Monday, July 29, 2013

Make it a Beach Day in New York City.

Clear Summer Day at Brighton Beach
Before paying full fare on the Long Island Rail Road, plus entrance fees, to get to the coveted sandy shores of Long Island, consider the beaches you can enjoy right in the outer boroughs of New York City.

Cleaner than Coney Island and more convenient than the Rockaways, Brighton Beach is extremely
accessible and a relaxing way to enjoy a summer day in the city. Take the B or Q train to the last stop in Brooklyn and then walk straight down Brighton 4th or 6th Streets to the free, large, open beach (check subway schedules, as the B doesn't run at all times). Though all are welcome here, it is dubbed "Little Odessa" for its Eastern European flair, and the experience isn't complete without a stop for brunch at Tatiana Grill or a night cap and Russian cabaret show at Tatiana Restaurant & Nightclub. The famed Coney Island Boardwalk ends at Brighton Beach, and you're a short walk or subway ride away from all that Coney Island offers, without having to play in the broken glass-covered sand there. If you do choose to venture towards Coney Island, a visit to the original Totonno's for some coal-fired pizza should be in order.

A little further out, with the great wide Atlantic looming before it, and no obstructions for miles, Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk has light, fine sand, and great waves, and is especially popular with surfers (this may also have something to do with the fact that it's the only beach area in NYC that allows surfing...). The entire beach area spans nearly 8 miles, though most people prefer the area around Jacob Riis Park, and surfing is allowed only between Beach 67-69 Streets and 87-90 Streets. Check the Rockaway Beach Summer 2013 Map to see what areas of the beach and boardwalk are open due to ongoing repairs and latent erosion leftover from Sandy. Though a car is helpful to get to the Rockaways, there are a number of ways for pedestrians to get to the beach. If you insist on being shuttled there, try the New York Beach Ferry, NYC RockabusBeach Bus (roughly $30, $15, and $12 roundtrip, respectively). For the penny pincher, take the Q35 bus or the A train to the S (transfer at Broad Channel).

Also worth a lounge are the more calm, secluded shores of Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn and Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Despite popular lore, you can get to both of these beaches via public transportation. The B1 bus goes to Manhattan Beach from the B/Q stop at Brighton, and the Bx12 bus goes to Orchard Beach, connecting from the 6 at Pelham Bay.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Martha Graham Dance Comes Alive at Summerstage.

By Tami Shaloum

Blakeley White-McGuire solemnly spins her skirt in war-themed dance series, Chronicle
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner**
There is no shortage of great dance companies in New York City, but when one gets a chance to see a world-renowned company such as Martha Graham Contemporary Dance, there is no passing it up. Although Ms. Graham has been deceased for over two decades, she was recently brought to life in an exuberant presentation of both classic pieces and a loving tribute at Central Park’s SummerStage on July 23rd and 24th. Her dances feel as fresh and original as ever under the direction of Artistic Director Janet Eilber and the whole company of remarkable dancers.

Walker's Dance & Gymnastics
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner
Opening the evening’s program was Walker’s Dance & Gymnastics, the Dancin’ Downtown at The Joyce contest winner, performing “Trajectory,” choreographed by KEIGWIN + COMPANY’s Jaclyn Walsh. This piece was characterized by quick, abrupt movements, and had an athletic aesthetic, enhanced by costumes that would not be out of place on a running track. The frenzied, staccato rhythm of the dance made for an exhilarating performance, although I wish the costumes had been a little more exciting.

"Lovers" Xie and Nardi
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner 
Beginning the Martha Graham portion of the evening was the breathtaking entrance of Xiaochuan Xie, half draped in a flowing, bright red costume, performing “Conversation of Lovers,” the first part of Graham’s three-part Acts of Light. This romantically dramatic piece featured a stunning pas de deux between Ms. Xie and Maurizio Nardi. It was hard to take my eyes off this gorgeous couple as they relevĂ©ed, arabesqued and entwined. “Lament” featured flame-haired Blakeley White-McGuire wearing a white skin-like fabric that encased everything but her feet and provided no discernible body shape. This gave the impression of a butterfly about to burst through its cocoon. “Ritual to the Sun” began with the company entering in yellow full-body leotards and dancing in a circle, a human representation of the sun. This piece was light, airy and playful compared to the relative heaviness of the previous dances. The dancers made movements that were much like sun salutations and quick spurts of movement, as though the sun were bursting though clouds.

The second piece, Lamentation Variations, commemorates the anniversary of 9/11 and is based on Graham’s iconic 1930s solo film, Lamentation. The first part of this three-part variation had a sad, grieving quality to it, set to operatic music, and ended with the chilling image of the three male dancers walking backwards while carrying the female dancer upside down, body rigid and stick straight, as the stage darkens. This was followed by a solo piece with long, sustained poses and slow, deliberate moves, punctuated by an abrupt movement from time to time. Next, the full company appeared in cocktail party attire and performed one of the more cinematic pieces. As they moved to a slow piano, a silvery light captured a couple dancing.

"Ritual to the Sun"
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner
Another classic Graham dance, Chronicle, closed the program. A war-themed series, Chronicle began with “Spectre-1914,” another dramatic piece that features music that could have been out of a film score, or a military march. A snare drum brought soloist White-McGuire on stage in a black mourning dress (could she have been a war widow?) with red skirting underneath. As she danced, she kept catching her skirt in her arms and throwing it every which way, almost as though she were dancing with her dress. “Steps in the Street” was just that, mostly stepping abruptly, both backwards and forwards, while “Prelude to Action” was set to more military-like percussion with the dancers in constant motion, seemingly plotting and organizing to mobilize.

With grace, beauty and great skill, the company proved their ability to reinvent decades-old material, therefore ensuring that Martha Graham’s legacy is far from forgotten.

**See Heather-Ann Schaeffner's full photo reel from the show here

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SummerStage Livens Up Summer With New Dance Program.

By Tami Shaloum

SummerStage, the City Parks Foundation’s free performing arts festival that runs all summer long in parks throughout the five boroughs, has stepped up their dance program this year. The stellar lineup, which has been curated by Danni Gee, a former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, includes performances by the world-renowned Martha Graham Dance Company (July 23 and 24), Hip-Hop group Rock Steady Crew (July 28 and 31), and master classes by Rennie Harris Collective Inc. (July 19) and DANCE IQUAIL! (July 20) open to all levels for free. 

"The Carpetbag Brigade" performs at Global Family Day
WGINY recently attended Global Family Day at Central Park SummerStage, where a performance by Ifetayo Youth Ensemble provided an enticing preview of their July 24 appearance at Seward Park in the Lower East Side. This group is comprised of youth of the African Diaspora who live in underserved areas of Brooklyn. Ifetayo means “love is enough for joy” in West African Yoruba, and there was plenty of joy to go around in their exciting and colorful performance of African dance and drumming. The group was so engaging and looked like they were having so much fun that they inspired this writer to sign up for an African dance class.

Nemcatacoa Teatro
Photo by Tami Shaloum
Also on the program were two separate acrobatic stilt walking performances by The Carpetbag Brigade, a Bay Area-based physical theater company, and Nemcatacoa Teatro, a street and experimental theater company from Colombia. These two physical theater groups performed fantastic feats of acrobatics and dance on stilts. The Carpetbag Brigade’s movements were sensual, fluid, dream-like and balletic, made all the more so by the long “legs” and pointed “toes” of the stilts. Nemcatacoa’s performance was more mysterious, with their white and black painted bodies and slow, halting movements set to three lilting pan flutes. There was a subversive element to both groups’ performances, as though they are rebelling against authority through their art.

There are more than 20 dance performances left this summer, as well as hundreds of music and theater shows, as part of SummerStage. Check out the Summerstage calendar to plan your next alfresco evening with the performing arts.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Paulie Gee Knows His Pizza.

Paulie Gee's twitter tagline says all you need to know about this local legend and his popular pizza, "Some people live to eat, I live to eat pizza. And now serve it in Greenpoint too." If you haven't yet made it to Paulie Gee's (in the 3+ years it's been open), then you are missing out on an establishment that has won the hearts and stomachs of NYC.

Paulie Gee's Perfects the Art of Pizza Making
Despite being marginally out of the way for many, something spectacular is happening just west of the Greenpoint Ave "G" train in Brooklyn. Taking no reservations and with limited operating hours (closed Mondays, open only for dinner all other evenings), it is not uncommon to see patrons waiting 1-2 hours for a table at Paulie Gee's. Housed in an old fire house, Paulie Gee's gives off an earthy feel as, perhaps ironically, a brick oven in the back bakes up an immense assortment of pies. Pizza is the main event here and there is no shortage of options with nearly 30 varieties. Each pizza title is a clever play on words, such as the "Ricotta Be Kiddin Me," which prominently features "dollops" of fresh, creamy ricotta, or the "Whiter Shade of Kale," which incorporates marinated baby kale sourced from local rooftop farms. Paulie Gee makes good use of local, sustainable products.

Sweet and spicy "Hellboy" will fire you up in all the right ways.
For meat eaters who like a little kick, the "Hellboy" redefines sweet and spicy with its picante sopressata and famous hot honey sauce (a surprisingly savory blend of honey, vinegar and chilies). Though there's an abundance of other palatable meat toppings available at Paulie Gee's, such as Italian sweet fennel sausage, or prosciutto de parma, even vegans can be satisfied with an entire menu section dedicated to vegan pizzas, and including a vegan sausage option that's rumored to be just as scrumptious as the real thing.

Just how does Paulie Gee know that people are enjoying his pizzas? Simple. He checks up on his restaurant almost daily. Look for a smiling gentleman in a hat and glasses who may pass by your table several times and ask how your meal is. That's the real big cheese (hee hee), Mr. Paulie Gee himself.

Coming from Manhattan? Consider taking a ride on the East River Ferry to Greenpoint (India Street).

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lockaway Self Storage Provides Secure and Serene Space for Your Stuff.

Social science research reveals that moving is one of the most stressful events in one's life, up there with major life events such as starting a new job, getting married, and having a child. One New York City business is making strides to make your move just a little more serene. I recently had a wonderful experience at Lockaway Self Storage in downtown Brooklyn, and without any compensation or request for promotion, I felt compelled to tell my readers about Lockaway and share my experience there.

In between apartments right now, I needed a convenient, affordable place where I could store the majority of my belongings while I was figuring out my living situation. After scouring the internet for various options and feeling unsatisfied, I got a recommendation for Lockaway Self Storage from my moving company, Best Moves, Inc., and was very pleased with what I found. Easily accessible by public transportation (15 min walk from the F at York) or by moving van or car, and with an on-site gated parking lot, Lockaway offered me convenient, secure access to my stuff, for a price I could manage.

Upon entering Lockaway for the first time (after passing through the secure gates), I came upon a pleasant fountain full of koi fish, marking the entrance to the lobby where customers can sign up for a storage unit, reserve a U-haul truck, purchase packing supplies, or make a cup of complimentary coffee. Seemingly stepping back in time, I then entered a zen room full of collectible items on display, a classic jukebox face, a vintage time punch clock, an antique cash register, and many more interesting antique wares. There I was greeted by "Tracie," who was personable, courteous and professional, and carefully walked me through all terms of my storage contract and explained all procedures and fees. Despite the stress of my move, the atmosphere at Lockaway and the excellent employee assistance made me feel relieved and at ease, especially when it came to security. The entire storage facility (the largest in NYC!) was outfitted with security cameras which were displayed on large screens in the reception area. Anyone entering or exiting, whether by foot, car or bicycle, needed an access code or permission from the front desk. I was contented to find that (with the help of my movers) I could easily fit a one-bedroom apartment's worth of furniture and boxes into an indoor, climate controlled 7' x 10'  x 9' unit for only $199 a month (plus a $35 one-time move in fee). Having an erratic work schedule, I was also happy to learn that Lockaway stays open until 9pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday eves.

What really sold me on deciding to share my storage experience was an article I came upon while browsing in the reception area. In fairly misery times, Lockaway Self Storage has been no stranger to corporate social responsibility. In 2010, for example, Lockaway donated use of a free storage unit to a local couple (with child) who made headlines while living out of a pink school bus after losing their East Village apartment.

I would highly recommend Lockaway Self Storage to anyone looking for a little extra space, whether for one month, a year, or indefinitely. Depending on individual needs, Lockaway offers both indoor and outdoor storage units of varying sizes. Storage units can be booked on or by calling Lockaway directly at (347) 826-5919.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

NYC Fatburger Location Creates a Fun, Inviting Vibe for Burger Cravers

This Independence Day, do something truly American -- eat a burger! Just a few weeks ago, international burger sensation Fatburger celebrated the grand opening of its second first New York City location on 3rd Ave, just north of 34th Street (what do I mean by second first location? See for details). According to Fatburger staff, more locations are planned in New York City, but currently the closest Fatburger branch is in Atlantic City, at the pristine Borgata Hotel and Casino.

With its colorful mosaic ceilings, two large TVs, daily late night hours until 1am, and a bar with beer and wine, Fatburger has created a fun, inviting vibe for burger cravers. The mildly hungry can opt for a "medium" burger (1/3 lb), while the famished and/or otherwise appetite optimistic can go all the way up to an XXXL burger (1 1/2 lbs!). Anyone who can actually finish the XXXL gets a photo and his/her name on the wall. Order your burger with "the works" (lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, mustard, mayo) or pick and choose what toppings you would like, including specialty "add-ons" such as cheese or guacamole.

What really sets Fatburger apart is the freshness of their 100% lean beef, which, as they say, is just "burgerlicious". Each burger is perfectly grilled to a medium well temperature and served satisfyingly juicy. You'll know it's fresh and made to order by your wait time, but the wait will be well worth it. If you like onion rings, you'll be glad to know they're made from scratch daily at Fatburger. And if you like fries, well you're really in for a treat. You're most difficult decision may be choosing between the two varieties of piping hot, golden fries, "fat" (like steak fries), or "skinny". If you prefer a larger, fatter fry, you'll know what to do. If you want thin and crispy, go skinny.

Check out Fatburger's full menu for all options.