Where's a unique place in NY to go to and write about?
September 3, 2006 10:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm accompanying a friend tomorrow on a journalism assignment; he needs to write about a place he's never been to before, go there, and write about the experience again. Where should we go?

We are in New York City and have grown up here our entire lives so there aren't many places we haven't been to (his class restricts us to the five boroughs). I'm looking for some place unique and not necessarily just a popular tourist spot. My suggestion was checking out the Staten Island dump; he nixed that idea. He's also already been to a soup kitchen/homeless shelter. Any ideas?
posted by pinksoftsoap to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Gay bar?
posted by SpecialK at 10:18 PM on September 3, 2006

Womens washroom (apostrophe not working, sorry)
Gay bar (seconded)
Dumpster in an alley
Flower market auction
posted by acoutu at 10:26 PM on September 3, 2006

Religious service of some sort.
posted by rossination at 10:35 PM on September 3, 2006

On the offchance that he's never been there before, the Discovery Channel Store in Grand Central? The location won't be unique, but the circumstances might. And that's journalism.
posted by holgate at 10:45 PM on September 3, 2006

  • A Prison?
  • A Slaughterhouse?
  • Some kind of specific market like the Fulton fish market?
  • Greyhound racing?
  • A graveyard?
  • A morgue?
  • A car impound lot?
  • A bar or cafĂ© frequented by people who practice some particular occupation, like a taxi-driver bar or cycle-courier bar?
  • Kayaking on the Hudson?

posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:50 PM on September 3, 2006

City Island.
posted by paulsc at 10:51 PM on September 3, 2006

Fun question.

Roosevelt Island?
Inside some kind of old-man's social club?
A Bay Ridge hookah bar?
posted by Brian James at 11:09 PM on September 3, 2006

Fort Hamilton is pretty far off the usual tourist beat. Not paricularly exciting either, but excitement doesn't sound like a requirement.

Can't he just pick an interesting variant on someplace he's already been? Pick a block, point in a random direction. If he's been to literally everything in that building, spin around and point somewhere else.

I think it would be cool, actually, to make the point of this exericise to visit the one place in his old stomping grounds that he hasn't been to yet. Maybe because it's changed radically since he last visited, or because he'd always mentally dismissed it as a place too (uninteresting|unwelcoming|strange) to enter. Go discover the place that's been hiding in plain sight!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:10 PM on September 3, 2006

If you are not restricted to going somewhere tomorrow, you could go to a Friday night meeting at the Catholic Worker house: St Joseph House, 36 E First St, New York NY 10003, Phone: 212-254-1640. That's a neat experience.

Otherwise, I wonder if you could do something like go to someone's house (that he's never been to) and write about that.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:23 PM on September 3, 2006

How about a restaurant review? You'll probably get points for trying something everyone thinks is mundane, but something that's actually useful and interesting to a large group of readers.
posted by frogan at 11:34 PM on September 3, 2006

Please, don't go to a gay bar. Lesbians and gay men aren't zoo animals, there for all to stare at.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:32 AM on September 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

A homeless refuge.
The sleaziest strip-club you can find.
A cleansing new-age nature retreat.

Strike out any that your friend has already visited.
posted by Diag at 5:39 AM on September 4, 2006

Here are a few suggestions:

1)Pick a subway line or area that you never ride. Something not in Mahattan.

Get off at various stops along the way and give us your impressions. Did you have pre-conceived notions about the place. Take a camera and take pictures too. Talk to some folks. Make it interesting.

2)Spend the night at an all-night diner. Talk to the waitresses, patrons etc. What's their story.

3)And thank you Carol Anne for your wisdom about skipping the gay and lesbian bars. :)
posted by bim at 6:03 AM on September 4, 2006

I wrote for a paper in college, and one of THE BEST articles I remember appearing was a 24-hour slog through a donut shop frequented by the hung-over, the homeless, the cops, and pretty much everyone else. A little local place. The authors interviewed the managers, the workers, the customers (or, perhaps, just made snide remarks about the customers), the cops, anyone who came in the door.

I remember it so well because it wasn't just about the donut shop, it was about it the place's effect on the writers. I think you could do the same with any 24-hour place, but I think a bakery, where so much goes on behind the scenes in the wee hours, would be very stimulating.

Also, donuts are right there!
posted by mdonley at 6:13 AM on September 4, 2006

Or this place. Also 24 hours.
posted by mdonley at 6:15 AM on September 4, 2006

This American Life tried the 24 hours at a restaurant routine. It turned out pretty well.

Maybe try going to a meeting of a club or hobby group? There might be some interesting dynamics there.

Or maybe a website meeting for a website they don't visit?
posted by heresiarch at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2006

Air Traffic Control Tower
Lost Propety Office
Office Window Cleaner's Gantry
posted by rongorongo at 6:34 AM on September 4, 2006

Arthur Avenue, in the Bronx.

The garden in the middle of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital campus up at West 168th St (location of the home plate of the original stadium of the New York Yankees, then known as the Highlanders).

The 79th St Marina off of Riverside Park.

There are about a million places in NYC that your friend might not have been to; the city's awesome for that reason.
posted by delfuego at 6:45 AM on September 4, 2006

I'm curious as all hell about Saint Revernd Jen.

I bought her "tour guide" to the Lower East Side several years ago and though it was hysterically funny.

I'd love to read about the poertry slam that she MC's somewhere on the LES. I think it's weekly.

There was an ever so brief mention and a pic in TONY last week.

I LOVE the elf ears.
posted by bim at 6:46 AM on September 4, 2006

A strangers home. Or a friends home. A meeting or a religious service. I also agree, though, that a gay/lesbian bar would be inappropriate to my taste, but maybe some kind of activism event in a setting new to the writer. A corporate function. A swanky party. Penthouse of a hotel (the management might like the free publicity), kitchen of a restaurant (same deal), other off limits parts of places. A garbage collection center
(where all teh trucks unload) a factory. A fire truck. Jail. Back to homes, a dorm room. A seminary. A laundromat. An ethnic market that sells something you want/need (cutting down on the zoo factor, but probably not deleting it).
posted by bilabial at 7:15 AM on September 4, 2006

If he hasn't been to CBGBs, it's a good story right now because it's closing (for real!) Sept. 30. I was there last night, and it was funny: there was a steady stream of people, mostly well-scrubbed, wide-eyed tourists, coming in just to buy Tshirts and leave. They didn't get a drink. They didn't listen to any music. They didn't talk to anyone. They just went straight to the tshirt gal and hurried away.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:07 AM on September 4, 2006

What about that disused railway line that's like a park floating above Manhattan? I've seen a lot of bloggers talking about it. It's pretty unique from what I've seen of it.
posted by wackybrit at 8:27 AM on September 4, 2006

That would be the high line, and it's a terrific idea.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:18 AM on September 4, 2006

If you want to do something unique, you could try to track down the locations featured in the Saturday Night Live Lazy Sunday music video.
posted by The Confessor at 10:59 AM on September 4, 2006

Good god don't do a homeless shelter. If you or your pal are in J-school undergrad, skip reporting on the homeless, trust me here. Your prof is probably really tired of grading papers on the homeless.

Are you taking pictures or just writing? Something to think about if you need visuals, you will need to be in a place where you are comfortable taking pictures.

Bilabial gave you some good ideas - like religious services or an ethnic market of some type that . If the goal is to do some 'stranger in a straor event that's unfamiliar to you. If the assignment is to so some "Stranger in a strange land' reporting, which I'm guessing it is, they would work. See if the PD would let you join a ride-along. Skip the gay bar, skip the zoo.
posted by mad_little_monkey at 11:14 AM on September 4, 2006

What you're trying to do is avoid cliche. I would just walk around at random and see where you end up.
posted by reklaw at 2:30 PM on September 4, 2006

Try Forgotten NY for inspiration, specifically the "You'd Never Believe You Were in New York" section.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:11 PM on September 4, 2006

The firehouse across from the WTC unveiled their memorial last month, its supposed to be pretty impressive.

posted by legotech at 5:00 PM on September 4, 2006

How about a walk around some of the more isolated NYC neighborhoods that feel like they belong somewhere else - like Spuyten Duyvil, Breezy Point, Willets Point? Or maybe the ship graveyard in the Arthur Kill (though you'll have to sneak into this). Or if you're in the mood to walk an easily accessed abandoned rail line, there's the old Rockaway LIRR line that starts in Rego Park, Queens.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 6:46 PM on September 4, 2006

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