We spent Friday evening, October 4, with real New Yorkers who took us to some of their favorite neighborhood spots. Den’s boss, Lisa, and her husband, Ross, live in Queens. Lisa commutes to NMSS every day by bus and Ross works in the IT division of NYC public service. Both are native New Yorkers, love their home town, and were eager to show it off to us.
From the NMSS office, we took the N subway to Queens with Lisa and walked around an area called Astoria. This is historically an immigrant area, mainly Greek, but now, like many of the NY neighborhoods, is becoming gentrified and is now a mix of various ethnicities. As we walked along the streets the aromas coming from the many small restaurants were so enticing. We walked to the Astoria Beer Garden to meet Ross. Traditionally, there were many beer gardens in the area, and these provided a community meeting and drinking place for immigrants, but now only a few remain.
The garden consists of a huge outdoor setting with hundreds of picnic tables on cobblestone flooring surrounded by trees. Several beer taps are located all around the perimeter and they also serve munchies…..we ordered two pitchers of beer, one dark and one light, as well as some fries and wings. It was a relaxing way to start the weekend.
From the beer garden we drove to a nearby area called Long Island City. It was the first time either of us had been in a car in five weeks!!! This part of Queens is right on the East River looking across to Manhattan and has become “the” place to live for urban professionals, especially if one has several million dollars for a condo facing the water. Ross told us that many actors and sports professionals now live in this area. We walked out onto a grassy park and pier area where the views of Manhattan were spectacular at night. We could look north to see the lighted Queensboro Bridge close to our apartment. The park had areas along the water with wooden chaise lounge chairs inviting people to stop and rest and admire the view and the surroundings.
We then went to Bella Via for wood-fired pizza that was delicious. It was fun to dine and chat with this couple about their NY lives, so different from ours in many ways and yet so similar in others. We were so grateful for this chance to explore a part of New York that we never would have found on our own.