ideal for families with kitchenette in every room. 2130 Broadway at 75th St, NY 10023. Rooms from $195
beaconhotel.com
Wyndham Garden Decent budget option, prices lower than Manhattan. 44-29 9th Street, LIC, Queens, NY 11101. Rooms starting from $99 wyndham.com


Rachel Collins travelled
as a guest of NYC &
Company and Aer Lingus

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