Hidden New York Streetscapes

As a tourist in the hustle and bustle of Times Square, Rockefeller Center or Wall Street, you might wonder how New Yorkers can stand to live in the middle of all that craziness.

But when you get away from it and go deep into the residential neighborhoods, you'll find row houses, brownstones and historic homes that most people never see unless you live here.  A few of my faves:

East 72nd Street and the East River

This stretch of East 72nd Street is one of the prettiest in the city.  It’s a residential block that ends at the East River, so unless you live nearby or visit the tiny park that overlooks the river, you probably won't just happen upon it. 

If it looks like a movie set, you've probably seen it on film.  A bit of trivia for writer friends:  for many years, Manhattan’s most famous literary salon was hosted in the apartment of George Plimpton at this address. More literary trivia:  Walk about three blocks west on 72nd Street, and you'll come upon Charing Cross House, an apartment house named after the best-selling book 84, Charing Cross Road, penned by a longtime resident, the late Helene Hanff.

Henderson Place

Walk 14 blocks up York Avenue, go one block east on 86th Street, and you'll arrive at Henderson Place.  This small complex, which is its very own Historic District, consists of an alley and parts of East 86th, East 87th and East End Avenue.  Built in 1883, it is comprised of 24 Queen Anne-style row houses.

Henderson Place is only about two blocks from our apartment, and Scott and I often walk by here on our way to Carl Schurz Park - the best Manhattan park you have never heard of.  Every once in awhile we'll see a "for sale" sign on one of the homes, but let's just say they are bit out of our price range.  Celeb neighbors:  Gracie Mansion, the home of New York City's mayor, is in the park across street, and Ricky Martin owns an apartment in the high-rise condo on the right side of the first pic.

Pomander Walk

On the Upper West Side, just west of Broadway on 95th Street, there's a metal gate with a staircase that leads to something that looks interesting - but it's locked and you can't go in. 

Photos: StreetEasy.com, NewYork.com and ScoutingNY.com - since nosy people like me can't just walk in.

This is Pomander Walk, a quaint private community straight out of an English village.  Most of the 27 Tudor-style homes face each other across a narrow courtyard, with gated entrances on 94th Street to the south and 95th Street to the north.  When I first moved to New York, and spent weekends hunting down locations from my favorite Woody Allen films, this was one of the first spots I found (it has a cameo in "Hannah and Her Sisters").  While many of the houses have been divided up into flats, the trend in recent years has been to convert some of them back into single-family homes.

What have I missed here?  I'd love to hear about your favorite streets - either in NYC or where you live!

New York Notes: Polar Vortex Survival Guide

Remember last year's polar vortex?  This year has been the polar opposite.  Other than a surprise 27-inch blizzard, it's been a tame winter here.  But just when you get too comfortable…  

Boom!  Winter returns - with below-zero temps and wind chills of 20 below.

Since it's Sunday - and we walk 10 blocks to church - I had to quickly reassemble the winter gear:

Blanket scarf.  My super-talented sister-in-law Holly made this for me at Christmas.  Bless her heart.  It's the only thing keeping my face from falling off.

02-14-16 Scarf 1.jpg

Fuzzy boots.  You'll never see these in Vogue - but frostbite isn't stylish, either.

02-14-16 Boots.jpg

Cute cobalt blue thermal underwear.  My mom would be proud.  If I'm in a car accident today, people in the ER should be impressed.

02-14-16 North Face.JPG

Ginormous, Thinsulate-lined gloves. Sure, my hands are bigger than the "man-hands" girl from Seinfeld - but at least I can still feel them.

02-14-16 Coffee.JPG

And last - but certainly not least - coffee.  Because coffee.

New York Notes: Our "One Shot" with Hamilton

A year ago, if you'd told me that my favorite Broadway musical would turn out to be a hip-hop flashback to junior high history, I'd have thought you were crazy.

Three hours of song and dance about our nation's Founding Fathers?  Not really my idea of a night on the town.

Well, fortunately, someone else (that someone else being Lin-Manuel Miranda), had other ideas - and the musical "Hamilton" was born.

A quick bit of background:  Based on a biography of Alexander Hamilton, the show opened off-Broadway at New York City's Public Theater last year.  It quickly generated a lot of buzz, attracting celebrities, politicians and media. The show uses hip-hop music and a multi-ethnic cast to tell the story of Hamilton, previously known to junior high students as the guy who was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr.

Scott and I both love going to shows, but despite Broadway being just a few subway stops away, we don't go as often as we'd like since work and life kind of get in the way. But we figured there had to be something to all the buzz.  So we bought tickets last spring - three months before the show even opened on Broadway, and seven months in advance of our performance.

Well, it didn't just live up to the hype - it far exceeded our expectations.  Even though on the day of the show, I had been up since 3 a.m. for an appearance on "FOX & Friends," I was on the edge of my seat.  We were blown away by the genius music and storytelling (portraying Jefferson and Hamilton's Cabinet debates as rap battles, or King George III's warning to revolutionary colonists styled as a hilarious Brit-pop break-up song).

But here's the bad news:  don't plan on seeing the show if you're coming to New York anytime soon.  Checking Ticketmaster today (which is the only place I would recommend buying tickets, as there are more counterfeit "Hamilton" tickets floating around than there are fake Louis Vuitton bags or "Bolex" watches on Canal Street), there are a few random single seats available next winter - as in December 2016 and January 2017.  If you want tickets, follow the show and watch when the next block of tickets goes on sale - and snap them up as soon as they do.   

There is a daily "lottery" where a few lucky people win the opportunity to buy last-minute front-row seats for $10, but because you're competing with about a zillion people, the odds of winning aren't good. 

The show also starts an open-ended run in Chicago this September, so you can follow the show to find out when tickets go on sale.  Other extended runs are planned for L.A. and San Francisco, but I haven't yet seen any details about those.

Until then, you can get your "Hamilton" fix by listening to the fantastic cast album, catching them opening the live Grammy telecast on February 15, or - better yet - reading the biography that tells the story of this colorful "ten-dollar Founding Father." 

If you ever get your shot at seeing "Hamilton," you won't be disappointed.  Already seen it?  What did you think?

Snow Day, New York City-Style

As this weekend's blizzard started piling up more than twice the predicted amount (Central Park ended up with 26.8 inches), a rare calm settled across the city.

We don't have a sidewalk to shovel or a car to dig out, so a snow day is the perfect excuse to do anything - or nothing at all.

As the snow fell/blew around on Saturday morning, we put on our snow boots and trekked a few blocks to one of our favorite diners, Midnight Express.  We go there often enough that the servers know our coffee order (regular for Scott, decaf for me), and settled in to enjoy breakfast and watch the snowfall - and periodic white-out.

Eager to tick an Oscar movie off our must-see list, we then headed to one of the cinemas within two blocks of our apartment.  (Others had the same idea, with two dozen people huddled under the awning waiting for the box office to open.)

We chose "Spotlight" - a great film with an even better ensemble cast (I am especially partial to movies that portray journalists as heroes).

Mid-afternoon, the mood struck to bake.  After finding a box of yellow cake mix in the cupboard, I whipped up a yellow butter cake with homemade cream cheese frosting made with Philly Cream Cheese - reminiscent of our wedding cake from eight and a half years ago.

We spent the rest of the day catching up on DVR'd shows, doing a bit of work in our office and getting ready for my Valentine gift TV tour that kicks off on Wednesday.

As the snow started to wind down late Saturday night, Scott - who keeps a much firmer grip on his iPhone than I do - reached out our 15th floor window to capture our view.