We’ve just published a brand new Pocket Rough Guide to New York City, and thought we’d share a sneak preview. Want to shun the crowds? Here are five places to explore hidden New York.
No superlative, no cliché does New York City justice. It may not serve as the official capital of the US or even of New York State, but it’s the undisputed capital of the world in many regards. High finance, media, art, architecture, food, fashion, popular culture, urban style, street life… it’s all here, in plenitude and peak form.
Best of all for visitors (and residents), you don’t have to look too hard for any of it. Often the sights, both big and small, are just staring you right in the face: the money fortresses of Wall Street; the raised torch of the Statue of Liberty; the iconic Empire State Building; the hype and hustle of Times Square; Fifth Avenue’s foot traffic; the proud lions of the Public Library. But if you want to see a different side to NYC, you’ll need to look further.
This off-the-beaten-path waterfront Brooklyn neighbourhood, a former shipping centre, was once one of the more rough-and-tumble in the city, but now holds artists’ galleries, unique restaurants, converted warehouses and, to some folks’ chagrin, twin giants in IKEA and Fairway. Cut off from the subway system, Red Hook can be reached by water taxi or bus, a worthwhile venture to hit the Red Hook Ball Fields on summer weekends, where you can sample Latin American street food and watch soccer, or to take in fabulous views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan from the piers, while snacking on a Key Lime Pie from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies – the best key lime pie in the northeast.
Until the mid-1990s, Governors Island was the largest and most expensively run Coast-guard installation in the world, but today it’s being developed into a leafy historical park, the island’s bucolic village greens and colonial architecture reminiscent of a New England college campus. Many of the buildings are being restored as art galleries and craft stores, and the Historic Landmark District at the northern end is managed by the National Park Service. Ferries arrive at Soissons Dock, where you’ll find the small visitors’ centre. From here it’s a short stroll up to the solid walls of Fort Jay, completed in 1794, and the nearby shady lanes of Nolan Park, home to some beautifully preserved Neoclassical and Federal-style mansions. Other highlights include Castle Williams, a circular fort completed in 1811, but there are also plenty of green spaces in which to lounge in the sun, an artificial beach in the summer, and a breezy promenade with stellar views of Manhattan.
Irish Hunger Memorial
This haunting monument to the more than one million Irish people who starved to death during the Great Famine of 1845–1852 was designed by artist Brian Tolle in 2002. He transported an authentic famine-era stone cottage from County Mayo, and set it on a 25ft embankment overlooking the Hudson River. The passageway underneath echoes with haunting Irish folk songs, and there is a meandering path through the grassy garden.
African Burial Ground National Monument
In 1991 construction workers uncovered the remains of 419 skeletons near Broadway, a tiny portion of an African burial ground that covered five blocks during the 1700s. After being examined, the skeletons were re-interred at this site in 2003, marked by seven grassy mounds and a highly polished black granite monument, a symbolic counterpoint to the infamous “gate of no return” on Gorée Island in Senegal. To learn more, walk around the corner to the visitor centre (look for the dedicated entrance). Videos, displays and replicas of the artefacts found here are used to recount the history of the site, and shed light on the brutal life of the city’s oft forgotten enslaved population.
On W 138th and 139th sts (between Adam Clayton Powell Jr and Frederick Douglass blvds), Strivers’ Row comprises some of New York’s most alluring architecture and three of the finest blocks of Renaissance-influenced rowhouses in Manhattan. Commissioned in 1891 during a housing boom, this dignified development within the burgeoning black community came to be the most desirable place for ambitious professionals to reside at the turn of the twentieth century – hence its name. Today it remains an extremely posh residence for professionals of all backgrounds.